In their letters, which appeared in 19TH HOLE (March 9) concerning your publication of the downfall of Denny McLain, Messrs. Reiss, Kostinas and Pearson take strange positions not unlike the traditional pose of the ostrich—that is to say, bury your head and the problem will disappear. The fact that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED published its story cannot in any way disguise the fact that Denny McLain involved himself in a messy situation, got caught and consequently had his hand smacked.
Actually, it is unfortunate that Commissioner Bowie Kuhn said he was not taking action because of the revelations contained in SI but, rather, was moving on information gained by his office. That may have been shading the truth slightly. I personally neither support nor condone McLain or Kuhn; that is not my function. If McLain is guilty, he deserves to be punished; if not, he'll be exonerated. At any rate, baseball is bigger than either McLain or Kuhn. It was not SI that burst the bubble surrounding a hero, but the hero himself.
E. PAT JOYCE
The News and Courier
I strongly disagree with the statements made by reader David Pearson. He refers to McLain as a hero and states that many still admire Denny despite his "tragedy." McLain has in the past showed no team loyalty and has mouthed off to the press more times than the Tigers would like to remember. He has run up enormous debts despite an annual income of over $200,000. Obviously, he is not one to look up to.
Becoming involved in a gambling operation and being suspended from baseball because of it does not constitute a tragedy. Rather, it was a stupid and unforgivable case of poor judgment. I think it is a tragedy, however, when sports officials try to preserve sports from any connection with organized crime only to have fans side with the players, using the lack of heroes as a weak defense. I think SI and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn have done a great service to baseball and its fans.
I disagree with the letter in 19TH HOLE that stated that Denny McLain cannot singlehandedly discredit baseball. I feel this is wrong because it is the duty of the players, coaches, owners and whoever else is responsible for baseball to keep such scandals out of the sport. I am not picking out Denny McLain singly, just using him as an example to hope to put a stop to any future scandals. Baseball is a great sport, and it must prevent such happenings in the upcoming seasons.
SKIING IN A BIND
A gold medal for William Johnson and SI for the article, The Name Is the Name of the Game (March 9). I am sure it will set the stage for the development of compatible programs by the IOC, the FIS, the USSA, et al.
(I was a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic Alpine ski team and have since served as director of racing and product manager for the Head Ski Company and as director of marketing for the Lange Company. I am now marketing consultant to the Olin Ski Company, Inc.)
And they confiscated all the Olympic medals earned by the Greatest Athlete of the First Half of the 20th Century for a few $15 sandlot baseball games!
DALE R. SPERLING
IMAGE OF A CHAMPION
William Reed's excellent article on Mark Spitz ("Swimming Isn't Everything, Winning Is," March 9) is a very revealing piece of writing—revealing in that it should have been entitled The Mirror Image of Arnold Spitz. It unveiled Père Spitz as a self-appointed coach. He may have sacrificed a great deal to make his son "beautiful" but in so doing I think he carried the ritual too far: he sacrificed a human being for an athletic machine. I think Mark wanted a father during those years of development and fame. What he received instead was a bullwhip, a pointed finger and a raised voice.
Arnold Spitz should make his living from Schnitzer Steel Products and not the Mark Spitz Gold Medal Foundation. Mark is an individual, not an extension! If Arnold Spitz shuts up, if Mark Spitz shapes up (apparently he's doing so) and if Doc Counsilman wakes up, then the Spitz family name can live with pride. I hope Mr. Spitz looks in this mirror that William Reed has manufactured for him and sees that coaching is for men like Sherm Chavoor and George Haines, and realizes that winning is not what's important. Trying is! You don't attain maturity and victory without it.
J. RICKLEY DUMM
North Hollywood, Calif.