In a year of murderous rampage abroad and electoral upheaval at home, the biggest story of all was a double homicide - the mesmerizing case of O.J. Simpson, according to the annual Associated Press survey of news executives.

A close second, said 357 newspaper and broadcast executives, was the elections. With a furious twist of their ballot levers, voters flipped America's political landscape upside down.The labor disputes that struck out baseball, and then shut out hockey, were ranked the third biggest story of the year.

It was a year when the sensational eclipsed the serious, when tabloid headlines vied with the stuff of history. The rest of the top 10, in descending order, were:

Two small boys drowned by their mother, Susan Smith, who lied to boot; Nancy Kerrigan vs. Tonya Harding; Haiti; national health care's dead end; the quake that shook Southern California; Rwanda; and Palestinians governing the Gaza Strip and Jericho. From the top:

1. A rich woman and her waiter friend lie slashed to death outside a Los Angeles condo, her ex-husband on the lam. That story from the June 13 police log sounds intriguing. It proved irresistible when the man on the run turned out to be O.J. Simpson, of all people. Add the race angle (Simpson is black, the victims white); the domestic violence angle; the bizarro angle, millions of TV viewers watching police chase Simpson in a Ford Bronco; the can't-touch-me angle, with Simpson's cry of innocence behind his wall of lawyers.

Savage, tragic and awful, the story invites comparisons to Shakespeare ("Othello") and soap opera.

2. Some say it's only a phase, our native fickleness; see if it lasts past '96, they say. Others behold a voters' revolt intended to reverse the New Deal-born philosophy of government as protector and provider. Whatever it was, the cataclysm occurred Nov. 8, when Republicans won control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years, a rebuke to Democrats, Bill Clinton, liberalism, Washington and government as usual. At the state level, where Democrats long-prevailed, Republican governors now number 30 and Republican lawmakers control more legislatures than they have since the late 1960s.

And if Virginians didn't send Oliver North to the U.S. Senate, and if Michael Huffington's $27 million couldn't buy a Senate seat from California, and if Mario Cuomo, erstwhile potential president and Supreme Court justice, was deposed by an unknown upstater, the election did create a fascinating national figure in Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who as House speaker will be two heartbeats from the presidency.

3. Spring got started, if nervously. Summer dragged hot and restless. Then on Aug. 11, baseball players went on strike, the world fell out of synch and this became the year they called the whole thing off. Unable to say it ain't so, on Sept. 14 acting baseball commissioner Bud Selig canceled the season and the World Series, the first time since 1904. Money (what else?) was the issue; when team owners pleaded they needed to cut costs and cap salaries, players refused to play. The cost to fans, besides that emptiness only baseball can fill, was discovering once again that baseball is just a business.

Hockey too, it turns out. The season, set to start Oct. 1, was suspended, also over efforts to limit salaries.

4. In the dark of Oct. 25, Susan Smith, a 23-year-old secretary in Union, S.C., buckled her two little boys in their car seats, drove to a lake and sent them down a boat ramp to their deaths. Then, for nine days, she claimed a black carjacker had stolen her babies and pleaded for the safe return of Michael, 3, and Alex, 14 months. Volunteers scoured the countryside. A nation poured out sympathy and prayers. When at last she confessed the truth, blaming a failed love affair, the sympathy turned to venom.

5. Often what makes one news story more memorable than most is its resemblance to fiction. So it was when Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan got clobbered above the right knee at a Detroit rink Jan. 6, the target of a scheme by rival Tonya Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and a would-be bodyguard. In this parable, the beautiful and brave Kerrigan faced her nemesis in the plain, scrappy and insecure Harding, who blamed HER troubles on her ex and his associates and even an untied skatelace. In the end, Kerrigan won a silver medal while Harding was frozen out of skating circles in disgrace.

6. For three years, the brutal army of Gen. Raoul Cedras stole democracy from the people of Haiti after ousting their elected president, the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A frustrated world tried many penalties before resorting to a nearly total trade embargo. Still, Cedras wouldn't budge.

Then in September, with scant political support, President Clinton threatened to send troops. But at the last moment, he sent former President Jimmy Carter, Sen. Sam Nunn, and retired Gen. Colin Powell, who at last cajoled Cedras and his cronies off the island. On Oct. 15, with the support of 20,000 U.S. troops, Aristide returned in peace to build a country.

7. The chronic complaint that nearly 40 million Americans lacked health insurance was scheduled for the cure this year. That was on the agenda, at least, for Bill Clinton, whose vow to overhaul the health system glittered in his 1992 bid for the White House. His wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and a legion of helpers took on the task.

Doctors, insurers, business small and large found their proposal too much to swallow. Soon the public threw up its hands, Democrats threw in the towel and when Congress disbanded, nearly 40 million Americans still had no health insurance with no relief in sight.

8. The 6.7 shaker that awakened Southern Californians at 4:31 a.m. on Jan. 17 was more shocking and shattering than most in that quaking state. The reason: the earthquake's epicenter was suburban Northridge, just 25 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Many among the 61 people who died were crushed under collapsed buildings or trapped in burning homes.

Felt as far as Las Vegas and San Diego, the quake also brought down seven freeway bridges, paralyzing a region that drives to live, and vice versa. With property losses a whopping $20 billion, suburbia has turned ghost town with boarded-up homes and apartments. Freeways reopened, but Southern California continues to struggle to recover its sunny self.

9. Only a day after the still-unexplained plane crash April 6 that killed the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, civil war erupted in Rwanda. The ensuing bloodbath left more than half a million people dead. Then, when more than 2 million ran from the rebel army that seized power in July, cholera consumed those who fled.

A horrified world scrambled for maps to locate the tiny, lush country of farms in Central Africa and tried to keep straight who was after whom, Hutu or Tutsi. More baffling was the human butchery that for a time paralyzed would-be rescuers, scared to enter that place of death and madness.

10. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat's arrival on Palestinian soil July 1 to run the Gaza Strip and Jericho marked many turning points. For Arafat, an end to 27 years in exile and start of his job transforming the Palestine Liberation Organization from an army of guerrillas into a civil bureaucracy. For Israel, Arafat's presence and new role meant relinquishing control after three decades. For Palestinians who waged the seven-year intefadah, it was seen as a step toward an independent state.