There is no doubt that the closest and most exciting race in the NBA is taking place in the East and, with a little luck, the Boston Celtics just might pull it off. One man who has paced them, led them and almost become ageless and immortal is John Havlicek, a survivor of the Red Auerbach era.
But even if the Celtics get past New York in the East, they have a bigger and better obstacle to overcome in the West. The fact is, the Los Angeles Lakers have blown apart the Western Division (without the services of one of the best rebounders in the league, Happy Hairston) because the others couldn't keep the pace. It looks as though the Celtics and the Lakers will be meeting for the crown this year. You can bet the incomparable Mr. Clutch, Jerry West, will be looking for Mr. Havlicek and the Celtics. And don't be surprised if Bill Sharman has a huge cigar to light up when Boston comes to town. After all, the Lakers are the best in the West—and probably the East.
LEE E. FRANCIS
In general, Peter Carry's article on the Knicks was excellent. But I must disagree with the statement that New York won because Boston was unable to control Walt Frazier. Dave DeBusschere was a major factor. His inside and outside shooting, rebounding and rugged defense were exceptional even for him. Willis Reed is rapidly-regaining his full effectiveness. Although Frazier is indeed an extremely talented player, he was not the sole reason for the Knick victories.
REBIRTH OF A SPECIES
It is heartening to learn of the success of the Arabian oryx in its new Arizona habitat (Oryx from Unicorns Grow, Feb. 5). One may only hope that man will become wiser in his dealings with such species. Perhaps it is time that we recognize the true meaning of the word sport. The case of the slaughtering of the oryx with tommy guns does not reflect the values of the vast majority of hunters. Such indiscriminate, senseless killing remains a shameful crime against not only the animal but against man himself.
Thank you for telling us the story of the oryx. Perhaps if we continue to use the neglected tool of international cooperation, such injustices in the name of sport may be avoided in the future.
WILLIAM R. KSZYSTYNIAK
MORE THAN YANKEE DOODLING
The World Hockey Association was delighted to see SI's Feb. 5 story The Yanks Are Coming. It is no small source of pride that our league is leading the way in the current infusion of fine U.S. players in professional hockey. Mike Antonovich, Mike Curran, Bobby Sheehan and Larry Pleau are the forerunners of what we feel will be an increasing wave of U.S. competitors in both leagues. This is one of the most gratifying results that can come to a new professional sports league and was one of our original goals in expanding the horizons and appeal of the game.
GARY L. DAVIDSON
World Hockey Association
Santa Ana, Calif.
William Leggett's article (Now Half the Nines Are Tens, Jan. 22) on the designated-pinch-hitter rule was a gas! His clever but incisive look at the situation delves into just a few of the many wild situations that designated pinch hitters will bring to staid old baseball.
Like many people, I have mixed emotions on the DPH, but there's this gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach about going to Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis this summer to watch guys like Al Santorini go 0 for 4 while across the state in Royals Stadium John Mayberry is rapping two or three homers for Dick Drago, who is throwing a two-hit shutout.
My reaction to baseball's designated pinch hitter may be hasty and emotional, but I believe that the American League executives have erred badly. They have damaged the game's charm and drama to gain a few runs to mollify critics who are incapable of appreciating the factors that set baseball apart from other sports.
William Leggett's article neglected to mention the fact that the new rule will mean the loss of many exciting and interesting situations: the ninth-inning pinch hitter trying to win the game or, better yet, break up a no-hit game; the pitcher breezing along with a shutout who loses his stuff after a long stint on the base paths. Will the manager lift his ace, trailing by one run, or let him bat for himself?