View Full Version : Nice Gretz article on Lamar Hunt

12-14-2006, 01:15 AM
GRETZ: One of a Kind
Dec 13, 2006, 11:33:50 PM by Bob Gretz - FAQ

The first time I met Lamar Hunt was a Saturday in September 1981. The buses that brought the Chiefs from the Greater Pittsburgh Airport to the Greentree Marriott had come to a stop in front of the hotel.

I was one of the last people off the bus. When I walked down the steps and stepped into the street I saw the legs of a man wearing gray slacks and a blue jacket throwing bags out from under the bus. I thought it was the bus driver.

But slowly, the man backed out with a handful of bags and looked up and said, “Bob, we haven’t met yet. I’m Lamar Hunt.”

He handed out the bags, we shook hands and then Lamar went diving into the bus bin again, chucking out bag after bag.

Twenty-five years ago, I thought that behavior to be very odd. NFL owners didn’t do things like that. I couldn’t quite figure this Lamar Hunt out. What was his story? What was he trying to pull?

It was just Lamar. His world was so different than most people, and it had nothing to do with the money he was born with. Yet, he never acted like it, never gave the impression he felt himself at a station in life above others.

About a year after I first met him, I was covering an NFL owners meeting at the Biltmore Resort in Phoenix. I set up a time to meet with Lamar to do an interview, and at the assigned time, he met me in the lobby of that grand hotel.

“Do you have a car?” Lamar asked. When I told him I did, he said, “Let’s go for a drive. There’s a place I know that has the best raspberry freezes you’ve ever tasted in your life. I haven’t been able to get out of here and get down there and I’d love to get one.”

So off we went to the roadside fruit stand and Lamar ordered up a pair of raspberry freezes and we sat at a picnic table and conducted the interview as traffic roared past us. As has happened to many others who have traveled long and short distances with Lamar, I paid. He didn’t have a single dollar in his pocket. But, I must tell you it was the best raspberry freeze I’ve ever tasted.

Lamar just thought differently. He was one of those people who saw possibilities, not hurdles. He saw things other people didn’t see. It started with a miniature golf course. That was his first business. Eventually there would be the American Football League, soccer, tennis and on and on over his life. People were constantly telling him he couldn’t take on the established National Football League, or the established powers that ran the world of tennis, or make soccer popular in the United States.

Lamar always listened and then went about his business, marching to a drummer that sometimes only he could hear. Eventually others would hear the same tune. The AFL became the greatest “other” league in American sports history. The face of tennis was completely changed by his hand. Soccer hasn’t become as popular as he would have liked, but the United States did host the World Cup, something unthinkable when Lamar first got involved in the game professionally.

The great thing about Lamar is that his ideas weren’t just about big things. He was a detail guy. Ask anybody that ever worked for him. All of them have file folders in their desks with an archive of memos and notes from Lamar. He would see something in the newspaper and he would clip it out – more often tear it out – and then add his own comments in the margin. Sometimes he would run out of room and he’d flip the page over and write on the back of the paper. There would be lines and arrows pointing to the next sentence and if he was running out of room, he would write smaller.

Oh yes, they were all hand written notes. Lamar Hunt had secretaries. Heck, Hunt Oil had a building full of them in Dallas. But more often than not if you heard from Lamar, it was a handwritten note, or a phone call that he dialed himself. Back in October, the Chiefs held their annual alumni weekend. Part of the festivities was a Saturday night dinner. Over the last few years, Lamar had orchestrated the evening’s entertainment, all the way down to creating the script.

Lamar was a rich man who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in the every-day business of promoting his sports passion. Just a few years ago, in attempts to sell the Wizards, he went along on sales calls to local companies. All the way back to the first months of 1966 when the Chiefs future in town was unclear, he and Norma, along with their infant son Clark, moved to Kansas City for several months. They took up residence in the Country Club Plaza and Lamar went everywhere to sell the team. That season ticket drive saved the franchise for the city.

Even as Lamar got involved in things like the team picture, media guide, signage in the stadium, color schemes and so forth, he kept his finger out of the football end of the business. Once the Chiefs were established and the leagues merged, he stepped aside from things like scouting, signing players and getting involved in personnel matters. He always said he only made one trade by himself in franchise history: sending quarterback Cotton Davidson to the Oakland for the Raiders first-round pick in the 1963 AFL Draft. That pick turned into Buck Buchanan.

Sometimes Chiefs fans wished their owner had gotten more involved, especially during those dead seasons from 1972 through the 1988, when the team was constantly being remade and the crowds stayed away from Arrowhead.

But Lamar’s greatest strength was – like most people –also his greatest weakness. It was his patience. He always worked under the premise that he hired good people and they needed to be allowed to do their job. He wasn’t into meddling and that led some people to believe that he was only interested in making money, and not winning. Oh, how wrong they were. Just because there were no Lamar Hunt tantrums over the years doesn’t mean he didn’t take losing hard. He hated it. Ask his family. They shared his pain.

Now, the pain is ours. The dreaded moment is real. Lamar’s long battle with cancer is over. There will be no bigger loss in the NFL this season. A treasure is gone. Kansas City, the National Football League and the world of sports has lost a giant.

12-14-2006, 01:22 AM
There will be no bigger loss in the NFL this season. A treasure is gone. Kansas City, the National Football League and the world of sports has lost a giant.Ugh... that hits hard. :(

Hammock Parties
12-14-2006, 01:39 AM
That bag story rules. So does the raspberry freeze story.

12-14-2006, 01:40 AM
Great article. Lets people see that Mr. Hunt wasn't all about the money and just wanted to let the people do the jobs they had without meddling. RIP

12-14-2006, 01:44 AM
Man, I have learned more about Lamar today that I didn't know, than I ever thought possible.

What hasn't he done is more the question.

12-14-2006, 05:54 AM
Man, I have learned more about Lamar today that I didn't know, than I ever thought possible.

What hasn't he done is more the question.

I learned a lot as well.

I remember my father talking about a Lamar Hunt when I was a kid. He spoke of how he gave my dad a second chance to play football by creating the AFL. It didn't strike me then on how significant that was, both to the game of football and my father.

12-14-2006, 07:13 AM
I knew he was a great guy, but didn't know he was that great of a man.

KC was very lucky to have him and the Kaufman's associated with KC sports...

12-14-2006, 09:00 AM
Best move now to honor him....
Truman Sports Complex to Lamar Hunt Sports Complex.

12-14-2006, 09:16 AM
Thanks for the post...I too have learned alot today and appreciate him even more. We need to have a Lamar Hunt Hiway (like George Brett).

12-14-2006, 10:30 AM
Yeah I just found out today that he built Ocean and Worlds of Fun. Nobody I talked to knew that either. Reading some of the stuff out there today shows how great the man was. RIP

12-14-2006, 11:33 AM
Best move now to honor him....
Truman Sports Complex to Lamar Hunt Sports Complex.I disagree, however since they want to sell the rights to Arrowhead, I'm all for Lamar Hunt Field at Arrowhead Stadium. I'll even pitch in to buy the rights... not much, because I'm poor, but I'd pitch in.

I don't see knocking off Missouri's only President's (an Independence native) name off of the complex for anyone personally.