After reading the article What Might Have Been...in your Special Classic Edition (July 19), I began to think about Ray Chapman, the Cleveland shortstop who was killed in 1920 by a beanball thrown by Carl Mays of the Yankees. Had that not occurred, what might have happened to Joe Sewell, the 1920 graduate of Alabama whom the Indians brought up that year to replace Chapman and who went on to become a Hall of Famer?
You speculated that former Houston Astro pitcher James Rodney Richard would have been a shoo-in Hall of Famer had he remained healthy, and I agree. I watched him for a couple of years before I finally got a chance to bat against him, at the Astrodome in 1979. I was pitching for the San Francisco Giants at the time. Before my first at bat, I asked a teammate, Bill Madlock, who at that point had won two of his four batting titles, what I should look for off Richard. He said my eyes weren't that good. Three pitches later I was looking for a seat on the bench.
What was it like batting against J.R.? I saw two fastballs, but I could have watched a hundred of them and never gotten my bat around in time. The third pitch, which I did swing at, was a slider. I mistook it for a fastball and missed by the length of a bat. That's what I remember most about J.R., that he had a wicked slider to go with that high-90's fastball.
I batted against a few Hall of Famers in my 15-year career, but I never felt as hapless swinging against them as I did that one time against J.R.
Of the hundreds of interesting and even provocative features that I have enjoyed in SI, none has affected me more than The Ripples from Little Lake Nellie (July 12). This account of the impact that the deaths of Cleveland pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews had on their families and friends was powerful yet sensitive. I am sure that I speak for all survivors (I lost a 20-year-old son 10 months ago) who read this moving article when I say thank you to Gary Smith for his insight into the mysteries of death and grieving. His story serves as a consoling message to all of us.
PETER A. WOODS
I applaud Gary Smith for his human and touching inside look at baseball and also for showing that it is nothing compared with family and life. Behind all the glory, money and fame, athletes are as mortal as the rest of us. Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove is a shining example of what a man should be, somehow finding the strength both to grieve and to continue with a dismantled pitching staff. I was touched by pitcher Kevin Wickander's devotion to his friend and teammate Steve Olin and am pleased that Wick has found some peace in his trade to Cincinnati. I am also glad that Bobby Ojeda will return to the game.
Thank you for a touching tribute to these men, their families and America's pastime.
JENNIFER D. WAGNER
Dominguez Hills, Calif.
I grew up with Kevin Wickander in Phoenix and played Little League, high school and college baseball against him. The bond that sports builds between teammates and rivals is unbreakable. I have never lost someone as close to me as Steve Olin was to Kevin, and I cannot truly feel the pain that he is feeling, but I cried as I read the article. My thoughts and prayers are with Wick and all who have been affected by this tragedy.
Let us keep in mind that Tim Crews was legally drunk and driving a boat at more than 25 mph at night. I feel very sorry for the Olin and Crews families and hope that this tragedy will serve as a reminder to all that boating and alcohol don't mix.
Spreading America's Pastime
I am writing in response to your article regarding my husband, Bert Blyleven (SPORTS PEOPLE, July 5). The piece grossly misrepresented the meaning of our trip to the Netherlands. The fact that we were a group of individuals traveling in Europe to represent American baseball was barely touched upon. These fine young men, carefully chosen by Major League Baseball International, did an outstanding job and won the Rotterdam World Port tournament.
My husband's role was to bring to Europeans his love and knowledge of the game, at which he was once one of the best. He should not be degraded with a comparison to a "creaky 16th-century windmill." Bert went to the Netherlands with a bunch of fine young men, not a bunch of scrubs as stated in your article.
This could have been a wonderful story, capturing the truth of a victorious trip. Instead, it was cynical and unjust to the many people who worked so hard to make the trip the success that it was.
Villa Park, Calif.
The intimidating Richard could make hitters feel hapless.
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