Thank you for Jack McCallum's outstanding article on books about sports and athletes (Jock Lit, Sept. 21). I was especially pleased that you recognized Jim Brosnan's The Long Season as "arguably the most significant sports book of all time." Brosnan's in-the-trenches account of baseball life was written nearly 30 years ago, and although contemporary social mores did not permit publication of the gutter language now commonly found in such books, The Long Season and Brosnan's Pennant Race hold up remarkably well as both sport and sociological literature. It's good to know that Broz has enjoyed greater longevity with his pen than he did with his slider.
In his otherwise estimable piece, Jack McCallum should have mentioned Joe H. Palmer. Few, if any, newspapermen wrote better or more entertainingly than did the Professor. Palmer's This Was Racing should be required reading for all students of writing. And, really, Red Smith deserves much, much more than a passing reference. Both Palmer and Smith were really sportswriters. And aren't we lucky they were?
Cape Coral, Fla.
How could McCallum leave W.P. Kinsella's wonderful novel, Shoeless Joe, out of his article? The book is intelligently written and as magical and dream-inspiring as a child's first look at a professional ballpark (was dirt ever as brown, or grass as green?). Besides, any work that includes the mythical kidnapping of J.D. Salinger, who is then hauled off to a Red Sox game, is certainly worthy of as much space as, say, a McMahon! If Dan Jenkins's work is a must read (and his two Billy Clyde Puckett books are), then Kinsella's novel is a gotta read.
TOM D. ROBINSON
I was astonished to read: "The idea for McMahon! came to Warner from, of all places, Burns Celebrity Service in Chicago." Burns Sports Celebrity Service has packaged and served as agent for more than 250 sports books in the past 16 years. In the past five years, our Burns Sports Literary Service has generated about 25 of the major sports books published in America, including The Mick, a national bestseller in 1985.
Burns Sports Literary Service
I enjoyed the article. However, if you are going to tweak jocks for their exclamatory predilections, you should acknowledge that even serious writers indulge in title punctuation. Thomas Pynchon's novel is V., not V (without a period).
NOT DONE IN!
In a picture caption accompanying your story on the 1987 World Track and Field Championships (On Top of the Worlds, Sept. 14), you said, "The sweltering weather did in walkers like Jim Heiring." Well, I'm walker Jim Heiring, and for your information the "sweltering weather" did not do me in. In fact, my time of 4:03:34 in the 50-kilometer race was almost four minutes faster than my previous personal record. Only three other Americans have done better. The medical staffers assisting me were there as a precaution; I had strained my knee after 42 kilometers.
CHURCHILL ON GOLF
Proving what a man did not say is impossible, I suppose, but it is a myth that Winston Churchill created the phrase that golf consists of "putting little balls into little holes with instruments ill adapted to the purpose" (Has Golf Gotten Too Groovy? Aug. 3).
As far as anybody knows, Churchill never said anything at all about golf. The quotation actually comes from Horace G. Hutchinson's classic work Golf, from the Badminton Library series on sports and games. The phrase originated with Hutchinson's logic tutor at Oxford. The book was published in 1890, when Hutchinson was 31 and presumably had been out of Oxford for a number of years. Churchill was 15, still playing with toy soldiers at Blenheim Palace.
ROBERT T. SOMMERS
Editor and Publisher
Far Hills, N.J.
?Although the phrase does not belong to Churchill, his lack of regard for golf is documented. According to Irrepressible Churchill, "a treasury of Winston Churchill's wit" edited by Kay Halle (World Publishing Company, New York, 1966), Churchill, shown left during a round at Cannes in 1913, found the game boring and said it was "like chasing a quinine pill around a cow pasture."—ED.