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As a lifelong Phillie fan, I took my then 12-year-old son to Florida in 1987 to attend some spring training workouts and games. We were treated so rudely by the Phillie, Mets and Cardinals players that I have not attended a major league game since. The team that treated us best was the Minnesota Twins. Gary Gaetti, Kent Hrbek and the other Twins made us root long-distance for them during their '87 championship season.
Regarding the POINT AFTER about athletes' serving their community, we are proud to have at least three players on our volunteer team who do just that: Yankee pitcher Dave Righetti, Cardinals pitcher Todd Worrell and our longtime national sports chairman, Giants catcher Gary Carter. And these three don't merely lend their names to our society; each is directly involved in fund-raising, increasing public awareness of leukemia and/or meeting victims of this dread disease.
As Wulf mentioned, Lou Gehrig is a fine example of a sports figure who took time out for others. Even more telling was Gehrig's commitment to his community after he retired. Appointed a New York City parole commissioner by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, he served in that capacity from January 1939 until shortly before his death on June 2, 1941, despite increasing debilitation as a result of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
I would suggest that everyone who earns an exorbitant salary, not just athletes, should be held to your recommended code of conduct. We complain that there are no heroes anymore and then turn around and idolize self-promoters, like Brian Bosworth and Deion Sanders. It's time we realized that more of us—superstars to average citizens—can be heroes by getting involved in our communities.
On a beautiful summer day in Detroit during the 1950s, I went to see the Tigers play the Red Sox, and during batting practice a little girl in back of me in the stands at Briggs Stadium kept asking her parents to take her down to the railing so that she could get an autograph. About five years old, she didn't care which player's signature she got. Because her parents didn't want to go with her, I volunteered. After Boston finished hitting and was leaving the field, I called out to Ted Williams, who came over and gave his autograph graciously, with the most disarming smile one can imagine. He even thanked the child for asking. He offered to give me his autograph also, but, regrettably, I had nothing for him to write on.
Years later I told this story to an old-time baseball fan. He said my description did not fit his image of Ted Williams. But, yes, I'm talking about the same fellow pictured on your April 16 cover.
Jill Leiber's story about Dave Righetti (The Relief Is Not So Sweet, April 16) finally convinced me that some people in sports can be real heroes.
I recently asked my 12-year-old, along with some of his buddies, whom they considered their heroes. All came up with players who were tops in various sports. A few of the players mentioned had had some association with drugs. None were known for being benevolent.
Righetti's shunning of crass commercialism and his strong sense of loyalty to his family and his team are values that would allow me to say to my son, "Take a good look at Dave Righetti. I wouldn't mind if you were like him."