One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko
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One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko

by Mike Royko

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With the incisive pen of a newspaperman and the compassionate soul of a poet, Mike Royko was a Chicago institution who became, in Jimmy Breslin's words, "the best journalist of his time." Culled from 7500 columns and spanning four decades, from his early days to his last dispatch, the writings in this collection reflect a radically changing America as seen by a


With the incisive pen of a newspaperman and the compassionate soul of a poet, Mike Royko was a Chicago institution who became, in Jimmy Breslin's words, "the best journalist of his time." Culled from 7500 columns and spanning four decades, from his early days to his last dispatch, the writings in this collection reflect a radically changing America as seen by a man whose keen sense of justice and humor never faltered. Faithful readers will find their old favorites and develop new ones, while the uninitiated have the enviable good fortune of experiencing this true American voice for the first time.

"A treasure trove lies between these covers. Royko was in a class by himself. He was a true original."—Ann Landers

"The joy of One More Time is Royko in his own words."—Mary Eileen O'Connell, New York Times Book Review

"Reading a collection of Royko's columns is even more of a pleasure than encountering them one by one, and that is a large remark for he rarely wrote a piece that failed to wake you up with his hard-earned moral wit. Three cheers for Royko!"—Norman Mailer

"Powerful, punchy, amazingly contemporary."—Neil A. Grauer, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"This crackling collection of his own favorite columns as well as those beloved by his fans reminds us just how much we miss the gruff, compassionate voice of Mike Royko."—Jane Sumner, Dallas Morning News

"A marvelous road map through four decades of America."—Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune Books

"Royko was an expert at finding universal truths in parochial situations, as well as in the larger issues—war and peace, justice and injustice, wealth and poverty—he examined. Think of One More Time as one man's pungent commentary on life in these United States over the last few decades."—Booklist

"Royko was one of the most respected and admired people in the business, by readers and colleagues alike. . . . Savor [his sketches] while you can."—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

"Book collections of columns aren't presumed to be worth reading. This one is, whether or not you care about newspapering or Chicago."—Neil Morgan, San Diego Union-Tribune

"A treasure house for journalism students, for would-be writers, for students of writing styles, for people who just like to laugh at the absurdity of the human condition or, as Studs Terkel said, for those who will later seek to learn what it was really like in the 20th century."—Georgie Anne Geyer, Washington Times

"Full of astonishments, and the greatest of these is Royko's technical mastery as a writer."—Hendrik Hertzberg, New Yorker

"A great tribute to an American original, a contrarian blessed with a sense of irony and a way with words."—Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today

"In this posthumous collection of his columns, journalist Royko displays the breezy wit that made him so beloved in the Windy City."—People

Editorial Reviews

Polish American Journal
His columns could make a person laugh or cry, sympathize or agonize, but they were always a joy to read, and so is this book.
NY Times Book Review
...Wille skillfully provides the introductions to the pieces, but, of course, the Royko in his own words....The collection shows Royko's command of a range of emotions...
Jack C. Doppelt
...[V]iews Royko's tenure through a historical prism....What changed for Royko in those 25 years was the superficial glitz of contemporary society....Whatever happened to the people behind the polls — to Royko's people?
The Washington Monthly
Matthew Reed Baker
Readers...will find that despite the columns' impressive range of subject matter, Royko's voice remains singular: irascible, funny, compassionate — sometimes in all the same sentence.
Brill's Content
Steve Neal
One More Time [is] a wonderful collection of his best work.
Chicago Sun-Times
Kirkus Reviews
An insightful, at times amusing walk through America's collective psyche and history by one of this century's most popular newspaper columnists.

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One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko

By Mike Royko

University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2003

University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-226-73071-9

Chapter One

August 16, 1967

Picasso and the Cultural Rebirth of Chicago

Mayor Daley walked to the white piece of ribbon and put his hand on it. He
was about to give it a pull when the photographers yelled for him to wait.
He stood there for a minute and gave them that familiar blend of scowl and

It was good that he waited. This was a moment to think about, to
savor what was about to happen. In just a moment, with a snap of the
mayor's wrist, Chicago history would be changed. That's no small
occurrence-the cultural rebirth of a big city.

Out there in the neighborhoods and the suburbs, things probably
seemed just the same. People worried about the old things-would they move
in and would we move out? Or would we move in and would they move out?

But downtown, the leaders of culture and influence were gathered for
a historical event and it was reaching a climax with Mayor Daley standing
there ready to pull a ribbon.

Thousands waited in and around the Civic Center plaza. They had
listened to the speeches about the Picasso thing. They had heard how it
was going to change Chicago's image.

They had heard three clergymen-a priest, arabbi, and a Protestant
minister-offer eloquent prayers. That's probably a record for a work by
Picasso, a dedicated atheist.

And now the mayor was standing there, ready to pull the ribbon.

You could tell it was a big event by the seating. In the first row on
the speakers platform was a lady poet. In the second row was Alderman Tom
Keane. And in the third row was P. J. Cullerton, the assessor. When Keane
and Cullerton sit behind a lady poet, things are changing.

The only alderman in the front row was Tom Rosenberg. And he was
there only because it was a cultural event and he is chairman of the City
Council's Culture Committee, which is in charge of preventing aldermen
from spitting, swearing, and snoring during meetings.

The whole thing had been somber and serious. The Chicago Symphony
Orchestra had played classical music. It hadn't played even one chorus of
"For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

Chief Judge John Boyle had said the Picasso would become more famous
than the Art Institute's lions. Boyle has vision.

Someone from the National Council of Arts said it was paying tribute
to Mayor Daley. This brought an interested gleam in the eyes of a few ward

William Hartmann, the man who thought of the whole thing, told of
Picasso's respect for Mayor Daley. Whenever Hartmann went to see Picasso,
the artist asked:

"Is Mayor Daley still mayor of Chicago?"

When Hartmann said this, Mayor Daley bounced up and down in his
chair, he laughed so hard. So did a few Republicans in the cheap seats,
but they didn't laugh the same way.

After the ceremony, it came to that final moment the mayor standing
there holding the white ribbon.

Then he pulled.

There was a gasp as the light blue covering fell away in several
pieces. But it was caused by the basic American fascination for any
mechanical feat that goes off as planned.

In an instant the Picasso stood there unveiled for all to see.

A few people applauded. But at best, it was a smattering of applause.
Most of the throng was silent.

They had hoped, you see, that it would be what they had heard it
would be.

A woman, maybe. A beautiful soaring woman. That is what many art
experts and enthusiasts had promised. They had said that we should wait
that we should not believe what we saw in the pictures.

If it was a woman, then art experts should put away their books and
spend more time in girlie joints.

The silence grew. Then people turned and looked at each other. Some
shrugged. Some smiled. Some just stood there, frowning or blank-faced.

Most just turned and walked away. The weakest pinch-hitter on the
Cubs receives more cheers.

They had wanted to be moved by it. They wouldn't have stood there if
they didn't want to believe what they had been told that it would be a
fine thing.

But anyone who didn't have a closed mind-which means thinking that
anything with the name Picasso connected must be wonderful could see that
it was nothing but a big, homely metal thing.

That is all there is to it. Some soaring lines, yes. Interesting
design, I'm sure. But the fact is, it has a long stupid face and looks
like some giant insect that is about to eat a smaller, weaker insect. It
has eyes that are pitiless, cold, mean.

But why not? Everybody said it had the spirit of Chicago. And from
thousands of miles away, accidentally or on purpose, Picasso captured it.

Up there in that ugly face is the spirit of Al Capone, the Summerdale
scandal cops, the settlers who took the Indians but good.

Its eyes are like the eyes of every slum owner who made a buck off
the small and weak. And of every building inspector who took a wad from a
slum owner to make it all possible.

It has the look of the dope pusher and of the syndicate technician as
he looks for just the right wire to splice the bomb to.

Any bigtime real estate operator will be able to look into the face
of the Picasso and see the spirit that makes the city's rebuilding
possible and profitable.

It has the look of the big corporate executive who comes face to face
with the reality of how much water pollution his company is responsible
for and then thinks of the profit and loss and of his salary.

It is all there in that Picasso thing the I Will spirit. The I will
get you before you will get me spirit.

Picasso has never been here, they say. You'd think he's been riding
the L all his life.

October 25, 1972
(Mike wrote this column the day Jackie Robinson died.)

Jackie's Debut a Unique Day

All that Saturday, the wise men of the neighborhood, who sat in chairs on
the sidewalk outside the tavern, had talked about what it would do to

I hung around and listened because baseball was about the most
important thing in the world, and if anything was going to ruin it, I was

Most of the things they said, I didn't understand, although it all
sounded terrible. But could one man bring such ruin?

They said he could and would. And the next day he was going to be in
Wrigley Field for the first time, on the same diamond as Hack, Nicholson,
Cavarretta, Schmitz, Pafko, and all my other idols.

I had to see Jackie Robinson, the man who was going to somehow wreck
everything. So the next day, another kid and I started walking to the
ballpark early.

We always walked to save the streetcar fare. It was five or six
miles, but I felt about baseball the way Abe Lincoln felt about education.

Usually, we could get there just at noon, find a seat in the
grandstand, and watch some batting practice. But not that Sunday, May 18,

By noon, Wrigley Field was almost filled. The crowd outside spilled
off the sidewalk and into the streets. Scalpers were asking top dollar for
box seats and getting it.

I had never seen anything like it. Not just the size, although it was
a new record, more than 47,000. But this was twenty-five years ago, and in
1947 few blacks were seen in the Loop, much less up on the white North
Side at a Cub game.

That day, they came by the thousands, pouring off the northbound Ls
and out of their cars.

They didn't wear baseball-game clothes. They had on church clothes
and funeral clothes-suits, white shirts, ties, gleaming shoes, and straw
hats. I've never seen so many straw hats.

As big as it was, the crowd was orderly. Almost unnaturally so.
People didn't jostle each other.

The whites tried to look as if nothing unusual was happening, while
the blacks tried to look casual and dignified. So everybody looked
slightly ill at ease.

For most, it was probably the first time they had been that close to
each other in such great numbers.

We managed to get in, scramble up a ramp, and find a place to stand
behind the last row of grandstand seats. Then they shut the gates. No
place remained to stand.

Robinson came up in the first inning. I remember the sound. It wasn't
the shrill, teenage cry you now hear, or an excited gut roar. They
applauded, long, rolling applause. A tall, middle-aged black man stood
next to me, a smile of almost painful joy on his face, beating his palms
together so hard they must have hurt.

When Robinson stepped into the batter's box, it was as if someone had
flicked a switch. The place went silent.

He swung at the first pitch and they erupted as if he had knocked it
over the wall. But it was only a high foul that dropped into the box
seats. I remember thinking it was strange that a foul could make that many
people happy. When he struck out, the low moan was genuine.

I've forgotten most of the details of the game, other than that the
Dodgers won and Robinson didn't get a hit or do anything special, although
he was cheered on every swing and every routine play.

But two things happened I'll never forget. Robinson played first, and
early in the game a Cub star hit a grounder and it was a close play.

Just before the Cub reached first, he swerved to his left. And as he
got to the bag, he seemed to slam his foot down hard at Robinson's foot.

It was obvious to everyone that he was trying to run into him or
spike him. Robinson took the throw and got clear at the last instant.

I was shocked. That Cub, a hometown boy, was my biggest hero. It was
not only an unheroic stunt, but it seemed a rude thing to do in front of
people who would cheer for a foul ball. I didn't understand why he had
done it. It wasn't at all big league.

I didn't know that while the white fans were relatively polite, the
Cubs and most other teams kept up a steady stream of racial abuse from the
dugout. I thought that all they did down there was talk about how good
Wheaties are.

Late in the game, Robinson was up again, and he hit another foul
ball. This time it came into the stands low and fast, in our direction.
Somebody in the seats grabbed for it, but it caromed off his hand and kept
coming. There was a flurry of arms as the ball kept bouncing, and suddenly
it was between me and my pal. We both grabbed. I had a baseball.

The two of us stood there examining it and chortling. A genuine
major-league baseball that had actually been gripped and thrown by a Cub
pitcher, hit by a Dodger batter. What a possession.

Then I heard the voice say: "Would you consider selling that?"

It was the black man who had applauded so fiercely.

I mumbled something. I didn't want to sell it.

"I'll give you ten dollars for it," he said.

Ten dollars. I couldn't believe it. I didn't know what ten dollars
could buy because I'd never had that much money. But I knew that a lot of
men in the neighborhood considered sixty dollars a week to be good pay.

I handed it to him, and he paid me with ten $1 bills.

When I left the ball park, with that much money in my pocket, I was
sure that Jackie Robinson wasn't bad for the game.

Since then, I've regretted a few times that I didn't keep the ball.
Or that I hadn't given it to him free. I didn't know, then, how hard he
probably had to work for that ten dollars.

But Tuesday I was glad I had sold it to him. And if that man is still
around, and has that baseball, I'm sure he thinks it was worth every cent.

March 19, 1991

Ticket to Good Life Punched with Pain

The police chief of Los Angeles is being widely condemned because of the
now-famous videotaped flogging of a traffic offender.

But Chief Daryl Gates, while refusing to resign, suggests that the
brutal beating might have been an uplifting act that could bring
long-range positive results for the beating victim.

As the chief put it at a press conference Monday:

"We regret what took place. I hope he [Rodney King, the beating
victim] gets his life straightened out. Perhaps this will be the vehicle
to move him down the road to a good life instead of the life he's been
involved in for such a long time."

I hadn't thought of it that way, but there could be something in what
Chief Gates says.

There's no doubt that King, 25, hasn't been an exemplary citizen,
although he's no John Dillinger. When the police stopped him for speeding,
he was on parole for using a tire iron to threaten and rob a grocer.

But as Chief Gates said, the experience of being beaten, kicked, and
shot with an electric stun gun might be what it takes to "move him down
the road to a good life."

Who knows, in a few years when all of this is forgotten, a reporter
might drive out to a nice house in a California suburb and find a peaceful
Rodney King pushing a mower across his lawn.

The reporter might ask: "Mr. King, what is it that moved you down the
road to a good life?"

"That's a good question," Mr. King might reply, "and I'll be glad to
explain it to you. You'll have to excuse me if I wobble and drool a bit;
my face has nerve damage and my coordination hasn't been the same since
they damaged my brain."

"Of course."

"But to get back to your question. I think it was after L.A.'s finest
hit me about fifty or fifty-five times with their clubs. As you recall,
some of the fillings flew out of my teeth and one of my eye sockets sort
of exploded."

"Must have been a tad uncomfortable."

"Yes. And at that point, I'm pretty sure that those nine skull
fractures and internal injuries had already occurred, my cheekbone was
fractured, one of my legs was broken, and I had this burning sensation
from being zapped with that electric stun gun. I was feeling kind of low."

"That's to be expected."

"Right. But as I was lying there, and they were getting in a few
final kicks, and then sort of hog-tying my hands to my legs and dragging
me along the ground, I said to myself: 'Why not try to look at the bright

"And did you?"

"Yes. I thought: 'Well, one of my legs isn't broken; one of my eye
sockets isn't fractured; one of my cheekbones isn't broken. And although
my skull is fractured, my head remains attached to my body; and while
fillings have popped out of my teeth, I still have the teeth.' And I said
to myself: 'Half a body is better than none.'"

"Very inspiring."

"Thank you. And I had a chance to think about why the police were
treating me that way. It was their way of telling me that speeding is an
act of antisocial behavior and I had been very bad, bad, bad."

"You have unusual insight."

"I try. And I thought that if only I had led the life of a model
citizen, this wouldn't have happened to me. Let's face it. The L.A. police
never fracture the skull of the president of the chamber of commerce, the
chief antler in the Loyal Order of Moose, or the head of the PTA. No, it
was my past history of antisocial behavior that brought it on."

"But they had no way of knowing you were on parole."


Excerpted from One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko
by Mike Royko
Copyright © 2003 by University of Chicago.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Mike Royko was born in Chicago in 1932 and for much of his youth lived in the flat above his family's tavern on Milwaukee Avenue. Not only did he become the most widely read columnist in Chicago history, but his column was syndicated in more than 600 newspapers across the country. He was also the author of the classic account of city machine politics, Boss. Mike Royko's last column in the Chicago Tribune appeared in March 1997, a month before his death. His memorial service was held on a sunny day in Wrigley Field.

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