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Original Issue


So many people use their past to explain away their mistakes and
misfortunes. It was wonderful to read about someone who turned
tragedy into triumph.
KATIE O'LEARY, Staten Island, N.Y.


As I read Gary Smith's article about Jamila Wideman (Out of the
Shadows, March 17), I thought, Here is a girl I knew as a
babysitter, as a girl I played basketball with the few times my
junior high team got to practice with the varsity and as a girl
I admired for her basketball skills. This is a girl who has had
to overcome so much and who still excelled. I couldn't help
being filled with emotion.
SARA PARENT, Amherst, Mass.

I've never read a piece that moved me more. I hope Wideman's
story will open our minds to women's basketball as well as to
issues about race and the justice system.
DAVID KRUGER, North York, Ont.

I too played for Amherst Regional for six years and had the
pleasure of watching Wideman grow from a small girl into a fine
player. Now that I teach and coach in Florida, where football is
lauded and women's sports are often left by the wayside, I find
myself frustrated. My softball team's primary goal this season
is to gain respect--from the boys, the school and the community.
These girls are in dire need of female athletes to look up to.
ALISON M. KELLY, Vero Beach, Fla.

I guess Smith wants us to feel sorry for poor, sad, brave Jamila
Wideman. Well, I don't. I do feel sorry for the parents of the
boy her brother murdered. Smith spends two sentences on them in
an 8,000-word article. Portraying the Wideman family as somehow
better and more enlightened than the rest of us rings false. My
advice is to stop the self-pity and realize that a family with
two members serving life sentences for murder is going to
attract more attention than a family that doesn't have two
convicted felons.
JERALD E. PODAIR, Kingston, N.J.

While it's a tragedy that two of Wideman's relatives are in
jail, to suggest that society owes Robby and Jake Wideman
another chance, in part because of their race, is absurd. The
people who died as the result of her uncle's and her brother's
actions will never have another chance at life.
ANDREW SOZIO, Timonium, Md.

You sit expectantly at the glowing computer screen. Your heart
thumps, your mind races, anticipating a torrent of new words.
But it is only the hackneyed cliches that return, as they have
so many times before. It didn't use to be like this in the
verdant days before the terrible fire that lay waste to your
life. Then, lively fresh phrases, sentences and entire
paragraphs would leap from your being. You smile at the memory,
but no new words come as you look silently at the screen, typing
the same story over and over again. You are Gary Smith.
JAMES L. SULTAN, Gloucester, Mass.

Why was this article written? There have to be more compelling
cases of racial injustice and the struggle to overcome adversity
that you could have shared with us.
KEVIN HARTE, Yonkers, N.Y.


In 1976, when I was 12, my father worked for a small-town
newspaper in Minnesota. As a perk, he would get two free tickets
to the Twins game of his choice. Each year he would give me the
schedule and let me "pick a winner." That year I chose the
Tigers, because I wanted to see Mark Fidrych (CATCHING UP
WITH..., March 31). We loaded up the station wagon at sunrise
for the 150-mile drive so that I might have a chance to get the
Bird's autograph before the game started. I'm too young to have
seen Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays, but when the smiling Bird
signed my program, he defined a golden age for me. The sacrifice
my father made so that I could have fun is one of my fondest
recollections. I have never gotten another autograph. It would
tarnish a memory.
BILL BURKHART, La Crescent, Minn.

COLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA [Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez]


After reading Tom Verducci's article on utility catchers such as
Toronto's Charlie O'Brien (Catch of the Day, March 24), I was
annoyed that he failed to mention arguably the best all-around
catcher in baseball, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez of the Texas
Rangers. Granted, Rodriguez has not caught Cy Young-caliber
pitchers like Pat Hentgen, Greg Maddux or John Smoltz. Still,
his uncanny defense and his ability to read hitters have turned
otherwise average pitchers into better-than-average pitchers.
Rodriguez can throw out base runners, making it easier for his
batterymate to concentrate on the hitter rather than the runner.
Although Rodriguez is a starter and not a backup catcher, he
still deserved to be mentioned in a category of catchers who are
critical to their pitching staffs.
ALBERT OCON, Hawthorne, Calif.