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Grigsby: Lenny The Cool

Posted Sep 25, 2010

Bill Grigsby Weekend at Arrowhead

Throughout Sunday’s game the Kansas City Chiefs will honor Mr. Kansas City himself, Bill Grigsby. Bill retired at the end of last season after 62 years as a broadcaster, originally joining the Chiefs in the club’s first year after moving from Dallas in 1963.

Grigsby has entertained Chiefs fans on and off the field for the better part of five decades. We remember his calls, commercials and, of course, his one-of-a-kind personality. There’s nobody like Ole’ Grigs, and there never will be.

In honor of Grigs’ career as a broadcaster, writer and entertainer, enjoy this excerpt taken from the book that features hundreds of his archived articles, Don’t Spit in the Wastebasket.

Lenny the Cool

Published in 1988

I knew Len would make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He couldn’t miss. He would have been inducted a year earlier, but Willie Lanier was in the same class, and it is seldom that they take two guys from the same team into the Hall at the same time. One sage said he owed it all to Hank Stram, since it was Hank who brought Lenny down to Texas for a rebirth in the American Football League, but I have to feel that Lenny would have made it somehow on his own. His competitive urge has always been the motivating force. He always looked for a way to win and most times, he found it.

Len got the “Cool” tag at an early date in his playing career, and he carried the image right through the end of his professional career. He could wait and wait and wait until he found the open man, knowing he was flirting with total destruction – and then assume the fetal posture that time after time seemed to save his life. I remember, more than once, he would throw the ball, be buried by an avalanche of defenders and then poke his head up through the tangle of arms and legs to see if Otis Taylor had caught the pass. He didn’t know how to lose.

Oh he lost. In fact when the team first arrived in Kansas City, Lenny had a number of losses.

The team played poorly, and the crowd would take it out on Lenny.

The cry was “bring in Pete (Beathard).” But Stram stuck with his man and four years later, Lenny was the leader who took his team to the first Super Bowl. Three years after that, he took them all the way to a World Championship. His day had come.

Len had a great deal of adversity to live with. He was accused of being a gambler, just prior to the Super Bowl game in New Orleans, vintage 1970. It was a phony issue, but it took one helluva guy to take on the press, the fans and the National Football League. He won on all counts. Not long after, his wife, Jackie, suffered a stroke and subsequently died. It had been a childhood love affair. It was tough, but once again he fought for himself and his kids. Later, his best friend Pittsburgh Joe, a lifelong companion, died in his early forties. Once again, Len fought off the grief and emerged a winner.

I have been privileged enough to know the guy for 25 years. We traveled lots of miles together. We shared laughter, a few drinks, emotions, highs and lows. Fortunately we have the opportunity to get together during the football seasons, and the fun remains. I hope it doesn’t end soon.

I remember the night that I found out what a real competitor Lenny was. Seems like we were in my backyard in 1963 or 1964, shooting baskets with Chris Burford and Preston Williams – shooting for money. That didn’t bother Lenny when he won all the money.

Course I didn’t know at the time – he played basketball at Purdue, too. Len also possessed the ability to become a major league infielder. He thinks baseball may have been his best sport.

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