"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Peter Gammons

From Ali to Xena: 19

Fighting the Good Fight

By John Schulian

Chicago was a great city for anyone who worked on a newspaper. There were three dailies when I got there–the Daily News, Sun-Times and Tribune–and people read them voraciously, passionately. They were part of the fabric of life in the city. There wasn’t a great paper in the bunch, but they were still lively and full of first-rate reporting and writing. What they did not have when I hit town, however, was memorable  sportswriting. It was, if I may be blunt, painfully mediocre.

The sports-page revolution that had swept through New York, L.A., Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington hadn’t caused so much as a ripple in Chicago. Nor did the city’s newspaper executives seem to realize that all over the country, young hotshots were seizing the moment — Dave Kindred in Louisville, Joe Soucheray in Minneapolis-–and seasoned wordsmiths like Wells Twombly in San Francisco were still going strong. The Tribune had two first-rate sportswriters, Don Pierson, a wizard at covering pro football, and Bob Verdi, a droll stylist who went back and forth between baseball and hockey. Otherwise, the Trib was dreary, uninspired and burdened with lazy, burned-out columnists. The Sun-Times was trying to shake things up by bringing in consummate pros like Ron Rapoport, Randy Harvey and Thom Greer. Tom Callahan, a ballsy columnist from Cincinnati, was supposed to be part of the revolution, but he took one look at the in-house chaos and went right back where he’d come from.

Nobody was going to get rid of me that easily. I wrote an introductory column laying out my ties to Chicago -– the days I’d spent in Wrigley Field’s bleachers, the night I’d seen Bobby Hull score the 499th and 500th goals of his career -– and I followed it up with pieces on Al McGuire, a columnist’s dream, and the Bulls’ tough guy guard, Norm Van Lier. Next thing I knew, some guy was walking up to me and saying, “So how does it feel to be the best sports columnist in town?”

Jesus, the hours I put in. The deadline for the first edition at the Daily News was something like 5 in the morning, and I can’t tell you how many times I came close to missing it. (It always made me feel better when I heard that Larry Merchant did the same thing at the New York Post.) Understandably, my work habits grated on my wife when I got married. They also raised the anxiety level for the two guys who put the sports section together, the positively Zen Frank Sugano and Mike Downey, who went on to become a star columnist at the Detroit Free Press, the L.A. Times, and the Chicago Tribune. I can still quote headlines that Downey put on my columns: “She’s Dorothy, Not the Wicked Witch” for one in defense of Dorothy Hamill, and “That Mother McRae” (well, for one edition, anyway) after things between the Yankees and the Royals got chippy during the 1977 playoffs.

As soon as I proved myself, I had the clout to lobby for bringing in Phil Hersh, an old friend from Baltimore, to cover baseball. Phil was a first-rate writer, an intrepid reporter, and a fount of story ideas. While I covered Leon Spinks’ upset victory over Muhammad Ali in Las Vegas, he jumped on a plane to St. Louis and wrote a killer feature about the God-awful Pruitt-Igoe housing project where Spinks’ family lived on government-issue peanut butter in a blistering hot apartment with no way to control the heat.

Once we did a few things like that and wrote the hell out of whatever was on the agenda for the day, the bright kids on the Daily News staff caught the fever. Kevin Lamb, our Bears writer, already had it, because he’d broken in at Newsday, which had been at the heart of the revolution. All Downey needed was someone to free him from the copy desk and point him in the right direction. It was the same with Brian Hewitt, who was straight out of Stanford.

We didn’t have much space at the Daily News, but we made the most of it by out-hustling and out-writing the competition. Even when the sports department got moved downstairs to a dreary space next to the backshop, we didn’t miss a beat, just kept on kicking ass.

Seeing that happen was one of the real thrills of my first year as a columnist. I was in the middle of something that was more than just exciting, it was important. We were doing our part to keep the Daily News alive.

After I’d been in Chicago for a couple of months, I started hearing from papers that wanted to lure me away. The Tribune was the first of them. Fat chance. Then it was the San Francisco Examiner because Twombly had up and died when he was barely 40. The only call I paid attention to came from Larry Merchant. I would have sworn he didn’t know my name and here he was on the phone telling me he was in discussions to become the New York Times’ sports editor. If he took the job, he said, he wanted his first hires to be Peter Gammons and me.

Once again my head was spinning. But Merchant didn’t get the job, so I went back to busting my hump in behalf of the Daily News. I wish I could tell you every column I wrote was a work of art, but that wasn’t the case. Sometimes they were good, maybe even very good; other times I floundered and grasped for ideas and phrases that were beyond me. Still, I’ve always been grateful that I could break in as a columnist on a p.m. paper. It gave me the time I needed to master the form.  If I’d been at an a.m. paper, I’m not sure I would have survived as well as I did.

And here’s something that could only have happened at a p.m.: When I walked out of the paper to look for a cab home in the wee small hours one snowy morning, my footprints were the first on North Michigan Avenue. I had my dream job, in my favorite city in the country, and in a few hours, the people in that city–some of them anyway–were going to read what I had stayed up all night to write for them. And in that moment, I felt the romance of the newspaper business as I never had before.

It didn’t seem anywhere near as romantic late on March 3, 1978 as the Daily News staff waited for the paper’s final edition to come off the press. My face was as long as anybody’s, but I wasn’t entitled to sadness, not the way the people who had given their lives to the paper were. I was standing next to M.W. Newman, who wrote elegantly about architecture and books and local history and pretty much anything else that popped up on his radar. He’d been at the Daily News for something like 30 years. He was the one who had the right to sing the blues. I was just somebody who came along too late to help save the paper. And yet you’d be surprised how often I think of it. And how proud I am to have been there.

Click here for the full “From Ali to Xena” archives.

[Photo Credit: N.Y. Times]

Rumor Millin' Round

Ted Berg talks turkey with Peter Gammons:

What in the World Were You Thinking?

Here’s Peter Gammons writing about Game Six of the 1986 World Series in the ’87 SI Baseball Preview:

“Last year should be remembered not for one inning or one game,” said veteran relief pitcher Joe Sambito, “but what for most of us was the best of times.”

The worst of times, of course, came in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the World Series, when the Boston Red Sox turned a 5-3, two-out, bases-empty lead into a 6-5 loss to the New York Mets. In order, Gary Carter singled, Kevin Mitchell singled, Ray Knight singled to score Carter and send Mitchell to third, Mitchell scored on a wild pitch as Knight went to second, and Knight scored the winning run when Mookie Wilson’s grounder went through Buckner’s legs. Though it has been used many times before, the first paragraph of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities truly does describe Game 6: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way….”

Game 6 has now taken its place with the other great World Series contests: Game 8 in 1912, Game 4 in 1947, Game 7 in 1960 and Game 6 in 1975. But in a way it stands alone as the greatest “bad” game in Series history. The Mets, who in 1986 won more games (116) than all but two teams ever, were facing the Red Sox, who hadn’t won a World Series since Babe Ruth pitched for them. For much of the Series, the two teams bumbled around like a couple of September cellar dwellers. And managers McNamara and Davey Johnson, otherwise sound strategists, often seemed to be off in other worlds.

I was in 10th grade when the Mets beat the Red Sox and was pulling for Boston all the way (I knew more Mets fans at school and even though the Red Sox beat my second favorite team, Reggie’s Angels, in the playoffs, I was an American League man first and foremost). I wasn’t crushed, of course, when the ball went through Buckner’s legs but I was furious thinking of all the mess the Mets fans would be talking at school the next day.

Postcards from Peter

Say what you will about Peter Gammons, but I love him. There was a time, when Gammons was a regular on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, when I encouraged my children to refer to him as Uncle Peter. (My wife, incidentally, was not a fan of this.) Sure, his Boston Globe columns could be long-winded–perhaps even elitist, if a baseball writer can aspire to elitism–and there were the nagging questions about the accuracy of some of his reporting, but it never really mattered that much to me. I’m not a journalist, after all, I’m just a baseball fan, and Gammons always gave me exactly what I wanted. Heck, I even liked his guitar-nerd habit of dropping in bits about the Moody Blues or Third Eye Blind.

Anyway, like him or not, he’s got an interesting column about the Yankees over at MLB.com. In a nutshell, Jeter’s working hard, Ruben Rivera was a bust, Jesus Montero is the real deal, and Joba (gasp!) looks like the old Joba. Enjoy.

[Photo Credit: Justine Hunt/Boston Globe]

Top of the Heap

The Best American Sports Writing turns 20 this year. Peter Gammons is the guest editor and the book will be available in a few weeks. As always, it’s a must-read for anyone who cares about good writing.

To celebrate, here’s an excerpt from the forward by series editor Glenn Stout (I’ll have a Q&A with Glenn up shortly).

Dig:

Twenty years ago, in the foreword to the inaugural edition of this book, I repeated an anecdote I heard Tim Horgan, long time sports columnist for The Boston Herald, tell at his retirement dinner. He said that when he was approached by aspiring students of sportswriting he always asked why he or she wanted to write about sports for a living. Invariably the students would respond to Horgan by saying, “Because I love sports.”

“Wrong,” Horgan would admonish. “You have to love the writing.”

I have never forgotten those words. They are the reason, as I explained in that first edition, why this book is called The Best American Sports Writing, two words, and not The Best American Sportswriting, the compound word, which would be a different collection entirely. First and foremost this is and has always been a book for those who love writing. That the writing is about sports is, of course, not insignificant, but my goal has always been to seek out stories that are so well written that the subject matter hardly matters, stories readers will enjoy, not simply because of the topic, but, just as a non-athlete can enjoy the artistry of an athlete, because of the artistry displayed by the writer,

A great deal has changed since I began the work of this book twenty years ago, both for me personally and in the field of sports writing. When I began serving this book as series editor, I had just turned thirty years old and lived in an apartment in Boston’s South End and freelanced while working as a librarian at the Boston Public Library. Over the ensuing twenty years BASW world headquarters have moved, first to a house in the suburbs and now to Vermont, hidden in the fields and woods alongside Lake Champlain near the Canadian border. I have married, buried both my parents and watched my daughter grow up amid the clutter of this book for each of her fourteen years. Eighteen years ago I quit my job and have been a full time writer ever since. I rehabbed an old rotator cuff tear, started playing baseball again, pitched in over-30 baseball leagues for ten years, and retired once more. I have coached girls softball and Little League, learned to ski and snorkel and kayak and skate, make my own beer, maple syrup and applesauce, given dozens of talks, visited scores of schools, written hundreds of columns and features, over forty juvenile books, a full dozen adult titles and edited several other anthologies. I’ve made some friends I’ll have for the rest of my life, and lost track of some because, quite frankly, the curse that every writer lives with is that every hour and minute we spend doing what we love are also hours and minutes we spend away from those who we care about. I easily spend six or eight hours almost every day writing (I usually have to ask my daughter, to her amusement, what day of the week it is), and hours more each day reading, usually for this book, sometimes while sitting on an exercise bike, or on the porch, or at the kitchen table eating, or in my chair watching a ballgame. The work of this book never ends, but has surrounded me for so long I sometimes barely notice.

In an earlier edition of the book I told the story about how I came to be selected to serve as Series Editor, something for which I am forever grateful and still a bit mystified, because, to be honest, I did not know how to do this when I started. I cannot imagine that anyone would know how to do this, really. Like the act of writing, this is a “learn by doing” experience.

My first editor, undoubtedly trying to impress me with the magnitude of my task, told me that the series editor for another Best American title kept file cards of publications and dutifully checked them off each time they arrived, notated the cards in regard to their contents, and that I should do the same. I bought a big box of file cards and dutifully began creating a similar card file system.

Then I looked at the pile of material waiting to be read and decided that anything that got in the way of reading should probably be ignored, and tossed the cards. I have kept things simple and never used any kind of grading or ranking system for the stories I read over beyond this: stories I want to read again go in one pile. Stories I don’t go into another, and when that much larger pile topples over, those stories either get recycled or go into my woodstove. As the deadline approaches I keep going over the “read again” pile until it gets small enough to send to the guest editor.

Of course, any changes in my life pale when compared with the changes that have taken place in writing and journalism. Twenty years ago – before anyone had ever called me “sir” – I had just made the transition from writing features and other freelance assignments in long-hand and then going into work early to type them out on an electric typewriter. I was beginning to work on a Magnavox Videowriter, a first generation word processor that, to a non-typist like myself (I use my thumb and two fingers on each hand and type at the speed of my mind, which is not very fast) seemed absolutely magical. When I was selected to edit this annual collection it came with the caveat that I had to buy a computer. It cost most of my advance and now my wristwatch probably contains more computing power.

Writers for newspapers and magazines were making – or had just made – a similar transition to computers, and there was, of course, no such thing as the online world which has changed almost everything everywhere, but few places more so than the commercial worlds of newspaper, magazine and book publishing. There is no point to hash over the obvious here, but anyone involved in any of these businesses knows that everything has changed, and in the last few years of economic recession, not for the better. There are, unquestionably, fewer print outlets for writing than there were twenty years ago, and space in those that remain has become more precious. The online universe, which did not even exist, now offers outlets to everyone, ranging from purely commercial platforms, to the virtually non commercial world of the blog. This is both a bad thing, because the best writing is generally done by professionals, and a good thing, because the best writing is not always done by professionals. Quality, not bylines, matter.

It has never been easy to earn a living as a writer, and it is particularly difficult now, but it probably never been easier to write. Resources are instantly accessible. In an hour I can research what used to take me weeks to do. But those same resources are now also at the fingertips of the reader, who does not always want or even appreciate the care and talent it takes to turn raw facts into fine writing.

In these pages we argue otherwise, because the only thing that has not changed over the last twenty years is the most important thing of all – the quality of the writing. I am amused that every three or four years some magazine (or, now, website) sees fit to run a story that bemoans the “death of sportswriting,” or some similar, “get off of my lawn” nonsense, and then sends it to me for consideration in next years’ edition.

Although I agree that a great deal has died over the last two decades, and perhaps a small portion of that compound word “sportswriting” has reached an end, I am something of a historian of both genres and believe that rumors of the demise of either are highly exaggerated. While I have yet to meet the writer who has become better at his or her craft by going on television or the radio, there always have been and continue to be great writers who value the written word above all others. But the notion of some kind of “Golden Age” of either sportswriting or sports writing is simply the kind of selective nostalgia that still prefers Mom’s meatloaf to any other.
From my chair sports writing seems to be doing quite well. The reason, of course, is the writer. Despite the conveyor belt of change, both in technology and the marketplace, that has been rocketing past, the writers who have appeared in this book and who I read each year have neither cowered in fear before the word and nor been frozen into silence.

Quite the opposite. Many of us who retain faith in the page probably write more and better than before. It’s in the blood, and despite all the logical arguments that can be made against pursuing writing of any kind as an avocation, at the end of each year I end up with a box of about two hundred stories that I want to read again, stories that I worry over as the pile gets smaller and the decisions more difficult, just as I did twenty years ago. At the end of the process, I still seem to find seventy stories or so that I feel are worthy of being sent to the guest editor. Unless they have collectively chosen to lie, each has had a difficult time selecting the twenty to twenty five stories that eventually appear in this book, not because they can’t find enough stories, but because they have a hard time paring the number of stories down to a manageable size.

Now I am the one who regularly gets phone calls or letters or emails from aspiring writers who call me “sir” and approach me in much the same way they approached Tim Horgan. I tell them the same thing he did; you have to love the writing. That, among all else, has not changed and I do not think it ever will.

Foreword” by Glenn Stout from THE BEST AMERICAN SPORTS WRITING 2010. Copyright © 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

For more on BASW, peep Glenn’s website.

The Best Ever?

fens

Over at SI.com, Kevin Armstrong has a glowing profile of the Boston Globe’s glory days covering sports in the 1970s. It is a snap shot of a lost era and the piece comes at a good time, with the newspaper industry in peril. 

The Globe featured such talents as Bud Collins, Ray Fitzgerald, Leigh Montville, Leslie Visser, Bob Ryan and Peter Gammons. Armstrong details how Ryan and Gammons, both locals, were sports-mad, how they were enthusiastic, competitive reporters, and how, in some cases, they had cozy relationships with the teams they covered–Gammons shagged flies with the Red Sox and even “held a locker in the Sox clubhouse.”

Talk about a time gone by.

Yet the article left me feeling unsettled.  For instance, Armstrong writes, “The pieces all came together in 1975. As politicians tip-toed around Boston’s tinderbox of busing-related racial issues, the Globe prepared for an unprecedented run.”  According to Howard Bryant’s book about racism and Boston sports, Shut Out, the Globe did plenty of tip-toeing around racial issues as well. Armstrong writes about Will McDonough, “a tough-talking Irishman,” with affection, but does not call into question McDonough’s attitudes on race (detailed here in an article by Glenn Stout).  “McDonough wrote for all fan bases,” reports Armstrong. I don’t know if the brothers from Roxbury would agree.

But my biggest gripe with the piece is the lack of historical context. If the Globe was, as Armstrong contends, arguably the best sports department ever–and perhaps it was–who else is in the conversation? For some perspective, I e-mailed John Schulian, a former sports columnist with an encyclopedic knowledge of the great newspaper sports departments.

Here is Schulians’s reply: 

Call me a cranky old man if you must, but I think the piece is missing something very important — the names of all the great sports sections that are legitimate challengers to the Globe’s alleged omnipotence. Where’s Stanley Woodward’s New York Herald Tribune? What about the two glorious eras that the L.A. Times enjoyed? What about the wars in Philadelphia between the Bulletin and the Daily News? Just for the hell of it, I might even throw in Newsday when Jack Mann was preaching anarchy on Long Island and the irreverent New York Post of the Sixties and Seventies. And what, pray tell, about the staff that Blackie Sherrod put together at the Fort Worth Press when Eisenhower was in the White House?

If those sections don’t get at least a tip of the hat, Mr. Armstrong has written in a vacuum. Worse yet, he has failed to provide some much needed perspective. The Globe was splendid, all right, but part of the reason it scaled the heights it did was because it was pushed by the competition, in Boston and nationally.

I loved the Globe that Mr. Armstrong extols at marathon length, and I’m an enthusiastic admirer of any number of its writers for both their intrepid reporting and dextrous prose. But I think it’s fair to say that none of them ever matched the Herald Trib’s Red Smith and Joe Palmer word for word. (If Woodward had succeeded in hiring John Lardner to write a column, too, it would have put this best-section-ever nonsense to rest for eternity.) The rest of the roster wasn’t bad, either: Jess Abramson on boxing and track and field and college football, and Tommy Holmes on baseball, and Al Laney writing features, and the boss, Stanley Woodward, kicking ass whenever he found time to write a column. Roger Kahn, Jerry Izenberg, Jack Mann and Pete Axthelm came along later, as if the Trib’s literary needed more gloss. Think they could play in the same league as the Globe? I do.

There must be a lot of old Philly guys who think they could have held their own in that fight, too. At the Bulletin 30 and 40 and — it doesn’t seem possible — 50 years ago, you had true giants like Sandy Grady and George Kiseda working wonders with the language and investing their stories with social consciousness. Every kid the Bulletin hired learned by their example, from Ray Didinger and Mark Heisler to Alan Richman, Jim Barniak and Joe McGinniss. They had to hustle, though, because Larry Merchant was sports editor at the Daily News and he was bent on giving the paper a reputation for more than stories about pretty girls cut in half on vacant lots. He brought Grady and Kiseda to Philly, saw them defect to the Bulletin and responded by hiring away Bill Conlin. He found Stan Hochman in San Bernadino. And he had a beautiful madman named Jack McKinney writing boxing. By the time Merchant decamped for New York in the mid-Sixites, he had established a tradition that would last for decades more. Think of this, if you will: When I worked at the Daily News, from 1984 to 1986, my fellow columnists were Hochman, Didinger and Mark Whicker — any one of us by himself would have been enough for most papers –  and we had Conlin on baseball, Hoops Weiss on college basketball, Phil Jasner on the 76ers, Jay Greenburg on the Flyers and Paul Domowitch on the Eagles. When the subject of the Globe came up, we always said they had the best Sunday section going. But that was only because we didn’t publish on Sundays. The other six days of the week, we thought we were as good as anybody. Yes, even the Globe.

Forgive me for rattling on this way, but I want to make sure Mr. Armstrong realizes that history is littered with sports sections that could have given the Globe a run for its reputation. They didn’t always have a lot of money for travel, and they didn’t always have staffs that were two deep, but they were smart and inventive and indefatigable. They were also good. Think of how Jack Mann wove Newsday a world-class staff out of old-timers like Bob Waters, the boozy, eloquent boxing writer, and hot young kids like George Vecsey and Steve Jacobson. (Tony Kornheiser came later — and he was something special.) They were so good that Newsweek did a feature on them at a time when most managing editors were almost ashamed to admit their papers had sports sections. At the New York Post, meanwhile, Milton Gross — called “the Eleanor Roosevelt of the sports pages” by the Village Voice’s Joe Flaherty — was always catching a ride home with Floyd Patterson or Don Newcombe after they’d lost ingloriously. Leonard Shecter wrote a vinegary column, and when he moved in, Merchant took his place. Paul Zimmerman covered pro football and Vic Ziegel covered baseball and boxing and wrote slyly funny columns. Even Murray Kempton came down from Olympus to write a classic piece about Sal Maglie after he’d been done in by Don Larsen’s perfect game.

Meanwhile, out in the hinterlands, there were more sports sections catching fire. In Fort Worth, Blackie Sherrod found three kids — Dan Jenkins, Bud Shrake and Gary Cartwright — who were as irreverent as they were gifted and he turned them loose on the world. There was a fourth, Jerre Todd, who is said to have been every bit their equal, but he left the business to make a fortune in advertising. So it goes. But remember this: On a lot of days, the best writer in the joint was still Sherrod.

I can understand, however, why his Press gets forgotten. Hell, there was hardly anybody buying it when it was in business. Not so the L.A. Times, which had two eras in which it could hold its own against any sports section in the business. Indeed, it was the only one that had the space and manpower and budget to compete with the Globe. The Times’ first golden era was in the Seventies when Jim Murray was at the height of his powers as a columnist. But there was lots more to read after you finished his 900-word epistle, great long rambling stories by Jeff Prugh and Dwight Chapin and Ron Rapoport and solid beat reporting by Mal Florence and Ross Newhan and Ted Green. Hard as it is to believe, the Times was even better in its second dalliance with glory. Get a load of the talent they had in the Eighties: Rick Reilly, Richard Hoffer, Mike Littwin, Alan Greenburg, Randy Harvey, Mark Heisler, Scott Ostler, Bill Christine and . . . I know I’m forgetting somebody. Talk about an abundance of talent. When Reilly left for Sports Illustrated, the Times went out and hired Mike Downey, who was as good a columnist as there was. And the section never missed a beat.

You know what? I haven’t mentioned the Washington Post and the reign of George Solomon. I know George wouldn’t appreciate that. I was there in his early days as sports editor, when he was getting it past repeated ass-kickings by the Washington Daily News (Jack Mann again, and Andy Beyer) and the Washington Star (my old friend David Israel was its rowdy young columnist). George could wear you out with his boundless energy, but damn, did he have a great eye for talent. Not just prize imports like Kornheiser, Dave Kindred and Michael Wilbon, but discoveries like Tom Boswell and David Remnick and John Ed Bradley. And, really, how many other sports editors can say that the editor of the New Yorker once covered boxing for them?

Certainly nobody at the Boston Globe.

For another take on the history of sports writing, check out this piece, originally written for GQ, by Alan Richman.

Yankee Panky: The Tao of Pooh-vano

There was so much hype about Carl Pavano facing the Yankees. The tabloids ate it up, and Suzyn Waldman, as far back as the Texas series, said, “If there’s any justice, C.C. Sabathia will pitch against Carl Pavano in Cleveland.”

Sabathia and Pavano both pitched, but not against each other. Sabathia faced his No. 2 two years ago, Fausto Carmona, on Saturday, while Pavano squared off against Phil Hughes, which may have been a more intriguing matchup considering Pavano’s history with the Yankees and his five victories in May, and Hughes’ stellar outing in Texas and continued effort to stay in the rotation.

As I was listening to the game on the radio (another Sunday spent driving), I got to thinking about the myriad options the local editors and writers had for the game. Would Pavano be the lead? Would I make Phil Hughes’ mediocre start coupled by Chien-Ming Wang’s three scoreless innings of relief the lead, playing up the intrigue of Wang’s possible return to the rotation? Poor umpiring was a theme of the day. Where would that fit in? Are all these topics combined into one or do you do take one story as your base and go with the others as supplemental pieces?

I probably would have made Pavano the focus of the game story and made Hughes/Wang a featured supplement, tying in the early note that Andy Pettitte expects to be ready to start on Wednesday. How would you have presented Sunday’s game? Thinking of the broadest audience possible, how would you have set up your Yankees section as an editor? How would you have attacked the game if you were on-site? It’s two different thought processes. I’m curious to get your thoughts.

An examination of the eight local papers covering the Yankees revealed the following:

NY TIMES: Jack Curry had Pavano leading but alluded to the Hughes/Wang situation, melding everything into a tidy recap with analysis and historical context. Typical goods from Mr. Curry.

NEWSDAY: Three individual stories from Erik Boland, who’s now off the Jets beat and has replaced Kat O’Brien: Hughes/Wang leading, a Pavano piece tied with notes, and a short piece on Gardner’s failure to steal.

NY POST: As of this writing, only George King’s recap had been posted. Interesting to see that he focused on the bullpen, specifically Coke and David Robertson. (Had I been reporting, that would have been the angle I took with the game recap.)

NY DAILY NEWS: Mark Feinsand tied everything together, but it looked and read strangely like an AP wire story.

JOURNAL NEWS: No full game recap posted, but Pete Abe gives more in about 200 words on a blog than most other scribes do in 800.

STAR LEDGER: Marc Carig copied off Erik Boland’s paper in that he had individual stories on Gardner and Wang/Hughes, But he had a couple of other tidbits: 1) His recap was short and had additional bulletpointed notes. I thought this was an interesting format. It reminded me of an anchor calling highlights and then reading key notes off the scoreboard graphic. 2) He had a full feature on Phil Coke and his blaming the umpire’s call on the 3-2 pitch to Trevor Crowe. Check out the last paragraph. Looks like he copied off Pete Abe’s paper, too.

BERGEN RECORD: Only one story on the game from Pete Caldera, but boy does he know how to write a lead paragraph.

HARTFORD COURANT: Associated Press recap. Not much to say except this paper is an example of what’s happening in the industry. Dom Amore’s words are missed.

And this just in … on the “Inside Pitch” segment of the midnight ET edition of Baseball Tonight, Karl Ravech and Peter Gammons said the Yankees were the best team in baseball. This revelation comes hours after the ESPN ticker read “Pavano dominates Yankees” in the first half of its description of the game. I’m not sure what to make of this. I know Ravech, my fellow Ithaca College alum, is as good as it gets, but when Gammons agrees, I get concerned.

I’d say the best team is the team with the best record, and the team that’s playing most consistently on a daily basis. That team is being managed by Joe Torre.

Diggin in the Crates (Rain, Rain Stay Away)

One of the most exciting events of the spring has been the recent launching of the SI Vault. Talk about an embarassment of riches. Dag. To my dismay, the site does not offer anything close to a complete author index, making finding stuff a frustrating experience at best. I can only hope that this is a temporary problem, because it would be a real shame for something as rich and varied as the SI archives to be needlessly difficult to navigate.

Still, here are a couple of gems for you as we wait for today’s game. No telling if the rain will mess with things this afternoon. It’s warm and foggy this morning and the sun is even shinning here and there in the Bronx. I’m gunna throw up this game thread now cause I won’t be around for the start of the game. If they get it in, Andy Pettitte will make his first start of the year. If there is a delay, grab another bowl of soup, and consider the following bag o treats from the SI vault.

Come Down Selector:

A Diamond in the Ashes: Robert Lipsyte’s highly critical take on the rennovated Yankee Stadium (April, 1976).

This Old House: William Nack’s essay on the Stadium (June, 1999), and The Colossus, his piece on the Babe (August, 1998).

The Play that Beat the Bums: Ron Fimrite’s look back at the Mickey Owens game and the 1941 season (October, 1997).

Mickey Mantle: Richard Hoffer’s piece on the legacy of the last great player on the last great team (August, 1995).

A Real Rap Session: Peter Gammons talks hitting with Ted Williams, Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs from the Baseball Preivew issue (April, 1986).

Yogi: Roy Blount’s takeout piece on the Yankee legend (April, 1984).

Once He Was an Angel (March, 1972) and Tom Terrific and His Mystic Talent (July, ’72), two classic portraits (Bo Belinsky and Tom Seaver) by Pat Jordan.

No Place in the Shade: Mark Kram considered this portrait of Cool Papa Bell to be his finest work for SI (August, 1973). And while we’re on Kram, check out A Wink at a Homely Girl, his wonderful piece about his hometown Baltimore that appeared on the eve of the ’66 World Serious (October, 1966).

Laughing on the Outside: John Schulian’s fine appreciation of the great Josh Gibson (June, 2000).

And finally, He Does it By the Numbers: Dan Okrent’s landmark essay, you know, the one that “discovered” Bill James (March, 1981).

There, that should keep you busy for more than a minute.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver