Publish date:




When the nation's largest mining company, American Metal Climax (AMAX), announced in 1977 that it planned to mine the rich molybdenum reserve in Colorado's Mount Emmons, the expected howl was heard from environmental groups (SI, Feb. 19, 1979). The mayor of Crested Butte, Colo., the colorful W. Mitchell (that's his whole name), predicted doom for the "Red Lady," as Mount Emmons is called by the locals, and spoke of "impending disaster for this community." Others took up the cry, arguing that the ineffable charm of their ski resort town (pop. 1,000) would be shattered, and that an economic boom-and-bust scenario would leave Crested Butte as flat financially as Mount Emmons would be physically.

And so, when AMAX announced this summer that its $1 billion mining project was being shelved—until at least 1984—an exultant shout was heard from the environmental corner. Claiming a major victory, Chuck Malick of the High Country Citizens' Alliance said, "All the people who worked to make AMAX accountable here have saved Gunnison County from a catastrophic bust."

Stuff and nonsense, replies Mike Rock, an AMAX representative. He says the protesters had "no effect whatsoever" on the company's decision, and disagrees with Malick's assertion that AMAX has "pulled out" of Crested Butte. The decision to hold off, Rock says, was caused solely by the depressed market for molybdenum, the price of which has dropped more than 15% since 1978.

Whether the mining delay is a result of market conditions or pressure from environmentalists is really academic. The fact is, AMAX has already invested more than $100 million on mine-oriented work at the site, and the company, Rock insists, isn't walking away from that investment. "We're looking at an ore body that is one of the richest in the world," he says. "There's no question that it'll be developed eventually."

Even the temporarily triumphant Malick admits the battle may just have been joined. "Our job isn't over yet," he says. "If AMAX comes back in five years, 10 years, we'll be here."

It may be time to take a closer look at the latest annual media information guide issued by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn's staff for the benefit of sportswriters and sportscasters covering major league baseball. The guide lists all sorts of useful addresses and phone numbers, including those for the commissioner's office, the American and National League offices, Major League Baseball Promotion Corporation, Major League Baseball Productions, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Major League Scouting Bureau, Player Relations Office, Major League Baseball Umpire Development Program, Association of Professional Baseball Players of America, even the Baseball Chapel. But Kuhn's people haven't yet found it in their hearts to include a listing for the Major League Baseball Players Association. In view of the newsworthy events of this summer, that strikes us as an oversight.

Among the rookies in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers camp this summer was a lineman named Denver Johnson, who has a brother named Dallas, another brother named Houston and a sister named Philadelphia. The Johnson family lives in Bowlegs, Okla. Do you suppose those first names are a form of wishful thinking?


The era of the "collapsible" basketball rim is officially here. Designed to prevent both rim-hanging, a dangerous and equipment damaging practice popular among showboating college and high school players, and the sort of backboard-shattering, Chocolate Thunder slam dunks perfected by the NBA's Darryl Dawkins, the new rims feature spring devices that allow them to trip forward when subjected to more than a given amount of pressure. In a trice—faster than the fan's eye can discern—the goal then snaps back to its ready-to-play position, parallel to the floor. The NBA experimented with types of various "collapsible" rims in the 1980 preseason, and the Continental Basketball Association, a minor league, gave a couple of them a season-long tryout during 1980-81. Impressed by the results of these experiments, the NBA has decided to introduce the Snap Back goal manufactured by Kansas-based Toss Back, Inc. in the 1981-82 season. The colleges are also getting into the act in a big way. The Pac-10 and the Western Athletic Conference both used a collapsible rim last season manufactured by Seattle's Slam-Dunk, Inc., and the innovation proved so successful that half a dozen other conferences, including the Big Ten, ACC and SEC, will use the Slam-Dunk goal during the upcoming season.

Besides preventing costly and game-delaying damage to rims and backboards, the devices are credited by some enthusiasts with improving play. Possibly because it contains more metal than a standard goal, and thus is less likely to vibrate ("If you want a better hamburger, you put more meat in it," says one of the inventors, Ken Mahoney), the Toss Back goal may contribute to more accurate shooting, or so Mauro Panaggio, coach of the CBA-champion Rochester Zeniths, believes. "It seemed that more of the missed shots that hit the rim ended up falling, because the rebound didn't come off as abruptly," he says.

Panaggio also likes the fact that the Snap Back goal has done away with the two braces found on either side of a conventional rim. "Their elimination allows for extra concentration," he says. "Some of my players felt the [Snap-Back] rim stood out more and was easier to shoot at." As for the Slam-Dunk goal, it stays an unusually bright orange, thanks to a newfangled technique by which a flake-resistant paint is electrically applied and sealed by heat. The durable, bright hue supposedly provides a more riveting target for shooters, which may or may not explain why six of the Pac-10 teams improved their field-goal percentage last season over the year before.

In any case, Joe Axelson, the NBA's director of operations, is hoping that the term "collapsible" soon will be passè. Perhaps because the word sounds slightly ominous, Axelson prefers this mouthful: "Pressure-release safety rim."


Everyone complains about the high cost of running a football program, but Baylor Coach Grant Teaff has done something about it. Teaff has two promising freshman kickers on his squad, Marty Jimmerson from Houston and Ben Perry from Texas City. Both kick barefooted, Jimmerson from the right side, Perry from the left. Both wear the same size 10 football shoe.

"I think this shows prudent planning and foresight in our recruiting," says Teaff, tongue firmly planted in cheek. "Finances are critical these days in college athletics. Football shoes, for instance, cost $45 a pair. But here we have two kickers, and we can get by with one pair of shoes for both."


Hold it, hold it! Put your running shoes back in the closet and forget about the trip to Allentown, Pa.—Jack Large has had second thoughts. If you remember, Jack was planning to raffle off his $65,000 house in a complex 13.1-mile half-marathon he was going to stage in Allen-town on Oct. 4 (SCORECARD, Aug. 3). He anticipated maybe 9,000 entries at $25 apiece for a gross of $225,000, from which he'd take the purchase price of the house, with the rest of the bread going for lesser prizes and the expense of promoting the affair.

Well, it's all off. The "Run for Home" has been canceled. There were simply too many problems, not just with Pennsylvania law governing lotteries, but with the intricacies of handicapping the race. The downcast promoter declined to say how much money he'd have to return to eager early entrants or how much the project had cost him already. "I don't want to think about that," he said sadly. "It's just such a disappointment that we have to do this."


Here's something for pro football fans to mull over. Eight of the NFL's current crop of 28 first-string quarterbacks are California products: Brian Sipe, Cleveland; Jim Plunkett, Oakland; Steve Bartkowski, Atlanta; Craig Morton, Denver; Dan Fouts, San Diego; Jim Zorn, Seattle; Pat Haden, Los Angeles; and (because starter Steve Fuller has been sidelined by a preseason injury) Bill Kenney of Kansas City. All right, here's something else to ponder. The second most fruitful state in turning out NFL quarterbacks is not Texas, not Pennsylvania and not Ohio, a fact that may surprise Texans, Pennsylvanians and Ohioans. As George Harris III of Lafayette, La. points out, it's his state, which ranks just 20th in population, with barely four million inhabitants, yet has five native sons currently starting at quarterback in the NFL: Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh; Joe Ferguson, Buffalo; Bert Jones, Baltimore; Doug Williams, Tampa Bay; and David Woodley, Miami.

That only two states account for nearly half of the NFL's starting quarterbacks makes one wonder what's wrong with the other 48. California is the most populous state and, as everybody knows, a hotbed of athletic hotshots. But Louisiana? For a comparatively small state to produce such a large number of NFL quarterbacks is amazing and a source of considerable pride to its residents. And Loozianyans aren't even mentioning their top throwers in other sports, like baseball's Vida Blue (an ex-high school quarterback sensation), J.R. Richard and Ron Guidry.


The leading purveyor of baseball cards, Topps Chewing Gum, is now the sole purveyor of baseball gum cards, thanks to a Federal Court of Appeals ruling that sent its two competitors back to the bush leagues. The unanimous decision reversed a July 1980 lower court finding that Topps had violated federal antitrust laws by cornering the major league market. The earlier ruling had allowed Fleer, the challenger in the case, and Donruss, a subsidiary of General Mills, to issue their own card-and-gum sets and compete with Topps, which had held a virtual monopoly in baseball cards since 1956.

Though Fleer plans to appeal the latest ruling to the Supreme Court, Topps, at least for the time being, once again will become the only card-and-gum packet on candy store shelves. Fleer and Donruss could conceivably sign minor league players to contracts in the hope that they will someday reach the majors, but such a ploy might take years to pay off. Or the two companies could sell their cards with some other product besides gum and candy, although such ventures have usually proved unsuccessful. In 1960 Leaf Gum tried to sidestep Topps by selling a combination of cards and marbles, but kids seemed to want something a little more chewable. Around the same time, Fleer sold a set of card-and-cookie packs, but the cookies weren't much more chewable than the marbles and the kids didn't bite. "1981 will be remembered as the year of the double asterisk," gloats Topps President Joel Shorin. "The year of the baseball strike, and the year that Topps won back its exclusive rights."

At Orono High School in Minnesota, thieves descended on the softball field and swiped the entire outfield fence, a pretty neat trick in itself. But it gives rise to a question: Where do you go to fence an outfield fence?



•Don Hasselbeck, New England Patriot tight end who's replacing the retired Russ Francis: "It shouldn't be hard to fill his shoes. He wears 12½ and I take 14."

•Billy Martin, Oakland A's manager, mocking the furor over the controversial split-season format by giving opposing manager Earl Weaver of the Baltimore Orioles an incomplete lineup before an A's-Orioles game: "I can't send the real lineup over yet. I don't know whether I want to throw these games or the ones against the Yankees."

•Lee Corso, Indiana football coach, discussing walk-on Center Mike Ocasek, a native of Honolulu: "That's a tough walk from here."