Monthly Archives: January 2012
>I have a love-hate relationship with Ebay, but one of the things for which it is absolutely fantastic, is being able to pick up oddball items pertaining to whatever you may collect. I have been able to purchase numerous interesting AFL-related items on Ebay over the years, the most recent of which arrived on my doorstep just last week. For a whopping $3.24 + shipping, I am now the owner of an unused copy of the American Football League Standard Players Contract. This contract, which came to me in triplicate (white copy to be held by the league office, yellow for the member club, blue to be returned to the player), is a simple four-page document that outlines the payment schedule, amount, and various rules that AFL players had to abide by during their time in the league. Of the 17 points detailed int he contract, the one pertaining to payment schedule reads that the player will receive”75% of said salary in weekly installments commencing with the first and ending with the last regularly scheduled League game played by the Club during such season and the balance of 25% of said sum at the end of said last regularly scheduled League game.” Though room and board, food and traveling expenses are also mentioned, the contract does not specify payment for preseason games. But to give you an idea in that regard, former Dallas Texan and Kansas City Chiefs end, Chris Burford, recently posted an image of one of his preseason checks online. The single game check was for $48. The remaining 16 points cover the player agreeing to abide by league rules, to be governed by the league commissioner, to not engage in dangerous activity that could put his ability to play football at risk, the details of what should happen in the event that the player is injured while under contract, and/or drafted into the Armed Forces. The back page lists the “Club Rules and Regulations.” Most are understandable and reasonably clear. However I found item #2 rather funny. 2. Drinking of intoxicants is forbidden. I am guessing that roughly 98% of this league, which was made up of young men, many of them single and enjoying some money and a bit of popularity, was in direct violation of their contract on an almost daily basis. Perhaps those rule was generally ignored by both players and officials?
>Down the road from our home is one of my favorite places to go for breakfast, the La Mesa Bistro & Bakery. If you happen to roll into the Bistro on a Wednesday morning, you are likely to see a group of older gentlemen occupying a large table in the back room. They are all retired, and meet each week to have breakfast and enjoy each other’s company. One neat thing that they do is for each meeting, a member of their group will bring an item from home to share and discuss. It may be a tool used during their career, a photo from a past occasion, or a souvenir purchased on a special vacation. But the item is passed around, discussed and enjoyed by all. One of the men that is part of this group is former AFL’er, Hank Schmidt. Hank was a tough defensive lineman who joined the Chargers in 1961, after spending time playing in the Marine Corps and then for the San Francisco 49ers. Schmidt played for the Chargers through the 1964 season, then spent the 1965 season with the Buffalo Bills, and 1966 with the New York Jets. Though he was not as well-known as his Chargers linemates, Earl Faison and Ernie Ladd, Schmidt was a solid player that excelled in the physical aspects of the game, and was a great contributor to the Chargers special teams. In fact, when Sports Illustrated’s famed football writer, Dr. Z, selected his All-Century Team in the August 30, 1999, issue of SI, he added only five specialists to this “Greatest of all Teams.” One of the five specialists was Hank “Henry” Schmidt, whom he chose as the greatest wedge buster in professional football history. After football, Hank entered the insurance business, where he was a longtime agent in San Diego. Knowing where I could find Hank and his buddies on Wednesday morning this week, I scanned through my collection of AFL Chargers photos, and printed about a dozen different 8x10s of Hank Schmidt. When I arrived at The Bistro at around 8:30, the group was laughing and enjoying their breakfast. I walked over to their table, introduced myself, and gave Hank the sack of photos. “I just thought you might like these,” I told him, and then left them to enjoy their meal. Hank’s group broke up a little while later, and on their way out the door, several stopped by my table to thank me for bringing the photos. “Hank really enjoyed them,” they said. “In fact, most of them he had never seen before.” It was a fun connection, and a real reminder to me of how these AFL players were really just everyday guys, who enjoyed their sports careers, and then assimilated into the regular world. Today, most are very happy to be remembered as former athletes, and enjoy the opportunity to stroll down memory lane.
>One of the reasons that I really enjoy the AFL is that it reminds me of a time when professional football wasn’t such a huge business. Sure, the players received a paycheck and owners tried their best to turn a profit, but things were much simpler in comparison to modern pro football. Take, for example, this wire service photo that I recently picked up on ebay. The photo shows five New York Titans players in the end zone at the Polo Grounds. Two are holding a giant cup and saucer, while a third is dipping in an oversized tea bag. The caption on back reads, “October 10, 1960 – The Boston Patriots will have no tea party these New York Titans players say as they gather in the “tea formation” to brew special plays for their Saturday night game, Sept. 17th, with the Patriots at the Polo Grounds. Gathered around the titanic tea cup are (seated, left to right) offensive captain Gene Cockrell, tackle; defensive captain Tom Saidock, tackle; Dick Jamieson, quarterback. Standing, left to right, are Fred Julian, defensive halfback, and Pete Hart, fullback.” This makes me chuckle. Yes, the theme of the photo is silly, but you have to appreciate the attempted reference, however goofy, to the Boston Tea Party. The promotion was clever, and not over-the-top, and loud and abrasive. In a time when professional football players are international multi-media darlings, their likenesses gracing the internet, televisions, billboards, video games, magazines, and nearly every other kind of consumer product, I prefer the simplicity of the AFL. Though the owners wanted to make money, the emphasis was on the team and game and at least, not openly, on the Corporate America and profit statements.
|This large, framed team photo given to team members and office staff|
The 1963 Chargers were the first AFL team to be
featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
That kind of domination is rare, especially in a championship game, and in fact it led many people to begin questioning the supposed dominance of the NFL. Noted football personalities came out on both sides of the issue, some supporting the Chargers while others backed the Bears. Sadly, that game never came to be, and now, 48 years later, we have nothing but game films and statistics to back up our own beliefs of what might have been in the lightning bolt-clad Chargers had played the Monsters of the Midway… Oh, and those Chargers rings that already say, “World Champions.”
|Bob Dee, Bob Lee and Bob Fee of the Boston Patriots.|