YMCA race brings out champions

I just came from the Angie Gioiosa July 4 races in Altoona (5K, 15K and 2-mile walk) where my daughter ran the 5K, and my son ran the 15K.

If you ever need to look into the character of people in America today, just attend an event like this.

More than 1,000 dedicated male and female athletes of all sizes, shapes and ages were not competing against each other, but against themselves.

After months of training, they arose this morning at the crack of dawn to run, pant, sweat, grunt and groan until they came to, and passed, the finish line.

There was not a loser in the bunch. I got goose bumps and a lump in my throat watching each and every one of them.

The leaders flew past effortlessly. The ones bringing up the rear weren’t racing the clock; they were racing their own will.

But the prize was just as valuable. Every runner who crossed that finish line was a winner – and a true champion.

Jeff McNelis


Give Franklin some time

I read with interest Will Walk’s letter last week about Richy Anderson and Jonathan Warner leaving the Penn State program and some high-profile players from the 2015 class de-committing.

The latter is no surprise as today’s generation of players are somewhat immature and change their minds on a day-to-day basis.

At first, Anderson and Warner transferring was a surprise. But remember, both came to Penn State as wide receivers in coach Bill O’Brien’s first year, and O’Brien’s offense was oriented to wide receivers and tight ends.

Coach James Franklin’s offense is not that way. He has instituted the wildcat offense in his scheme of things and may be more TE-driven, and some of those TEs may be utilized as big WRs.

The other point is that one of the sports writers some time ago stated that new head coaches tend to “push some players off the team” as they don’t fit that coach’s system.

This may be why Anderson and Warner have departed. Forget about the fact they are sons of former Penn State players. Franklin did not grow up in the Paterno system and not a Penn State student.

These players may have been pushed out to leave scholarships open to recruiting Franklin’s style of players. That is his prerogative. So if you want to believe there is a turn in the way the Penn State football program operates or not, that is your choosing.

Let’s sit back and watch how things evolve with this program with Franklin at the helm.

Les Hart


HR Derby, a (past) gem

With the annual Major League All-Star Game and Home Run Derby contest less then a week away, I wonder how many remember the original Home Run Derby contests that aired weekly on TV.

Since this was 1959, we’re talking black and white TV, of course. I remember watching every Saturday and couldn’t wait until the following week’s show since the winner advanced until they were eliminated. The show was filmed in 1959 at Chicago’s Wrigley Field and featured many future Hall of Famers in head-to-head competition for cash prizes and the honor of being named Home Run Derby champion.

The format was much different as they played a full nine innings, getting only three outs per inning – just like a real game.

There was a full complement of umpires and three strikes recorded an out. Foul balls were counted as such and could result in a strikeout. Home runs were all that counted.

Between at bats, the participants would sit on either side of the TV commentator and participate in ongoing conversations while the other competitor batted. They had a little table with a microphone, for the commentator, and two chairs, for the competitors, seated behind home plate. The conversations provided amazing insight that the fans wouldn’t normally hear.

The weekly head-to-head competition was intense and featured future Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks and Harmon Killebrew in the prime of their careers. Other competitors included Jackie Jensen, Rocky Colavito, Ken Boyer, Eddie Matthews, Al Kaline, Duke Snider, Bob Allison, Wally Post, Dick Stuart, Frank Robinson and Gil Hodges.

I remember Mantle once advanced four straight weeks, Aaron advanced six weeks and Mays advanced four weeks. I remember this only because several years ago my wife was able to purchase volumes 1, 2 and 3 for me as a gift. About this time every year, I pull out those DVDs and enjoy the real Home Run Derby competition once again.

Since this was well before free agency, the weekly winner received $1,000 and advanced to the next round, and the loser received $500 and was eliminated. This was big money back then in an age an era where most players worked at other jobs during the offseason.

Will Walk

Spring, Texas