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Robinson Wasn't The First Black Big-Leaguer

"The racial gap in the grandstands" (Sports Biz, Oct. 2) states that Jackie Robinson was the first black big-league ballplayer, in 1947.

But the origins of Major League Baseball are considered to date back to 1869, when the National Association of Base Ball Players began allowing professional play. At that time, blacks were on the teams. The (white) owners struck a gentlemen's agreement in the mid-1870s to bar nonwhite players from professional baseball. The exception was that American Indians were allowed to play. Clubs dropped their black players gradually and did not sign youngsters. It wasn't until the 1890s that there were no teams with black players.

Some owners resisted the ban. Still, it held until 1947, when Jackie Robinson joined a major league team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, after a 55-year gap.

Ben Fisher


"What's really propping up the economy?" (Cover Story, Sept. 25) implies that the solutions to some of our problems in health care can be solved by technology. However, technology is not the only answer. We're facing a severe shortage of nurses that will only get worse as our population ages.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that nursing is still thought of as a "female profession." The media constantly reinforce this image with stereotypes. This helps to keep some 50% of the population from considering nursing as a career.

Your cover image is a good example. The illustration [a play on WWII's Rosie the Riveter] is dated, sexist, and does not present an accurate picture of nursing today. This type of media coverage will only further the health-care crisis.

Carlo Parker, RN, BSN

Boca Raton, Fla.

I believe the 20-70-10 performance system ("The case for 20-70-10," The WelchWay, Oct. 2) to be without merit. I worked for a Fortune 500 company that tried it, and just a few years later they put the sword to this experiment. Rather than relying on an individual supervisor's judgment and experience to rate workers, the 20-70-10 performance system pushes the job of rating employees onto a committee, thus disenfranchising the employee-supervisor relationship.

When annual review time comes, supervisors are left with the onerous task of telling the true top performers they are not going to be promoted because of some nebulous reason no one understands. Worse still is how the system creates a whole group of managers who have no real idea how their individual subordinates are performing.

After four years, my company quietly decided to pull the plug on this disaster. However, the damage had already been done. The last time I checked on the company -- a long-standing icon of American industry -- it had been forced to merge with a French company to have any hope of competing with its rivals.

Geoffrey M. Lenart

Ventura, Calif.

I was disappointed to see no mention of mutual funds in Aaron Pressman's "Risky bets that may not pay" (Personal Finance, Oct. 2). The investments he cites -- timber investment management organizations, rare coins, a portfolio of real properties -- make little or no sense for the average investor.

Yet a diversified mutual fund of natural resources and/or real estate investment trusts would be a smart complement to the usual portfolio of stocks and bonds. Certainly, "a 10% timber allocation to a typical stock and bond portfolio" is off the wall. But 5% in timber within a 5% to 10% of total portfolio allocation to a natural resources mutual fund makes perfect sense.

James Stehr

Alameda, Calif.

"The truth about brainstorming" (Inside Innovation, Sept. 25) did not directly address what I consider to be the most significant problem with getting the most out of brainstorming: loosening up the participants so that they feel free to make silly or even outrageous comments in the hopes of stimulating innovative ideas.

An example: The session once used on an aircraft carrier to determine how to avoid damage while in port during a hurricane. A comical idea to line up the crew members and have them blow against the ship to keep it away from the dock evolved into placing the aircraft on the dock and using the plane's backwash to hold the ship off the dock.

In my experience it isn't easy to get people to loosen up to conduct this type of brainstorming.

Don Smith

Rochester, N.Y.

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