Royko, a nationally syndicated Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote for three major Chicago newspapers in the course of his 34 years as a daily columnist. Chosen from more than 7,000 columns, For the Love of Mike brings back more than a hundred vintage Royko pieces-most of which have not appeared since their initial publication-for readers across the country to enjoy. This second collection includes Royko's riffs on the consequences of accepting a White House dinner invitation (not surprisingly, he turned it down); his explanation of the notorious Ex-Cub Factor in World Series play; and his befuddlement at a private screening of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, to which he was invited by his pal Ebert, the screenplay's author. The new collection also illuminates Royko's favorite themes, topics he returned to again and again: his skewering of cultural trends, his love of Chicago, and his rage against injustice. By turns acerbic, hilarious, and deeply moving, Royko remains a writer of wit and passion who represents the best of urban journalism.
"To read these columns again is to have Mike back again, nudging, chuckling, wincing, deflating pomposity, sticking up for the little guy, defending good ideas against small-minded people," writes Roger Ebert in his foreword to the book. For the Love of Mike does indeed bring Mike back again, and until a Chicago newspaper takes up Ebert's suggestion that it begin reprinting each of Royko's columns, one a day, this collection will more than satisfy Royko's loyal readers.
About the Author
Mike Royko (1932-1997) worked as a daily columnist for the Chicago Daily News, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Chicago Tribune. His Pulitzer Prize-winning columns were syndicated in more than 600 newspapers across the country.
Read an Excerpt
For the Love of Mike
More of the Best of Mike Royko
By Mike Royko
University of Chicago Press
Copyright © 2003
University of Chicago
All right reserved.
March 7, 1973
How Slats Lost His Cymbals
Many people were shocked by the recent news report of the two
baseball players who swapped their wives, their children-even their dogs.
They see it as still another example of our new, loose morality.
That may be. But it isn't the first time such a thing has happened.
I remember a slightly similar incident involving the Grobnik family,
who used to live in my old neighborhood.
The cause of it all was Slats Grobnik, the eldest son.
One day he decided to join the alderman's marching boys band, which
played in his parades and rallies and also threw stones at windows
displaying pictures of his opponent.
The alderman had been Slats' hero ever since his father had said the
man never worked a day in his life.
Because of his peculiar ear for music, Slats was given the cymbals to
play. He rushed home and immediately began practicing. He hoped that if he
did well, the alderman would let him play something else, such as the
Mr. Grobnik was working nights at the time, so when Slats began
marching through the flat,clanging the cymbals, he came roaring out of
He hit Slats on the head with one of the cymbals, causing the boy's
eyes to roll even more than they usually did.
This touched off a terrible row, with Mrs. Grobnik crying that her
husband should not stifle Slats' musical development.
That was when Mr. Grobnik said he would like to swap his family.
"I would trade all of you for a little peace and quiet," he shouted,
hitting Mrs. Grobnik with a cymbal, too.
"Ma, you can get alimony," Slats yelled. "I will be your witness."
Mrs. Grobnik gathered her clothes and children and said she was
leaving and would not return until Mr. Grobnik apologized.
At first, Mr. Grobnik could not believe they were really gone. To
make sure, he changed the locks. Then he want back to bed.
Mrs. Grobnik took the children and went around the corner to stay
with her friend Ruby Peak, who had a nice apartment above the war-surplus
"Now you are the man of the family," Mrs. Grobnik tearfully told
Slats. He turned pale, thinking that meant he might have to go to work.
Word of the breakup quickly spread through the neighborhood.
Naturally, some of the unattached women set their caps for Mr. Grobnik.
They didn't get anywhere with him, though, because he didn't like women
who wore caps.
The shapely widow who ran the corner bakery hurried over with some
fresh sweet rolls for him.
And as Mr. Grobnik ate them, she leaned forward and whispered huskily
in his ear:
"Is there anything else you would like?"
"Yeah," he said, "next time bring a loaf of rye."
When Slats' teacher heard of the separation, she worried that he
might suffer a trauma.
The next day he came to class with tears streaming down his face.
The teacher assumed it had something to do with his home life.
Actually, somebody in the school yard had told a filthy joke, and Slats
had laughed until he cried.
She put her arm around him and said: "There, there."
Slats said: "Where, where?" and gave her a pinch.
She ordered him from the room, which didn't bother Slats, as he
figured he had learned enough for one day.
A few days after the separation, old Mrs. Novak asked Slats what his
mother was doing.
"She is going to Reno," Slats said.
He didn't know what that meant, but he had heard someone say it in a
Old Mrs. Novak didn't know what it meant either. She figured it must
mean Mrs. Grobnik had run off with a man named Reno.
So she went to the grocery store and told all the other ladies about
"I'll bet he is a no-good gigolo," one of them said.
That afternoon, they all told their husbands that Mrs. Grobnik was
carrying on with Mr. Reno, a notorious gigolo.
The husbands discussed it in the tavern. One of them said: "I think I
know the guy. He lives over in the Italian neighborhood."
Another said: "I know the one. He has a mustache and hangs out in the
When Mr. Grobnik stopped for a beer, they told him his wife was in
love with a notorious pool shark and fortune hunter named Reno, who had a
mustache and pointy shoes.
"Everybody in the neighborhood knows about it," the bartender said.
"I hear she has even sold her wedding ring to give him money."
Enraged, Mr. Grobnik went to the pool hall and punched the first man
he saw wearing a mustache. He turned out to be a jukebox distributor, and
three of his boys beat Mr. Grobnik with pool cues.
When Mr. Grobnik came to in the hospital, his wife and children were
at his bedside. Mrs. Grobnik said she would come back home and make Slats
give up the cymbals.
"Will you stay away from Reno?" Mr. Grobnik said.
"But Reno is in Nevada," said Mrs. Grobnik.
Mr. Grobnik smiled. "Good. I must have really taught him a lesson."
October 5, 1993
Three Ex-Cubs Assure Spurning of Atlanta
The experts have spoken. The Atlanta Braves are the best of the
playoff teams. The bookies have made them the favorites to get to the
World Series and win it. Some sports pundits already talk of them as one
of the great teams of all time.
The experts just never learn.
As always, they ignore that strange, mysterious, and almost-always
fatal malady known as the Ex-Cubs Factor.
Regular readers of this column know about the Ex-Cubs Factor. But
bear with me as I explain it to newcomers.
Twelve years ago, a Chicago sports nut named Ron Berler stumbled
across an amazing statistic.
Since 1946, 13 teams had entered the World Series with three or more
ex-Cubs on their roster.
Twelve of these 13 teams lost.
Berler theorized that it was a virus. Three or more ex-Cubs could
infect an entire team with the will to lose, no matter how skillful that
team might appear.
When Berler revealed his findings, the sports experts sneered and
scoffed. Stupid and meaningless, they snickered. No scientific basis, they
Then came 1990, and they were still sneering, scoffing, and making
their mindless predictions.
That was the year about 99 percent of the experts declared that the
Oakland A's could not possibly lose the World Series.
Even before the games began, they hailed the A's as one of the
greatest teams-maybe the greatest-in the history of the game.
As the Washington Post's resident baseball genius put it: "Let's make
this short and sweet. The baseball season is over. Nobody's going to beat
the Oakland A's."
As Ben Bentley, the Chicago sports savant, said: "Could the Oakland
Athletics be the greatest in baseball history?"
Yes, cried the experts: the greatest, a dynasty, a team of immortals.
They could win while yawning.
But out there were two lonely voices: Berler and this writer.
We warned of the Ex-Cubs Factor. We pointed out that the A's had
foolishly defied the terrible virus by signing a third ex-Cub. And before
that World Series began, Berler publicly stated: "As good as they are,
they will lose. And they can blame their own arrogance for ignoring
So what happened? Not only did the A's lose, it was world-class
humiliation. Four straight defeats. One of sports' all-time flopperoos.
That made it 13 out of 14 teams with three or more ex-Cubs to
collapse in the World Series since World War II.
The A's haven't been the same since. Once it struck, the ex-Cub virus
burrowed into the fiber of the franchise. In only three years they have
gone from a dynasty to limping mediocrity. Sources say their hot dogs
don't even taste as good as they once did.
Have the experts learned anything? Of course not. As the late Mayor
Richard J. Daley once said: "Duh experts-what do dey know?"
The sports experts are now hailing the Atlanta Braves as the
super-team of this era.
On Sunday, Dave Kindred, columnist for the Sporting News, wrote: "...
Atlanta has become baseball's best team since the Yankees of Mickey
Mantle and Yogi Berra ... the NL's best team since the Brooklyn Dodgers
of Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, and Pee Wee Reese."
He may be right. They have thunderous hitters, overwhelming pitchers,
and a seamless defense.
But they also have the dreaded virus. Of the four teams in the
playoffs, only the Braves are afflicted by the Ex-Cubs Factor. Only the
Braves have three former Cubs.
They are Greg Maddux, the superb pitcher, Damon Berryhill, the
reliable catcher, and ...
Even a bleacher creature would be hard-pressed to name the third
But Berler, the virus discoverer, knows. "I have it all in my
computer," he says.
A relief pitcher named Jay Howell. Although he has been in the major
leagues for 14 years, he's not a big name, not a big star, no flashy
stats. A solid journeyman. Probably good to his family, a nice neighbor, a
patriot; and he doesn't kick little dogs.
But he is one of the three skeletons in the Atlanta closet. He has a
For a brief time in 1981, when he was a mere lad, he was a Cub. He
pitched in only 10 games, a total of 22 innings, and wasn't very good.
But as Berler says: "That is all it takes. He is a genuine, bona
fide, star-crossed ex-Cub, the poor guy. He is a carrier. It always comes
back to your roots. Once a Cub, always a Cub."
Berler, who is a free-lance writer and teacher, recently interviewed
Maddux, who chose to become an Atlanta Brave multimillionaire, rather than
a Chicago Cubs multimillionaire, because he wanted to play on a winning
"I told him: 'You think you're leaving a loser? Ha! You are a loser.
And you're going to infect your 24 teammates.'"
He explained the Ex-Cubs Factor to Maddux. And the star pitcher
responded by shouting: "I don't believe it, I don't believe it, I don't
So if the Braves defeat the Phillies and make it to the World Series,
bet on the Braves at your own peril.
But this puts a Chicagoan such as myself-a devout Cubs fan-in a
Those who are true fans of the White Sox or Cubs loathe the other
team. This crosstown rivalry takes precedent over city pride. So if the
Sox play the Braves, I must root for the Braves. It is the only decent
thing a Cubs fan can do. Sox fans, being dedicated haters, will
It will be the first time I will be cheering for a virus.
[Editors' note: The Philadelphia Phillies and the virus beat the Braves,
four games to two, in the playoffs.]
February 16, 1973
What's Behind Daley's Words?
Several theories have arisen as to what Mayor Daley really meant a
few days ago when he said:
"If they don't like it, they can kiss my ass."
On the surface, it appeared that the mayor was merely admonishing
those who would dare question the royal favors he has bestowed upon his
sons, Prince Curly, Prince Larry, and Prince Moe.
But it can be a mistake to accept the superficial meaning of anything
the mayor says.
The mayor can be a subtle man. And as Earl Bush, his press secretary,
once put it after the mayor was quoted correctly:
"Don't print what he said. Print what he meant."
So many observers believe the true meaning of the mayor's remarkable
kissing invitation may be more than skin deep.
One theory is that he would like to become sort of the Blarney Stone
As the stone's legend goes, if a person kisses Ireland's famous
Blarney Stone, which actually exists, he will be endowed with the gift of
And City Hall insiders have long known that the kind of kiss Daley
suggested can result in the gift of wealth.
People from all over the world visit Blarney Castle so they can kiss
the chunk of old limestone and thus become glib, convincing talkers.
So, too, might people flock to Chicago in hopes that kissing "The
Daley" might bring them unearned wealth. Daley, or at least his bottom,
might become one of the great tourist attractions of the nation.
The Blarney Stone has become part of the living language in such
everyday phrases as "You're giving me a lot of blarney."
That could happen here, too. People who make easy money might someday
be described as "really having the gift of the Daley bottom."
That is one theory. Another, equally interesting, goes this way:
Throughout history, the loyal subjects of kings and other monarchs
have usually shown their respect with a physical gesture of some sort.
In some places, it was merely a deep bow or a curtsy when the ruler
showed up or departed.
Others, who were even more demanding, required that the subjects
kneel or even crawl on all fours. (A few Chicago aldermen engage in this
In some kingdoms, those who approached the big man were expected to
kiss his ring or the hem of his royal clothing.
Daley has already ruled Chicago for longer than most kings reigned in
At this point, many of his loyal subjects view him as more a monarch
than an elected official. It seems obvious that he intends to pass the
entire city on to his sons, which is a gesture worthy of a king.
So it would be only natural that he might feel the time has come when
he is entitled to a gesture of respect and reverence that befits his royal
And what he suggested would be simply a variation of kissing a ring
or a hand. Instead of kissing the royal hem, we would kiss the royal ham.
Although I have not read of any king expecting a kiss in precisely
the area the mayor described, why not? One of the hallmarks of Chicago is
that we do so many things in an original manner.
What other city has made a river flow backwards? What other city
makes traffic flow backwards?
And it would be quite original if we had a leader who greeted us
Where else would a leader turn his back on his people and be cheered
History also tells us that in some ancient kingdoms, a person who had
some terrible illness thought he would be cured if he kissed the feet of
Could it be that the mayor is launching a low-cost, and low-slung,
health program for us?
I am sure there will be some people who won't want to show their
affection for the mayor this way. As one man put it, when he heard what
the mayor had said:
"If Daley wants me to do that, then he sure has a lot of cheek."
But there also are the loyal followers, typified by radio disc jockey
Howard Miller, who declared over the airwaves that the mayor has "more
brains in his bottom" than his critics have in their heads.
While I might disagree with Miller on the quantity of cerebral
matter, I won't quarrel with the location.
In any case, we will maintain our efforts to find out what the mayor
We hope to get to the bottom of this story. Or should I say, to the
story of this bottom.
Excerpted from For the Love of Mike
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.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Roger Ebert
For the Love of Mike