Tuesday, December 16, 2003

With Al Grady's Death, Iowa Loses a Treasure

Iowa lost another treasure last night,

The news came in an e-mail a few minutes ago from George Wine of Solon.

"I thought you would like to know that Al Grady died during the night," wrote Wine, a retired Iowa sports information director. "He had been at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City for nearly three weeks due to congestive heart failure.

"He was in his mid-70s and still writing regularly about the Hawkeyes, praising them when they deserved it and scolding them when they played poorly. He wrote like a fan, which is one reason he connected with his readers.

"We’ll miss him."

Grady was the longtime sports editor of the Iowa City Press-Citizen who was still writing columns about Iowa’s athletic teams for the weekly publication, "Voice of the Hawkeyes," almost up to the time of his hospitalization.

"Too bad," wrote former Des Moines Register sports editor editor Gene Raffensperger in an e-mail after I told him of Grady’s death. "Iowa athletics will miss this gentleman fan."

Because Grady had been so familiar with Hawkeye athletics since the 1930s, he was the first person I interviewed when I was beginning research on my book, "Tales from the Iowa Sidelines."

I spent most of a morning and all of an afternoon visiting with him in his home on the west side of Iowa City. He had almost more Hawkeye books and memorabilia than the Hawk Shops in town and the university’s sports information office.

My notes say I interviewed Grady on June 29, 2002. We talked about Nile Kinnick, the other members of the famous 1939 Ironmen, countless former Iowa players, former coaches Eddie Anderson, Forest Evashevski, Jerry Burns, Ray Nagel, Frank Lauterbur, Bob Commings, Hayden Fry…..well, the list went on and on.

We talked about big games, bad games, Bernie Bierman, Notre Dame’s Fainting Irish, Frank Leahy, Ozzie Simmons, Ossie Solem, Floyd of Rosedale, Woody Hayes and many, many others.A number of Grady’s tales are in the book.

When Kinnick, the wonderful back who became Iowa’s only Heisman Trophy winner in 1939, was featured in a documentary produced by ESPN Classics a few years ago, Grady was among those interviewed for the show.

He had tears in his eyes while talking about the 7-7 tie with Northwestern when Kinnick was injured in the final game of 1939.

That’s the kind of guy he was. Fan first, sportswriter second.

When asking questions in press conferences, he thought nothing of calling Iowa "we" and "us." Indeed, he often wore Hawkeye jackets, shirts and caps into press boxes, where other sportswriters were trying hard not to show that they cared which team won and which team lost.

Grady was one of a kind. And, like George Wine says, a lot of us will miss him.

Vol. 3, No. 83
Dec. 16, 2003