Not counting my dad, I was blessed as a kid…
Every fall weekend all I could think about was, "Will the Chiefs win another one?" It was the late 1960s. The Chiefs and Oakland Raiders were by far the two best teams in the AFL. As luck would have it, my Uncle Mort owned Glazer Chemical, so several Chiefs worked for him during the off season. That’s right, back then most football players made less than $35,000 a year, some far less. Today that might be a small bonus on a wild card play-off game…for the losers.
Yep, I would ride with my Dad or Uncle Mort after school, sometimes with All Pro Jerrel Wilson (the Chiefs great punter) or maybe Jim Tyrer (all pro lineman). Over the next few years Mort would have about six or seven players working for him selling his product. I even got to know players who you probably never heard of, like Super Bowl back-up guard Dennis Biodrowski. I liked him, pulled for him, but he never got to start. He did give me and my brothers an autographed football of the entire Chiefs team in Super Bowl One. That was cool.
I tried for a couple years to get a player to come to my school, Meadowbrook Jr. High, to give a talk, but no such luck.
However, my dad, Stan, befriended most of the name players and they would take turns having dinner at our house. Len Dawson, Bobby Bell and Fred Arbanas. Man, was Bell ever a gladiator, at 6′ 4" and 230 pounds. That was huge for a linebacker in late 60’s.
I asked Bobby at my dad’s 80th birthday party recently, if they kept track of sacks in the 60’s, what would have been your best year? And he said, "Oh man, I think I had like 20 or more a couple times, but we didn’t count them back then."
Yeah, Bobby Bell, in my opinion was the all-time best linebacker in the NFL/AFL. He was named to the all AFL team and had nine Pro Bowls and went into the Hall of Fame in 1980. Great guy. Today he is a speaker for the Chiefs and the League.
As the years rolled on I made tighter connections with a team mostly two decades or more older than myself.
Fred Williamson and I became pals in LA, where Fred continues his film work to this day. I did a Royals charity game with Fred "the Hammer" Williamson. Len Dawson and I bumped into each other for years in airports when he worked for NBC as a TV announcer and later for HBO and of course Channel 9 and the Chiefs. He helped me organize Red Fridays and was my neighbor at the Sulgrave.
Both of us tried in vain to get Otis Taylor elected to the Hall of Fame – that he isn’t in the Hall is a tragedy.
Yes, those 1965-1972 Chiefs were special.
They truly belonged to Kansas City. Bell even was one of the first black men to move into a nice home in Overland Park. They were loved, still are by most of us that saw them play and got to know them.
Another odd thing, most of them lived here. Today almost no current Chiefs live here or stay here during the off season. One more important thing about those teams; we all knew our Kansas City Chiefs were more than elite. Some say the 1969 Chiefs had the best defense in NFL history. I believe that.
Many of my childhood heroes have passed away – Jerry Mays (whose construction company built Stanford and Sons in Westport), Buck Buchanan, Aaron Brown, to name a few.
Maybe one day we’ll have a special group like that again.
THE SUPER BOWL TEAMS OF 1966/67 and 1969/70. They made us all so very proud to be from Kansas City. It was an honor for me to meet them and get to know them.