Early Chiefs fought for respect, but quickly won over Kansas City

08/13/2014 11:58 AM

08/17/2014 7:28 PM

Pro football comes to KC

How did Bill Richardson, who covered the Chiefs from their arrival in Kansas City in 1963 until the early 1990s, get the beat? Somewhat by default.

But cover them he did. Richardson’s first day at The Star was March 15, 1951, and he covered a little bit of everything for a dozen years. When the Chiefs arrived they were all his.

The Chiefs weren’t exactly a hit when they arrived, with season-ticket sales falling short of goals. Richardson, 89, recalled the team couldn’t have been more accommodating at its first training camp. You won’t believe how accommodating.

Can you spare some change?

The Chiefs wouldn’t exist without Lamar Hunt, a wealthy Texas businessman who wanted to gain an NFL franchise.

When that didn’t happen, he wasn’t deterred. Hunt simply spearheaded the drive to start a rival league. The AFL struggled early but soon gained traction and soon changed America’s pro football landscape.

After three years in Dallas, Hunt moved his franchise to Kansas City, where it became a champion and one of the game’s top organizations.

Hunt, who died in 2006, was among the game’s wealthiest owners. But that didn’t prevent him from making a special request to Richardson after a road game.

A great football mind

The mid-to-late 1960s through the early 1970s was the best of times for the Chiefs. Hank Stram oversaw one of the most talented rosters in professional football.

Stram was an innovator who was among the first, if not the first, to use two tight ends and to stack his defense with linebackers lined up behind his linemen.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with seven players from that era — Bobby Bell, Len Dawson, Buck Buchanan, Willie Lanier, Emmit Thomas, Curley Culp and Jan Stenerud, plus owner Lamar Hunt.

Bill Richardson covered all of Stram’s teams in Kansas City and once heard the oddest complaint about the Chiefs from a fan.

The greatest Chiefs team?

Richardson covered the Chiefs for 32 years, starting in 1963. He covered two Super Bowl teams, three AFL title teams, and some of the greatest games in the team’s history.

But the best Chiefs he covered didn’t win a Super Bowl or even a playoff game, and when that season was over, there was a premonition the greatness wouldn’t return for a long time.

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