If both Chicago teams were winning or interesting, newspapers would devote roughly the same resources, depending on their game times’ relationship to the deadlines of that day. Conversely, both teams would receive less coverage if they were out of the race in the final month. The downtown papers would pull their writers off the road, while deploying backup scribes to cover some of the remaining home games.
But the Sox in mid-century were never shortchanged by the city’s sports columnists. Pro-Sox opinionists always had a clear plurality in the market.
Sports writer Dave Condon coverage hijinks
Depicted with a big stogie in his column photo, adopted South Sider Condon, a New Mexico native and former Notre Dame tennis player, was wired into the city’s sports elite. He broke stories of ownership changes and resignations, such as John Allyn’s elevation in Sox ownership in 1969 and Stu Holcomb’s forced departure in mid-1973. But in the process of huddling with the rich and powerful, Condon rarely criticized his subjects, most jarringly during a Wrigley Building lunch in August 1968. Boothmate Phil Wrigley astoundingly said sometimes an owner would prefer to finish second due to the stresses of winning, among other nonsensical proclamations. No skeptical or questioning words came from Condon in the resulting column.
Condon also injected himself into the stories, such as posing for handshakes with John Allyn at his ownership announcement in a lead Tribune Sports front page photo. After hoisting a few the night before with Charlie Finley, another confidant, Condon donned a blond wig and draped a pantsuit over his 260-pound frame. He mimicked Morganna the Kissing Bandit, to buss the A’s Joe Rudi at first base (generating a five-photo sequence on the Tribune Sports front page) July 2, 1970 at Comiskey Park. Ethics and professionalism were far different a half-century ago.
Native South Sider Bill Gleason, a Parker High School alum, confined his whimsy to columns in the afternoon Chicago’s American and the morning tabloid Sun-Times before finishing his career with the suburban Daily Southtown in the 1990s. In 1974, Gleason founded the well-remembered “Sportswriters” on WGN Radio. later syndicated on TV. He positioned himself as the advocate of the beer-drinking South Side fans. He’d write that “all Cubs fans come from Peoria because that’s where their broadcasters come from” while excusing the team’s stumblebum baseball-operations mismanagement as Phil Wrigley playing jokes on fans and media.
The sainted afternoon Daily News, a “writers’ paper”, was led by White Sox-friendly John P. Carmichael with his Barber Shop column and John Justin Smith. Carmichael went to work for the Sox after his retirement from newspapering. Jerome Holtzman, Chicago’s most famous beat writer for the Sun-Times and Tribune who’d eventually serve as Major League Baseball’s official historian, grew up as a Sox fan on Chicago’s West Side in the 1930s.
Only Rick Talley, hailing from far downstate Pinckneyville in Whitey Herzog country, was an avowed Cubs fan. Talley did not arrive in town until 1968 to become lead sports columnist of the American, then its successor tabloid, Chicago Today.
The great Mike Royko, with bigger fish to fry, couldn’t focus on sports
The work of Mike Royko, the greatest Chicago columnist of them all, did not appear on the sports pages. But he was local journalism’s biggest professed Cubs fan. Royko sometimes played the Cubs for laughs with alter ego Slats Grobnik and his team quizzes. Yet in his Page 3 role in the Daily News, and later in the Sun-Times and Tribune, Royko mostly wrote about Major Richard J. Daley’s Democratic machine and the absurdities of politics and society. He could not focus on sports.