Chicago sports radio legend dead at 69
The Chicago sports media world is mourning yet another sudden loss with the death of Les Grobstein, who was found dead in his suburban Elk Grove Village home Sunday. His death comes three weeks after ESPN 1000 veteran Bears beat reporter Jeff Dickerson died of cancer.
A longtime veteran of Chicago sports radio, Grobstein was doing the overnight shift at Audacy-owned The Score (WSCR-AM). “Our staff is devasted. Our audience lost a great friend overnight,” WSCR operations director Mitch Rosen told the Sun-Times. “Les was a legend that will never be forgotten. He was a best friend to so many that knew him that he never knew. That’s the power of radio.”
The cause of death hasn’t been determined, but he had been ill since Wednesday and wasn’t on the air.
Nicknamed “The Grobber”, many of his colleagues said Grobstein was a “walking sports encyclopedia”, given his deep knowledge of the subject. His journey took him to basically almost every AM radio station in town, from WLS-Am to WMVP to The Score. Born and raised in Chicago, Grobstein first gig was a color commentator job for Northwestern Basketball at 18. He also did radio and public address announcer work for numerous local teams. His first full-time in came in 1977 at SportsPhone, a pre-internet contraption where you call a local number and receive the latest sports news and scores. He joined WLS-AM in 1979 as a sports anchor.
While at WLS is where Grobstein made his presence known. In 1983, he recorded the famous obscenity-laced rant of then-Cub manager Lee Elia, one people still remember quite vividly today (listener direction is advised, of course:)
When Grobstein was in New Orleans for Super Bowl XX, a New Orleans sportscaster accused Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon of defaming the city’s female population on a radio show Grobstein hosted, a charge both denied (the sportscaster admitted he made it up.)
Grobstein later joined WLUP-AM in 1991 when it still had a hybrid sports/talk format, and switched to all-sports in 1993 under the call signs WMVP-AM, launching a year after The Score did. In 1997, Grobstein jumped to WSCR, where he would be host until 2006, and returned in the same capacity in 2009 in overnights where he was until last week when he took off due to illness. Grobstein developed a loyal following among night owls and devoted much of his show to take calls from listeners – especially in an era where live local radio in overnights is a mostly a thing of the past. It was certainly his passion for sports that drove him to be a local media legend.