You realize that "Ahuas Tara," the code name for U.S. military maneuvers in Central America, means Big Pine, the tar of which captured the attention of this country last week--as Ronald Reagan might have wished to in explaining why the war games are necessary.
Pine tar, specifically too much of it on third baseman George Brett's bat, ignited a home-plate casus belli between Kansas City and New York. American League president Lee MacPhail's decision that a home run off this tarred club is valid leaves the Royals ahead 5-4 in the top of the ninth and, except for some damn Yankees, a nation grateful that common sense and good news judgment are alive and well.
Unquestionably, it was the most widely read story of last week, maybe the year. It was a legible controversy in a legible sport with an exquisite air of justice in the outcome. And it came at a time when the value of other stories appeared overpriced.
With a lamentable lapse of news sense and no acknowledgment of what happened at Yankee Stadium, The Wall Street Journal told its readers a day after Mr. MacPhail's gritty resolution there were only "two big stories in the national news this week": Mr. Reagan's press conference about Central America and the "abrupt removal" of Roger Mudd at NBC.
Is that so? With highest regard for Mr. Mudd and in violation of the principle that names make news, it is respectfully suggested that people paid to convey the news have no business becoming front-page news themselves. Colleagues insist that what happens to Roger and Dan and Tom and Walter and Barbara is news to millions of people. By way of educating me, an impeccable if non-famous journalist explains: "They come into your living room. They set out the complexities of life, like the clergy used to do." Must keep that in mind.
Other stories got out of orbit last week. On the day The Post devoted 45 inches to the Mudd story, an inside piece described preparations in the White House for Mr. Reagan's press conference the night before. Attributed to presidential advisers, it said Mr. Reagan "followed a carefully prepared strategy designed to take strong personal command . . . to drive home his message that the United States is not headed for a military quagmire in Central America."
Now, it's a reasonable bet that the "strategy" was dictated by the front page of The Post the day before. A banner across the page, "U.S. Combat Troops to Be Sent to Honduras," was drawn from a story reporting that "as many as 4,000" Marine and Army combat forces may be in Honduras in connection with the already announced maneuvers. The splash given the story dismayed many readers, including some in the newsroom who wondered if the paper was on to something truly new or if an invasion was being announced.
All this was striking because three days earlier, subordinated in another story, the paper reported that the maneuvers "will include as many as 5,000 men and a series of carriers and battleships." Given the president's preparations and his emphasis on a "peaceful and political solution," policy appeared to respond to the news. A few days earlier a report attributed to unnamed administration officials that the maneuvers were designed to "intimidate" Nicaragua obscured an on-the- record White House "positive" response to a speech by Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega.
Put news imbalance down to some summer madness. How else to explain the story about those phantom videotapes of group sex at Vicki Morgan's than that news editors wanted to believe an unprincipled Los Angeles lawyer? Surely there's more to come on Central America, anchorpersons and other dubious doings before the autumn equinox. Let's just get them in perspective, guys. Meanwhile, thank heaven for a pine-tar bat, a major-league president and at least a dollop of good news judgment.