Chicago Tribune colleagues share their memories of Terry Armour
When I met Terry Armour in December 1981, we were copy clerks in the Tribune newsroom, and I never would have dreamed this wacky guy from the South Side would turn out to be a multimedia celebrity whose death would affect thousands of people he never even met.
We quickly became drinking buddies and frequently met in the center-field bleachers at the old Comiskey Park, where he enjoyed heckling opposing outfielders like Bo Jackson ("For the love of God, Bo, please back up!") and rooting for his White Sox. We stormed the field together when the Sox clinched the West in '83, saw the Sox beat the Yankees in '90 despite being no-hit by Andy Hawkins, and even sat in the bleachers once with actor Brian Dennehy, who nearly got us kicked out of the Checkerboard Lounge that night.
I was there when Terry got arrested at the Cell a couple of years ago for punching a foul-mouthed Cubs fan. We smoked cigars in my hotel room in Houston after the Sox won the World Series in 2005, and we commiserated over the '07 debacle on adjoining bar stools just last month.
Terry was always planning something big, and sometimes I was involved. He got us a regular gig on CLTV when we covered high school basketball at the Trib in the early '90s, and he used that to catapult his career beyond mere newspaper reporting. Whether he was on his couch, in a bar or co-hosting his radio show, Terry loved to talk, laugh and make politically incorrect statements about the topic of the day.
After his two close friends, Allan Johnson and Jim Zulevic, died on consecutive days in January 2006, Terry and I met at Justin's, a pub on the North Side, one night to grieve together and celebrate their lives. He vowed to live every day like it was his last, and I truly believe he kept that promise to the end.
Terry Armour was a Chicago original, a Tribune legend and as good a guy as you'd ever want to meet. He left an imprint on all of us that will never fade.
-- Paul Sullivan
"Dude, you've got to check this song out."
A Bulls playoff game was to start in just over two hours. Terry and I were in his second-floor apartment on Belle Plaine Avenue, and the 15-minute ride to the United Center could wait. As much as Terry cared about his job, this song had to be heard.
I can't remember the band or the song. What I do remember is the intensity of emotion, of camaraderie, of living life to the fullest. That's Terry Armour to me. He was always quick with a laugh, sure. But he also cared about others and wanted to share how much he loved life with them.
To say Terry and I were close during the Bulls' second three-peat is like saying Dennis Rodman liked shock value. A wannabe writer, I got my first big break covering the rock-and-roll circus that was the Bulls for the Tribune's new Internet site in 1996. Terry covered the team for the newspaper. We lived two blocks apart on the North Side, which meant we would ride to and from practices and games together, talking music, talking hoops, talking life.
Terry looked out for me. He bought me drinks. He showed me how to handle the pressures of the job. Sometimes we stayed out way too late. Always we would show up for more work the next morning.
There's this image of Terry as someone who used his quick laugh and good nature to rise to his successful career. That image fails to capture Terry's conscientious nature and his desire to always get the story right. Trust me: Terry was a competitor.
But above all, Terry was a friend. By the end of the Bulls' third straight championship run in 1998, I had started writing Bulls beat stories for the newspaper and was on my way to earning my own pro beat as the Blackhawks writer. Shortly after the 1998 championship, Terry showed up at my house with a mix CD and thanked me for all the good times we had together.
I do remember this title: "You rock, dude." The feeling is mutual.
-- K.C. Johnson
When Terry rose above the rank of lowly sportswriter, moving up a floor and into a real office with a real secretary—or so he said—he gave me a tour. I, of course, was eaten alive by jealousy and made fun of the pictures on his wall: Terry with Dennis Rodman, Terry with Frank Thomas.