QUESTION: There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Saturday’s Post-Dispatch Sports cover and the use of an asterisk behind the “No-Hitter*” headline describing Johan Santana’s achievement. Obviously the game goes down in the record books as a no-hitter. Just as obvious, the umpire made a botched call on a Carlos Beltran hit that should have broken up the no-no, and that was the thrust of the asterisk. All that said, do you have a problem with the use of the asterisk in Saturday’s display?
Nope. A headline is supposed to capture a reader’s attention and convey what the story is about. The headline in the PD did that with eight letters and one simple punctuation. Yes, the asterisk has a charged meaning in baseball – erroneously so, really – and the headline did play into that, brilliantly. There wasnt anyone who read the headline that didnt have an emotional response to it. I’ve got the emails to prove it, some more detailed in their view of my personality and upbringing than others. It must be a good headline if it gets that response and sparks this conversation.This was a bold, creative, and, most importantly, creative display. I just hope people also read the story that appeared with it. I have a vested interest in that.
I don’t have a problem with the asterisk. The game will go down as a no-hitter, and that’s the end of it, but it’s also undeniable that Beltran’s ball was fair, which would have meant no no-hitter and in the coverage the day after the game, it’s a valid point to raise. History won’t remember it though.
The New York Daily News has been waving the flag on our asterisk: Two interesting points: If you go back two years, New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica wrote a column lambasting commissioner Bud Selig for not over-ruling the bad call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game. He didn’t use the term asterisk, but he felt that in this case that the commissioner should over-rule the umpire and make it a perfect game because the ump had made an obvious mistake.
Second, the most famous “asterisk” in sports (though it never was actually used), centered around Roger Maris’ chase of Babe Ruth in 1961 for the single-season home run record. Since the length of the season had been expanded by eight games, it was suggested that if Maris broke the record, his mark should get an asterisk, and a lot of people, who didn’t want to see Ruth lose the record, thought it was a good idea. The writer who put forth this idea: Dick Young of the New York Daily News.
It was designed to create a buzz. It did. Mission accomplished. The NY tabs’ response about a McGwire asterisk is duly noted. But my guess is had the same circumstances occurred Friday within a Waino’ no-no of the Mets, they’d be congratulating themselves for coming up with the asterisk idea. Juvenile? Perhaps. A tectonic event? Please.
I was off over the weekend, attending my nephew’s wedding. I wasn’t aware of the headline until watching ESPN on Saturday morning at my brother’s house. My reaction? I laughed. I viewed it as an attempt to note the controversy in a clever way. Was it wrong? Was it petty? Individuals can decide that on their own. I didn’t think for a moment that the newspaper was seriously suggesting that an asterisk be applied to the no-hitter. But we live in an overheated media culture with blowhard talk-show hosts and attention-seekers needing material for faux outrage and tough-guy “takes” so I’m not surprised by the reaction. I also thought it was fun to see the NY Daily News zing the P-D; why not? Yeah, the Post-Dispatch and 99.9 percent of the nation's sports media spent the summer of 1998 applauding home runs hit by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Thanks for the big revelation there. Now: could we all just lighten up?
As an old New York tabloid veteran (NY Daily News and Newsday), I loved it. But as a sports journalist I thought it was the perfect provocative headline for a St. Louis audience because it was quite clear from TV replays that Beltran hit that ball right on the line. Good job by our headline writers. Nothing works better in newspapers than a clever headline.
No problem with the asterisk. The telecast kept coming back to the shot of the ball mark left in the chalk down the left field line. That was a tough call for the umpire. He flipped a coin and got it wrong. Given the fact the Mets had never had a no-hitter – a statistical anomaly – Santana’s feat became a really big deal. So the missed call was a really big deal.
LARRY BOROWSKY (Editor of the “Viva El Birdos 2012 Baseball Annual”)
I was in the stands for Bob Forsch’s April 1978 no-hitter at Busch Stadium. Leading off the eighth, Garry Maddox hit a grounder to Ken Reitz’s left. Reitzie couldn’t get there, the ball went under his glove . . . and Neal Russo scored it an error. Looked like a clean single to everybody in the Philadelphia dugout, and to many of us Cardinal fans in the seats. We were still thrilled when Forsch finished off the no-no.
I don’t recall any asterisks in the next day’s P-D coverage. There shouldn’t have been any for Santana’s either. People will debate the botched call, and that’s fine, but I think the asterisk comes across as an attempt to deny Santana’s achievement. That’s not right, in my opinion.
EDITOR’S NOTE: You can see the NY Daily News’ response to the Post-Dispatch asterisk here.