13 June 2000
A Howler EXTRA: Lets play foul ball
Synopsis: Steve Roberts knew the bite about Hill and the Yanks. But a reader knew something quite different.
Commentary by Steve Roberts
Late Edition, CNN, 6/11/00
At Picnic for Ken Burns Baseball, Hopes are High for Extra Innings
Donnie Radcliffe, The Washington Post, 9/12/94
Steve Roberts knew the Official Approved Soundbite.
He was offering up, for the three millionth
time, the old saw about Hill and the Yanks. Mrs. Clinton had done
a slide show at a dinner; in every picture, she wore a dubbed-in
Yankees cap. To judge from the tape, it got a good laugh. But
as usual, a pundit knew better:
ROBERTS: Look, I agree that she's smart to be self-deprecating
because she is not naturally a particularly warm person, I mean
she comes across a pretty frosty character on the campaign trail,
whereas Lazio's kind of this puppy dog lapping at everybody but,
she has had a problem with the carpetbagger issue. I'm
a real Yankee fan, Wolf. I spent the last two days in Yankee
Stadium with my Yankee hat, but I've been wearing one for 50
years. I think a lot of New Yorkers have resented the fact that
she is coming in and tried to portray herself so she's probably
smart to kid about it because it was a problem. She is not a
New Yorker, she's a Chicago Cubs fan.
To be fair, we note that Roberts had all the
Putdowns in place. Mrs. Clinton likes to pander. Rick Lazio?
Just a warm pup.
We're sure we weren't the only ones who groaned at
the stock recitations. In fact, we know we weren't alone,
because a reader sent a bracing e-mail which brought us right
out of our seats. Our reader had watched the Roberts 'bite; Derek
McGinty gave it on ABC, too. But this viewer didn't get madhe
got busy. Here's what he memorably said:
E-MAILER: Here's an idea for a story. At least two commentators
McGinty on This Week and Steve Roberts on Late Edition)
scoffed once more at the idea that Hillary Clinton is a Yankees
fan. It's a small point, but the press has universally concluded
that this is an example of Hillary's desperation to paint herself
as a New Yorker.
But a little research would show that she in fact is a lifelong
Yankees fan. In a September 12, 1994 article in The Washington
Post, entitled "The White House Pitches In; At Picnic for
Ken Burns's 'Baseball,' Hopes Are High for Extra Innings,"
it was reported that Mrs. Clinton "as a kid was a..."
But let's not kill the suspense. Our team of analysts leaped
to their desks, and shelled out $1.50 to check 'er on out. And
sure enoughDonnie Radcliffe had written a piece about a picnic
to honor Ken Burns. And yepat the end of the piece, the talented
scribe had really gone right to the beef. It seems that the lapdog
Burns had praised the First Spouse for an excellent swing playing
RADCLIFFE: "That was a great swing," Burns told
her. "Did you get some batting practice before the screening,
just to warm up?"
Gag us, with an old Yankees scorecard. Anyway, here's what
came right after that:
RADCLIFFE (continuing directly): Mrs. Clinton, who as a kid
was a "big-time" fan of the Chicago Cubs and New York
Yankees and "understudied" Ernie Banks and Mickey Mantle,
smiled. Another favorite was Satchel Paige and his advice on
how to stay healthy.
Huh! All the way back in 1994, Mrs. C had told a Post scribe
that she always had cheered for the Yanks! Radcliffe didn't
know what a bombshell she had. But here's how she closed
out her profile:
RADCLIFFE (continuing directly): "I always loved 'Don't
look back, someone might be gaining on you,'" she said.
Why, she even had "Satch" quoted right!
For ourselves, we never quite understood why Mrs. Clinton's
story had seemed so bizarre to the press corps. If you're for
the Cubs, you hate the Sox, and no one used to torment the Sox
like those implacable Yankees. But, as we've noted again and again,
our pundits live for memorized putdownsespecially those that
support favored tales. Here's how our e-mailer put
E-MAILER: Other articles of similar vintage describe her as
driving her brothers crazy with her affection for Mantle. I would
imagine that contemporaneous biographies of her make the same
point. Just another example of journalists running in a pack
and spouting off preconceived notions of what "must"
be true rather than bothering to find out the facts.
Dude! Please! Get a small grip! Never put the phrase
"find out the facts" in a sentence describing our press
As we've long told you: The press corps tells you the stories
they like. Pundits enjoyed the tale as Roberts told
it. But to Mrs. C, we offer a moral: If Satchel Paige were alive
today, he'd likely have a different watchword. "Never look
back, because someone will spin it." But then, you may have
already known that.