Monthly Archives: December 2011
>I know a group of collectors who are enamored with the Diamond Matchbooks of the 1930s that feature football players on them. Many of these matchbooks are considered the earliest issues of certain hall of fame players, and are therefor hotly pursued when they come up for auction. There were no league-wide matchbook sets designed when the AFL came into existence, but there is a rare and rather obscure set of matchbooks featuring members of the 1960 Houston Oilers. This 10-book set was produced by Universal Match Corp., and I was fortunate to pick up a complete set last week when it was auctioned on ebay. This Oilers set featured the team mascot and logo on what would have been the outside of the matchbook, while one of 10 different players was revealed when opening the flap. The most desirable “card’ in the set is of Hall of Fame quarterback and kicker, George Blanda. The other nine players are Johnny Carson, Doug Cline, Don Hitt, Mark Johnston, Dan Lanphear, Jacky Lee, Bill Mathis, Hogan Wharton and Bob White. It is an interesting group of players. A few tidbits on this group:
Blanda, Lee and Mathis represent three of the 20 men that played all 10 seasons of the AFL.
Don Hitt never actually played for the Oilers. During the 1960 training camp, Hitt learned that he had a severe for of diabetes, and thus was forced to end his career before it began.
All of the players are also featured in the 1960 Fleer football card set, with the exception of Mark Johnston. Identical photos were used in both the cards and matchbooks.
>I hadn’t planned on posting today, though I am long overdue. But when a bit of AFL runs into me while I am grocery shopping, then maybe that is a sign that I need to sit down and do some writing. I was at my local Sprouts store this morning, when I ran into former San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins defensive back, Dick Westmoreland. I’ve known Dick for many years now, and it was a nice surprise to see him. It just so happened that I had a photo that I’ve been meaning to get to him, so I invited him to stop by my house after he was finished shopping. Once we sat down and I handed him the photo, a great shot of the 1963 Chargers team in their team sportcoats and ties, memories began bubbling and the stories flowed. Dick Westmoreland was involved in several important AFL situations. As a rookie with the Chargers in 1963, he earned a starting position at cornerback, and was an integral part of the Chargers lone AFL championship team. Westmoreland finished second to Denver’s Billy Joe for AFL Rookie of the Year honors that year. After having another successful season in 1964, Westmoreland was selected to play in the AFL All-Star Game to be held in New Orleans. However, once the African-American players began arriving in the Crescent City, they began facing the racism that was so prevalent in the South during that time. They were denied taxi cabs, entry to night clubs, and forced to endure ugly comments nearly everywhere they turned. The African-American players ultimately decided to boycott the game in New Orleans. The AFL leadership supported their decision, and the game was moved to Houston and played a week later. After three seasons in the Chargers defensive backfield, Westmoreland became an inaugural member of the Miami Dolphins when they selected him in the 1966 AFL Expansion Draft. He and his teammates brought professional football to Florida, and were the precursors to the great Dolphins teams of the 1970s. Dick Westmoreland played four seasons in Miami, and led the AFL in interceptions with 10 in 1967. He was picked up by the Minnesota Vikings in 1970, but was later released, not having actually played for them. Westmoreland returned to San Diego after his football career ended, and began a long career with the probation department. In fact, he made a point of telling me that today he was celebrating the two-week anniversary of his retirement.
>After a great interview with Jim Laslavic on Sunday Sportswrap last week, I was contacted by Doug Young, host of Sportsquawk Sunday on XTRA Sports 1360, in San Diego. He invited me to join the show tomorrow morning at 7:45 Pacific, to talk a little AFL history. If you are awake and wanting a little football history fix, tune in and enjoy!