BILL RUSSELL (CONT.)
Re Success Is a Journey (June 8) by William F. Russell. Of all the articles and features with which you have blessed us over the years, I believe that this one has the potential to recommend it as just about the best yet. It says so much of what has to be said—should have been said—over the past two decades.
THE REV. PATRICK ADAMS, O.F.M.
St. Mary's Catholic Church
Perhaps we have another philosopher on the scene � la Eric Hoffer, who is a penetrating thinker and who has lived—really lived—in the world rather than in an ivory tower.
JOSEPH F. DELANO
West Haven, Conn.
Will you kindly advise in your publication where contributions can be sent for the support of Bill Russell, who became a millionaire throwing a ball through a hoop and proceeded to criticize the system that made this possible.
William Felton Russell is a man who speaks from his tall shoulders. In his latest SI article he writes with some truth, some opinion and some bitterness. But it appears that some of his bitterness, no matter how justified, transcends the truth. Bill writes that in the 1963-64 season the "quota system won a title for the Celtics" because the Cincinnati Royals, who had a "better team than we did," gave away Bob Boozer to get down to their black quota. I was general manager of the Royals at that time, and the trading of Boozer was not a racial matter in any way. In fact, I earlier had made an unsuccessful attempt to trade Bob for Ray Scott, who happens to be black. If there was any quota system, nobody ever bothered to tell me.
The Boozer trade did not hurt the Royals during the regular season. It is a matter of record that the Royals' won-lost statistics were 20-12 before the trade and 35-13 after it (for a 55-25 finish). Also, the Royals and Celtics were 3-3 in the six games they had played at the time Bob was traded, and Cincinnati won four of the remaining six games with Boston. Whether the trade hurt the Royals during the playoffs is a moot question. The main reason the Celts beat the Royals was Bill Russell.
I do agree with Russell on one point: I don't think that particular trade should have been made. There was color involved, but it was green, not black. There are enough real race problems we all need to work on without manufacturing phony ones.
Russell has long been one of my idols, and I enjoyed the frankness of his writing. I did take exception to one sentence: Arnold Palmer was voted Athlete of the Decade purely "along racial lines." Russell voiced his opinion, now I'll voice mine. Professional basketball could and would have become just as great without Bill Russell because of the abundance of super basketball players. However, golf without Arnold Palmer would still be a minor league sport. Palmer did more for his sport in the '60s than any other person in any other sport.
Fort Wayne, Ind.
Russell shattered glass houses and misconceptions that deserved destruction. It is because of these misconceptions that too many fans cannot believe that Rich Allen has not yet polarized the Cardinals and jumped the team. It is because of these misconceptions that white "middle America" cannot understand why Muhammad Ali was willing to disdain the chance to be a multimillionaire and world champion and why he still is a genuine hero to black youths. It is because of these misconceptions that few believed it when Russell, Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown and Curt Flood said they would not play again. Ballplayers, above all else, are mere human beings who should be treated neither like gods nor like public property. Until we learn this we will continue to boo sensitive young men who are doing their best and to lavish praise on other naive young men while they secretly ignore league and federal gambling laws.
I hope that the majority of your readers will not miss the article, but I have already found too many who did.
TERRY M. BANKS
I must take issue with my idol over some of his statements about Muhammad Ali. Having read Ali's biography, Black Is Best by Jack Olsen, I will agree with Russell that " Ali has supported his faith at great financial loss to himself." But before nodding in agreement that "the only athletes we should bother with attaching any importance to are those like Ali...," one must examine just what type of "faith" Mr. Ali preaches. If the very title of his biography doesn't reveal enough, perhaps one should study this quote from page 56 of the book: "The fact that he is at least partially white does not please black supremacist Cassius Clay Jr. 'My white blood came from the slavemasters, from raping,' he explained to a racially mixed audience. 'The white blood harms us, it hurts us. When we was darker, we was stronger. We was purer.' "