Who's on First?

By Pollack, Joe | St. Louis Journalism Review, October 2005 | Go to article overview

Who's on First?


Pollack, Joe, St. Louis Journalism Review


Mr. Miklasz, meet Mr. Strauss. Sports copy editors, meet your writers.

You'd think that the Cardinals' beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joe Strauss, and the paper's senior sports columnist, Bernie Miklasz, would agree on something as simple as a batting order, even if it belonged to a non-Cardinal team, and that the copy desk would see the discrepancy, either in original copy or when the paper was printed.

But according to the first sports page Sept. 4, when both men were in Houston for Chris Carpenter's 20th victory, they could agree that it was the ninth inning and that Carpenter's final pitch was his 120th.

Meanwhile, Strauss, in his game story, described how Carpenter struck out Luke Scott with his 110th pitch, then retired shortstop Adam Everett on a grounder to short and closed out the game with his 120th pitch, a called third strike to pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro.

Miklasz, just a column to the left on the front page, saw it differently. In his account, the Houston leadoff batter was Everett, a strikeout victim. He then wrote that catcher Brad Ausmus grounded to shortstop for the second out.

And they agreed on the final out, with Miklasz also writing that Palmeiro looked at a third strike on Carpenter's 120th pitch.

I don't know the layout of the Houston press box--the last time I saw a baseball game in the city, the Colt 45s were playing in the Astrodome--but when I was issuing press box credentials for Football Cardinal games in the 1960s, I usually grouped the writers from the visiting team's city in the same area. I don't know where Miklasz and Strauss were sitting--since it was the bottom of the ninth inning, perhaps one was on his way to the locker room to join the pack of pundits for the predictable, trite post-game quotes and became confused as to the Astros' batting order. Both writers quoted Carpenter, and others, from the locker room.

Of course, this is not the gravest error that ever happened. After all, we're talking about the sports pages, the fun-and-games department of the newspaper.

But it's symptomatic of the carelessness of writers throughout the newspaper, compounded by that of copy editors, that so many minor errors crop up in the "corrections" column a day or two later. The funniest recently involved a cutline on Ramadan which described the period of daily fasting as lasting "from sunset to sundown," a period of time that even sports writers--and former sports writers--can endure without difficulty.

On the other side of the coin, Post photographers and picture editors deserve high praise for the special section on Busch Stadium with unusual, striking and evocative photographs of happenings in what can be considered the backstage area of the stadium. Robert Cohen and J.B. Forbes took a series of exciting and sentimental pictures, and editors played them large enough to increase their effectiveness. …

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