Complete Abdication

Week of November 28, 2001

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Complete Abdication
At least there's an alternative: Where the heck does Ray Hartmann get the nerve to write the truth about the Cardinals stadium situation and the increasingly prevalent conflicts of interest between the big-city media and potential ballpark suitors [Hartmann, "Uh, What We Meant to Say ...", Nov. 14]?

Baseball fans in St. Louis certainly know that Busch Stadium works just fine as a baseball venue, that Redbird followers are perhaps the best and most astute in baseball and that folks have been filling the place for decades. So what's management's problem? As Hartmann adroitly suggests, simply that they haven't yet been able to luxuriate in the cash that stadium blackmail can provide.

Given that the mainstream media, feeding at professional sports' trough (whether directly an owner or not), has completely abdicated its responsibility to tell the truth, it's no wonder that these ballpark gambits succeed. Thankfully, there are alternative weeklies like the Riverfront Times that actually trust the public with the facts. Keep up the good work.
Tom Goldstein
Publisher, Elysian Fields Quarterly: The Baseball Review
St. Paul, Minn.

We've evolved: Ray Hartmann suggested in your Nov. 14 edition that the Post-Dispatch editorial page changed its stance on a new stadium for the Cardinals because Pulitzer Inc. bought a small interest in the team. He is wrong on the facts and wrong in his conclusion.

When the Cardinals owners first proposed a new stadium, the editorial page (April 13, 2000) was skeptical of the "$250 million fastball." Our view of the proposed deal evolved as the details of it evolved.

In September 2000, the editorial page concluded that downtown St. Louis simply couldn't afford to lose the Cardinals -- to another city or another county -- but that the city and the state had an obligation to taxpayers to negotiate the best deal possible. We said that baseball is important to the fabric of life in St. Louis, and so is downtown. We wrote that Major League Baseball's economic structure is seriously flawed, but that's the way the game is played.

We noted in many subsequent editorials that most stadiums, in fact, do not pay for themselves but that the successful ones -- like those in Baltimore, Denver and Cleveland -- can be loss leaders, sparking more development around them. Like Mr. Hartmann, we noted that the owners of the San Francisco Giants built their own ballpark without public money. Unlike Mr. Hartmann, we noted that the Giants pay no city or state sales tax on tickets; the Cardinals pay a combined rate of 12.565 percent, the highest in the big leagues.

We wrote all of this well before March 2001, when Pulitzer Inc. and Michael Pulitzer purchased an interest in the Cardinals of slightly less than 4 percent. Subsequently, we continued to urge the city and the state to drive the hardest possible bargain with the Cardinals owners, who by then included our newspaper's owners. We heard not a word from any of them.

Mr. Hartmann makes a fair point that newspaper companies with business interests about which the newspaper must write are open to criticism that the ownership calls the shots. At some newspapers, owners do call the shots on the editorial page. The owners of the Post-Dispatch, however, take seriously and adhere to the Pulitzer tradition of the drastic independence of its editorial page.
Christine Bertelson
Editor, editorial page
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Bending Over
Simply sensationalistic journalism: As one of the first franchisees of the Pasta House Co., I read your story on J. Kim Tucci and Pasta House with great interest [Peter Downs, "The Pasta House Boy," Nov. 14]. Your reporting of Tucci taking an interest in his employees and treating them as family certainly is accurate. However, your article fails to mention the absolute high standards Pasta House places on itself and all franchisees. Tucci personally visits all of the restaurants to give seminars to our employees on how we must "exceed our customers' expectations."

The Pasta House Co. has a program called B.O.B. (Bend Over Backwards) to reward employees who exceed our customers' expectations. When Tucci says the airport franchise was lost due to Arlando Mischeaux's "personal problems" and the fact that he "needs help," that could certainly affect his performance and customers' expectations.

To report only Mischeaux's side of the story (when Luther Boykins calls it "the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard" and Tucci acknowledges they will need to find a new disadvantaged-business enterprise to replace Mischeaux's franchise) is simply sensationalistic journalism.
Edward N. Goergen
St. Louis

Dog Gone
A tip of the hat to Sam: An inadvertent omission was made in Brian Hohlfeld's generous review of HotHouse Theatre's Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage ["Wild West," Nov. 21]. Sam O'Connell plays Black Dog. Without his dedication and willingness to stick around night after night, the rest of the cast would have very little to do in the second act of the play.
Lavonne Byers
St. Louis

Correction: The final sentences of Eddie Silva's Nov. 21 "Muse" column were clipped because of a production error in the print edition. They are: "Tucci did not return the RFT's phone call, but imagining the Pasta House king as a movie mogul, telling Spielberg to "fuggedaboutit," has a certain cinematic appeal. Would he wear an eye patch?"

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