Thank you for a fine article on the J.R. Richard tragedy (Now Everyone Believes Him, Aug. 18). Unfortunately, I was one of many people in Houston who doubted the seriousness—or even existence—of J.R.'s physical problem. The threat of a player strike and the enormous escalation of player salaries in baseball have made a number of us fans look at the superstars suspiciously. We have learned a valuable lesson at the expense of Richard and his family.
It's also a shame it has taken a near-fatal stroke to get J.R. the publicity he so richly deserves. I was pleased that William Nack referred to him as the best righthander in baseball. I've followed the sport closely for 27 years—25 of them in Chicago and the past two in Houston—but I've never seen anyone dominate a game the way Richard could. I wish J.R. a successful recovery and thank him for some of the best performances I shall ever see.
The article asked several times why the media and fans came down so hard on Richard when he complained of a tired arm. My answer on behalf of the Astro fans is: What were we supposed to believe? The doctors told us nothing was wrong; his teammates couldn't see anything wrong; and J.R. himself said he wanted to take time off to go fishing. We realize now that we were very much mistaken, but the evidence we were presented with before his stroke was hardly conclusive. I hope we have learned a lesson. Houston Manager Bill Virdon expressed it best when he said that we must always check and recheck.
The problem of an athlete playing with serious illness or injury because of pressure from his team, the press and/or the fans isn't restricted to highly paid pros. It also occurs in high school sports. I hope every fan who has ever booed a kid because he came out of a game with a "slight injury" reads your article and realizes what can happen.
WHO CAN MATCH JACK?
The year 1980 gave golf fans something to savor as the great ones—Nicklaus, Watson and Ballesteros—won major tournaments. And Dan Jenkins caught the essense of these superb victories in his unique fashion.
Jenkins' most recent article (Jack, This Is Getting Ridiculous, Aug. 18) leads me to believe that Nicklaus should again be your Sportsman of the Year. After a frustrating two-year victory drought and a sea of words proclaiming the end of his career, Jack silently and gallantly rebuilt his game and his confidence with old-fashioned hard work. In winning the U.S. Open and the PGA, he outclassed the field, and on marvelous golf courses. He is in a league by himself. Can you imagine his record if he were a tour regular?
LORAN R. SMITH
Jack Nicklaus has not only proved that his golf game is back, but he also has displayed to his critics an ability to cope with and respond to tremendous pressure to win. Nicklaus is still the king of his sport because of his great and unmatched determination to succeed.
The sly understatement of Dan Jenkins' story on Jack Nicklaus was deftly fitting. How else could one describe the feats of the most remarkable athlete of our generation?
NYMPHMANIACS AND FIELDSPHILES
I read with great interest and empathy Robert H. Boyle's article Yep, Another Nymphmaniac (Aug. 18). Having been an insect collector myself the past five years, I have endured plenty of stares from persons questioning my sanity. However, the great satisfaction derived from pursuing such a hobby has led me to choose entomology as my life's work. It's nice to know there are other sports-minded insect enthusiasts in this country.
Shawnee Mission, Kans.
To me, SI's primary attractions are its style and its ability to evoke an image. Every once in a while there appears an article—or even just a sentence—that more than justifies the cost of the subscription. One of these sentences was in Robert H. Boyle's Yep, Another Nymphmaniac: "The manager appears behind the thick glass, looking for all the world like Franklin Pangborn confronted by W.C. Fields."