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WSI News - Sox Interviews

Flashing Back...

...with Les Grobstein.

another EXCLUSIVE from White Sox Interactive! ††

By Mark Liptak†


Chicago sports radio legend
Les Grobstein!

There are two basic tenets of the broadcasting industry. The first is that you better be ready, willing and able to move around. The second is you better be ready to start in small out of the way markets, work hard and hope you catch a break.

Les Grobstein is one of the few people to basically have ignored those rules. While yours truly worked in Lexington, Kentucky; Monroe, Louisiana and Pocatello, Idaho and never really got the opportunity to move up, "Grobber" as heís known, started in Chicago and has worked there ever since.

Sure Les has worked for a number of stations in the area.. WLS, WLUP, WMVP, WSCR, WSCN and now ESPN Radio 1000, but itís always been in Chicago. Les is also one of the few in Chicago radio to have worked continuously in some capacity for over thirty years.

That puts him in select company along with the likes of legendary Chicago radio announcers like Jack Brickhouse, "Red" Rush, "Red" Mottlow, and Bob Elson.

In addition Grobstein has been in a position to influence announcers and reporters who came after him. From 1976 through 1984 he taught at Columbia College. Among his students were Peggy Kusinski, Chris Boden, Kenny McReynolds and Jim Kozimor.

Oh... did I mention Les is a devoted, loyal, dedicated, hard core follower of the Cubs who can actually name the starting team and pays more attention to the action on the field, then the action going on in the bleachers?


Les and his on-air partner, "T-Dub" Tommy Williams at ESPN Radio 1000.

If some of you are wondering "then why is White Sox Interactive interviewing a Cubs fan?" the answer is because Les has followed the Sox since he was a kid and is a member of the mainstream media that actively participates in WSI.

Les is a card carrying registered member going by the handle of "Grobber 33." He regularly promotes the web site on his radio show and isnít shy in the least about defending his Cub loyalty to the hilt at this web site. Heís also enough of a journalist to know that when the Cubs are bad or the organization does something wrong heíll go after them and admits the same when talking with Sox fans.

WSIís Mark Liptak spoke with Les for most of the morning and early afternoon from his home in the Chicago suburbs right after he got back from walking his six year old Yorkie named Moose. No it's not named after former Sox star† "Moose" Skowron but after Bullwinkle the Moose from the old Rocky & Bullwinkle show.

ML: Les how did you decide that you wanted to get into broadcasting?

LG: "Well I knew that I didnít want to work for a living! (laughing) I grew up listening to the giants of the business, guys like Brickhouse, Elson, Vince Lloyd, Lloyd Pettit, Rush and Irv Kupcinet. I thought what they did was cool and I thought ĎI can do this.í Iíd go to Comiskey Park and Wrigley Field and take a tape recorder with me and sit in an empty spot and broadcast the games. I got to know some of the folks in the media. George Beres who did the Northwestern games let me be on his stat crew as a kid. When he moved on another guy named Pete Bordwell took over and I moved up to doing color. That started my association with Northwestern. From there I did the Chicago Hustle, Chicago Sting, Chicago Horizons, UIC, the Chicago Bruisers and the Chicago Cheetahs which I really enjoyed..

ML: And how did you get into mainstream radio?


Interviewing Sox great Chet Lemon in Seattle at the 1979 all-star game.

LG: "I was working with Sportsphone in the late 70's and I was going to Baltimore to cover the World Series.†WLS was going to have a sports guy and they called me in for an audtition†before I left, I honestly thought ĎIím not gonna get this.í I flew to Baltimore and when I got to my hotel I had a message to call "Bud" Miller who was the News Director at WLS. He was interested and said that he was going to give me a shot. While I was covering the 1979 World Series they put me on the air over the phone with Larry Lujack in the morning and Bob Sirott in the afternoon. My first thought was that they were just taking advantage of†the fact that I was at the Series but Lujack†was saying Ďthis is really sounding good.í This was still an experiment remember. Well on the day my son was born, I was with him in the hospital then went back to WLS where they gave me a five year deal. I still tell my son about that even though heís now 23. I was at WLS until they decided to go to the all talk format."

ML: How about some other moments from your career?

LG: "Well from there I went to WLUP which became WMVP. Among the folks I worked with was Jay Mariotti who was there from July through November 1994. In fact Jay asked to work with me. Things were going pretty good until the station decided to start airing 'the Fabulous Sports Babe' show. I knew that wouldnít work and would kill the station. I remember speaking with†GM Larry Wert who ran things, in the hallway and saying Ďyou just signed our death warrant.í Needless to say he didnít particularly appreciate that."

"Then I did the overnight show at WSCR. I enjoyed that, got a lot of positive feedback but from the moment it was announced that I was joining that station, Harvey Wells just didnít like me. We were at a party and he came up to me and said ĎI just want you to know that youíre coming here because†a lot of†others here wanted you.í Then he walked away."

"There were some things that happened which didnít help matters. When the Bears played that pre season game in Ireland, it was decided that Iíd go. It was a complete trade out, the station wasnít paying for a thing. I was just going to do some interviews and send them back but then we looked into how much would it cost to actually do the overnight show from Ireland. That was the time when I was able to get Dave Wannstadt live because of the time difference. It was like 9AM in Ireland and 3AM in Chicago. It turned out that A.T. & T. said to get a line for that amount of time would run about 100 dollars a day. Six hundred bucks overall. No problem... so we did it."

"When the bill came Wells came up to me and said Ďwhat is this?í The bill charged us six thousand dollars. I told him that was a mistake and that if heíd wanted to give it to me Iíd straighten it out. He said heíd handle it. I ended up questioning A T†&†T. A week passed. I see him and ask if itís been corrected. He said no. Another three or four days pass and I ask him again. He said no and added Ďdonít ask me about this again, when itís done Iíll let you know.í Finally about a week after that I see him, ask him again about it and he says Ďyes that was taken care of three or four days ago.í We were actually comped--no charge at all. Thanks a lot for letting me know Harvey!"

"During the 2001 All Star Game Iím supposed to go out to Seattle... cover the game and talk to the Chicago representatives, Maggs Ordonez, Sammy Sosa and Jon Leiber. Then Iím supposed to go to our affiliate and do my show. Well I was told to get credentials for two people in case the station decided to send along another reporter. I asked our acting Program Director Jeff Schwartz who's name should go on the 2nd one.He said put whom ever I thought deserved to go.I had someone in mind but didn't tell that reporter because this was someone with a big temper who is immature, so I didn't tell that person in case they decided not to send a 2nd one.It turned out I was†the only one sent."


Announcing the Bulls' #1 draft pick in 1978... it's Reggie Theus of UNLV!

"So I go to the game and realize when I get there that with baseball honoring Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn and with Fox Sports being allowed additional commercial minutes there is no way I can do post game interviews and get out to the station to do my show. It was probably a forty, forty five minute drive. So I contact a person who helped us in the past and asked if she wanted to do the post game interviews. She said sure so I gave her that†2nd credential. I went to the credential pickup window at Safeco Field and told the woman there I needed to change the name on the pass. They said that since the pass was still being used on behalf of the station, no change was needed, and rememeber, this was before 9/11†so there were no photos on baseball credentials†like there are now. I†saw the game and went to do my show. She brought me the interview tape and since I couldnít go, I asked if she wanted to go to the party afterwards, to have a drink, take her husband and have a nice time."

"She goes to the party and the credential was in the pocket of a jacket that she accidentally left there. A person found it, saw that it was my credential and sent it back to the other reporter back in Chicago. That person went nuts, never bothered to ask me what was up or anything like that--just went to Wells and screamed."

"On July 25, 2001 I have a meeting with Wells and he tells me that Iím being suspended with pay while he conducts an investigation because I may have broken rules concerning giving this press credential away. I explained what happened and he said heíd look into it. A short time later he wants to see me so I go into his office and he tells me that Iím fired. This was a set up all along, he was looking for an excuse to get rid of me. My contract expired in three days so I knew what this was all about. I told him Ďlook letís just part company as gentlemaní he said no... he was going to go to the newspapers with this and I said fine. After he told the papers, one of the reporters printed my e-mail address and I got fourteen hundred e-mails. Only one was from a guy who said Ďyou suck, you got what you deserve.í"

"The day after I was let go by the Score, Mitch Rosen called me up and had me in his office the same day. We talked about several things. I also met with John Cravens of The Sporting News Radio network the day after that. Both made great offers, but the one from WCSN was full time so I went there in April 2002 and stayed until October when Cravens resigned and The Sporting News dropped the local stuff I was doing. I let Mitch know about it and he had me and Tommy Williams on ESPN Radio 1000 in less then two weeks."

ML: I guess Mike North has been one of your closest friends over the years. Heís been a big supporter of you hasnít he?

LG: "In January 1997 it was in the paper that WSCR was planning to put syndicated stuff on over nights. Mike went ballistic on the air. He correctly pointed out that the Score got to be rated the #1 sports station in Chicago by putting local shows only on the air. Ron Gleason, the program director who hired me, and George Offman also were in my corner and lobbied for me.. McNeil and Boers were also supportive as was Dan Jiggetts. Wells was clearly not in my corner. His actions over the next four years proved that. That said if he wasnít a fan of mine. I could respect that, just tell me to my face. Donít pull a BS move like he did with the Ďcredentialí garbage!"

ML: You were in the business before sports talk radio. Is that format really a good thing? I know a lot of fans here at WSI arenít very high on most of the hosts in Chicago. They say they donít know what they are talking about, berate fans and arenít prepared.


Covering the defending Super Bowl champion Bears from the sidelines in Atlanta in 1986!

LG: "I think itís good that it exist. I know itís great for sports fans. There are certain aspects that I donít like and I know that sometimes certain teams will get angry over some things that are done."

"As far as the hosts being prepared, Iíve seen both kinds. Some are extremely prepared, others just come in and do the show. The trio of McNeil, Jurko and Harry work very hard on their show. They come in early and have a prepared show. Mike North and Doug Buffone work hard and arenít afraid to take shots at their own management at WSCR when warranted. You donít find that often. Iím on weekends with Tommy Williams and I know we put the work into it ahead of time."

"The biggest change now is what is said on the air. If I had said when I started Ďthe Hawks had a hell of a game last night beating Detroit,í I would have been called in to someoneís office and told Ďsay heck...not hell.í In 1983 if I said something Ďsucksí on the air, I would have been fired. Itís a lot more permissive now especially with sexual references. You can basically say anything you want as long as itís not libelous. Truth is your biggest defense."

ML: Letís move the discussion towards the White Sox. I know youíre a dedicated Cubs fan but you pay close attention to the South Side as well. Some of your colleagues during these interviews have called the Sox out on their "bunker mentality," that they make the Chicago media the "enemy" and donít do things like return phone calls. How can the Sox get away with that if for no other reason then itís bad business?

LG: "Iíve seen those comments and I donít think itís that bad. Iíve known Rob Gallas for over twenty years from when he was a reporter, I know there have been times when the Sox havenít liked what Iíve said, but there was only one time when we got into a brief argument. That was in 1994 over a parking pass. For many years before that the electronic media wasnít getting the space that they needed as opposed to the newspaper writers when the Sox made the post season. Space allocations were under the direction of the print media instead of the Sox themselves."

"We (the electronic media members) actually were considering going to court over the working conditionsĖthe lack of table space. Doug Abel, then the Sox PR director, and I had a meeting that didnít go very well. During the playoffs that year it was a poor set up and I took a lot of heat from the other electronic reporters. I filed a complaint. So when the 1994 season came around I got my working credentials but no parking pass. I called the Sox and were told that they only had a limited amount and that I could use Bruce Levineís or Cheryl Rayeís. I explained that they were almost always using their pass when I needed to go to the game. I called and complained almost every day but got no response."

"Finally I put the word out that if I didnít get a pass by June, I wouldnít show up for any more games. I heard that some of the Sox staff said Ďsure...wait till Cleveland gets here for a big series, heíll show up.í Well Cleveland did come to town and I didnít show up! I came out for one series the Sox against the Brewers because I was going to just cover the Cubs and Milwaukee since I couldnít get what I needed from the Sox. I spoke with Frank Thomas, who has always been a nice guy to me and apologized for not being around much. The kicker is that I did get my passó and it was #69! I think the Sox were trying to tell me something! (laughing). Since then my parking pass is #1 and at first I thought they put me at the top of the list but then I realized that they were probably assigning credentials based on alphabetical order and I work for an ABC affiliate."

ML: But how did you feel when the first day of spring training a few years ago Kenny Williams addressed the Sox and took umbrage at the media saying they were the main reason for all the "negativity" surrounding the Sox?

LG: "That was a mistake and I think if you spoke with Kenny heíd admit that. It was his first year in the position and I think he was just trying to rally the troops. I can understand him doing that... trying to get everybody together on the same page. People for years have been blaming the media for everything especially that the comments were taken out of context and that does happen occasionally. I get along with Kenny and I get along with Jerry Reinsdorf. In fact Iíve been a big supporter of Kenny. I know that some of his trades have backfired but every single trade that heís made, I thought at the time that they made sense, there was a logical reason behind them, especially the deals for David Wells and Todd Ritchie."


Interviewing UIC's Nate Chambers back in 1988 after his 3-pointer beats NIU in DeKalb.

"People think that I suck up to the Cubs, but there have been times when Iíve asked the Cubs to get players on my show especially when they were on the West Coast and Iíve been told Ďno.í They were just doing their job. Scott Reifert, the current Sox PR director,†and I get along very well. When Doug left I told him that I hoped heíd get the position. Heís done favors for me. The Sox donít turn down the media more then any other team. I just donít think they are as big of trolls as some perceive them to be."

ML: You certainly donít have to promote WSI on your show but there are days when you talk about it more then even your own site. What is it about White Sox Interactive that you think is worthwhile?

LG: "Itís very entertaining. Iím impressed by all the talk on the Sox and Cubs. Itís worth reading. I also enjoy ĎThe Parking Lotí especially when they talk about politics, I tend to support Democratic candidates and I enjoy reading those comments particularly about the President. Iím a Cub fan, I donít apologize for it and I know that 99% of the fans on the site despise the Cubs and thatís O.K. Thatís their right and I might not agree with them but Iíll defend their right to say it."

"I really enjoy fans like Dr. Crawdad and Viva Magglio!. Theyíre always posting on the site about how I defend Sammy Sosa., Crawdad especially says that Sosa cheated on purpose because he happened to pick out that single bat. But why would Sammy do that? Think about it, while itís not going to stop him from getting into the Hall Of Fame, it may cost him a first ballot nomination, itís definitely hurt his reputation and heís been getting a smattering of boos where ever he goes. He didnít do it on purpose unlike Albert Belle who not only corked his bat but he sent Jason Grimsley crawling through the ducts of Comiskey Park to get it back.Crawdad and I go back and forth†pretty good,but it's all in good fun. By the way I refuse to call the Sox stadium anything but Comiskey."

"Some of the biggest complaints that I get from Sox fans is why I wonít acknowledge the second half performance by Belle in 98. Itís because he was horse shit in the first half. He did his damage when the Sox were out of it... where was he when they were still in it? Heíd hit a solo home run in the 9th inning when the Sox were losing 6-3."

ML: What about the future of the Sox after Jerry Reinsdorf?

LG: " I donít know how much things will change under different ownership. The Sox need to draw fans and if they couldnít draw three million in 2000 with a 95 win team it probably wonít ever happen. I know Sox fans are still mad at the owner for the 94 strike but itís time to get over it. Thatís gone... itís not ever coming back."

"Jerry is in very good health, he looks ten to twelve years younger then his real age. Eddie Einhorn has had health problems but I saw him recently at the All Star Game and he looks great. I really like Eddie, always have. I know Jerryís said that heíll get rid of the team only if he stops enjoying it or if he has health problems. I donít see him unloading it at this time. Remember Jerry is not the majority owner, he actually owns very little of the team but he has it in his contract that he runs the day to day operations of the club and the other owners canít overrule him on issues."

"If new owners do take over are the Sox gonna be moved? No question theyíll be in Chicago. They have a great lease and really where are they going to go? When the Sox were talking about moving to Florida, I knew that they were going to stay in Chicago. I told people that Iíd bet money on them staying. That night of the vote on the new stadium, I went to the Yankee game and I told the security people that the Sox were staying. I know some of them talked to me and were worried about their jobs. I said Ďdonít worry about it, Iíll see you right here next season.í When I was at the park I ran into some TV people from Tampa and I asked them what they were doing here, one of them, a real redneck said, ĎWeíre here to watch our baseball team.í I said, Ďtheyíre not your baseball team and they are never going to be because you donít know Chicago politics.í Sure enough after Governor Thompson twisted arms and called in favors to keep the Sox, I saw those same reporters leaving the park. Rich Lindberg wrote about this in one of his books...I said Ďyou can watch our baseball team anytime, come on up whenever you like or you catch watch them in Sarasota at Payne Park.íSo the Sox wonít be going anyplace regardless of who owns the team."


With Bruce Wolf interviewing WLUP's Jonathan Brandmeier at the 1992 Loop Bowling Bash!

ML: So can the White Sox win the division this year? (Authorís Note: This interview was conducted on August 18th)

LG: "They can, but they should have been dominating this division. Is this team as good as we thought they were going to be? The Sox should have been eight or nine games over .500 in April to set the tone for the season. They rely on the home run too much, they donít create runs."

"Even with a limited payroll they should still be a Ďbig marketí club in this division. When you think about it they have got to do something in the next two or three years. The club is getting older and the division is going to get better. Minnesota has to resign LaTroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardado but they are a young team that has signed a lot of their players long term. Kansas City has a lot of talent in their minor league system and Cleveland has a ton of top young talent. In a short period of time they could be right back to where they were before."..

"So why havenít the Sox won the past few years? In 2001 they had a bunch of injuries and frankly I thought they were cocky and overconfident. In 2002 they just werenít that good of a team. If they donít win this year they will have to be considered a major disappointment. They had talent and they got better... they got rid of that goofball DíAngelo Jimenez and replaced him with Robbie Alomar. That was a major upgrade. They got Carl Everett who is a better player then Aaron Rowand. Is he better defensively....no, but heís better at everything else, so they should win."

ML: Finally Les an opinion of Jerry Manuel. Sox fans feel his constant Ďtinkeringí hurts the club, do you agree?

LG: "I think thatís a fair criticism of Jerry."

Les Grobsteinís Play By Play History:

Northwestern University Basketball 1970 - 1978

Chicago Hustle Womenís Pro Basketball 1978/79 - 1980/81

Chicago Sting Soccer 1975 - 1976

Chicago Horizons Indoor Soccer 1980 - 1981

University Illinois†at Chicago Basketball & Hockey 1982/83 - 1996/97

Chicago Bruisers Arena Football 1987 - 1989

Chicago Cheetahs Roller Hockey 1994 - 1995

You can visit Les's own website at Grobber.com.


Editor's Note: †Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work. †He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper†organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana)†and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years. †"Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population. †

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