Nobody knows for sure what the longterm effects of the accident at the nuclear power plant on Three Mile Island will be. Apart from concern about radiation emitted into the skies above eastern Pennsylvania, there is apprehension over contamination of the Susquehanna River, which flows past the plant.
The Susquehanna is the principal freshwater feeder into Chesapeake Bay. Dr. Joseph Mihursky, a University of Maryland ecologist who specializes in the environmental impact of power plants, says that within three months after a major radiation release into the Susquehanna, the contaminants would start appearing in the bay, depositing bioconcentrates that would adversely affect plankton, oysters and clams. Radiation then would spread through the food chain: the plankton and shellfish would be consumed by small fish, which would be eaten by bigger fish, and so on, to the muskrat and otter that feed in the area's rich marshlands. Waterfowl would also be affected and would transport radioactivity as far as the Arctic Circle.
Assuming that the release of radiation was "minimal," as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission asserted last week, this is no more than a scenario. But it is a scenario that is all too plausible. Because of the need for water for cooling purposes, nuclear plants are usually built next to rivers or lakes, whose ecological systems could be gravely damaged by nuclear accidents.
MARATHON IN PARADISE
It was probably only a matter of time, but the running boom has finally reached the South Pacific. To celebrate Flag Day, a big holiday in American Samoa, 75 runners are expected to compete on April 17 in the first Pago Pago Coconut Marathon. The race will start at 4 a.m. in the village of Laulii and pass through Pago Pago westward to the village of Futiga before cutting back to Utulei Beach, the territory's most popular swimming spot. The reason for the early start is that the weather in Samoa can get pretty stifling, with humidity above 90% by midmorning. A three-mile stretch of hills, 14 miles into the race, is expected to take its toll, but survivors can look forward to a postmarathon swim. The finish line is just 10 paces from the inviting waters of the Pacific.
DOING THE HONORS
Owner Charlie Finley didn't have anybody throw out a ceremonial first ball when the Oakland A's opened their home season Friday night. When a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle called to ask about it, Finley said, "Sure, you can throw out the first ball." But the 25 other big league teams followed—or will follow—tradition. By the time the last of the home openers is played on April 17, first balls will have been thrown out by:
Mayors: Dennis Kucinich (Cleveland), Ed Koch (New York Mets), Jim McConn (Houston) and Richard Caliguiri (Pittsburgh).
Governor: Al Quie (Minnesota).
Ex-Ballplayers: Stan Hack (Chicago Cubs) and Charlie Gehringer (Detroit).
Actor: Cary Grant (Los Angeles).
Boxer: Middleweight contender Tony Chiaverini (Kansas City).
Owner: Gene Autry (California).
Soldier: Sgt. Fred Patterson, a member of the U.S. Army paratroop team, the Golden Knights (Philadelphia).
Ex-Sportscaster: Bob Elson (Chicago White Sox).
War Hero's Widow: Mrs. William James (New York Yankees).
Courageous Auto-Accident Victim: Kathy Miller, 15, daughter of ex-Dodger Pitcher Larry Miller (Atlanta).
Mascot: Fredbird (St. Louis).
Year-of-the-Child Honorees: Trish Magwood, 8 (Toronto), and Jean Olivier, 13 (Montreal).
Tandems: County Executive Bill O'Donnell and Marquette Basketball Coach Hank Raymonds (Milwaukee); Governor Edward J. King and Shane Mitus, 8, leukemia patient (Boston); Mayor William C. Schaefer, former Mayor Tommy D'Alesandro Jr. and ex-player (and ex-manager) Billy Hunter (Baltimore); and the sons of slain Mayor George Moscone, Christopher, 16, and Jonathan, 14 (San Francisco).
Fans: In Seattle, Cincinnati, Texas and San Diego.
The matter before San Francisco's Recreation and Park Commission seemed routine. Ordered by health officials to prewrap all hot dogs sold in the stands, Stevens California Enterprises, Inc., the concessionaire at Candlestick Park, complained that this forced it to buy $50,000 in new equipment and spend an extra $25,000 a year for labor. To cover these expenses, the commission approved Stevens' request for a nickel surcharge on the price of both vended hot dogs—to 75¬¨¬®¬¨¢—and, for good measure, beer.
That was last July, and a baseball fan named Ron Gordon hasn't stopped beefing. Gordon, a high school biology teacher, noted that the cost of the new equipment could be amortized over 10 years—thus the yearly cost would be $5,000. He also learned that the main piece of new equipment, a hot-dog wrapping machine, could be operated at a rate that would increase labor costs by only $1,092 a year. He then computed that the surcharge would bring in 1,836,740 nickels, or $91,837, a year at San Francisco Giant and 49er games, a windfall of $85,745 above costs incurred because of the new equipment.
Incensed by what he called Wienergate, Gordon has buried public officials and the media under an avalanche of data, spending $800 out of his own pocket for postage and phone calls. Last September he appeared before the commission with elaborate charts and said that if Stevens' figures were accurate, employees using the new hot-dog machine were wrapping only 2.7 hot dogs a minute. Then, in a minute, he wrapped a dozen of them himself—by hand.
Stevens replies that part of the 5¬¨¬®¬¨¢ surcharge goes for taxes and vendor commissions. But some commission members admit that Gordon was very much on their minds when Stevens requested increases in concession prices last month. The commission cut back most of the requests, approving an increase in the price of hot dogs, for example, only to 80¬¨¬®¬¨¢ instead of 85¬¨¬®¬¨¢ as Stevens had asked. However, last July's nickel surcharge has not been rolled back and the persistent Gordon is now threatening court action. He says, "Some people seem to think, 'Well, it's just a nickel,' but those nickels can sure add up."
They held a Wilbur Hutsell Appreciation Day at Auburn Saturday and it was quite an occasion. First Auburn beat Alabama in a dual track meet at Wilbur Hutsell Track, 83-71. Then a crowd of 300 filled the Auburn Union's ballroom for a testimonial dinner. Wilbur Hutsell himself, 86, was there in a wheelchair.
Hutsell came to Auburn in 1921 and for various periods was the trainer, athletic director and basketball coach. But he was best known as the track coach, a job he held for 42 years. Auburn didn't award track scholarships during most of that time, but Hutsell uncovered athletes in physical-education classes and by means of a "cake race," in which winners received a homemade cake and a kiss from Miss Auburn. Making the most of available talent, he had a 140-25-5 dual-meet record. He also was a three-time Olympic coach.
Hutsell never really retired. In 1963 he and assistant track coach Mel Rosen switched jobs, Hutsell, then 70, staying on to coach hurdlers, jumpers and weight men. In 1973 he fell and broke his hip, but he returned less than a year later, moving about in pitter-patter steps, cane in hand, as he coached men 60 years his junior. A month ago, Hutsell was driving his car when he made one of his patented swooping left turns and collided with a state trooper's car. It was because of injuries suffered in that accident that he was in the wheelchair last week.
Despite his advancing age, Hutsell helped several current members of Auburn's team, including world-class hurdler James Walker and Olympic sprinter Harvey Glance. "He's a great technique man." Walker says. "He helps you with the little things that cut a 10th of a second off your time here and there." And Glance says, unashamedly, "I love him."
Whether or not he recovers from his recent injuries sufficiently to resume his duties, Hutsell's legend is intact. The Wilbur Hutsell Cake Race remains a major event on Auburn's fall calendar, and past and present Auburn athletes cherish their association with him. Moreover, nobody will ever surpass the classic succinctness of the pep talk Hutsell once issued to his cross-country team: "Hurry back."
MY FELLOW MUSHROOMS...
When New England Patriot Coach Chuck Fairbanks told owner Bill Sullivan last Dec. 18 that he intended to accept an offer to coach at the University of Colorado next season, Sullivan exploded. Fairbanks had four years left on his contract, and the Patriots were getting ready for the playoffs. After suspending and then reinstating Fairbanks, the owner won a court injunction preventing him from leaving.
Last week the Fairbanks affair took another turn. Spring practice began in Boulder and there was Fairbanks, gray hair blowing in the wind, directing the Colorado team in calisthenics. He had become Colorado's coach after all, having been ransomed by the Flatiron Club, an organization of well-heeled Colorado boosters headed by Oilman Jack Vickers. It was Vickers who had first approached Fairbanks about the Colorado job. He had also arranged to supplement the coach's proffered $45,000 salary with $90,000 a year for TV and radio appearances. And now it turned out that the Flatiron Club had agreed to pay $200,000 to the Patriots to win Fairbanks' release from his contract.
Details of that settlement were confirmed only under pressure from Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm, who complained that "the citizens of this state were being treated like mushrooms—kept in the dark and a bunch of manure spread on us." Lamm's outrage was understandable. Jack Vickers is not an employee of the University of Colorado, nor is he even an alumnus. Yet insofar as the hiring of Chuck Fairbanks was concerned, he was the University of Colorado. In its name he made job overtures to a man already under contract, and then secretly negotiated a settlement that some people at the university found rather extravagant, especially since it came at a time when the state legislature was cutting the school's budget. Said Conrad McBride, chairman of Colorado's political science department, "All the things that are wrong with intercollegiate athletics have surfaced in this incident."
BAT, BALL & BIRD
Larry Bird hasn't decided yet whether he will sign with the Boston Celtics, but he has apparently reached agreement in his baseball negotiations. A while ago, Indiana State Baseball Coach Bob Warn said to Bird, "You'd better get a bat, big fella," and the Sycamores' basketball star replied, "I'd like to try it." That was all Warn had to hear. He's now planning to put Bird into the lineup for at least a few innings, either at first base or as designated hitter. Bird's baseball debut could occur over the Easter weekend, when the Sycamores play doubleheaders at home on successive days against Southern Illinois and Evansville, respectively.
Doting fans in Terre Haute will no doubt turn out in large numbers for the chance to see Bird play baseball. But Warn, whose team has a 16-3 record, sees Bird as a fence buster as well as a gate builder. Bird was a promising pitcher on his high school team as a freshman but then quit to concentrate on basketball. He has played softball the last couple of summers in Terre Haute, and Warn says, "Larry just punishes a softball. I don't think it would take him long to get ready to hit a baseball. And we've got a uniform that just happens to fit."
THEY SAID IT
•Don Stanhouse, Baltimore Oriole pitcher, on how he made Pitching Coach Ray Miller cut short a conference at the mound last season: "I said, 'What can you tell me I don't know? I know the bases are loaded. I know we are leading by one run. I know I have two balls on the batter. I know I have to throw a strike. I know I have to try.' "