Category Archives: Harry Wismer
Most AFL fans understand that Minnesota was originally scheduled to have an AFL team when the league began play in 1960. Through a series of backroom dealings, the Minnesota ownership group backed out at the last minute, after being promised an NFL expansion franchise. This news was brought to the AFL group by New York Titans owner, Harry Wismer, who announced to the crowd, “Boys, it looks like it’s the Last Supper.” In classic dramatic Wismer fashion, he proceeded to call Max Winter, head of the Minnesota syndicate, “Judas,” during a series of heated exchanges.
Fifty-one years ago this week saw the death of one of the AFL’s most storied teams, and the birth of another. Harry Wismer had been the head man of the New York Titans from the franchise’s inception in 1960 through 1962 when the team was taken from him due, ultimately, to his lack of finances.
Famed talent agent, Sonny Werblin,bought the Titans for $1 million. He changed their name to “Jets,” and after installing Weeb Ewbank as his head coach and Joe Namath at quarterback, had the team playing for a world championship within five seasons.
Bob Reifsnyder was a highly-touted defensive lineman from the Naval Academy when he tore his Achilles tendon in his senior year. He played one season in the NFL, and then joined the Los Angeles Chargers of the American Football League in 1960. His time with the Chargers was short, and he was traded to the New York Titans in the preseason. I conducted this interview with Bob Reifnyder in 2002, while researching my book on the AFL Chargers.
In these days of multi-million dollar player contracts and multi-billion dollar television deals, it is easy to overlook the fact that many professional football franchises had very humble beginnings. While Lamar Hunt, Barron Hilton and Bud Adams had seemingly limitless wealth, and their teams did not suffer from lack of finances, other teams were not nearly as fortunate. The Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos and Boston Patriots were all on shaky financial ground in the beginning, but before the New York Jets shocked the nation by defeating the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, they went by the name of “Titans,” and gave new meaning to the phrase “financial difficulty.”