Many readers who have written to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in the past few years will recognize the name Ann Scott. She is the head of our letters department, in charge of seeing to it that every one of the nearly 30,000 letters a year sent to SI is read, circulated among the staff (including 19th Hole editor Gay Flood) and acknowledged, with most of the responses going out over her signature. Scott now is retiring after 37 years with Time Inc., the last 13 with SI, and is turning the department over to senior editor Linda Verigan.
Scott was born in Manhattan and grew up in Yonkers, N.Y., and is an avid West Point football fan. She remembers writing a letter as a teenager to the New York World-Telegram, complaining about its meager coverage of Army games. "The New York papers still don't cover Army football very well," she says. "But in my day, well, that was the time of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, after all."
Scott earned a degree in English from Mary Washington College in 1948 and then hired on with a fund-raising organization in New York. She had to type addresses on 1,500 envelopes a day. "I could only do 1,200 or so," she says. "It was a terrible job."
One autumn afternoon a friend, whom she was driving to Manhattan after a game at West Point, urged her to apply for work at Time Inc. Scott landed a job—as a file clerk, no addresses to type—in the weekly LIFE'S letters department. By the time she arrived at SI in 1973, Scott had become head of the letters department for LIFE and had also served Time/Life Books in the same capacity. She remembers that the most intriguing letter she got during those days was the one from a woman who wrote: "Please cancel my subscription. My husband's been stationed overseas and I won't have time to read anymore."
At SI Scott has been impressed with the readers' involvement with the magazine. "Even when they're being critical, they are careful to say, 'We really like your magazine,' " she says. "They feel close to the magazine. They want us to know that they approve overall, except now and then we slip in their estimation."
There are times when we slip in some readers' eyes and simultaneously rise in others'. Times such as the hectic period following the Super Bowl when we publish our annual swimsuit issue, or after a story like George Plimpton's April Fools' Day piece in 1985 about fictitious pitcher Sidd Finch, which drew an enormous response. "In the face of the heaviest mail, Scottie has remained calm," says Flood. "She's just unflappable."
No matter how busy things get in the letters department, Scott always has time for her staff, which she refers to as "my kids." They'll miss her, as well as her breakfasts of Irish coffee and pastries at Kentucky Derby time. But after responding to more than a million and a half letters, Scott is looking forward to retirement.
What was the response she got from the World-Telegram? Did someone answer her letter? "No, come to think of it," Scott says, sounding surprised. "What an outrage."