An American Tragedy
I have been reading SI for many years, but seldom have I been as moved as I was by the story about former Cincinnati Reds catcher Willard Hershberger (The Razor's Edge, May 6). William Nack and David Fischer captured the athletic excellence, introspective nature and ultimate tragedy of this complex man. Thank you for including such a moving portrait in your magazine.
A gripping story. I have two questions, however: What were Hershberger's major league totals, and is Mike Hershberger, the former American League outfielder, related to him?
•In 402 at bats over three seasons, Willard batted .316, with 70 RBIs, no homers and 41 runs scored. He was not related to Mike.—ED.
The Big Five
I can't help but take exception to your Judgment Call regarding Philadelphia's Big Five (SCORECARD, May 27). While it is true that college basketball rivals La Salle, Penn, St. Joseph's, Temple and Villanova will no longer meet in annual round-robin competition, the decision to play only half those games was hardly a five-way call.
Villanova, perhaps burdened by too many Big East commitments and too few easy victories, called for the restructuring of a 36-year tradition that had no equal in Division I. Knowing they could substitute two lucrative home dates, the Wildcats revised the existing 10-year deal after just five seasons.
JOSEPH M. LUNARDI
Geoffrey Norman's article After the Fall (May 20), about Chet Forte's struggle with compulsive gambling, was enlightening. I am a 21-year-old student at UC Davis. I never realized that I might have a gambling problem until I read about Forte. In junior high I started betting while playing golf with my dad. In high school it progressed to betting on pro baseball, football and basketball. In my junior year I was running gambling pools every Friday for students and even teachers. Then I discovered the Del Mar racetrack. Now, so close to Reno and Lake Tahoe, I find myself in casinos every other weekend.
Even though I have yet to lose my shirt, Forte's story hit me hard and made me reevaluate my situation: Quit while I'm ahead. Thanks.
Those of us who make a living in television are indebted to Forte and his colleagues for pioneering the techniques that are a staple of live sports coverage in the 1990s. If his problems have been greater than most people's, so too have been his contributions.
The Case of the Missing "h"
While I was reading Richard Hoffer's article about entrepreneur Bruce McNall (The Collector, May 13), I noticed that Pittsburgh is spelled Pittsburg on Honus Wagner's 1910 baseball card. Where is the h?
•From Pittsburgh's founding in 1758 to 1890, the h was used. In 1890, for consistency, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names ordered all towns and cities ending in burgh to remove the h. Though the h in burgh is silent, the city's residents weren't, and in 1911, the h was officially restored, thanks to the efforts of a strong citizen's movement. By 1915, the h was back on the Pirates' uniforms.—ED.
I was surprised to see that I was named in a photo caption as one of the ballplayers pictured in the Reds dugout with Willard Hershberger (The Razor's Edge, May 6). That is pitcher Paul Derringer, not me. I wonder what Derringer is going to say when he sees his name has been changed to Nino Bongiovanni. Sorry, Paul.
By the way, although I played 66 games in the outfield and as a pinch hitter on that National League championship team, I did not get a 1939 World Series ring. Members of the losing team had to buy their own, but I needed the money to get home. After all these years, I still get a lump in my throat when I hear the word "ring." I have written several old teammates, as well as the Reds office, trying to find out who made the rings back then, or if one might be available. No luck.
COURTESY OF GEORGE FINCH
Derringer is fourth from left in the dugout. The ringless Bongiovanni is shown below right.
[See caption above.]
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