SI Vault
April 21, 1997
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.
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April 21, 1997


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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.

Jamila Wideman
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 clich�s 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.

Big Bird
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.

Potent Pudge
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.