A Life Well Lived … Sunday Cup O’Grigs

From Indianapolis, Indiana

I can guarantee you this – when the moment came, Bill Grigsby did not go quietly. He may not have made a sound and hopefully medication for his pain and battle against cancer dulled his senses. But there’s no way that Grigs gave up the microphone of life without a fight.

Even if it was just in his sub-conscious, I’m betting there was a tussle over the mike and Grigs was saying “one more thing …”

If you are new to Kansas City, or not paid much attention to the Chiefs or have been living under a rock for the last 50 years then the name Bill Grigsby does not mean much. For everybody else, his passing has cost them a friend, an entertainer, a cheerleader, a husband, a father, a grandfather and an icon.

Icon? Yes, Bill Grigsby had reached iconic status in Kansas City. In many ways he was Kansas City. He was full of spirit, if not patience. He was provincial to a fault and believed that everything was better as long as there was a K.C. attached to it. And when it came to those down on their luck, folks hindered by some medical problem or kids struggling to deal with an early setback in life, Grigs was always at the ready to provide whatever help might be needed.

He could also be aggravating, disorganized, forgetful and a darn poor listener. So often in death those that are gone are painted in the brightest of colors and a whitewash is splashed over the pimples and warts. I can’t do that with Grigs. He was a man, a mortal man and he wasn’t perfect and nobody knew that better than him. The only person who might have been perfect in the Grigsby house was his wife Fran, or Saint Fran as she was known by anyone who knew her and the grace she carried through her life with a man who was always on the stump.

Bill Grigsby was one of those teenage athletes that never grew up. He parlayed his love of sports into newspaper and broadcasting jobs that paid very little in money but made him rich in memories.

From the time I met Bill in 1981 when I moved to Kansas City, through the last time I saw him last summer there were always stories. Sometimes there were stories about stories. For those of us who worked with him on the Chiefs Radio Network, we came to know the stories so well we numbered them. Bill would launch one of his stories about traveling to St. Joseph (or was it Leavenworth) with Hank Stram to do a speech for the Bishop (or was it a General) and Len Dawson would smile at the rest of us in the booth and mouth “No. 5″ as Bill rolled on.

An open mike and an audience was all he needed as he worked the story and the atmosphere. One of the first chances I really had time to spend with Bill was either in 1983 or 1984. The Chiefs were taking head coach John Mackovic around the Midwest on a caravan, introducing him to the fans in Des Moines, Omaha and Wichita. It was in Omaha where I got on an elevator with Bill, headed to the lobby of the hotel. Already onboard were a pair of older ladies, basically a duo that looked like they were auditioning for the role of Aunt Bee from the old Andy Griffith Show.

The elevator stopped a few times on the trip down eight floors and by the time the doors opened in the lobby, Grigs had learned the women’s names, their husbands names, where they lived, why they were in Omaha and he even threw in a couple of short jokes for their laughing pleasure. They left the elevator giggling and blushing as Bill provided good bye kisses.

Bill was driven to entertain. Whether it was broadcasting games of the Kansas City A’s, or the Chiefs, or Kansas basketball, or NCAA and NAIA tournament basketball, or handling the ring announcements for professional wrestling at Municipal Auditorium or at Memorial Hall in KCK. An empty water glass at the table in a restaurant would become a mega-phone as he would announce a horse race and make it sound like he was coming right from the back stretch at Churchill Downs.

And entertained we were, sometimes more than others, but that never stopped Bill. He had the vaudevillian sense that the show must go on, and once it did, it kept moving. The thing with Grigs is no one ever quite knew what direction it was moving, including him. Sharing a radio booth for 18 years with Grigs was an adventure every Sunday. Anyone that worked with him, from Tom Hedrick, through guys like Wayne Larrivee and Kevin Harlan learned that they had to stay on their toes; at any moment Bill could be off on one of his stories.

Nobody knew that better than Len Dawson. Oh how Grigs loved No. 16. In many ways, Len lived the life that Bill would have loved as the star quarterback and the center of attention. And in many ways, in the quiet soul that is Len Dawson, he wishes he had Grigs’ ability to be comfortable in any situation with a quip, a story or a joke. The seventh son of a seventh son, Dawson lost another brother on Saturday when Bill passed.

It’s a sad moment, one where we need somebody to tell a story and make people smile.

LIONS, TAMPERING, PENALTIES & APPEAL

We will know for sure on Monday because that’s the deadline for the Detroit Lions to file an appeal over the sanctions handed them by the Commissioner’s office for tampering with free agent safety Jarrad Page last year.

There have been published reports that the Lions would move on and not appeal the loss of their seventh-round choice in the 2011 NFL Draft and the swap of positions with the Chiefs in the fifth round. But I’m hearing from people caught up in the matter that the Lions will definitely appeal. Asked about the situation on Saturday here at the NFL Combine, GM Scott Pioli had nothing to say.

Stay tuned on this one – there are some hard feelings growing because of this matter that could signal a new rivalry for the Chiefs.


4 Responses to “A Life Well Lived … Sunday Cup O’Grigs”

  • February 28, 2011  - Dave says:

    Growing up in KC, I always loved hearing Grigs talk about Gates and Price Chopper…I don’t have any profound memories of the guy, but he seemed like a nice and funny man. Prayers are with his family.


  • February 28, 2011  - Mike in St Louis says:

    Thanks Bob for pulling a Grigs and telling a story about the man. We Chiefs fans owe you an enormous bit of gratitude for all of the stories you share with us daily on this site. You continue to entertain us with Chiefs stories from yesteryears and I can personally say you have really made me a fan of you, the writer. As we honor Mr. Grigsby today, it is a pleasure to say we have you, another B.G. to keep telling his story and all those stories of Chiefs past, present and future that keep us on top of eveything Chiefs.


  • February 28, 2011  - gorillafan says:

    Great story bob,

    I remember his voice on the radio before a game just like it was yesterday…..just like you too.
    Thanks for reliving some of those memories!


  • February 28, 2011  - Tankfu says:

    Had the pleasure of Knowing Bill as I worked Chief Charters for five years.He was great at his profession, and even better at being the person he was….God Bless




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