Cartoon Coincidence

Self-deprecating, rather remote, wryly humorous, but if need be, tough as nails. This, we’re told, is Howard A. Tyner, the new editor of the Tribune. Made an endearing stab at collegiality the day he took command, inviting the staff into the Tribune auditorium to talk things over. No one could remember his predecessor doing that.

Used to be chief of the Moscow bureau.

Insufferable asshole, arrogant turd. Deserves to be dangled by his suspenders in a tank of moray eels. This is P. Post Pressman III, the new editor of the Flash. “I’m Yale undergrad, Harvard Law, former Times White House correspondent,” the loathsome Pressman boasts, preening before his nauseated staff.

And oh yes, used to be chief of the Moscow bureau.

This amusing microcoincidence makes matters even worse for Tribune columnist Mary Schmich. The macrocoincidence is simply this: as Tyner was ascending to the pinnacle of the Tribune, the despicable Pressman assumed a like position at the Flash. What are we to think? The Flash exists, after all, only in Schmich’s imagination, and in the comic strip Schmich writes, Brenda Starr.

“The fact of the matter is this,” said Schmich. “I wrote this story line three months ago, before we even knew we were in imminent need of a new editor. I have people who can corroborate this. I just would not be this stupid. I like my job too much. I really have been wincing a little.”

Our conversation was eerie. We’d had it before. Early last year Brenda Starr’s story line veered into sexual harassment, and the “Best-Western School of Journalism” figured in the tale. And what had just happened? A Tribune worthy who taught part-time at Northwestern was bounced from the paper when a coed there spoke up.

At the time Schmich was the Tribune’s correspondent in Atlanta. She sounded dumbfounded when we called and grilled her. She said she didn’t have a clue what was going on up in Chicago.

“I’m beginning to believe in the occult,” she says now. “You write this stuff, and then it comes true.”

She told us, “I figure I’ll be out in the Fox Valley bureau before long.” Actually, she’s much more worried about a friend at another paper she won’t name. The Pressman story line “was much more modeled on her paper than mine.” She says that paper’s been passed from one supercilious nitwit to another, each with the same orders to rejuvenate the operation.

“It’s a very New York-Washington model of pedigree,” Schmich said. “I can see these guys, and they do have initials for first names, and they do have bow ties, and they do work for a couple of papers and major news magazines, and they go to one of four schools, and they take the business of journalism and themselves really seriously. They’re sort of mutant varieties.”

She added, “I don’t think Howard fits the type.”

What about Ciccone? we said. The Tribune’s managing editor doesn’t come within a country mile, but his full name, as you can see right there on the Tribune masthead, is F. Richard Ciccone.

“I never even registered the fact that Ciccone uses his first initial until people came up to me and said ‘Whoooooo!’ People found correspondences to virtually every editor at the paper.”

Coincidence has to end somewhere. It ended on August 29, the day P. Post Pressman III summoned Brenda Starr to his office and assigned her to do an article on riverboat casinos.

“I want a piece showing how casinos would create jobs, attract tourists, finance schools,” said Pressman. Brenda Starr shot back, “Frankly, I think they’re the worst idea since girdles.” And Pressman lectured, “Now, Brenda, a journalist does not let bias color her reporting, am I right?”

Pressman’s pet project didn’t just come out of the blue? we asked Schmich. “Oh no,” she said. “But there’s no direct correspondence with anything the Tribune has had to do with riverboat casinos. [The Tribune wants Chicago to get on with them.] I got a letter a couple of days ago from some anticasino official around town who’d clipped out last Sunday’s Brenda and written that at least someone in the Tribune was going to write the truth about it. And I thought, ‘Oh, God, can I get out of this story line?'”

We protested. What a great thing it must be to have your own comic strip for a bully pulpit!

“I don’t use Brenda–that’s not completely true. I was going to say I don’t use Brenda as a bully pulpit.”

Sure she does. Guess what her personal opinion of riverboat casinos is?

“I think they’re stupid,” she said. “I’m with Brenda on this one. I have yet to see a great city in the world that has had to rely on casinos to finance important things.”

Who Dropped the Ball?

Never trust a first edition. Bonus Books came out this year with Ron Santo: For Love of Ivy, a memoir the former Cub third sacker wrote with WGN’s Randy Minkoff. Local editor William Bike of the Near West Gazette pointed out to us how many errors dribbled through the authors’ legs.

Such as:

“Ernie [Banks] had retired and Randy Hundley and Jim Hickman were gone” by 1971. Actually, all three played for the ’71 Cubs, and Hickman and Hundley stuck around through ’73.

Milt Pappas threw a no-hitter in 1971. Make it ’72.

Former Dodger Al Spangler set Santo’s mind at ease before a ’65 game against Los Angeles by revealing how to read Sandy Koufax’s pitches. Then Koufax threw a perfect game, outdueling Bob Handley 1-0. Great story, but Spangler joined the Cubs in 1967. And the Cub pitcher was Bob Hendley.

The Mets and Astros joined the National League in 1969. Make it 1962.

Furthermore, the end of chapter 12 isn’t in the book.

Calling on behalf of Hot Type, our colleague Cate Plys recently inquired about these lapses (and others). She said Santo sounded particularly annoyed by a mistake on page two about his uniform number. Banks wore 14. Santo wore 10. “It went in the publishing with the right one but came out differently, as far as I’m concerned,” Santo insisted.

“You’ll have to call Bonus,” said Minkoff testily. “They edited it.”

Bonus Books’ promotions manager, Lisa Kroeger, assured Plys that four of the errors had been corrected for the second printing. That leaves the others. “Some of these are nit-picky errors that only a baseball fan would notice,” Bike observed, “but who else is going to buy this book?”

Otherwise, he recommends it.

Forgive and Forget

Jon Margolis composed an eloquent defense of Bill Buckner the other day. Margolis observed that after seven years of “recurring harassment” Buckner is at the end of his rope and speaking of moving away from New England.

“And just what was it that Buckner did to deserve this regular mistreatment by people who never met him?” Margolis asked.

“He missed the ball . . .

“Buckner didn’t kill anybody, betray his country or corrupt the young. He just made an error. This is not a character flaw or even a lapse in judgment.”

Margolis advised Buckner’s persecutors: “Get a life, folks. Read a poem, write a symphony, plant a garden, build a cabinet, soup up a car . . . ”

Well said. If only his premise had been worthy of his conclusion. For earlier, when he was warming to his subject, Margolis introduced Buckner as a good hitter and a decent fielder, and then recalled:

“But nobody’s perfect, and one memorable evening in October of 1986, Billy Buck let a ground ball skitter between his legs. It was memorable because had he caught it and stepped on first base, his Boston Red Sox would have won the World Series.”

So Margolis really did Buckner no favor. He added his own authority to the myth that has haunted Buckner for seven years. The truth is that if Buckner had fielded the grounder and stepped on first, the sixth game of the 1986 World Series would have continued, tied, into the top of the 11th inning.


Steve Neal wrote a curious column about how next year’s race in the Fifth Congressional District will shape up if incumbent Dan Rostenkowski chooses not to grace the ballot.

Said Neal in the Sun-Times, state senator John Cullerton “is off to the fastest start of potential Rostenkowski successors.” The one exception apparently doesn’t matter. “Cullerton,” Neal allowed, “is running harder than anyone for Rostenkowski’s seat with the exception of perennial candidate Dick Simpson.”

Perennial candidate?

We get some sort of statement from the Simpson camp about once a month excoriating Rostenkowski and reminding us that the former alderman is in the wings. Does this activity make him that quackiest of all political creatures, the “perennial candidate”?

Last year Simpson challenged Rostenkowki in hopes that the issues of favoritism, corruption, and self-indulgence would level the playing field. Simpson was wrong. He believes these issues might carry more weight in ’94 and intends to try again.

If Neal admired Simpson, Simpson would be high-minded and undeterred. Since Neal doesn’t, sticking with it makes him a joke.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/reprinted by permission: Tribune Media Services.