I was proud and nervous to see my beloved Cubs picked on the cover of SI to win the World Series (BASEBALL PREVIEW 2004, April 5). I thought that, while the billy goat curse is ending because of the explosion of the Bartman ball, the fatal SI cover jinx is now on the Cubs. Then I realized that since the issue was delivered on April Fool's Day, the jinx may be null and void. So, it's all gravy, baby—the hexes are over!
BRIAN M. RAINVILLE, Springfield, Mo.
Stats All, Folks
Statistics have become baseball's Frankenstein's monster. In Does Clutch Hitting Truly Exist? (April 5), Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus says the "need to turn physics and physicality into a statement about the character of people...is the most damning thing about the myth of the clutch." If players are nothing more than statistical machines, doomed to perform at neither more nor less than their capabilities, why do we watch them play? The human spirit, helping athletes overcome adversity and strive for excellence, is what makes the game great. Revering statistics as baseball gospel dehumanizes every man who laces up his cleats.
MICHAEL P. BISCHOFF, Madison, Wis.
So instead of building a team by grooming young players with sound fundamentals, we should be paying attention to VORP, LIPS and OPS? If you give me a group of players who can put the ball in play, move runners, hit the cutoff man, change speeds and keep the ball down, I'll give you a team that puts up big numbers in the only column that really counts: WINS.
ZAK REDDING Madison, Wis.
In Smart Stats, Dumb Stats (April 5) you compare batting average to vinyl albums, showing how antiquated the measure is. On the next page batting average is used to prove that clutch hitters don't exist. I'm not convinced. I still want Derek Jeter up there when we're down by two and there are runners on base.
JOHN MATHEWS, New York City
Twenty-five years after finishing my training in ophthalmology, one curious fact persists in my middle-aged memory: Virtually every professional ice hockey player sustains at least one serious eye or facial injury during his career. The April 5 LEADING OFF, a catalog of hockey wounds, could serve as lecture material for med students. In contrast, the junior and collegiate hockey experience is taught as a model of sports-injury prevention. Since helmets and full face shields became mandatory in the 1970's, injury rates to the face and eyes have approached zero.
DR. STEPHEN H. URETSKY, Linwood, N.J.
April Is the Cruelest Month
Congratulations on another creative hoax. I read with relish Roy Blount Jr.'s As So Often Happens? (April 5) mostly because I'm always intrigued by coincidences, but the math seemed a little queer from the beginning. LOOFA (Lead Off/Outstanding Fielding Alignment) occurred 41% of the time between 1900 and 1930. Of what time, I asked myself? Forty-one percent of the time batters lead off, they have made a spectacular play? Forty-one percent of plays in the field yield leadoff at bats by the same gloveman? What defines a great play mathematically, anyway? The numbers kept coming up odd: 40.1%, another 41%, then the absurd .041%. I started thinking of George Plimpton and Sidd Finch. The name of Jung's "prot�g�e" Willamae Happ was too bizarre and a little too close to the happenstance theme of the article. There's another 4 and 1 in the percentage (14) lefties' LOOFAs dropped when facing lefty pitching. Then I got it: The '41 Society! 4/1 is April 1st, April fool! Lead Off/Outstanding Fielding Alignment is A-FOOL backward. The reverse of LIRPA (Leadoff of Inning after Remarkable Putout or Assist) is APRIL. Juan Abril is April One. Avery Pfuhl, come on. In baseball's first game, April 1, 1871, Gene Kimball led off the "top of the fourth." I'm sure there are more subtle clues. Very clever, all.
LARS RUSSELL, Jersey City, N.J.
Kenneth Yorik's study intrigued me. I contacted Professor Hayden (Sidd) Finch, who teaches theory at an undisclosed university in Nepal. His response: "Yorik only used data in describing noteworthy occurrences", Theorist Finch observed. "Obviously, luck means everything."
DAVID BRESS, Sharpsville, Pa.
Fourth and Long
In your story Greatest Hits (April 5) you say "with two outs...Rosy Ryan strikes out Babe Ruth," and then Bob Meusel follows "with a two-run single." I've always suspected that the Yankees play under different rules from everybody else, but that accomplishment would have been the No. I alltime clutch hit.
RICHARD LIPP, Lenexa, Kans.
? Ruth's strikeout was the second out. SI regrets the error.—ED.