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Tag: The Stacks

Royko: Stacked


Yesterday, I brought my Stacks show on the road to The Daily Beast. I’ll have a reprint there each weekend. First up, John Schulian’s great Mike Royko profile.


They were drinking their dinner in a joint outside Chicago. It was just Mike Royko and his pal, Big Shack, and whatever their bleary musings happened to be that night three years ago. They probably never even gave a thought to the fact that they were in Niles, Illinois, which qualifies as a suburb and therefore should have been treated by Royko as if it were jock itch. But Niles is where a lot of the Milwaukee Avenue Poles he grew up with fled when they started finding themselves living next door to neighbors named Willie and Jose. So this was shot-and-a-beer territory after all. The only thing it lacked was a DO NOT DISTURB sign.

“Hey, you’re Mike Royko!”

It happens to him all the time even though newspaper guys are supposed to be bylines, not recognizable faces with bald heads, crooked smiles and ski-jump noses. How Royko, who is a baggy-pants character no matter what he wears, cracked the celebrity lineup is no mystery, though. Nor is it a tribute to the tiny picture of him that has decorated his column in each of the three Chicago papers he has worked for. The secret is words. The words that in 1971 paid off with a Pulitzer Prize for his newspaper commentary and a best-selling book called Boss, in which he dissected Mayor Richard J. Daley. The words that now appear, via syndication, in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News, and 223 other papers. The words that always have originated in his hometown, Chicago, five times a week, year after year after year.

“I’ve read you all my life.”

Royko’s admirer was male, white, crowding 40, with a pretty wife who quickly made it known that she was a more voracious reader than her husband. Soon the three of them were so wrapped up in one another that they failed to notice Big Shack, all 220 pounds of him, lumber off to the can. But Big Shack is important to this story, first, because he is the source of it, and second, because he returned just in time to save Royko.

“The guy was choking Mike,” Big Shack says. “I guess his wife had gotten a little too friendly, and Mike, well, you know Mike. So there I was, peeling the guy’s fingers off Mike’s throat one at a time.”

Big Shack can laugh about it now.

“What can I tell you? In ten minutes Mike went from hero to bad guy.”

It wasn’t his maiden voyage.



Yeah, the Yanks and Sox start their four-game series tonight but the NFL season also begins tonight for those of you who care about such a thing.

Over at The Stacks, I’ve reprinted a couple of goodies from the Playboy vaults as a way to kick the season off in style: Arthur Kretchmer’s classic 1971 Dick Butkus profile and a 1969 interview with Broadway Joe.

[Photo Credit: Neil Leifer/SI]


You Can Take it Upstairs…To The Fatman!


Here’s a cool old relic from the last great era of Yankees dysfunction. It’s a clip of Goose Gossage losing his shit in front of the New York media in 1982–the beginning of a miserable, drawn-out decade for the organization, when all that ’70s glory turned to pinstriped shit.

This year has nothing on the Bronx Zoo hangover years.

From Volume 1 of Celebrities at Their Worst.



I’ve started a blog over at Deadspin called The Stacks, devoted to archiving memorable newspaper and magazine writing.  The Stacks will simulcast our Banter Gold Standard re-print series as well as include posts with links to classic material already available on-line.


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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver