OTC: Bill Grigsby Gone @ 89 But Far From Forgotten


“There’s not a person I know in my life I can compare him to. He was like no other. His energy was remarkable. The fact that he was ageless is an example to us all. He still wanted to contribute any way he could, no matter what birthday he was celebrating.”
Mitch Holthus, on the passing of Bill Grigsby, the well-known Kansas City sportscaster and spokesperson, Kansas City Star
“Every city and town in America has a Bill Grigsby. And no other place on earth but Kansas City has a Bill Grigsby. That’s about the only way I know how to tell you about my old friend, who died Saturday.”
Joe Posnanski, Kansas City Star
GH: Like a lot of JoPo’s columns, he lost me early in his Grigsby tribute. I agree with Holthus, I think Grigsby was as rare a personality as I have ever come across. Unlike JoPo, I don’t think every town has a Grigsby. Or was JoPo trying to tell us every town doesn’t have a Grigsby like Grigsby but sorta kinda? Sometimes JoPo’s attempts to be cute are a detriment to his work’s readability.
“Bill (Grigsby) did the (Kansas basketball) games when Phog Allen was there. He used to always tell me, ‘You know Davis, when I called these games I got paid $25 a game whether they played in Lawrence or China!’”
Bob Davis, 610 AM
GH: I first met Grigsby face-to-face in 1994. A friend of mine who thought I had some talent arranged an interview for me with Grigsby at the downtown bank he worked at. Grigsby was friendly and very frank. He said he was unsure what our mutual friend thought he could do for me. He told me he had no pull at the bank where he labeled himself as “nothing more than a meeter and greeter.” He did offer me some advice on working in the media. “Don’t do anything for free,” he said. He told me he refused to do anything anymore without getting paid. Grigsby worked very hard on being Grigsby – and it became his meal ticket. There aren’t many people who get paid just because they are them. Grigs was definitely in that small group of personalities.
“I worked with Bill for nine years from 1983 to 1992 and I thought he was at the top of his game during that time.”
Kevin Harlan, who at the age of 25 started working as the Chiefs’ radio play-by-play voice with Len Dawson and Grigsby, 810 AM
GH: As Harlan was talking about his memories of Grigsby, I thought of all the younger fans who only knew Grigsby’s work the past 15 years or so, when he was little more than a sideshow on Chiefs’ radio broadcasts and a shill for local advertisers like Price Chopper and Jazz. I first became familiar with both Harlan and Grigsby as guests on Mike Murphy’s radio show over 30 years ago. Harlan was a KU student trying to get into the biz and Grigsby was simply the greatest storyteller I’d ever heard. Murphy is now ailing but still holding court in a local bar where I run into on occasion. When he goes we will have lost one of Kansas City’s greatest entertainers.
“He was a full-bodied person with a full-bodied personality.”
Kevin Harlan, on Grigsby, 810 AM
GH: Grigsby was not a saint, as a lot of those who are remembering him this week would like you to think. Harlan’s “full-bodied” description could cover a lot of ground when it comes to Grigsby. I saw Grigsby in both his public mode and his more private. He was not always chuckling, laughing and the life of the party. He could be rude, elitist and at times mean. He was often drunk and the stories of his evening strolls through Parkville are well known to the wait staff and bartenders there. Read on.
“Bill Grigsby was also a drunk and a mean old man. I watched as he berated a poor girl at the Price Chopper in Parkville because she did not know who he was. Still enjoyed listening to him on the radio though. Like the rest of us he was no Saint.”
licker, post from a reader on kansascity.com
GH: My story with Grigsby is well known by most who read my column. He took offense at a drunken parody we did of him on my radio show and I was out of radio two weeks later. I happened to be out with my family for dinner in Parkville shortly after than when he and his wife, Fran, were seated adjacent to our table. Grigsby saw me but was obviously uncomfortable at the proximity of our tables. He barely spoke to his wife during their meal. I refrained from expressing my thoughts to him on his unwillingness to help me when my job was on the line. Later that evening we both ended up at the same ice cream parlor in Parkville. Grigsby paid for their ice cream cones but then got into an argument with the high school girl working the register. He berated her for giving him change for a five when he said he gave her a ten. The girl was flustered but adamant that he only gave her a five. Grigsby got mean and demanded he be given another five dollars. The shaken girl dipped back into the register and gave him the five dollars. Fran stood by and watched this exchange without saying a word.
“The best part of life is the climb. When you go through different hurdles or just trying to figure out where you fit in and how it’s all going to work, when you look back on that struggle it’s the struggle, it’s the journey. That’s really the best part, going through all that stuff. The people that you work with, the people that you experience different things with. That’s kind of where Bill fills that part of my life.”
Kevin Harlan, 810 AM
GH: I think the struggle always looks much better when viewed from the destination. I know I appreciate where I’m at now and what I went through to get here – but I am not eager to repeat my mistakes or retrace my steps. I think that’s why life replenishes itself with younger versions of us to make their own way.
GregHall24@yahoo.com and Twitter / greghall24
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16 Responses to OTC: Bill Grigsby Gone @ 89 But Far From Forgotten

  1. Gavin says:

    I Never really got it
    Not to speak ill of the dead (but, I suppose, to speak accurately of them), but I never really “got” Grigsby. I’m old enough to remember him 25+ years ago, but I really started paying attention to the Chiefs when Harlan was calling them. I was a fan as a kid, but I just don’t have any memories of him. As a result, my memories of Grigsby revolve around incoherent, likely drunken, ramblings about god knows what. And I’m not trying to put words in Harlan’s mouth, but it always struck me that Grigs was treated more as the drunken, doddering uncle at Thanksgiving. Very little attention was paid until he did something really outlandish and then he was hurriedly given another cocktail and he’d fall asleep in the corner.

    My one specific memory of him was about nine years ago Joe Posnanski was doing a book signing at Unity Temple and he was going to bring along one of the local sports architects to talk about the possibility of building a new downtown sports arena (what would eventually become the Sprint Center). Posnanski talked about everything and when there were questions specifically about the arena (which hadn’t yet been approved or even voted on), the sports architect that Posnanski brought would provide really interesting answers.

    Unfortunately, Posnanski also brought Grigsby along (I assume, based on your story, Greg, that Grigsby demanded payment) and I never saw a guy get so much in the way of a perfectly good conversation. Every time someone would ask Posnanski a question about anything or ask a specific question related to the arena, Grigsby would grab the microphone and start blathering about Mickey Mantle and how he once saw Ava Gardner naked or about how Wilt Chamberlain had a giant dong or whatever. Dude just would NOT let the focus be on Posnasnki (even though it was Posnanski’s book signing) and he couldn’t allow this no-name architect to get a word in edgwise because this young punk had never even SEEN a game at the Polo Grounds and did I mention that I used to hang out with Mickey Mantle and got drunk with Walt Disney who let me bang Haley Mills AND Maureen O’Hara right after they released “The Parent Trap”?

    I’m sure Posnanski had his reasons for liking Grigsby so much, but I just never understood the allure.

  2. randyraley says:

    Everytime I had Grigs on my radio show he called me Roger. Yes, he could be an asshole but once he bought into you and you were nice to him, he was your bud. I never corrected him, BTW, what was the point? Sucks that us Chiefs fans lost Tony D. and Grigs in the same winter. Glad March is tomorrow.

  3. smartman says:

    Ditto Gavin
    I’ve heard more stories like yours about Grigs then about him being some great humanitarian.
    In Parkville at least he was commonly referred to as Bill Grogsby due to his love of adult beverages.

    For my part I am now moving Nick “The Shituation” Wright up my depth chart to the lofty position of most annoying person on sports radio in KC, a spot Mr. Grigsby has occupied for 20+ years.

    If I ever hear BEEEEYOUTEEEEFULLLLL again it will mean that I have died and gone to hell.

  4. DonkeyPunch says:

    smartman sed:
    If I ever hear BEEEEYOUTEEEEFULLLLL again it will mean that I have died and gone to hell

    donkeypunch sez:
    Say hello to Grigsby when you get there

  5. Lee says:

    Not to speak ill of the dead either, but
    I never got Grigsby either. I don’t recall him way back but certainly since Dawson was color man for the Chiefs, I always found Grigsby to be annoying. If I had owned a business that advertised during a Chief’s game, I would never have hired him as the voice.

    I have enjoyed the past few years of Chief’s broadcasts a lot more since his role was downgraded/eliminated.

    I am certain he had a lot of wonderful colorful stories and they might make a fine book to read. I am just glad I don’t have to listen to him any more.

  6. harley says:

    would critique and find fault with a eulogy. JOPO is saying good things about the man
    and only a dickhead like hall could come out and make a fool of himself by
    critisizing a eulogy. What a jerk you are hall.

  7. Gerald Bostock says:

    As long as the topic has been raised, I, too, have experienced 25+ years of Grigsby and thought him an useless appendage to Chiefs broadcasts and a self-involved blowhard in the rest of his media appearances. He wasn’t nearly as interesting or important as he thought he was, and he used that “lovable old cuss” persona to get away with lots of obnoxiousness.

  8. c says:

    This from Mr. Hall—
    “GH: I think the struggle always looks much better when viewed from the destination. I know I appreciate where I

  9. chuck says:

    Oh yeah—
    Hey Carl, that Brady guy is the shit, I’m tellin ya. Remember when I told ya to take Terrell Davis?

    Like I said, that beeutifull shit kinda grows on ya, its so corny.

  10. Ptolemy says:

    Best Buy
    Didn’t Hall have a story similar to Grigsby’s Parkville ice cream parlor involving Mr. Hall wreaking holy hell at a local Best Buy?

    Just in the interest of balance.

  11. Rocko says:

    OTC: Billl grigsby gone
    Grigsby stole his “beeyoutiful” catchphrase from NewYork columnisy Jimmy Breslin, , who ran for Mayor of NYC on a ticket with Norman Mailer back in the 80s.

  12. 10000 Doleacs says:

    My first and only Grigsby sighting
    First time I hit the casino floor, on my very first trip to Vegas in ’99, there’s Bill Grigsby at the craps table, whiskey in hand, drunk off his arse even though it’s about 6pm. Okay, so that’s 8pm Central, when he was probably lit up like the Strip on an average evening, but still. I wondered what a “celebrity” like that would be doing slumming at the Circus Circus with broke college students like me, but when you’re that deep into the bottle, the casinos probably all looked the same.

  13. John says:

    Most miserable sports cities. Forbes Magazine.
    No. 7 Kansas City
    Teams: Chiefs, Royals, Kings, Scouts
    Championship round record: 3-2
    Semifinal round record: 5-6
    Total Seasons/championships: 118/3
    Last title: 1985

    Admit it; just reading the words “Kansas City” induces glazed eyes and the sudden need for a nap. The NBA and NHL both skipped town, and the city’s sports postseason history is mostly defined by George Brett’s Royals falling just short against the Yankees. Kansas City built the Sprint Center, but no one has come.

  14. chuck says:

    Brett against Goose Gossage
    Pounds it out of the stadium with Al Michaels and Howard Cosell reporting.

    The Royals then lost to Philly.

    Reggie Jackson comes over to the Royals clubhouse to congrat the Royals.

    Great team. Best we ever had including the 85 team.

    Sarge Matthews caught that fuckin ball off of the WALL!!!

  15. bschloz says:

    Circus Circus
    @10000 Doleacs….haha..Grigs wasn’t gonna pay more than $29.95 for a room in Vegas..that is a completely sober play.
    His peer group tried to see how much they could extract from Vegas with $3.99 Prime Rib and $1.99 Shrimp Cocktail…new era wants to see if they can spend $300 for a kobe steak and shit.

  16. Harley says:

    Funny comment bschloz….
    Just got back from vegas…you’re right…$300 for meals….wynn charged us $60 for breakfast for 2 people…
    I used to love circus circus….the trapeze over the craps table….the arcade upstairs….unique old style
    vegas hotel….

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