I have many fond memories of listening to Les Grobstein on the radio. I regret to admit that most of those memories are more distant than current. It’s sad to know that with his unexpected passing over the weekend, the opportunity to make new memories listening to Grobstein on the radio is no longer an option.
While my sports radio affinity began with WMVP on the AM 1000 band in the mid 1990s, I eventually found The Score (WSCR AM – originally on 1160 prior to moving to 670) by late 1999 or early 2000, which is how I discovered the Grobber. It was during summer vacations in high school where I would stay up past midnight, and peruse around online while listening to talk radio, one of which was Grobstein’s overnight show, “Score Overnight” (in addition to Art Bell’s “Coast to Coast AM”).
I appreciated both his passion and bluntness, along with the unique aura he brought to the air, on both his overnight show or while reporting from specific games. It was listening to Grobstein where I gained better understanding of what would now be considered old school baseball stats, was introduced to the philosophy that fans shouldn’t identify their favorite team using “we” (a Grobstein cardinal rule I now willingly break), and became immersed in whatever beef he then had with Cardinal Tony, a regular caller to his show.
I was devastated when Grobstein was dismissed from The Score in 2001 (thanks to then station boss and alleged villain Harvey Wells) and further irritated a year later when the station subsequently dismissed Tommy Williams. That collectively was enough for me to tune out The Score for a while and migrate back to ESPN 1000 (then branded ESPN Radio 1000 until becoming ESPN 1000 in spring 2003). Not before too long, Grobstein and Williams signed on to host weekends together, with Saturday mornings becoming their usual stomping grounds – a show I went out of my way to listen to using a pocket radio and headphones while clearing carts from the parking lot at the old Frankfort Dominick’s store.
Unfortunately, Grobstein’s stint at ESPN 1000 didn’t amount to much additional air time beyond those Saturday shows or his Sunday morning Bears pre-game reports. After a handful of years, Grobstein and the station parted ways. I continued to follow him via his website, “GrobberNet,” best described as a blog ahead of its time where he recapped games each day in addition to voicing opinions in his regular “Monday Thoughts” and “Friday Thoughts” entries.
While I never called into any of his shows or had the opportunity to meet him, I was fortunate to have exchanged several emails with him during the early to mid 2000s (I’m fairly certain I never brought up my being a Packers fan). The love for his pet dog, Moose, was so apparent that he named his email address after him (MooseDogYork@yahoo.com). Despite Grobstein’s level of success and busy work ethic, he was often generous in the level of responses he would email back with, going as far as to answer questions such as why at the time ESPN 1000 had parted ways with midday host Jay Mariotti, provided insight into the station’s alleged attempt to aggravate White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, and even went so far as to provide quotes concerning Chicago sports radio ratings that I used for a journalism paper in college.
In 2009, when Mitch Rosen, then and still current program boss at The Score, hired Dan McNeil to host middays, he extended the goodwill efforts by also hiring Grobstein to once again hold court during overnights (thus rescuing the graveyard shift from the syndicated Sporting News Radio, and before that, Fox Sports Radio). By that point in my life, staying up after midnight wasn’t something I was able to do at the level I had done back during the old high school summer vacation days, so I don’t have many recent memories as a listener from his second and most recent stint at The Score. While Grobstein’s overnight shows were accessible via podcast, I sadly didn’t go out of my way to find them, lost in the excess amount of audio content demanding attention these days.
I’ve enjoyed listening to the tributes from Grobstein’s broadcast colleagues and radio listeners over the last few days, specifically from Score personality Mark Grote who was tasked with sitting in on the Grobbber’s overnight show Tuesday morning, in addition to George Ofman and David Schuster on their respective podcasts (it was especially fun listening to the rotating cast of personalities on Schuster’s podcast, including both Steve Olken and Dave Wills, two voices I fondly remember from the old WMVP days).
One lingering question I have often wondered involves the longtime intro to Grobstein’s show and the soundbite of the angry caller who calls him a damn liar before hanging up the phone. Does that caller, some two decades later, have any idea his voice became such an iconic piece of radio sound, at least within the orbit of the Grobber universe?
It has been repeatedly said in the days since his passing that Grobstein lived the life he wanted to live. And he was so widely beloved throughout Chicago for having done so. In a world where wins and losses are often counted, it sure sounds like the Grobber scored the ultimate victory.