It’s safe to say that if there had not been a Jack Steadman, there would not have been a Hall of Fame life for Lamar Hunt and there may not have been the Kansas City Chiefs.
Steadman, the former general manager and president of the Chiefs, passed away on Sunday. He had been in bad health for the past few years and was in an advanced care facility. He was 86 years old.
Starting in 1960, Steadman was involved first with the Dallas Texans and then the Kansas City Chiefs. He authored the incorporation papers that set up not only the Texans but the American Football League.
(Right, Jack Steadman serves up a pre-game handshake with the late Al Davis.)
He became the team’s general manager in 1961 and served in that role and then club president through 1988 when he was removed from operations involving the Chiefs. He continued to lead the other Hunt businesses in Kansas City, including Hunt Midwest Enterprises that at various times owned and operated Worlds’ of Fun, Oceans’ of Fun, real estate, limestone mining operations and the Sub Troplis complex of underground offices and warehouses..
Over his long career with Hunt’s football franchise, Steadman operated in a manner that was opposite of the owner’s personality. Lamar was known as a soft-spoken owner, more a creative mind than the businessman running the franchise. Steadman was anything but soft-spoken in business affairs and during his long tenure with the team alienated many in the organization and in the Kansas City community with his sometimes demanding personality.
The success of the football team can be traced to the opposing personalities; they needed the other guy to even out the overall picture. Hunt needed Steadman to be his dark twin, willing to drive a hard bargain and be pictured as the bad guy. Steadman needed Hunt’s total support to handle all the business and he certainly had that over 28 years. Hunt certainly made Steadman, but Steadman made Hunt as well.
When Hunt moved the Texans to Kansas City in 1963, he did not come along. Lamar stayed in Dallas. Steadman moved to Kansas City and became the franchise’s defacto leader in K.C. When times were successful for the Chiefs, Hunt and head coach Hank Stram were in the spotlight. When losing roiled through the team, it was Steadman who attracted most of the blame.
Without a doubt, Steadman had trouble dealing with head coaches, especially Stram and Marv Levy. In his book, They’re Playing My Game, Stram wrote: “Jack was a good bookkeeper, however, he was not good with people and he had the ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way. He didn’t know the first thing about football or players. My understanding with Lamar was I ran the Chiefs and no one would ever interfere with us concerning anything related to the team. This didn’t seem to sit well with Steadman.”
Levy wrote in his book Where Else Would You Rather Be that he was bombarded by memos from Steadman, pushing for football changes when that was not his expertise. “I used to get letters from fans that were very close to matching the wording of most of Jack’s memos,” said Levy. “It was always change the offense, change the quarterback. They weren’t helpful.”
But Steadman had his own victories over the years, the biggest being the two-stadium concept that became the Truman Sports Complex and the building of football-specific Arrowhead Stadium. He led that effort and pushed for different stadiums because of the problems dealing with Athletics owner Charlie Finley. Before Royals Stadium was opened, Finley moved the A’s to Oakland.
“Finley was never interested in our stadium proposals, always saying he was upset and going to move,” Steadman said in the 1997 publication Arrowhead Home of the Chiefs. “I was showing a lot of interest and working it and ultimately we were staffing his work for the Sports Authority too. Aside from making me crazy, he made us realize that we didn’t want to be codependent on a team that might leave, which of course happened before the stadium was built.”
Chiefs fans can also thank Steadman for the football renaissance that came to the organization when he decided to step out of the power loop and Carl Peterson was hired as the team’s leader on both the business side, and in the football operations. What came next was the best 20-season performance in franchise history, including over 100 victories in the 1990s.
In January 2007, Steadman retired from all of the Hunt Family business.