"I played against Shaq in high school and college, and I admire the way he has handled the hoopla of pro sports and remained down-to-earth."
ALBERT BUCKLES, AUSTIN, TEXAS
In a time when it has become fashionable to Shaq-bash—for everything from his questionable rapport with NBA officials to his lack of an outside game—it's refreshing to see an article that steps inside 22-year-old superstar Shaquille O'Neal (Sugar Shaq, April 25). Unlike previous NBA icons, Shaq has really done nothing to warrant the spotlight thrust upon him. As talented as he was, Michael Jordan didn't become a superstar until he won a championship. The same is true of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. So before we anoint him as the savior of the NBA, let's allow him to be Shaquille.
KURTIS KEALA, Hayward, Calif.
Your fluff job on Shaquille O'Neal was in-depth reporting at its finest. You say Shaq rode Universal Studios' Back to the Future ride 12 times, breaking Michael Jackson's record? What boundless talent! You say he likes to surprise his friends with late-night prank phone calls? How cute! And what's this, O'Neal relaxes by playing video games and watching action movies? Tell me more! The headline on the piece, Sugar Shaq, couldn't have been more appropriate.
JOHN D. ANDERSON, Austin, Texas
The articles in your April 25 issue on Shaquille O'Neal and Sandy Koufax (Sugar Shaq and The Very Best Act in Town) provide a startling contrast between athletes, and sports in general, over a 30-year period. The megabucks showered on monosyllabic, superficial and immature kids, and the public's adulation of them, are ruining athletics. One supposes that over the next 30 years the kids pulling down rims, probably without having to expend the energy to jump, will be eight feet tall. Who cares? It will all be forgotten, and what will endure are the timeless accomplishments, modesty and class of a Koufax.
GENE ANDERSON, Sheboygan, Wis.
The article in the April 25 issue about the decline of major league pitching (Whiplash) should have given more attention to the No. 1 reason for the avalanche of runs and home runs: the souped-up ball. So a Rawlings spokesman said the balls are made to the same specifications as before. Well, what else is he going to say? "O.K., you got us. Commissioner Selig and our chief executive met under a bridge in the dead of night after the 1993 season and agreed to juice up the ball."
TED SLOAN, Frankfort, Ky.
Pitchers have no choice with the current size of the strike zone. Every pitch is either a ball or a watermelon wearing a HIT ME sign. This leads to more walks, more hits, more pickoff throws to try to eliminate base runners, and inflated ERAs and batting averages. Do you think Bob Gibson would have had a 1.12 ERA if the current strike zone had been in effect in 1968? And how many more home runs would Aaron, Ruth, Mantle, Mays et al. have hit if they had enjoyed the luxury of being able to take a pitch that wasn't quite right? You can't compare players from different eras because the game is no longer the same—no matter what the rule book says.
BOB MCDONALD, Pennsylvania Furnace, Pa.
Yes, the strike zone should be expanded, and managers and pitching coaches should do what White Sox manager Eddie Stanky did in 1967—store the baseballs in a dank cellar. The moisture that collects inside the balls would make them heavier and unable to travel as far or as fast as today's balls.
MICHAEL SCHROEDER, Carol Stream, Ill.
Hurlers Who Hit
In INSIDE BASEBALL (April 25), Kansas City player turned pitcher David Howard asked the question "How many American League pitchers have gotten a hit since the DH rule was instituted in 1973?" Granted, Howard is not a true pitcher, but I'll bite. How many?
MICHAEL RITZ, New York City
?Eight true pitchers, all of whom have one hit apiece. They are Catfish Hunter, Oakland, 1973; Ed Rodriguez, Milwaukee, '73; Ferguson Jenkins, Texas, '74; Tom Murphy, Milwaukee, '74; Ken Brett, Chicago, '76; Tim Lollar, Boston, '86; Mike Jeffcoat, Texas, '91; and Matt Maysey, Milwaukee, '93.—ED.
Having played against the Cubs' Shawon Dunston at Brooklyn's Parade Grounds in Youth Service League games in the late '70s, and now, as a chiropractor, helping people recover from back pain, I feel confident that Dunston was not, as suggested in your story, "dogging it" during his rehabilitation (Look Who's Back, May 2). Anyone recovering from extensive disk surgery would be satisfied to return to normal life and activity without pain, to say nothing of competing as a major league shortstop.
Brookline Village, Mass.