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Anyone who would not welcome Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley
back with open arms has not been watching the NBA lately.

Michael Pro and Con

Rick Reilly must think Michael Jordan is still 29 years old (THE
LIFE OF REILLY, March 19). Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson would
run circles around Jordan on the court now. As a Lakers fan
living in Illinois, I would love to see Jordan return and play
against the 22-year-old Kobe, not the 18-year-old he faced during
the 1996-97 season.
CARY SAWYER, Bloomington, Ill.

For 35 years I was a dedicated NBA fan. Since Jordan retired, I
no longer watch games or follow the box scores. Quite simply, the
NBA no longer exhibits quality competition and sportsmanship. But
if Jordan comes back, I will too. Without him, the NBA can't
survive, and I don't care if it does.
HARRY J. CAITO, Westlake, Ohio

Memory Lane

Thanks to Frank Deford for a great article about Lou Piniella
(Sweet & Lou, March 19). Yankees fans from the 1970s remember a
slow guy with an average arm who always took the extra base and
who was always in position to make the play in the field. But my
best memory of Lou is of him embracing Bobby Murcer in the
Yankees' dugout after Bobby drove in the winning run on the night
of Thurman Munson's funeral in 1979.
TOM HELBIG, Warren, N.J.

Loved Sweet Lou, both as a player and a manager with the Yankees
and as a manager everywhere else. The adjustments he made after
losing the Big Unit and Junior allowed the Mariners to take the
Yankees to six games in the American League Championship Series.
FRED MAY, Riverside, Calif.

I was happy to learn that Piniella is still married to Anita and
that the two of them are going strong. Now if Lou would only give
up smoking, he'd be a terrific role model for young athletes.
THOMAS K. ROWE JR., Alexandria, Va.

Begs to Differ

I am a big enough person to accept the reality of not having been
a very good football player for Columbia between 1985 and '88,
but Marcellus Wiley's revisionist slant (Hard Charger, March 19)
that my teammates and I viewed football "as a P.E. class" is an
insult to the tremendous effort we put in just to win a few
games. It also makes me sorry that as a graduate assistant
football coach at Columbia, I invited him to that reception in
California. I guess he and associate athletic director Jackie
Blackett know what makes for good copy, and it doesn't
necessarily have to be the truth. Shame on both of them.
BILL MCGEE, Brunswick, Maine

Never the Twain Meets

Steve Rushin's courageous and startling perspective on how gun
use permeated youth sports on the days and weeks before the
shootings at Santana High in Santee, Calif., was a sane and
revealing indictment of this country's gun culture (AIR AND
SPACE, March 19).
FRED DAVIS, Pasadena, Md.

I'm one of the 65 million American gun owners who didn't kill
anyone yesterday. Those who did are statistically insignificant.
Maybe we should ban high school sports because apparently the
tensions developed during the games lead to arguments and mayhem.
PAUL A. DILLS, Charlotte, Mich.

Who is Rushin? Rosie O'Donnell's sister? I purchase SPORTS
ILLUSTRATED to read about sports, not to hear some weak sister
antigunner whine about people who are shot.
THOMAS R. COOK III, Chattanooga

Billy's Boosters

Billy Pierce's fastball may have lost its fizz in the early
1960s as you say (CATCHING UP WITH..., March 19), but he
finished 16-6 for the National League-champion Giants in '62,
going 12-0 at Candlestick during the season, and then outdueling
Whitey Ford for a complete game victory in Game 6 of the World
Series. Plenty of good fizz for us Giants fans.

Last June, I was paired with Pierce at a charity golf outing.
Because of heavy rain, no motorized carts were allowed. That,
combined with cold and wind, caused countless sports celebrities
to cancel. Billy, who had to be the oldest celeb there,
cheerfully lugged a pull cart around the course and was as
friendly as could be both during and after the round.
BOB STRACKS, Winnetka, Ill.


Mister Congeniality

I grew up in Elmira, N.Y., in the early 1960s when Lou Piniella
(above) played Double A ball for the Elmira Pioneers. Who was the
man who taught him the basics of managing there? None other than
that famous hothead Earl Weaver.
DALE STRONG, Binghamton, N.Y.