For those of you not familiar with Royko's wit (and even for you who are),
here's a typical column, lifted from the Trib's memorial web pages.
Dumb comments sound that way for a reason
Originally published: Thursday, June 13, 1996
One night, the late Charlie Finley and I were sitting at a table
in the Billy Goat Tavern, where we used to meet occasionally for
burgers, beer and baseball talk.
At the time, Finley owned the Oakland A's, a team he single-
handedly put together that won three World Series titles.
But now he had headaches. Free agency had given players mobility
and the leverage to demand enormous paychecks.
Finley was wealthy, having climbed from a poor Southern
background to success in the insurance business.
However, compared with some of the other rich owners, he was
pocket change. And he doubted that he could compete with them in
retaining or hiring top players.
That night he was gloomy, and he said: "I'm probably gonna sell
I scoffed at the thought and said something like: "No, you won't.
Owning that team is your whole identity. It's what you worked
for. It's what you do."
He shook his head and talked about how the other owners and the
baseball commissioner hated him for his success and independence.
Then he said: "Besides, I'm tired of dealing with all those
After a moment of shock, I said: "Charlie, are you crazy? You
can't talk that way. What if I quoted you?"
"You wouldn't do that," he said. "We're friends, aren't we? And
you've got ethics."
He was right, at least about the friends part. When we talked,
it was as friends, not a news gathering expedition.
So, as a friend, I gave him a lecture. "Charlie, you just can't
use that kind of language. Lots of newspeople come in here and
what if one of them overheard you? If there was a story, the
black players might go on strike."
Then he said one of the damnedest things I've ever heard.
With a look of innocent confusion on his face, he said: "Why
can't I call them coons? They always call me mother f-----."
To this day, I still think there may have been a kernel of logic
in his nutty response, but I've never quite figured it out.
I dredge up this old conversation because of the current fuss
about Marge Schott, who owns the Cincinnati Reds and has been
found guilty by her fellow owners and the media of being an
insensitive blabbermouth -- just as many people would have
considered Charlie Finley to have been, had I run to my
typewriter and reported what he said.
Schott's most recent offense has been to tell a TV interviewer
that Hitler did some good things for Germany when he first took
power, but that he later "went too far."
It was, to say the least, an unfortunate choice of words,
although I think I know what she may have been trying to say.
Fact is, Hitler did revive the economy and sense of worth of a
nation that had lost a war and was on its knees. But that he
"went too far" doesn't quite describe his being the most evil
monster of this century, with the possible exception of Joe
(Stalin has never received equal recognition for his mass murders
because American and European leftists have tended to be
apologetic about his atrocities.)
Anyway, Marge Schott said this dumb thing about Hitler. Why did
she say it? Because she was asked about him by the TV
Think about that for a moment. Why would a TV reporter ask Marge
Schott about Hitler? Schott is not a historian, a theologian, or
even someone known to have read a book. She's a blowzy old babe
who happens to own a major league baseball franchise.
(Incidentally, she does an excellent job in baseball's smallest
As far as I know, reporters don't ask other baseball team owners
about Hitler. Or about anything except the business of baseball.
So why ask Marge Schott about Hitler? The answer is that she
said essentially the same dumb thing to a magazine reporter
several years ago and it caused a flap. Obviously, the TV
reporter wanted to see if Marge Schott would be dumb enough to
say the same thing again and cause another flap. Which she did.
Is that fair? I suppose so. It's Marge Schott's responsibility
to avoid saying dumb things that will cause the politically
correct media to have one of their frequent cluck-cluck fits.
So now fellow owners say Marge Schott must either give up running
her own team or they will suspend her.
Which says something about the dwindling right of Americans to
say something dumb.
But if we wanted to be totally fair, we would ask all baseball
owners about non-baseball topics: If not Hitler, maybe gay
marriage, sexual infidelity by athletes, abortion, illegal
immigrants, the O.J. Simpson verdict, and if ballpark food
increases the risk of heart disease.
I'm sure we could trap one of them into saying something that
would bring on an outburst of media cluck-clucking.
So I'm on Marge Schott's side. I hope she goes to court and sues
the other owners (including the Tribune Co., which owns the Cubs)
for violating the inalienable right of all Americans to
occasionally say something dumb.
If we ever lose that right, we'll have to pluck out about 100
million tongues. For starters.
(c) 1997 Chicago Tribune