Ten-Gallon War – A Book Review

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ten-gallon warMuch has been written about the early battles between the fresh-faced American Football League, and their rivals, the long-established National Football League.  Readers with an interest can find texts dedicated to the founding of the AFL, the AFL in the early years, the AFL/NFL merger, and all of the various subcategories that pertain to both leagues.  However, it wasn’t until just recently that fans could easily find the story of one of the greatest battles within the AFL/NFL war, the fight between the Cowboys and Texans for the love and support of the Dallas football fan.

Author John Eisenberg grew up in Dallas in the 1960s, and early on pledged his allegiance to the Cowboys, a story that he shares in his memoir, Cotton Bowl Days.  In his newest effot, Ten-Gallon War, Eisenberg moves out of the genre of fan chronicle, and instead gives a wonderfully detailed account of the founding of Dallas’s two professional football teams in 1960, their equally shaky beginnings, and the consequences that led Lamar Hunt to move his Dallas Texans north to Kansas City to become the Chiefs.

For those that have not heard the story before, Lamar Hunt started the American Football League after being rebuffed in his efforts to bring an NFL team to his hometown of Dallas.  He had unsuccessfully tried to purchase the Chicago Cardinals, and also inquired into possible NFL expansion.  When he learned that neither situation had any chance of coming to fruition, Hunt found other interested team owners and formed the AFL.  In an effort to thwart the new league (though they hotly denied Hunt’s new league as their reason for expansion), the NFL quickly reversed their earlier stance, and decided to form a new expansion team in Dallas.  Businessman Clint Murchison was given the franchise.  Murchison hired the soon-to-be-legendary football man, Tex Schramm, to build the team, and the battle for the loyalty of the Dallas football fan began.

John Eisenberg is an award-winning author, and as such it comes as no surprise that Ten-Gallon War was such an enjoyable read.  Eisenberg did a great job of getting inside this story and telling it from the perspective of both teams.  Eisenberg outlines the marketing strategies the both teams employed to draw fans, a game-by-game status of who was winning the battle, and ultimately, why the Cowboys were successful in capturing Dallas’s heart.

While telling the tale of two teams, Ten-Gallon War also introduces individual players.  Of particular importance in this book are Abner Haynes, Chris Burford, Sherrill Headrick and Tommy Brooker, all of whom made long and important contributions to the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs.

I have now read two of Eisenberg’s books, and have thoroughly enjoyed them both.  He is a skilled researcher, and his writing style is very smooth and easy to sit down to.  I hope that he has more AFL material in his future efforts, as I will certainly be looking forward to his future works.

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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14 Responses to Ten-Gallon War – A Book Review

  1. Howard says:

    I plan on buying the book. Interestingly, The Texans/Chiefs were the better team during the rivalry years. Texans won an AFL title in 1962. The Cowboys did not become solid until about 1965. After that, of course the Cowboys embarked on a decades long theme of winning. The Chiefs since their 1969 title season have been generally mediocre,

    • Srikanta says:

      Tough-ish, I thought had to get a coulpe on phone-a-friend to get me out of an early rut. Not a lot of great clues I liked 10A and 19A but no real complaints either. 23A definition was the only one of ML’s (above) that I found fault with, and that a technical issue.

  2. don says:

    first off i appreciate being sent these tales of the old AFL since i was born when the AFL started and missed everything. This is just my opinion but i think to this day Lamar`s a little miffed the Chief`s were the one`s to leave. I have one thing i`d like to get Todd Tobias`s opinion on. Hey Todd, how could Lamar Hunt not pay Gale Sayers the money he wanted after he was drafted in 1965. From what i understand it wasn`t much more than the Bears offered. I still think of what he would have done behind THAT offensive line! Super Bowl 1 might have been different.

  3. Tom says:

    I have not read the book only looked at the books index and saw that Cowboys Don Bishop is noted on several pages, Woodley Lewis who was 35 years old in 1960 and was with the Cowboys for only six games is not. In 1952 Don Bishop was not a recognized athlete at his LA High School Jefferson. The star athletes at Jeff in 1952 were LA City POY Jerry Drew, Rommie Loudd, and Lee Maye. Maye in 1964 led the National League with 44 doubles on Hank Aaron’s Milwaukee Braves and La Verne Smith the first LA prepster to High Jump 6’7″. Willie Naulls and Earl Battey were the basketball stars in the City that year although neither attended Jeff.

    As a youngster I was long facinated with Don, his Cowboys number 44 with the blue stars on the white shoulders and his his ball hawking skills made an impression on me. The thing that intrigued me most was that Don was a JC guy, and never played 4 year college ball, went from LA CC “Los Angeles City College to the pros after playing a year or two in the old LA Semi Pro League with the LA Jack Rabbits and made it to the Pro Bowl. The Jack Rabbits played there home games at Ross Snyder Park on 41st at Ascot, next to Jeff, Ross Snyder is the LA park where Satchel Page would go to play baseball when he barn stormed with the KC Monarchs.

    Woodley was 9 years older than Don, completely different background, played for legendary coach Jim Blewitt at then a predominantly white school LA Manual Arts, a year after Tom Fears and 10 years before Jon Arnett, both Manual Arts alumns. Woodley like most of his generation spent time in the military during WWII and after like Don attended LACC but recieved a scholarship to Oregon where he teamed with Norm Van Brocklin, John McKay and Bill Fell. Fell was from Compton HS, and at Oregon, was first year Head Track coach Bill Bowerman’s first ever Conference Sprint champ, winning the 100 yard dash 9.5. I have no idea what lasting, if any relationship Fell had with Lewis but know that Lewis invested heavily in the City of Compton. In the 1950’s Lewis purchased land on Central Ave and North of Compton Bl and built the Woodley Lewis Bowl and Sportmans Lounge, it was one of the first 50 lane bowling alleys built in the southland. The Bowling Alley and Lounge once the pride of a community now stands vacant without a hint of the past. The Airport off Alondra Bl to this day clings to the name “Compton/ Woodley Airport.”

  4. Tom says:

    Thanks Todd I was beginning to think you were growing weary, I do have a tendency to over do and it’s nice to hear I haven’t worn out my welcome. The 1948 US Supreme Court Shelley vs Kreamer decision led the way to the mass migration of African Americans from the south and southwest to cities. LA after WW11 and California in general had the space, employment, schools infrastructure etc to allow the transition. To answer your question, I don’t know? Not sure where to start, just look at a small city like Glendale famous for John Wayne and Frankie Albert but the town from after the the late 1940’s produced four of the great multi sport athletes the country produced at the time and very few now know who they are and may not care, I know the greater LA area geographically and my age, memory and the Internet help, I’m not sure I would do the story justice, would not mind collaborating with a pro. Thank you for this opportunity and for giving lovers of sport and history a place to share.

  5. Tom says:

    Todd,
    You may need to confirm before releasing this story.

    When you posted the story and film “The Day Floyd Little Was Fired” my first reaction was to write of his sons murder while a student at USC. I didn’t, thinking it to sensitive and better left alone. Then on Halloween night, a day or so after your post, the 2009 LA City Football POY Crenshaw HS Geno Hall was shot and critically wounded at a Halloween party on the USC campus.
    I have a vague memory of Floyds sons death, I once looked it up to find details and the search came up empty. My memory is that he was walking alone in the parking lot of the 32nd St Market inside the University Village Shopping Center, across the street from the USC campus, Hoover St and Jefferson Bl and was shot and killed for his wrist watch.

  6. Tom says:

    Todd,
    I found info on Floyd Little’s son Marc, he was shot in the leg with a sawed off shot gun, not killed, the wound caused him to lose the leg. he is now a practicing attorney in LA.

  7. Dave Steidel says:

    GALE SAYERS – The reason Sayers signed with the Bears is because that was his hand-picked first choice. He told the NFL prior to the draft that if the Bears didn’t draft him, he’d sign with the AFL Chiefs. He basically used the Chiefs and the AFL as leverage to get to the team he wanted to play for. As was common during the league war years, the NFL manipulated the drafting so the Bears could get him. Both Tucker Fredrickson (Giants) and Ken Willard (49ers) were drafted ahead of him as the #1 and #2 picks. Chicago owned the #3 and 4 picks which they used to take Dick Butkas at #3 and Sayers #4.

  8. Mark Speck says:

    Just started this book…..so far its very good, lots of good background information. Thanks for the review Todd, makes me look forward to finishing it even more.

  9. Dallas Texans Original Afl Logo…

    […] red. I still think of what he would have done behind THAT offensive line! Super […]…

  10. Fred Goodwin says:

    Todd, if you haven’t already, you should post this review to Amazon. You’ll be doing your fellow fans a favor, especially those who don’t frequent this (otherwise excellent) webpage.

    Great review by the way. I’ve also read both of Eisenberg’s books about the Cowboys and enjoyed them thoroughly.

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