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