The glowing farewell to the Grobsteins begins to slow.
Everything that has been broadcast and written has been well deserved.
A handful touched the magnificence of texture and tone.
There is a marked degree of duty above discomfort to add another.
That’s because he’s a colleague and pal of over four decades who, even at 69, said goodbye too soon.
This sort of bell of fate is ringing far too close to home.
In a perfect cosmos, the recipient would have the option – before entering the passage to The Big Transmitter – of texting “Cancel my delivery”.
THE MOST ACCURATE SUMMARY IS RELATIVELY CONCISE:
He was a good guy.
He recognized his passion in life early on and pursued it with tireless determination.
He took the break of his life in 1979 when he suddenly went from an $8 an hour voice over SportsPhone Chicago to working alongside giants of the big market radio industry such as Larry Lujack. , Li’l Tommy Edwards and Catherine Johns at WLS. -AM (890).
A “sporting danger!” match at that time between him and fellow fast starters Chuck Swirsky and Bruce Wolf would have been an intellectual cage match worthy of a championship debate between Harvard, Yale and Brandeis.
He missed a few along the way – including a glaring blunder involving an out-of-bounds “extra” title in the 2001 MLB All-Star Game in Seattle that cost him nearly a decade of his career.
But isn’t that part of being a different human being who aimed for the stars and, more often than not, touched one?
IF IT WAS VARIETY – the showbiz bible – the lede could be even more succinct:
“Les Grobstein, one of the great figures in the history of American sports radio, died last Sunday in a suburb of his native Chicago.”
The problem with that, even for those who have seen him frequently on the media lines at Chicago Stadium and at the United Center there are many dribbles and puck rebounds, would be:
How could the character ever be systematically distinguished from the actor?
He was wise enough to quickly recognize an enduring professional personality alongside Lujack, Li’l Tommy and throughout that great WLS-AM finishing school.
And publicly, he almost never deviated.
He played the reliable and likeable neighborhood nebbish.
Sportsmen know all who could most likely walk into a CTA bus stop sign, lost in thought of who was on deck when Willie Smith hit his homerun on the Ivies at Wrigley Field off Barry Lersch of Philadelphia at Opening Day 1969.
CHICAGO SPORTS PRESENCE with which he shared a remarkable number of fundamental touchpoints was not another broadcaster.
Instead, it was Jerry Krause.
Both grew up on the northwest side. Both realized their athletic limitations at a young age – although Krause pressed it a bit as a recurring annoyance at Bradley University.
The two began working alternately but paired up stairs as determined teenagers.
The two pushed doors from the start that the less motivated might have considered behaviors far too bold to contemplate.
And both eventually rose to very high prospects in their chosen professions.
THE DISPARITY WAS that Grobstein never lost his sympathy.
It had neither middle nor venal bone in its body.
He didn’t feel obligated to imply that he was still the smartest man at the press conference.
Which will always activate the consideration of the lazy moment:
If you could have planted Grobstein’s propensity for rubbing people the right way inside Krause and his frustrating knack for embracing the implosive, what kind of beloved Chicago sports icon could you have had?
ON SUNDAY NIGHT of Memorial Day weekend 1997, Michael Jordan and the traveling mammoth Championship Bulls playoff herd were in Miami.
The Bulls led the Heat 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The first closing opportunity would present itself the following afternoon.
Much of the teeming media was downtown, staying relatively close to the Miami Arena.
Jordan and the Bulls – plus Grobstein – were 17 miles northeast of the chic Turnberry Isle Resort and Country Club.
Grobstein was going to do his WSCR-AM night show (1160 at the time) from the spa.
AT SUNDAY’S BULLS’ LEG-STRETCHER, The Carefree – an utterly incorrigible night owl – said to Les, “I could just come up tonight and watch a master at work.”
And he did, hopping into a midnight cab after a wonderful late-night dinner with Tim Weigel and WBBM-Channel 2 cameraman Chuck Davidson in Coconut Grove.
At Turnberry, Grobstein settled down, alone, in an adjoining “living room”.
There was no one else in sight. Just an energetic pro, with a portable card, an ISDN link to Chicago, fresh pizzas and Diet Coke.
And typically, a scoop of the day Les Grobstein.
“DID YOU KNOW JORDAN played 46 holes of golf today after the shoot?” he asked his bearded visitor.
“You mean 45,” replied the math sage inside, quickly adding 18 plus 18 plus 9.
“No,” Grobstein said. “Forty-six. With an assistant pro named Steve Settoski. They quit because it was too dark.
“How do you think he’ll play against (Alonzo) Mourning and (Tim) Hardaway later today?
“The Bulls have no chance of winning this game.”
GROBSTEIN WAS RIGHT, because he prepared and informed his listeners all night long.
He handed the lineup over to Brian Hanley back in Chicago shortly after dawn.
Jordan went 9 for 35 from the floor in Game 4 and the Bulls lost.
His Airness admitted it was 46 holes on Sunday.
And as you might expect, Les Grobstein was right – on every count.
IT LEAVES BEHIND a sports media market unquestionably diminished by its release.
It also flies out of a struggling station in desperate need of a fresh sound, more compelling direction, and a major cultural overhaul.
Grobstein played his part well, a character actor from another age, with the chameleon consistency of a Strother Martin or an LQ Jones.
And whatever his weaknesses, like the fate of Robert Frost’s Silas in “The Mercenary’s Death”, he always had sports radio.
A place where, when a singular and passionate talent like his had no other place to go, he had to be welcomed.
• Jim O’Donnell’s Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Contact him at [email protected]