Ernie Ladd and the 1960 Chargers Lightning Bolt

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ernie ladd

Ernie Ladd in a 1960 Chargers jersey.

I recently picked up this photo of Chargers defensive lineman, Ernie Ladd.  Ladd has always been kind of a mythical AFL figure, with his size, boisterous personality and wrestling career all adding to the total package.  I liked this particular image because although it is undated, it must have been taken early in Ladd’s time with the Chargers.  Rather than wearing the #77 that he did in San Diego, Ladd is shown in a #71 jersey, which I took to mean that he was using it either strictly for a photo opportunity, or it was his practice jersey.  As a means of cutting costs, AFL teams often practiced in their game uniforms from the season before.  In this instance, Ladd’s #71 is a 1960 Los Angeles Chargers jersey, probably worn during games by defensive lineman, Dick Chorovich.

Ernie Wright in 1960.

The 1960 Chargers uniforms are unique in their history because it is one of just two seasons in which they wore a dark blue bolt, instead of their standard gold bolts (1966 being the other season).  The 1960 bolts are even more unique in that they had a thin, gold outline.  The outline can be seen more easily in the photo of Ernie Wright (click to enlarge the image).

ron botchan

Ron Botchan in 1960.

The gold-lined blue bolt also appeared on the Chargers helmets in 1960.  Several years ago, I recall some research being done to confirm this fact.  It was determined to be so after scanning many black and white Chargers images from 1960.  To my knowledge, a color image featuring the 1960 Chargers helmets has not yet surfaced.  I have several (and have seen more) color Chargers images from that inaugural season, though none of them feature a helmet.

Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

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13 Responses to Ernie Ladd and the 1960 Chargers Lightning Bolt

  1. Andrew Jones says:

    What a GREAT Picture!! And those jersey’s were so nice looking! One of my best pieces is a Ladd Chiefs helmet that was worn by Buchanon, in SB one, and was an original Texans piece. I love Ladd!

  2. Don McGregor says:

    Enjoying your pieces on the AFL. I travelled from Toronto to Buffalo see the Chargers and my favourite qb Tobin Rote take on the Bills in, I think ’63. I had been a huge fan of Tobin when he played at Green Bay and when he took the Lions to the NFL title in ’57. I wrote to Ange Coniglio to ask him to consider putting Tobin in his AFL HofF and, after researching Rote’s outstanding career in the NFL, CFL and AFL, Ange included him. I have the framed SI cover of the first AFL players to appear there, Rote handing off to Paul Lowe, and like many fans of the era believed that the Chargers would have beaten Lombardi’s Packers if there had been a Super Bowl at that time. It also led to a trivia question with which I’ve stumped many an expert (including a guy at the Sporting News): Who is the only qb to have won both an AFL and an NFL championship game (not to mention putting up over 50 points in both wins)?

    • Todd Tobias says:

      I’m glad that you are liking the blog, Don. Rote’s Chargers teammates spoke the world of him. They said that he was exactly the veteran leadership that they needed in ’63, and he was a huge reason that they won the championship that season.

      On another note, our son is named Tobin. We really liked the name as soon as we heard it!

    • Thanks for the story, Don. It’s really cool that you took the trip from Toronto to Buffalo to see the Chargers play the Bills. You saw two excellent teams with some amazing players.

      My observation is that the only quarterbacks to lead two different teams to a championship are Tobin Rote (1957 Detroit Lions and 1963 San Diego Chargers) and Norm Van Brocklin (1951 Los Angeles Rams and 1960 Philadelphia Eagles).

      A third quarterback, Earl Morrall, played a significant role on two different championship teams (1970 Baltimore Colts and 1972 Miami Dolphins), though he wasn’t the primary quarterback on either team.

      • Don McGregor says:


        Thanks for your comments. You’re right about Van Brocklin’s two NFL titles of course, but the “trick” in my question is winning championships in the NFL and AFL: answer Tobin Rote. Another memorable day in Buffalo: I traveled to Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium one cold Christmas week to see the Bills and Patriots in a play-off game. The field was entirely covered in frozen snow and they cleared only the lines on the playing field so it looked like a black and white negative. Babe Parilli did a masterful job of hitting short passes to his halfbacks coming out of the backfield and moving straight upfield, a perfect strategy on such a precarious field. Jack Kemp had no luck moving the Bills and was replaced by “The Mad Bomber” Daryl Lamonica who hit Elbert Dubenion with the longest pass (I think) in AFL playoff history, one of Daryl’s beautiful deep spirals that Elbert took in stride 66 yds to the endzone. Bills remain my favorite team in the east and Chargers in the west. Tough times right now!

        • Wow, you’re talking about the 1963 playoff where the Patriots went to Buffalo and beat the Bills soundly. Final score: 26-8. But I know you got consolation when your boys in the west, the Chargers, routed the Patriots, 51-10, for the AFL Championship.

          I know all this, of course, from my own reading. You witnessed these events as they unfolded. I came up in the ’70’s, and that was a great time to be a kid. But there had to be a special excitement in following pro football in the ’50’s and ’60’s. I sure love reading about those days.

  3. Tom says:

    On the piece you presented on Wahoo McDaniel a commenter asked if Wahoo ever faced Ernie Ladd on the mat? I believe the answer is no. The reason being they Wrestled in different associations. Wahoo wrestled in the American Wrestling Association AWA and Ladd in the National Wrestling Association NWA. In 1973 Ladd was paid upwards of 25 thousand dollars per match, or ten times the 25 hundred dollars he was paid in 1961 to sign and play for the Chargers.

    Not all wrestling fans were that impressed with Ladd, In Stan Weston’s Wrestling Annual Magazine for 1973, Ms Alice MCCreery Buffalo, NY writes this letter: “How could you guys call Ernie Ladd a champion? He’s the clummiest ox I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Ladd can’t wrestle for beans. It’s not saying too much for Waldo Von Erich when a guy like Ladd comes and whips him. Waldo must’ve been real sick that day. Ladd stinks!” Let me guess, I bet she’s a Bills fan as well.

    The photo of Botchan explains something… I have never known or ever heard of anyone that ever attended a LA Chargers game. A look at the stands behind the Chargers bench answers why.

    • Todd Tobias says:

      Funny you would mention the empty stands, Tom. I recall speaking to Los Angeles Chargers center, Don Rogers. He said that once when the team was standing in the tunnel prior to being introduced at the Coliseum, he looked up into the stands, and commented to Dave Kocourek, “They’ve stayed away by the thousands.”

      • Tom says:

        Todd I had to laugh this morning when i saw your photo of “The Big Cat,” only yesterday was it that I purchased the wrestling magazines with the ladies letter and articles on both Wahoo and “The Big Cat.” Just as it should be it appears Synchronicity is alive and well at Tales From The AFL.
        Wahoo’s big rival in the AWA was “Superstar” Billy Graham.

  4. jeff says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the “Big Cats” signature move in wrestling something to do with an “injured” thumb?

    • Tom says:

      No you’re not wrong the old thumb to the eye move. Search Dutchman Ernie Ladd versus the Brisco brothers and learn more about The Big Cat.

      Ron Botchan, Jim Mora and Jack Kemp teamed together in college at Oxy.

  5. Excellent pictures of both Ernie Ladd and Ernie Wright.

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