Reporting out of Context

By Pollack, Joe | St. Louis Journalism Review, October 2001 | Go to article overview

Reporting out of Context


Pollack, Joe, St. Louis Journalism Review


Reading any sports columnist is an interesting adventure. The relationship between writer and subject swings like a tree branch in an autumn wind. Sometimes writer and subject sway one way--sometimes another.

Sometimes they sway in different directions at the same time. That's basically good, because the writer thinks one way and the subject-often--thinks differently.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz and Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa illustrate this swaying in excellent style. It's obvious they don't always agree--and they shouldn't--but it's also obvious that Miklasz Wants to be correct and accurate, and express his feelings, and that means he must sometimes criticize La Russa or Mike Martz or Joel Quenneville or anyone else on the local scene. Sometimes he disagrees with their stance and he should write it, though it's not necessarily criticism. Sometimes he's exactly on target, sometimes he misses a little, and this situation is as it will be.

Here are a couple of recent examples: I was at Busch Stadium when Ray Lankford made his first appearance as a San Diego Padre. I had hoped to get a final look at Tony Gwynn swinging a bat. Such was not to be, but I got an interesting insight into both Miklasz and Cardinal fans that warm evening when the Cardinals sleepwalked their way to a 5-2 loss to the Padres, violating many axioms of how, to play the game.

When the Cardinals made a gift presentation to Gwynn, peers like Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Mark McGwire, Red Schoendienst and Ozzie Smith were on hand, and some front-office people looked on. Jack Buck, the poet laureate of downtown, contributed a celebratory verse and Amadee Wohlschlaeger presented a drawing. The fans gave Gwynn a proper ovation, and he made a proper response.

When Lankford came to bat in the second inning, the crowd erupted with cheers, though curmudgeonly types like me wonder if the noise was pro-Lankford or anti-La Russa. By my estimate, the ovation for Lankford was very close to that for Gwynn, which makes me think that it was anti-manager noise. To compare Lankford with Gwynn as major league baseball players is absurd. That his ovation was three-fourths the strength and length is more so. Yes, Lankford is a good baseball player, but he is not a great one and he is not at all in a class with Gwynn.

As far as the game was concerned, the Cardinals couldn't field and couldn't hit. They were charged with three errors and could have been charged with as many more. For part of it, the Birds' line score totals were 1-2-3 in runs, hits and errors, respectively. Lankford struck out his first at bat (his terrible strikeout ratio has not improved since he changed uniforms). He grounded into what looked like--and should have been--an inning-ending double play in the third inning, but both Edgar Renteria and Fernando Vina butchered the play and Lankford was safe at first. Because a scorer cannot assume a double play, no error was charged. Mike Darr, who had been on third, scored the Padres' second run on the play, with Lankford getting the RBI.

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