The Sun King
Thank you for showing that Charles Barkley is not merely the loudmouthed, free-swinging spitter that everyone makes him out to be (He's Everywhere, May 3). In an era in which so many people are worried about doing what's politically correct, it is refreshing to read about an amazing athlete who says what he really thinks. While Barkley may sometimes lose his cool, he is the second-greatest player in the game, and nobody has meant more to the Phoenix Suns this season than he has.
When Charles Barkley came out of Auburn, I thought he was just a bigmouth with a lot of opinions. Over the next few years, however, I realized that his comments were spiced with humor and insight. Charles is one of the most entertaining humans on the planet. He is also genuine, something you can't say about many superstars these days.
The fans at the Orlando Magic- New Jersey Net game must have had a marvelous time for 46 minutes while the crew at the Meadowlands repaired the damage caused when Shaquille O'Neal shattered yet another backboard (SCORECARD, May 3). How about creating a rule whereby any NBA player who hangs on a rim is assessed a personal foul and if the shot goes in the basket does not count? If a rim-hanging resulted in a damaged backboard or rim, that player would be assessed a penalty similar to the infraction for prolonged or excessive celebration in football or intentionally knocking the puck out of the rink in hockey.
Hanging on the rim is grandstanding and adds nothing to the game. Whatever happened to finesse in basketball?
PAUL T. FERRER
Attacks on Athletes
"Terror on the Court"? How about "Trash on the Cover"? Your May 10 cover photograph of Monica Seles was terrible. I felt sick when I saw her shocked expression after being stabbed. This is the sort of thing I expect from my local trash TV station, not from a publication of your merit. The story should be told, but there was no need to get sensationalistic about it. Please do not follow the recent trend of using shock to sell.
Boca Raton, Fla.
The stabbing of Monica Seles reminds me of another attack on an athlete. On June 14, 1949, a deranged 19-year-old female fan who was enamored of Philadelphia Phillie first baseman Eddie Waitkus tricked him into coming to her Chicago hotel room, where she shot him in the chest. Waitkus missed the rest of the season but returned in 1950 to play a full 154 games and bat .284 as the Whiz Kids Phillies won the National League pennant. He played five more years in the majors, although his Phillie roommate, Russ (Monk) Meyer—who was a pitching coach in the Yankee organization from 1981 to '92—said Waitkus was never again the ballplayer he had been before the shooting. Waitkus was 53 when he died of cancer in 1972.
Tom Verducci's story on the New York Mets (Battle-Weary, May 17) was accurate, and judging from the photo of Ryan Thompson on page 42, the Mets were right to send him to Triple A. Who taught him to hold the bat that way on a bunt? Thompson is lucky he was sent to Norfolk and not to the disabled list with four broken fingers on his right hand. No wonder the Mets are in the cellar.
New York City
Baseball Still Has Heroes
In response to your article about a generation of baseball fans searching for heroes (Sign of the Times, May 3), part of the answer may be the lack of attention given to the laudable deeds of some players. For instance, your readers may have missed the story of Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn and a young Boston boy with cancer. During a recent West Coast trip Vaughn had a telephone conversation with the boy, who asked if Vaughn would hit him a home run. Mo promised only to try, but he did get one. A week later Vaughn invited the boy to the Boston clubhouse at Fenway Park before a game to meet the other players and to throw out the first pitch. Who was on the receiving end of the first pitch? His hero, Mo Vaughn.
KATHRYN D. EVEN
Bigots and Losers
Being an avid Dallas Cowboy fan, I read Austin Murphy's article about the recent meeting of Don Beebe and Leon Lett (Together Again, May 17) and was left feeling thoroughly disgusted. The story was great, but certain segments of it reminded me of how hateful people can be. I am referring to those who sent the packages and letters to Lett after his now famous premature celebration in Super Bowl XXVII, especially those who informed him that he had cost them money and that he was a "dumb nigger."
The tragedy isn't Lett's moment of humiliation. The tragedy is those who call themselves fans but who are actually bigots and losers who feel the need to send hate mail to a remarkable man, Leon Lett.
DAVID H. THOMAS
Panama City, Fla.