arly on a cold and gray Saturday morning on Main Street in Parkville, the flags were at half mast. The one in front of American Legion Post 318 seemed sad at the loss of one their most beloved members, Parkville’s iconic Bill Grigsby, age 89.
Earlier that morning of Feb. 26 at 3:30 a.m., Bill–with his wife Fran and other members of the Grigsby clan at his side succumbed to complications from his battle with prostate cancer at the age of 89.
Grigsby was best known for being a longtime radio announcer for the Kansas City Chiefs. He was known more locally for giving of his time and talents to the community of Parkville.
Grigsby’s daughter, Ann Handelman, said her father died “peacefully” Saturday morning.
“He had an incredible life, he traveled all over the world and he called Parkville his ‘little slice of heaven’ and his ‘hidden treasure.’
“He loved Parkville, his heart was completely in Parkville, it was his Camelot,” she said.
Grigsby along with his wife Fran moved to Parkville from nearby Kansas City North in 1983 and found a near perfect setting nestled in the Missouri River Bluffs. By then he was already a legendary figure in Kansas City sports broadcasting, having been with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs since their move here from Dallas in 1963 as a play-by-play man, color analyst and program host.
Chief’s Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt issued a statement Saturday stating: “Like all Chiefs fans, our thoughts and prayers are with Fran and the entire Grigsby family at this difficult time. Bill’s voice brought some of the most memorable action and exciting plays in Chiefs history.”
Included in those unforgettable broadcasts were the two Super Bowl appearances that the Kansas City Chiefs have made, including their victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.
Lisa Dawson, daughter of Grigsby’s longtime broadcasting partner (or “pardner” as Bill would say) and legendary Chief’s quarterback Len Dawson, acknowledged: “Bill was one of a kind. He had the most stories about the Chief’s and Kansas City’s sports history of anyone I know, he will be missed so much.”
Former Kansas City Chiefs running back Ted McKnight affectionately remembered Grigsby when he said last Sunday: “From the moment I met him as a ball player and even when I left my playing career, Bill was always there for us (players). He always knew somebody to get you in touch with if you needed anything. He treated us all like his kids. He was always glad to see us and always had a story to tell.”
McKnight said, “If there is one thing I could say about Bill, it would be that he treated everyone the same. He wrapped his arms around us and was rock steady.”
Before joining the Chiefs, Grigsby was a broadcaster for the Kansas City Athletics Major League Baseball franchise in the 1950s and 1960s. Prior to that he broadcast college basketball and football games and worked for the Joplin Globe newspaper. He was also an announcer on radio station WMBH, Joplin, Mo. His vast experience in broadcasting included both the American Football League and National Football League, along with working in Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.
Bill also penned two books in his spare time, including his autobiographical “Grigs! A Beautiful Life” in 2004. This, of course, eluded to his catch phrase, “It’s a Beauuuutiful day.” As he would say it like no other could. His second book, “Don’t Spit in the Wastebasket,” recalls some advice he received as a cub reporter in Joplin, Mo.
Former member of the Kansas City Royal’s public relations staff and longtime Parkville resident, Jeff Coy reminisced about when Bill would occasionally visit Kauffman Stadium during baseball games.
“He would sit in the Press Club for hours after the game talking old times with the visiting team’s broadcast crew. I sat with his group once when the Yankees were in town. He and Mickey Mantle reminisced about the days in Joplin. It was one of the highlights of my time with the Royals.”
Coy also served on the staff at the Arrowhead Club during football season. He fondly recalls a regular Grigsby routine.
“He (Grigsby) would visit the Arrowhead Club before every home game. Several hours before kickoff, he would visit the waitresses and bartenders at the club and would always bring cookies. I am not sure if Fran baked them or if Bill stopped off at the Press Box Buffet before making his Sunday morning trek to the club. But he always brought cookies. They were given to the female wait staff only, however. A flirty Grigs tradition. He once gave me a half a cookie because I was from Parkville. He respected that. I felt honored,” said Coy.
Another Grigsby routine was his weekly breakfast outing to his American Legion Post 318 in downtown Parkville. Grigsby would hold court with friends, post members, local politicians’ and various others who would constantly hear a great story. With Fran alongside, Bill rarely missed a Sunday unless his Chiefs’ duties were calling. Longtime Legion member Terry Brown remembers, “He and Fran would be here almost every Sunday morning. He had the gift of gab and would light up the room when he came in.”
His community involvement and charitable efforts were as renowned as his broadcast career. His philanthropic activities were said to have raised millions of dollars for a multitude of causes. His volunteer efforts for downtown Parkville included everything from hosting duties to “making the call” for much needed funds to ensure an event’s success.
Over the many years he was involved in Main Street Parkville Association’s Fourth of July Celebration as the host and master of ceremonies for that event’s annual parade. He also hosted the Parkville Days River Fest Parade, Parkville Jazz Fest, and the Parkville Chamber of Commerce’s Blue Grass Block Party. Then of course there is Parkville’s Christmas on the River, an event that Grigsby help founded and was the consummate host.
One of Grigsby’s longtime partners at many of Parkville’s events was businessman and volunteer Tom Hutsler. Hutsler recalls that “Bill had a great influence on a lot of people. His legacy is the impact he had on everyone’s life that he touched, young and old. He was enthusiastic. He was a mentor. He was always positive, comical and made you feel good. He was inspirational, down to earth and sometimes you were never quite sure what he was going to say. Next to my own father, he was the second most influential man in my life. I looked to him for guidance and direction. Every time I spent time with him I walked away with a positive frame of mind.”
Hutsler further commented that “His (Grigsby’s) legacy is what we decide to do with what he has mentored us on. We need to carry on his vision for Parkville, his dreams for all of us and his enthusiasm for life. When he spoke, people listened and he always had a good story to tell and a kind word for everyone. One of my last and fondest memories I have of Bill, will always be Christmas on the River 2010. As, God Bless America was being sung, I observed Grigsby facing the flag and appearing so proud as he placed his hand over his heart.”
In addition, to his volunteer efforts, Grigsby became a spokesperson for a diverse group of products and businesses. Over the past several years he had an office in the National Golf Course on Tom Watson Parkway in Parkville. In 2007 The National honored Bill with a statue of him toasting all of us with a martini glass.
Other numerous honors were bestowed onto Bill over the years. He is a member of two Halls of Fame. They are the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame. He had the distinction of not only calling two Super Bowls, but he also called the first nationally televised Final Four in 1957 when Kansas was defeated in triple overtime by North Carolina.
He was selected as “Northlander of the Year” by the Northland Chamber of Commerce in 2005. His beloved “hometown” of Parkville bestowed the name “Grigsby Field” for Fran and him in 2002 on the baseball field that lies along the Missouri River in downtown Parkville.
Grigsby was born in Wellsville ,Kan. He was a graduate of Kansas University in Lawrence. He served his nation in the United States Army Air Corp during World War II as a cryptographer. In addition to his membership in the American Legion, Post 318 he is also a member of the VFW Post 7356 in Parkville.
Visitation for Bill Grigsby was Tuesday, March 1 at St. Therese Catholic Church at Parkville. Services were held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 2 at the church. He is survived by his wife, Fran, and five children.