today is my hero mike royko’s birthday but shhhh dont tell him

the best columnist chicago ever had, and possibly the world was born on this day 79 years ago.

id read him every morning while a teen in the library of my high school when he wrote for the Sun Times. Then when he moved over to the Chicago Tribune i read him even more.

he wrote every day. usually brilliantly. every day.

one of the last times i talked to Steve Lopez of the LAT, also a devotee of Royko’s, i asked him why he as a columnist for the Times didnt write every day like Royko did.

Lopez, also a tall, imposing, no-nonsense writer like todays birthday boy, said that Royko told him that writing every day would kill a writer. that the grind was too much for mere mortals.

fortunately Royko had an assistant or two to help with fact checking and research (a luxury that no longer exists today) and he was no mere mortal.

he took on the most powerful mayor of the day, daily. he took on the cops who were the most powerful cops of the times. he took on the mob, he took on the owners of the Cubs. and in his grand finale he took a baseball bat to the window of the police officer’s window who had the nerve to pull him over for excessive drinking and driving, allegedly.

im sure at the Pearly Gates he took on St. Peter who may have had a few questions for him. and im sure St. Peter’s most pressing question was “may I have your autograph.”

today Rokyo’s son, David, left a comment on a previous birthday tribute that i wrote in 2006, a post you should read if you wanna cry a little today as i did when i re-read it. the tears didnt come from anything i typed, but from a column Royko wrote about seeing Jackie Robinson play his first game at Wrigley Field.

David Royko linked to a post he wrote about why his dad didnt celebrate his birthday. and why it was a sad day for him.

the reason? because Royko’s first wife, a woman he married when he was young, died on this day when she was just 44 years old.

recently David released love letters Royko wrote to his wife. Lopez wrote about those letters in the Times. and being a huge fan i promptly bought that book. it was so sweet to read this tough man write so tenderly to his love.

ok imma be sad now for a little bit.

happy birthday Mike Rokyo.