2:02 pm Oct. 8, 2012
Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?
So the Yankees pulled out what ended up being a big win in the first game of their division series against the Baltimore Orioles yesterday. After eight grinding innings and 2-2 score, Russell Martin homered off Baltimore's Jim Johnson (who hadn't given up a home run since June).
The Orioles have been famous this season for pulling out of tight spots at the end, but something broke with Martin's home-run, and the Yanks managed four more runs before the game was over.
It's actually pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who held the Orioles to two runs over nearly nine innings, who was the decisive figure here. Martin's home run was the glamorous breakthrough moment, but the foundation of the win, everyone seems to agree, was Sabathia's hard work.
Which is why the front pages of the tabloids are so perfect today. The Post chooses a picture of Martin at the bat, the hero with the big hit; the News goes for the workhorse. (The back pages, and the inside coverage, are of course a different story. But then those are run by the sports editors, not the front-page editors.)
Curiously, the News downplayed the win in early editions, giving the story a little more than half the page with the text headline "YANKS SAVE BEST FOR LAST" and including a picture of Ichiro Suzuki (who had two R.B.I.'s).
That's because in the early morning hours on Sunday, 25-year-old Englishman Michael Jones, who lives in Westchester and is a popular youth soccer coach, encountered an unknown suspect near a Union Square 7-Eleven and got into an argument. The man, a grainy image of whom was found on nearby surveillance cameras, slashed Jones in the torso, slit his throat and cut off his ear. Jones was rushed to the hospital, where he died.
"SLICED TO DEATH" reads the big black type at the bottom of the page, surrounding a dek ("Red Bulls instructor slashed in Union Sq.") and a small picture of Jones. By the final edition, the News had upgraded the Yankees victory, giving it almost the entire page, and relegating the horrifying murder story to a blue strip across the bottom with pale yellow text reading "SLICED TO DEATH IN UNION SQUARE."
The baseball headline got punched up ("POW!") and the dek focused more on Sabathia: "CC pitches gem, Yanks erupt in 9th for Game 1 win."
The Post surrounds its Martin action shot with the words "PLUCK YOU!" which is meant to be expressive of the animosity between Baltimore and the Bronx right now, although I think most of the animus is coming from them. If there's not a fight for the Post to join, they're always happy to start one.
"Bombers bash Birds in Game 1" reads some text in the upper right.
In a blue bar across the bottom of the page that is startlingly similar to the one on the News, down to the pale yellow text, the paper gives us ... another sports story. To be fair, it was a nice night for the Giants. "BIG BLUE BLOWOUT - GIANTS CRUSH BROWNS" reads the text.
Well, the late replating of the front page by the News, if it was a reaction to early editions of the Post, was the right move, even though I found myself immediately drawn to the story of the soccer-coach murder. (Seemingly random, almost motiveless violent crime will always move papers.) Now the two papers, in their last editions, were in a fair fight.
I've already gotten some mail from readers who think "PLUCK YOU!" was ridiculous, but I think they're wrong. Not wrong about it being ridiculous, actually, but I mean "PLUCK YOU!" will move more papers than "POW."
Also: even if the hardworking Sabathia laid the foundation for the Yankees' win, Martin's tie-breaking, floodgate-opening homer is more likely to be the moment fans remember.
It's not Ron Guidry's solid, two-earned-run pitching performance anyone remembers about the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox one-game playoff, after all. The circumstances and the stakes were different for the Yankees that day than they were yesterday, obviously. But still, there's a reason the thing people will talk about in New York and Boston, now and forever, is Bucky Dent's home run.
Winner: New York Post.