After reading Show Me the Way to Go Home (July 19), I realized how heartless and unsympathetic some people can be. Manager Lefty Phillips of the Angels is having problems with his not-quite-winning team, but that is no reason to treat his players like the "machines" Tony Conigliaro described in your article. The story about Alex Johnson a few weeks ago could have been about Tony, also. When Conigliaro was asked about Johnson he said that Alex had a problem deep inside that was eating away at him. Tony could have been talking about himself. Now that Tony has revealed his eye problem, it must mean that he doesn't belong in an "insane asylum," as stated by his manager. Phillips had no right to make a statement like that.
A CLOWNING BLOW (CONT.)
I would like to respond to the letter of Chester Debnam (SI, July 12). If a man can crack jokes and clown around and still win the U.S., Canadian and British Open titles in four weeks, no less, my hat goes off to him. In our society too many people take their jobs too seriously. Trevino's attitude while playing tournament golf is outstanding. When you can have fun, earn money and honestly enjoy your livelihood, you are living life to its fullest. Incidentally, I have yet to hear of a complaint from a Trevino playing partner.
As a physical-education teacher, Little League coach and an umpire for the Arizona Interscholastic Association and the Arizona Umpire's Association, I have had the privilege to umpire Iron Mike (SCORECARD, July 12). It is true that the games are high scoring and played in comparatively less time. But more importantly, Iron Mike returns fun to baseball. The fielders had no opportunity to "sleep" because the batters swung at 24 out of 25 pitches. In the 12 innings I umpired, there were only three called balls and one called strike—all the other pitches were swung at.
My years of experience have showed that the biggest fear of Little Leaguers, as well as older players, is being hit by a pitched ball. The chances of being hit by Iron Mike are nil. Therefore, hitting should improve tremendously. I don't think Sandy Koufax would approve, but I'm certain Ted Williams would agree that baseball in general would benefit by the universal use of Iron Mike.
There are no virtues in using a machine instead of a pitcher in Little League baseball. Having the boy who normally pitches stand by to field while the Iron Mike does the actual pitching supposedly saves the boy's arm from an injury that might come from throwing curveballs. To me this seems like just another bit of parental influence, which has already hurt the game so much. The challenge, experience and anxiety a Little League pitcher faces are irreplaceable ingredients in the recipe that eventually produces a skilled adult pitcher. Outlaw the curveball if you must, but keep the pitcher in the Little League.
THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM
While a cavalier dismissal of the Hills of Niagara (To the Brink—and Beyond, July 12) as madmen easily might have been made, I would like to commend Mark Kram for not doing so. Despite the commercialism that encumbers the natural beauty of Niagara Falls, this river precipice seems to have retained its majesty over man—witness the frustrations of its conquerors.
Although Red Hill Sr. and his progeny did not learn from the tragedy of Herman Melville's Captain Ahab, they both seem to share similar sentiments about following a parallel course to destruction. As Ahab said to a critical Starbuck, "All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing put forth the moldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall?"
For Ahab, the wall was Moby Dick, while for the Hills, it was Niagara. Their quest to be Niagara's conquerors was Quixotic but, nonetheless, it was a search that many can sympathize with.
Your article on boccie (New Life for an Old Ball Game, July 12) reminded me of a happy time that I would like to share. In 1966 my family and I were at Ocean City, Md. for a week's summer vacation, during which time we had some friends visit us. One of them brought a boccie outfit with him. We more or less simultaneously discovered that the beach is a great place to play boccie—you just smooth off two landing areas with a piece of driftwood plank, put down the little ball and toss the large balls underhand at it. A large crowd gathered to watch, but as far as I know nobody else had ever been seen doing this. It was marvelous fun, very good practice for softball pitching and a lot more interesting than good old horseshoes, considering the sandy landings.
DONALD L. SOMERVILLE, M.D.
In SCORECARD (July 12), Roberto Clemente stated, "Players used to be 28 to 30 years old before they made it to the majors," while explaining that more younger players are making it today because of the additional openings created by expansion. Clemente should know better. How about an outfield of Willie Mays, Henry Aaron and Clemente. All three were only 20 years old when they became regulars (1951, 1954 and 1955, respectively). The number of teams and openings has little to do with it. The good players generally make good at an early age. They did so years ago, and always will.