Short Cuts 

HE SHOOTS, HE MISSES: In a Post-Dispatch sports column last week, Tom Wheatley asserted strongly that an RFT piece published last year (George Csolak's July 5, 1998, article on Brett Hull, titled "The Golden Brat") had been "debunked" by the P-D months before and that former Blues broadcaster Joe Micheletti was in Wheatley's corner. Wheatley stated that "a local weekly breathlessly charged" that Hull had shot a puck at coach Joel Quenneville during the 1997-98 preseason. Csolak says that "three people verified the story" and that Quenneville wouldn't deny the incident's happening, giving tacit confirmation. Csolak's piece indicated that "Coach Q" fired a slapper right back at Hull, which proved "an important point in his relationship to the players," he says. In Wheatley's version, the sometime-Blues-beat writer says that the well-regarded Micheletti and other sources denied the incident occurred.

On Thursday, two days after the column ran, the P-D published a small correction on page 2 of the sports section, apparently at the urging of Micheletti, who was reportedly incensed that he was brought into the debate. "He told them that he never said it on the air," Csolak says. As for the event itself? "He knows it happened; it's a fact." Seldom does the paper's sports page retract an item contained in a lead column.

Beyond questioning the credibility of Csolak's sources, the original P-D piece raised questions about the agenda of a significant faction of the St. Louis sports media in relation to Hull. Wheatley's own role comes to mind. (The veteran P-D scribe didn't return RFT calls.) On one hand, he's a charter member of the Hullie Love Cult, a vocal group that includes several prominent members of the local media. On the other, Blues GM Larry Pleau has been a regular presence on his hockey-heavy radio shows, which have aired on KFNS-AM and KTRS-AM. In this column, Wheatley attempted the near-impossible: keeping the Hull faction content by praising its departed, Cup-hoisting hero while also slipping into his usual mode of cozying up to Blues management.

All this would've been well and good, except that some quick-and-dirty fact-checking sent this particular cheap shot wide of the mark. (TC)

BLESSED ARE THE DEVELOPERS, FOR THEY SHALL RECEIVE TAX ABATEMENTS: At a press conference last week, St. Louis Deputy Mayor Mike Jones used a biblical comparison to describe the "believers" who are pushing for the latest downtown-redevelopment plan.

Besides Downtown Now -- a divine creation of City Hall -- those taking advance credit for the rebirth include the usual troika of local business boosters: the Regional Commerce and Growth Association (RCGA), the Downtown St. Louis Partnership and St. Louis 2004.

Jones cited the New Testament story of Jesus Christ's resurrection as a way of pitching the proposal to sink $1.2 billion into revitalizing the city's deteriorating central business district.

"The Scripture says, 'He saw and he believed.' But the Bible also says, 'Bless those who believe and did not see,'" Jones told the multitude of scribes and PR flacks who gathered on the top floor of Windows on Washington, 1501 Washington Ave., last Wednesday afternoon. The pols behind the pulpit included Mayor Clarence Harmon, Treasurer Larry Williams, Aldermanic President Francis Slay and Comptroller Darlene Green.

Former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, civic cheerleader for St. Louis 2004, stood with his hands in the trouser pockets of his blue pinstriped suit during Jones' sermon. Jones' testimonial had been preceded by the introductory comments of John Fox Arnold of the Downtown St. Louis Partnership, who quoted the words of a Grateful Dead song, referring to the 18-month planning process as a "long, strange trip."

An array of tax credits will be used to entice those developers into getting with the program. Among other things, the proposal calls for $17 million in street improvements to Washington Avenue, saving three historic downtown office buildings, and linking the Gateway Arch grounds more closely to downtown by putting a lid on the depressed section of Interstate 70. These efforts are in addition to the announcement last week of a deal on the long-delayed convention-center hotel, a plan also heavily contingent on tax credits for its financing. (CDS)BUD SUCKS: Contrary to last week's initial news accounts, the Teamsters Union and Anheuser-Busch. are far from reaching an agreement on contract issues, union officials say. The national leadership of the union has recommended that members approve the latest company offer. But local union officials in St. Louis and other cities are expected to recommend that the proposal be rejected because of unresolved local issues, including seniority rights, jobs cuts, mandatory overtime and drug testing.

Teamsters twice rejected the offer, although union leadership has declined to authorize a national strike. After campaigning last year against Anheuser-Busch's anti-union stance, Teamster president James P. Hoffa appears to have struck a bargain that weakens union solidarity.

"I don't see any sense in signing a national contract if you can't get your local issues settled," says Raymond Soaib, assistant business agent for Teamsters Local 1187 in St. Louis. "I'm not going to recommend this to the membership."

Bret Caldwell, a Teamsters spokesman in Washington, D.C., put a different spin on last week's "tentative" settlement. "We think there are real, modest improvements here," says Caldwell.

Dave Sladky, a veteran Teamster who lost his job during the recent labor unrest at Anheuser-Busch, disagrees. He is angered by Hoffa's capitulation. Says Sladky: "We won't have a union, if it's accepted" (CDS)

THIS CERNICEK GUY, AT WHATEVER AGE, IS GOOD COPY: The March 14 Post-Dispatch article by noted wordsmith Bill Smith seemed so fitting. Henry Cernicek was a local gun dealer who had a tale to tell about how he was held up and defended himself with a pistol, outgunning an armed robber and killing him in self-defense. Smith recounted the melodramatic yarn for the start of his article about the concealed-weapons ballot issue on April 6.

The concealed-weapons proposal lost at the ballot box, and, later, so did Cernicek, who was busted by the feds for selling firearms illegally and pleaded guilty on May 18. So in payback for inadvertently spotlighting a gun dealer who later turned out to be a felon, on June 17 Smith published another long piece featuring Cernicek -- only this time, he didn't detail how Cernicek defended himself. Instead, it was about how a federal sting nailed the gun dealer. One other thing had changed. In the first article, Smith had Cernicek as 71 years old. Three months later, Smith writes that Cernicek is 70 years old. How old is he? According to the U.S. attorney's office, Cernicek was born on Oct. 8, 1929. That makes him only 69. If the Post keeps writing about this guy, Cernicek could end up being tried as a juvenile. (DJW)

DOG BITES, GETS RUN OFF: On Saturday, Sam the Dog died. Actually, the P-D's contrived editorial-page cartoon will live on at samthedog.com. A Web site is the right place for the comic; there it can still be seen by the initiated but avoided by the uninterested. In signing off, the "Editor's Note" said, preening, "Some of you told us you had tried, but just didn't get it. Others of you told us you didn't get it, didn't want to get it and wished 'Sam' would go away." How about a third option? How about people who got it, didn't think much of it and saw Sam the Dog as a waste of time and space? It stated the obvious in an obscure fashion, with little entertainment along the way. (DJW)

Contributors: Thomas Crone, C.D. Stelzer, D.J. Wilson

E-mail your ideas, input and idle chatter to "Short Cuts": shortcuts@rftstl.com.

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