A new era, a new Daley, a new kind of Chicago

ROGER SIMON

March 23, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

Richard M. Daley, the mayor of Chicago, walks out of his small private office and into the large ceremonial office that his father, Richard J. Daley, occupied for 21 years.

Richie is saying goodbye to Billy Pierce, the White Sox left-hander, who pitched in the 1959 World Series.

I am introduced to Pierce and then ushered into the inner sanctum.

Name the '59 White Sox, I say to Richie, a challenge that no Chicagoan born on the South Side could possibly pass up.

Though most Americans, through pure ignorance and the incessant yammerings of George Will, associate Chicago with the Cubs, in fact the White Sox represent the true, big-shouldered Chicago.

Richie instantly begins rattling off the names: Fox, Aparicio, Smith, Landis, Lollar, Goodman, Rivera, Wynn and Pierce for the pitchers . . .

"And . . ." he says. "And that big guy at first base -- Kluzcynski!"

It is an understandable mistake. John Kluzcynski is a rather large federal office building in the Loop while Ted Kluszewski was the rather large White Sox first baseman.

So I correct him.

"Right!" Richie says. "Kluszewski."

And it occurs to me that I never would have corrected his father. Though almost every air traveler in America knows that the big airport in Chicago is called O'Hare, Richard J. Daley always called it "O'Hara." Maybe it sounded more Irish to him that way. In any case, that's what he called it and nobody ever corrected him.

L You remember when your father blew the sirens? I ask Richie.

"Remember?" he says. "I almost flunked high school."

When the White Sox clinched the pennant -- it was a night game on the West Coast -- Richard J. Daley turned on the city's air raid sirens in celebration.

This was 1959, however, the Cold War was very much a reality and highly visible Nike missile launchers ringed the city. And thousands of people panicked when they heard the sirens, convinced that Russian bombers were lumbering overhead.

"My math teacher told me the next morning that he had spent the entire night in his fallout shelter," Richie says. "I told my father: 'If I flunk math, it's your fault!' "

It is virtually inevitable that the father's name comes up when interviewing the son, though the son will soon turn 50 and is very much his own man.

Richard J. Daley was to Chicago what Franklin D. Roosevelt was to the nation and when Daley died the loss was a deep emotional wrench to his city.

Time did not stop, however. Life went on. And the city the son presides over is not the city the father ruled.

In some ways, it is better. In some ways, perhaps not. You could argue about it. Many do. In any case when Richie was re-elected last year, he got 71 percent of the vote.

And as a reward to him and as a sign that all is forgiven, some Democratic Party leaders now wish to hold their presidential convention in Chicago in 1996. It would be their way of saying that the Daley name has been rehabilitated from the disastrous convention of 1968.

"I don't want it," Richie says flatly.

Are you kidding? I ask.

"No," he says. "It's not a big money-maker for the city. And the party wants $20 million for it. They wanted to come to Chicago this year. And I refused."

There may be another reason besides the money: The son may feel his father's name doesn't need rehabilitating.

Being the son of a famous father is a burden. Just ask Richie's 16-year-old son, Patrick. A few weeks ago Patrick held a drinking party at the Daley's Michigan vacation home (Richie and his wife, Maggie, were out of town and did not know about it) and one

teen-ager got bashed in the head with a baseball bat.

Patrick was not the bat wielder, but he is the mayor's son and the press coverage has been intense.

His father is not pleased: not about the party, not about the injury, especially not about the aftermath.

"I'll take any criticism; I'll take any shot," he says to me, "but this has been a media feeding frenzy."

Not all family matters are gloomy, however. Richie's daughter is a second grader attending an inner-city parochial school and she is preparing to face the challenges of America's next generation.

"She is studying," Richie says proudly, "Japanese."

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