November 15, 1964 - The Chargers defense swarms over Chiefs running back, Curtis McClinton.
November 6, 1964 - George Blanda drops back against the Patriots defense in Fenway Park.
November 23, 1967 - Daryle Lamonica and the Raiders facing the tough Chiefs defense in Kansas City Municipal Stadium.
I was flipping through a copy of the first AFL All-Star Game program when I saw this letter that was printed on the second page. This game was held on January 7, 1962, a week after the AFL wrapped up their second season, which happened to be the Chargers’ first in San Diego.
I was struck by how simply the commissioner of the AFL conveyed his pleasure with San Diego’s response to the Chargers. It also struck me just how differently things are today, with the Chargers seemingly on their way out of town, the NFL being such an arrogant corporate giant, and dedicated Chargers fans being left in the dust. Frankly, I think that San Diego has supported the Chargers well through thick-and-thin, and there has been an abundance of thin. Perhaps the local government has not been easy to negotiate with, but I feel badly for the many thousands of Chargers fans who will be left wearing their jerseys, and holding their signs, as the buses pull out of town, all the while wondering how it came to this.
I found this neat bit of film on YouTube recently. It shows the highlights of the New York Jets playing a preseason game in 1963, against the Oakland Raiders. The game, played before a mere 8,317 fans, featured the former Titans in all-white uniforms, before they unveiled the new jet logo.
While browsing new releases on Amazon a couple of months back, I was pleased to see that a new biography on AFL legend, Billy Cannon, had been written. I placed my order, and when the book arrived, I set it on my stack to read. I completed it just the other night, and sadly, have mixed feelings about it.
Billy Cannon is a fascinating figure. An All-American and Heisman Trophy winner from LSU, the AFL’s first marquee draft choice, a two-time AFL champ, Super Bowl II participant, dentist and felon convicted of counterfeit. There is enough juicy stuff there to keep a storyteller busy for quite some time, and I must say that author Charles deGravelles did a fine job of covering most of the material. In fact, I found the book to be very well-written. DeGravelles touts Cannon’s attributes, but also of pointing out his flaws. He digs a bit into Cannon’s psyche, and tries to determine what led to his ingrained streak of rebellion that got Cannon into several spots of trouble throughout his life.
Dave Steidel is at it again. The author of the universally loved tome, Remember the AFL, has a new book out this month, and it will certainly stoke the fires of any AFL enthusiast (as well as piss off many staunch NFL fans).
Steidel’s new book, The Uncrowned Champs; How the 1963 San Diego Chargers Would Have Won a Super Bowl, is a week-by-week look back at what many believe to be the first AFL team that had a legitimate shot at knocking off an NFL champ. With the professionalism of a true historian and passion of a 1960s football fan, Dave Steidel went back and interviewed former players and team associates, both for the 1963 San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears, to formalize his opinion of the greatest team of 1963.
One of my favorite, though least-viewed (according to Google Analytics) sections of this site is the Photo Gallery. There is a lot of fantastic AFL photography included there, and though it take time to find new photo collections, I am always looking to add quality imagery.
One of the neatest sections of the gallery is the photos from the first three AFL All-Star Games, all of which were played in San Diego. The image above comes from the All-Star Game played in January, 1963, and features ends and receivers from the Western Division team. Lionel Taylor (87), Fred Arbanas (84), Dave Kocourek (83) and Don Norton (88), all leaping in one of the “posed, quasi-action” shots that were so popular during the period. Three of the guys are looking to the sky mid-leap, while Arbanas appears to be checking with the photographer to make sure he is doing it correctly.