A PRESCRIPTION FOR SAFETY
This is an article from the Jan. 13, 1986 issue
Marring the Boston Bruins' 4-0 home victory over Buffalo last Saturday night was a frightening incident in which Bruin left wing Charlie Simmer, skating down the ice on a power play, was accidentally struck in the right eye by the stick of Sabre center Gates Orlando. Simmer lay facedown on the ice for several minutes before being carried off on a stretcher. Doctors later determined that Simmer had suffered "blunt trauma" to the eye and said the odds were good he will regain full vision.
Relatively speaking, Simmer is lucky. Numerous NHL players have been knocked out of action over the last two seasons by sticks or pucks to the eye, and some have had their careers ruined. Montreal center Pierre Mondou, poked in the left eye last March in a game against Hartford, was forced to retire in October with impaired vision. Last month, former NHL wing Hector Marini lost his left eye after being hit by a puck in a minor league game. Significantly, neither Simmer, Mondou, Marini nor any of the other players hurt was wearing an eye shield.
It seems more apparent than ever that all hockey players should be required to don eye shields. "Why I never wore a shield still amazes me," Marini says. "It's so easy to lose something so precious." A small number of NHL players currently wear the clear plastic visors, among them such high scorers as the Canadiens' Mats Naslund and Quebec's Michel Goulet. Yet others note a certain unmanly stigma in the use of a face guard. "I'm glad I have an excuse to wear one," says Montreal center/wing Ryan Walter, who missed several games after taking a stick to the eye last December.
The chief argument against helmets (mandatory for new NHL players since 1979) and face guards is that their use promotes careless roughhousing and high-sticking. At the college level, where face guards have been mandatory since 1979, games today are donnybrooks straight out of Slap Shot. Following Saturday's incident, Boston general manager Harry Sinden griped to The Boston Globe that Orlando, who has worn a face shield since his days at Providence College, "is another product of what masks and shields have brought to the game.... He hasn't learned yet that you don't carry your stick up there indiscriminately."
But on-ice officials at every level now tend to ignore all but the most wicked of sticking infractions. As a result, the eye shield should be mandatory for all players. As Marini says, "Now I think everyone should wear one. I wouldn't want anyone to experience what I did. It's a nightmare."
A TRIUMPH FOR SAFETY
There's welcome news from doctors at the University of Pennsylvania Sports Medicine Center in Philadelphia, who report that the banning of "spear" tackling in football has dramatically reduced the occurrence of cervical spine injuries in the sport. Writing in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Joseph S. Torg and his colleagues note that since 1976, when antispearing rules were adopted by both the NCAA and National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations, the number of cervical fractures, subluxations and dislocations suffered by football players has declined by more than 60%. The cases of permanent cervical quadriplegia fell from 34 in 1976 to five in 1984. Dr. Torg says further decreases can be achieved through "continual reeducation" of coaches and athletes in proper tackling technique.
NO. 2 AND TRYING HARDER
With its 27-23 victory over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl last week, Michigan claimed the No. 2 ranking behind Oklahoma in the final AP and UPI football polls. At the same time, the Wolverine men's basketball team was ranked No. 2 behind North Carolina by both wires. This is rare indeed: The last time a school's football and men's basketball teams both finished their seasons in the top two in the nation was in 1961-62, when Ohio State ended up No. 2 in both the wire-service football polls and NCAA Final Four. If the Wolverine hoopsters finish the season No. 1—their current ranking by SI—Michigan will have achieved a football-basketball double unprecedented in the 50 years of wire-service football polling.
THE RETICENCE OF EDGAR JONES
The Cleveland Cavaliers' marvelously quotable forward Edgar Jones has taken a vow of silence. "I'm not talking anymore," he says. "That's it. No more words. It's over. Want to know the deal? Mum is the word here. My game talks, and conversation walks. That's food for thought for the people. All those fancy quotes were from my early days when I was a young buck. I've got to take all the brashness out of them now and give them a coat of coolness. Want to know why? Not that they're not true. I have no limitations. It's just that, basically, I'm a quiet guy who keeps to himself. I don't like to talk. By the way, I'm probably retiring after this season because I can make more money outside of basketball. Want to know why?..."
'EVERYONE IS QUILTY'
An environmental accident of small scale but broad implication has destroyed years of stream-reclamation work by conservationists in the state of Washington. Because of a faulty valve at a jet fuel storage facility on the grounds of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, 31,290. gallons of the lethal fuel leaked into Des Moines Creek last Nov. 28, killing all stream life for a two-mile stretch. "It was a complete disaster," says Deryk Row, founder of the Des Moines Salmon chapter of Trout Unlimited. "The fuel penetrated the water and subsoil. The food chain has been destroyed." Trout Unlimited had worked to clean up the creek, which had been fouled by a similar fuel leak in 1973, and had stocked it with 50,000 fingerling salmon just last February. Craig Baker, an inspector with the Washington Department of Ecology, says the department's official estimate of the total fish kill will also be 50,000. He says Olympic Pipe Line Co., which operates the storage facility for the airport, has been found negligent, and in his report, which will be released in two weeks, he will recommend the firm be hit with a fine of up to $20,000.
For Des Moines Creek conservationists, years of cleanup work lie ahead. "I'll leave you with a thought," says Row. "Although this is a disaster, almost everyone in the country is guilty on a smaller scale—whether [through] pouring antifreeze down the drain, or whatever. Those things wind up in our streams, and we've got to get it stopped. This county alone has lost 32 miles of spawning stream in the last year."
A ROCK LEGEND
The LSU basketball team was ending a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park earlier this season when a tour guide on the team bus began telling of an eternal curse placed on anyone who removes a piece of the volcano. The bus was quiet for several moments until, toward the back, a window slid open, a long arm reached out and a large handful of lava stones clattered to the pavement. Forward Nikita Wilson was seen to slump down in his seat. Score one for honesty: LSU is 14-0 since the incident.
BILL VEECK 1914-86
More than anything else, Bill Veeck was a fresh breeze blowing through baseball. That he was a venerable 71 at his death last week obscures the fact that in his greatest years in the game he was considered an enfant terrible by the baseball establishment. He was only 32 when he bought the Cleveland Indians in 1946, and the older owners found him loud, opinionated and disrespectful. Veeck shocked people in those more formal times by refusing to wear a suit and tie to business meetings; he favored short-sleeved shirts.
He was a baseball brat, the son of the William Veeck who ran the Chicago Cubs for the Wrigley family in the 1920s, and at 32 he was positive that he knew as much about running a ball club as the older owners did. He was right. Making shrewd trades, promoting his team flamboyantly, signing blacks (he was the first American League owner to follow Branch Rickey's lead in breaking baseball's color line), he moved the Indians in three seasons from sixth place to the pennant—and won the World Series, too. The Indians had never drawn a million spectators in a season, but they passed that mark in Veeck's first year and in 1948 set a then major league attendance record of 2.6 million.
Veeck was a shrewd businessman (he understood before others did the wily uses of depreciation and tax write-offs), and he soon sold the Indians and moved on. Later he owned the St. Louis Browns (1951-53) and the Chicago White Sox (twice, in 1959-61 and again in 1975-80). But more than that, he was a solid baseball man: He won a second pennant with his 1959 White Sox, interrupting what otherwise would have been 10 consecutive flags for the New York Yankees.
Personally, Veeck was warm and friendly, totally unpretentious and remarkably brave. Beset by ailments, he underwent surgery more than 30 times during his life, including the amputation of his right leg because of a war injury. He was never known to complain. In fact, Veeck loved to joke about his afflictions. One chilly day in Comiskey Park he told a shivering friend, "I bet my feet are only half as cold as yours."
His reputation remained that of an endearing oddball who loved to dream up zany promotions, such as the first "exploding" scoreboard and the signing of a 3'7" midget to a St. Louis Browns contract in 1951. The midget, Eddie Gaedel, came to bat only once (he drew a base on balls), but he became an indelible part of baseball history.
Bill Veeck was indelible, too. Smart, daring, innovative, always entertaining, he was a vivid thread of excitement in the often monochromatic fabric of baseball ownership.
—ROBERT W. CREAMER
THEY SAID IT
•Lou Gorman, Boston Red Sox G.M. on his two phone calls to Mike Mitchell, father of pitchers John and Charlie, both recently traded by the Sox: "I don't think I made a good impression on him."
•Maurice Lucas, intimidating L.A. Lakers forward: "If I was to play against myself and do the things to me that I do to other people, I'd be mad at me."