Dec. 17, 2003
Editor’s Note: The following appeared in the Dec. 17, 2003 editions of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
Al Grady died from congestive heart failure on Monday, but his words will live on forever.
His words were his legacy.
He truly was, for more than a half century, the voice of the Iowa Hawkeyes on paper.
Grady, who was 76 at the time of his death, started writing about Hawkeye athletics in 1944. He worked as sports editor and sports columnist for the Press-Citizen from 1951-1987.
He spent the past 15 years in semi-retirement, but even that part of his life was consumed by Iowa athletics.
Grady wrote a column for the Voice of the Hawkeyes magazine, and he attended virtually all the weekly press conferences for football and men’s basketball.
He also wrote several books about Iowa athletics and hosted a weekly television show called “Sports Opinion” that aired on Iowa City’s public access channel.
“Al Grady was one of the all-time great sportswriters, and he had a very loyal and deep love for the Hawkeyes,” former Iowa football coach Hayden Fry said Tuesday from his home in Mesquite, Nev. “I think he was extremely accurate with his reporting, and he had a knack of putting into words what he witnessed on the field of play.”
“Al Grady was one of the all-time great sportswriters, and he had a very loyal and deep love for the Hawkeyes. I think he was extremely accurate with his reporting, and he had a knack of putting into words what he witnessed on the field of play.”
Former Iowa Head Coach Hayden Fry
Grady came to symbolize what it meant to cover Iowa athletics.
His friends said he never really pursued another job after being hired by the Press-Citizen because that was his life’s ambition.
“It’s a great loss to everybody in the community,” said Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz. “Al was Mr. Hawkeye sports. He just had a great knowledge of Iowa sports for a long, long time.
To say that Grady had a loyal following of readers would be an understatement. People relied on his expertise and they trusted what he wrote in his columns.
“If you didn’t read Al Grady, you missed a lot,” said longtime friend, Earl Murphy. “He was an exceptional man. He lived a good life.”
Murphy’s wife, Louise, said Grady made it fun to read the sports page.”You were always looking forward to the next sentence,” she said. “He’d put some humor in it, and he was always teaching that way.
“We could hardly wait to read Al Grady.”
The way in which Grady went about doing his job earned him a great deal of respect and recognition. His readers depended on him to tell it like it was.
Grady always wanted Iowa to win but wasn’t afraid to be critical when the situation warranted.
“Every Iowa coach I ever worked with both liked and admired Al Grady,” said George Wine, who worked as the Iowa sports information director from 1968 to ’93. “His death is a great loss for me and a significant loss for the Hawkeye family and the Iowa City community.
“Iowa fans liked him because he wore his love for the Hawkeyes on his sleeve. He praised them when they deserved it and scolded them when they performed poorly.”
Although he struggled with heart problems for the past two decades, it wasn’t until recently that Grady became too sick to write his weekly column for the Voice of the Hawkeyes magazine.
“He had to battle health problems, but he always came bouncing back and was even more dedicated to the Hawks,” said Bob Brooks, who broadcast Iowa football and men’s basketball on the radio for more than a half century. “I’d always look at him and just marvel about his expertise about Iowa athletics.”
Mike Finn said he came to value Grady’s style and expertise as they worked together for the Voice of the Hawkeyes magazine. Finn was the editor of the magazine until just recently.
“I’m not sure if enough young journalists appreciated what Al was because he did have a style,” Finn said. “It was more of a folk style of writing.”
Grady was born and raised in Kalona. He is survived by two sisters, Mary Ashley from Marion, and Gretchen Swantz from Kalona, along with numerous nephews and nieces.