Ten years ago this week, the Sun-Times softball team went into the Softball Hall of Fame. Since my TMG friend Chris Dufresne and others have mentioned the name `Mike Royko’ recently, I thought you might be interested in this column I wrote about our. . . enshrinement.
Playing softball with Mike was much more than softball. It was an introduction into the world of old-time newspaper journalism, a guide to Chicago’s most interesting drinking establishments and, best of all, the snappiest barroom banter around.
It was like being in a movie, actually. . . if you had grown up wanting to work in the raucous newspaper business.
The first time I met Mike was on a gravel schoolyard “diamond’’ on a frigid April Saturday. I had been hired at the Chicago Daily News a few months earlier, and was “trying out’’ at the first practice of the season.
Mike was pitching batting practice, and I was swinging a bat, waiting my turn. When the guy in the batter’s box was done, I stepped toward the plate.
Mike came in and, picking up a bat, said, “Around here, Sonny, we pitch our way in.’’
That was the way it was done with Mike. When you wanted your turn to bat, you pitched some B.P. first.
Mike died 21 years ago, at 64. I knew that was young then. Now I realize how ridiculously young that was. A year or two before he passed, though, we played a reunion game. About 40 veterans participated. About 23 of them, including me and MIke and our dear friend, the late sportscaster Tim Weigel, pulled hamstrings, going down the first-base line.
We all hobbled off happily to the Billy Goat Tavern. At least there was no decline in our post-game performances.
From the Chicago Sun-Times, Jan. 20, 2008
We’re going into the Hall of Fame. The Chicago Sun-Times softball team and its predecessor, the Chicago Daily News softball team, will be inducted into the 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame on Saturday. During their 37-year history, the teams have won more than 500 games in leagues throughout the city.
At least 90 of the more than 120 players who had a part in that success are expected to attend a dinner at Hawthorne Park. By the end of the night, they’re liable to boost that victory total to more than 5,000 games.
The team was the brainchild of former Daily News/Sun-Times real-estate editor Don DeBat and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mike Royko, who died in 1997. Thanks to primary sponsor Sam ”Billy Goat” Sianis, the team never went thirsty, win or lose. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.