This not-quite-11-minute video produced by Scott Jacobs and Lilly Ollinger in 2006 is a gem. There’s nothing fancy in this previously unreleased (actually, lost) 1982 vintage videotape. Just a 50-year-old Mike Royko sitting at a table at the decidedly unpretentious Billy Goat Tavern after a softball game with his Sun-Times teammates, including Don DeBat.
The video originally featured footage shot during a Sun-Times game at Trebes Park, in Lincoln Park.
“We shot a game one afternoon, then went down to the Goat for drinks (natch!). Nothing ever came of the doc. I threw out the game footage years ago. Saved this one little interview with Mike because, frankly, I’ve never seen him more real, funny and genuine.”
That backstory from Jacobs is what Royko’s son, David Royko, posted about the video on the blog of Eric Zorn, one of his dad’s colleagues when he moved to the Tribune.
Mike Royko, who was always reserved, even taciturn on TV, with a world-weary demeanor, is effusive here as he buys rounds for his teammates and talks about a game he loves. He even admits he used-gasp!-ringers. “I do have a couple guys who don’t earn all their income working for the Sun-Times,” he said with hint of a smile.
Royko was a ringer himself on the powerhouse Strikers team sponsored by then 10th Ward Alderman Edward “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak, someone Royko regularly went after in his column. But work was work, and softball was softball. Royko clearly revels in his association with Mike Tallo’s National championship team, grinning like a little kid as he recalls getting the call to show up and pitch for them in a tournament.
“I think fans of Dad’s might enjoy it (almost) as much as I did,” David Royko wrote to Zorn.
This long-time fan of Royko and 16-inch softball certainly did-I bought two copies.