Q & A: Dick Palmer

The WFLVault had the honor of chatting with Dick Palmer,
the radio voice of the Memphis Grizzlies. The following is
the transcript from a guy who was there from day one of
the World Football League.

WFLV: Tell us about the experience of being an
announcer for a new league.

Palmer: The city was excited. It was our first chance to
see pro football in Memphis. I was working as an ABA
announcer for the Memphis Sound. The WFL was a
summer league, so the seasons didn’t overlap. It was a
good fit. I’d worked pro basketball for several years but
my only experience in football was broadcasting at the
high school level. We all started from ground zero.

WFLV: Are the memories good or bad when you think
about the WFL?

Palmer: The memories are good. I was doing a job I liked
and was getting paid to do so. The games were broadcast
on WIVK out of Memphis, which was a soul music station.
I was employed by the station, not the team. We had
25-30 affiliates and that meant a lot of listeners. It was a
very memorable time.

WFLV: What was your opinion of the quality of play in
the WFL?

Palmer: The quality of play was good. There were
certainly poor teams just like there would be in any league
but even the bad teams were competitive. Memphis,
Birmingham, Southern California and Florida had very
talented rosters.

WFLV: The WFL signed many big name stars. None
were bigger than the signing of the Miami trio.

Palmer: They were the most talked about. They made
the cover of Sports Illustrated but they weren’t arrogant
guys. They fit right in with all the others. I think that was
a credit to our coach John McVay, who later went on to
coach the Giants. He made sure everyone stayed in line.

WFLV: People associated with the league talk about
the short but great rivalry with Birmingham. What was
that like?

Palmer: It was a wonderful rivalry. Both teams were
strong on and off the field. Both had NFL committees
lobbying for entry into that league. They smacked us
around pretty good in week three. We returned the
favor in our place later in the year.

WFLV: Many thought there would be a third game in
the World Bowl but that didn’t materialize. Florida upset
Memphis 18-15. What’re your thoughts on that game?

Palmer: It was a big disappointment. We thought it
was a game we could have won but we lost it late. I was
pretty disappointed in the turnout. We’d drawn well most
of the year, and there weren’t many people at the game.
It was a huge letdown for a game that meant so much.
The Liberty Bowl was a nice place to play back then. It’s
not so nice now. They’ve really let it go.

WFLV: Memphis is one of the rare teams to have two
nicknames. One was unofficial, of course. As an announcer,
which did you use? The Southmen or Grizzlies?

Palmer: For a while I alternated but I primarily
used the Grizzlies because that’s what the fans used.

WFLV: The league was an overnight success,
then fizzled. What was it like when the money went dry?

Palmer: Well, we had a great owner. Mr. Bassett
was the best. Our players never missed a check.

WFLV: True, though other teams were missing
checks. What was the process like knowing you had a
game to broadcast that might not be played?

Palmer: Just as it always was. You had to prepare
as if nothing was wrong, and the game would be played.
It kept the phone lines and travel agents busy but we
went about our business. Just like a player, we had to
do our homework and prepare. It’s about taking pride in
your work and being professional.

WFLV: Many refer to John Bassett as the WFL’s best
owner. Where might the league be had every owner
been like Bassett?

Palmer: At the very least, they would’ve merged with the NFL.

WFLV: Does it surprise you the WFL gets zero recognition
for its contributions to pro football?

Palmer: Not really. I worked every game in the five year
history of the Memphis ABA franchise, and the NBA still
refuses to acknowledge them.

WFLV: Is that because leagues like the WFL and ABA
went up against established leagues? Perhaps they’re
sending a message?

Palmer: Absolutely.

WFLV: What did you think about the gold and orange
football?

Palmer: A football’s a football but the Dickerod…now
that thing was funny. We had the action point, which was
a great idea.

WFLV: Elvis was a big fan of the Grizzlies. Did you
ever see him?

Palmer: I’m not sure (laughing). One night, rumor was
circulating Elvis was in the restroom next to the press
box. I hopped up and went in, hoping I’d meet him.

WFLV: And?

Palmer: (More laughing) There was a guy in the stall
using the facilities. I could see his shoes but there was a
big bodyguard standing outside the stall.

WFLV: So you couldn’t get any closer and probably
didn’t want to?

Palmer: Correct. I’m not certain Elvis was in the building
but am pretty sure it was him.

WFLV: Was Downing Stadium the worst place to
broadcast a game? The Birmingham announcers sat on
orange crates to broadcast in week two.

Palmer: I remember the lighting being very poor at
Downing but I thought Franklin Field was the worst. There
was an inch of water in the press box, and one of our
players stepped on a rusty nail on the field. He had to get
a tetanus shot after the game. The place was a real dump.

WFLV: What are you up to these days, Dick?

Palmer: I’m semi-retired and still broadcasting college
baseball and basketball.

WFLV: So you have some busy work in the days ahead?

Palmer: Very busy.

WFLV: Thanks for the visit, Dick. Hope to talk soon.

Palmer: Sure thing. Let me know when the site’s up.

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