Under the Sun
This is an article from the April 15, 1991 issue
The ozone layer is vanishing faster than anyone thought
Last week the Environmental Protection Agency made public an alarming report from a team of NASA researchers who discovered that the ozone layer, which protects living things from the sun's ultraviolet rays, is being depleted more than twice as fast as scientists had thought.
Eileen Claussen, who is the EPA's specialist on ozone, projects that the accelerated depletion will mean that 12 million Americans—not 500,000, as had been previously predicted—will develop skin cancer in the next 50 years, and that more than 200,000 of those cancer victims—not 9,300—will die. EPA administrator William Reilly said that the new research "is unexpected, it is disturbing, and it possesses implications we have not yet had time to fully explore."
One of those implications is the need to speed up plans for replacing chlorofluorocarbons, chemicals used in refrigerators and aerosols, that rise in the atmosphere and eat away at the ozone. Last June at a London conference on ozone depletion, 70 nations agreed that developed countries should cease production of chlorofluorocarbons by the year 2000 (developing countries would have until 2010). After Michael Oppenheimer, an atmospheric physicist with the Environmental Defense Fund, heard about NASA's new data, he said, "First, we have to speed up that schedule. Second, we have to increase assistance to poor countries so they can buy substitute chemicals quicker. Third, industry has to develop even more substitute chemicals."
The one encouraging note in last week's bad news was that it came from the EPA and thus, by extension, the Bush Administration. That raises hopes that the U.S. will move on the ozone crisis in the immediate future.
Still, any changes in international policy may have to wait. Claussen, who says she was "amazed, shocked, stunned" when she heard about the new evidence, will present the findings at the 1991 conference this June in Nairobi. She notes that amendments to the current accords must be proposed six months in advance of the summits. "They can't be changed this year based upon the report," she says. "But European countries have already said they want to move faster on this, and with this new information, I think there will be amendments in 1992." There is clearly no time to waste.
The 49ers bid Roger Craig and Ronnie Lott goodbye
There was a great deal of moaning and mourning among San Francisco 49er fans last week in the wake of the departures of running back Roger Craig and safety Ronnie Lott, two of the most prominent members of the Team of the '80s. Thanks to Plan B free agency and the 49ers' reluctance to sign them to multiyear contracts, Craig and Lott are now Los Angeles Raiders.
San Francisco obviously has to fill two big holes. In place of Lott, a certain Hall of Famer, will be either third-year man Johnny Jackson or journeyman David Waymer. And unless the 49ers get a superior running back in the draft or through a trade, they'll need three men to replace the multitalented Craig: Keith Henderson, Harry Sydney and the smallish Dexter Carter. That's on the field. Off the field Lott and Craig were peerless leaders.
Little wonder Niner fans are up in arms. The San Jose Mercury News asked its readers if the 49ers had mishandled the Lott situation; yes, the readers said by a 1,005-124 margin. This was not the only recent public relations setback for San Francisco. Owner Eddie DeBartolo was nearly pilloried two months ago for trying to change the team logo. (He quickly reversed field on that one.)
Purely from a football standpoint, though, the 49ers did the right thing in letting Lott and Craig go. Lott missed 10 games to injury over the past two seasons, and he will be 32 by the time he plays his first down with the Raiders, while Craig is 30 and fading. The 49ers have learned something from the great Steelers of the early 1980s, who stayed with their aging defense far too long. Says DeBartolo, "We wanted Roger and Ronnie back, but not for more than a year. There's no way you stay competitive in this league without staying young. You just can't keep people beyond their years. I'm so attached to the players, if I made the personnel decisions, nobody would ever leave. But we're committed to turning the team over."
And what about the most famous 49er, quarterback Joe Montana? He turns 35 in June, and his successor, Steve Young, is champing at the bit to leave San Francisco. Maybe not this year, but next year for sure, the 49ers will have to make the kind of decision about Montana that they made about Craig and Lott. Should they pay homage to the past, or should they plan for the future?
To the Rescue
A 173-member team helps a caver see the light
In pain from a broken leg, cave explorer Emily Davis Mobley looked up from her stretcher on the morning of April 1 and said, "Listen, if you have a choice between trashing [something pretty] and making me uncomfortable, make me uncomfortable."
The veteran caver was addressing the first of many rescuers who over the course of four days last week carried her 1,000 feet up and 1.45 miles out of New Mexico's Lechuguilla Cave. Mobley's retrieval from the country's deepest—and possibly most fragile—cavern required the concerted efforts of 173 expert volunteers and became one of the most difficult underground rescues ever accomplished.
Since 1986, when some of Lechuguilla's passages were discovered, experienced cavers have been drawn to Lechuguilla, which lies about four miles from its famous neighbor, Carlsbad Caverns. In barely five years of exploration, the cave has yielded 55 miles of tortuous passages, making it at least the nation's fourth longest. Countless unexplored passages remain, many of a geologic beauty that lures cavers on.
Mobley's plight began 12 hours after she entered Lechuguilla on the afternoon of March 30. She and four others were mapping unexplored passages in the Reason Room, an irregular chamber 100 feet wide, when an 80-pound boulder popped loose without warning and hit her left leg.
She sustained a simple fracture just below the knee. By luck, one team member, Stephen Mosberg, was a doctor. He performed first aid while another caver returned to the entrance to launch rescue operations. The 40-year-old Mobley was no stranger to cave rescues, having supervised several near her rural home in Schoharie, N.Y. Throughout the ordeal, she advised rescuers on how to extricate her without doing harm to the beauty of the cave.
Mobley's spirits remained high throughout four days of tedious progress. Her only requests were for pizza, a canned margarita and a hairbrush. Shortly after 1 a.m. last Thursday, tired cavers at last hauled her out to the night sky and a waiting ambulance.
Before leaving Lechuguilla, Mobley named the virgin passage in which she suffered her broken leg. The previously blank spot on the complex cave map will forever be known as "We Shouldn't Have Mapped This Pit" Pit.
—MICHAEL RAY TAYLOR
Woman of Steal
Rickey Henderson is good, but he's no Sophie Kurys
When the baseball season began early this week, Rickey Henderson needed only three more stolen bases to break Lou Brock's alltime major league record of 938. But he still didn't have Sophie Kurys's number. From 1943 to '52, the "Flint Flash," as she was called, stole 1,114 bases in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Granted, the distance between bases in the league was less than 90 feet (it varied from 65 feet to 85 feet), and maybe the catchers didn't have the strongest of arms. But then Henderson doesn't have to slide in a skirt. "They tried taping sliding pads to my legs," says Kurys. "But they were so cumbersome. I told them, no, I'd just get the strawberries. Besides, the pads made it look as if my slip was showing."
The girls' league was the brainchild of Chicago Cub owner P.K. Wrigley, who saw it as a way to fill major league ballparks in case World War II took away all the able-bodied men. Centered in the Midwest—in cities such as Racine, Wis.; Kenosha, Wis.; Rockford, Ill.; and South Bend, Ind.—the league far outlasted the war. A crowd of 7,000 came out to its first all-star game in '43, under temporary lights at Wrigley Field. That's right, the girls played a night game at Wrigley 45 years before the boys.
Kurys, who is from Flint, Mich., was a four-time All-Star as the second baseman for the Racine Belles. In 1946, her finest season, she hit .286 in 113 games, with 201 stolen bases in 203 attempts! And like Henderson, Kurys had a little pop: In 1950 she led the league in homers, with seven.
Now 65 and living in Scottsdale, Ariz., not far from where Henderson's Athletics train, Kurys still follows the game. "I love to watch Rickey," she says. "You know, he's cockier than hell. It surprises me that the players don't steal more. If you watch the pitchers and get a good lead on them, you can steal."
For years, the women of the AAGPBL were forgotten. But now the Baseball Hall of Fame has an exhibit devoted to their exploits, and film director Penny Marshall is planning to do a movie about them. "People are beginning to realize that there really was a major league for women," says Kurys. "I think some of us should have the chance to be inducted into Cooperstown. After all, we played just as hard as the men."
And they did things that were just as amazing. Orel Hershiser may have the major league record for consecutive scoreless innings at 59, but he's still shy of the record of 63 set by Joanne Winter.
Racing with the Moon
Villanova barely wins the second annual Nude Relays
Inspired, perhaps, by the ancient Greeks, who competed at the Olympics in the nude, 45 men and women from 10 university track teams shed their clothes at 2:30 a.m. on March 31 and took off running. Jerry Falwell's worst nightmare? A complete breakdown in traditional values? No, just the second annual Nude Relays, an unsanctioned track meet following the Florida Relays in Gainesville.
A few athletes initiated the instant tradition last year, sneaking onto pitch-dark Percy Beard Track and running relays naked after the postmeet party. The legend was passed along the college track grapevine, so the second run-as-you-are party generated a lot of interest. Too much, in fact.
The revelers trying to watch from the stands made enough noise to wake up the neighbors, who called the campus police. After the first heat, the police turned on the lights, and the runners scattered. The Villanova team had won a chaotic 400-meter relay, so the Wildcats were declared the winners. "This wasn't just a bunch of drunks," said Phil Wharton, a former Florida runner and the self-described Nude Relays coordinator. "We were getting down to the essence of the sport, without all the commercialization. No baton, no shoes, just the bare essence."
Upon uncovering the Nude Relays, University of Florida officials kept their shirts on. No one was arrested. University president John Lombardi confessed, "If I had known about it, I would have watched."
Will there be a third annual Nude Relays? Florida track coach John Webb recognizes the public relations value. "We could break a world record and not get this kind of publicity," lamented Webb. "But this will be the last one at Florida."
Said Wharton, "The venue might change, but the event will continue."
[Thumb Up]To David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs, for giving $108,000 to the "I Have a Dream" Foundation, which will use the money to ensure the college education of 90 fifth graders at San Antonio's Gates Elementary School.
[Thumb Up]To Pennsylvania businessman David Wolf and his National Greyhound Adoption Program, which in 15 months of operation has found homes for 94 racing greyhounds that otherwise might have been destroyed.
[Thumb Down]To the Los Angeles Kings, for violating NHL rules by leaving behind their stars when they went to Calgary for their last regular-season game. The Kings held back Wayne Gretzky, Tony Granato, Tomas Sandstrom, Larry Robinson and Dave Taylor.
THEY SAID IT
Dave Winfield, Angel outfielder, on hitting in front of newly acquired Dave Parker in the batting order: "You're going to hear pitchers saying, 'Nobody told me there'd be Daves like this.' "
Jerry Glanville, Atlanta Falcon coach, on the new NFL policy prohibiting on-field celebrations: "Someday they'll have offsetting 15-yard dance penalties."
Tommy Lasorda is going public: Tommy Lasorda Foods, that is, makers of a line of pasta sauces developed by the Los Angeles manager. Fans attending Grapefruit League games this spring often found fliers on their windshields from a brokerage house, urging them to invest in the food company. As for us, we're not interested until the company comes up with fettuccine Alfredo Griffin.
Making a List
The Masters, golf's most storied tournament, will be played this week at Augusta National. SI's John Garrity has selected the 10 most momentous strokes in the Masters' 54-year history.
1. Larry Mize's 140-foot chip-in for a birdie on the second playoff hole to beat Greg Norman in 1987.
2. Gene Sarazen's 235-yard four-wood for a double eagle on the par-5 15th during the final round in 1935. Sarazen beat Craig Wood in a 36-hole playoff the next day.
3. Scott Hoch's miss of a 24-inch par putt that would have given him a victory on the first sudden-death hole in 1989. Nick Faldo won with a birdie one hole later.
4. Roberto de Vicenzo's pencil stroke in 1968. By signing his scorecard for a 4 instead of the birdie 3 he actually shot on the 71st hole, the luckless Argentinian lost to Bob Goalby by one shot.
5. Ralph Guldahl's side-hill three-wood over Rae's Creek to within six feet of the 13th hole in the final round in 1939. Guldahl's eagle helped him edge Sam Snead by a shot.
6. Sandy Lyle's 143-yard seven-iron from a bunker to birdie the 18th and beat Mark Calcavecchia by a shot in 1988.
7. Ben Hogan's 30-inch miss for par on the 72nd hole to lose to Herman Keiser in 1946.
8. Doug Ford's final-round hole-out for a birdie from the front bunker at No. 18 to beat Snead by three in 1957.
9. Arnold Palmer's skulled bunker shot over the 18th green on the 72nd hole, giving the victory to Gary Player in 1961.
10. Augusta National Golf Club's decision last September to accept media executive Ron Townsend as its first black member. That critical—and long overdue—stroke ensures that the Masters tradition will continue.
Replay: 20 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Baltimore Oriole slugger Boog Powell—half of him, at least—graced the cover of our baseball issue. Unfortunately, he was painted wearing street shoes instead of spikes. In the scouting report on the New York Mets, we mentioned disappointing pitchers Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan. "It is now or never for [those] two, and they are working diligently to make it now," we wrote.