Category Archives: Joe Foss

A Letter to San Diego from Joe Foss

joe foss letter

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. read more

Important Moments in AFL History Gallery

joe foss hired as afl commissioner

Joe Foss (center) is congratulated by Lamar Hunt (left) and Harry Wismer (right) after being named as the first commissioner of the AFL.

For the past few years I have been putting together a collection of wire service photos that represent some of the more important moments in AFL history.  I recently opened a new photo gallery for this collection, which can be found on the home page.  The gallery is titled, “Important Moments in AFL History.”

The gallery opens with a photo that was distributed by the Associated Press on August 1, 1959.  This image, which is the earliest piece of AFL memorabilia that I have found, shows a young Lamar Hunt, and carries the following caption: DALLAS, TEXAS – AUG 1 – SEEKS NEW FOOTBALL LEAGUE – Lamar Hunt, 26, son of oil billionaire H.L. Hunt of Dallas is seeking to organize a new pro football league which will try to start play in 1960. read more

>AFL Commissioners through Wire Service Photos


During it’s 10-year history, three men held the post of Commissioner in the American Football League.  Joe Foss, World War II fighter pilot and former South Dakota Governor, was the AFL’s initial commissioner and  helped get the league off the ground.  Legendary Oakland Raiders head man, Al Davis, held a brief three-month stint in the AFL’s top office.  During that time, in response to the NFL’s New York Giants signing kicker Pete Gogolak away from the AFL’s Buffalo Bills, Davis led a frontal attack on the NFL, and helped lead to the eventual merger of the leagues.  Milt Woodard guided the AFL through it’s final four seasons and into the merger with the NFL.  in the years post-merger, Pete Rozelle maintained his position as Commissioner of the NFL, and therefore watched over the National Football Conference (former NFL teams) and American Football Conference (former AFL teams, with the addition of the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers). Wire service photos are an interesting collectible in that they represent a particular point in time and were a useful tool for use by the media.  Recently a handful of large wire service photo collections have come up for sale on ebay.  Literally hundreds of thousands of these photos, which cover every imaginable subject, have become available to collectors of all sorts.  The following photos mark the changes in AFL Commissioners through the 1960s.  The text below each image is the caption that the wire service used to describe each photo. November 30, 1959 – Joe Foss, center, World War II flying ace, gets a handshake after he was named commissioner of the new American Football League today.  Greeting the former South Dakota governor is Lamar Hunt, left, of Dallas, Texas, and Harry Wismer, right, founders of the new league. April 7, 1966 – Joe Foss resigned his job as commissioner of the American Football League 4/7.  He had held the post for 6-years.  President of the AFL, Ralph Wilson (R) looks on as Foss reads a statement to members of the press.  AFL owners are meeting in Houston to select a new commissioner. April 8, 1966 – NEW AFL COMMISSIONER – Al Davis, above,was named commissioner of the American Football League today.  Davis will replace Joe Foss who resigned yesterday.  Davis has been the Oakland Raiders coach and general manager. July 25, 1966 – QUITS AS AFL COMMISSIONER – Al Davis, above, resigned as commissioner of the American Football League, it was announced by the League in New York today.  Davis succeeded Joe Foss in the job last April 16.  He, in turn, will be succeeded by Milt Woodard, a former assistant commissioner. July 25, 1966 – NEW AFL COMMISSIONER – Milt Woodard, a former assistant commissioner of the American Football League, has been named full commissioner to succeed Al Davis, who resigned today.  Woodard is shown at the League office in New York after the announcement today.