There are several places that one can go on the internet to find quality information on the American Football League. First and foremost, www.remembertheafl.com, which is run by Ange Coniglio, has been an old standby for years. Chris Holmes’s site documenting AFL game programs is another nice place to go. One of my favorite places for reading up on the AFL is not a league-specific site, but rather the Sports Illustrated Vaults, which boasts of having more than 180,000 articles from past SI issues online. A reader can search the site for article on nearly every sports-related subject imaginable, and there is a boatload of fantastic, vintage AFL articles.
I recently checked out an article called The New Pro Open Up, which was written by Roy Terrell, and was featured in the September 12, 1960 issue of SI. Written right around the opening of the AFL’s inaugural season, the article speculates on the success that the league, and individual teams may have in their first year. Being blessed with 50+ years of hindsight, it is really interesting to see how Terrell speculated things would turn out. A few of his more interesting thoughts include:
- Some of the best rookie of the season should not only be Ron Mix (Chargers), Chris Burford (Texans), Billy Cannon (Oilers) and Ron Burton (Patriots) who panned out very well, but also Gene Grabosky (Bills) and Bob White (Oilers), who were out of the league the next season.
- The idea that the one area that the league was most deficient was top-quality interior defensive linemen. Looking back, several high-achieving linemen were on AFL rosters in 1960, but must not have been highly acclaimed at the time. Among these are Jim Lee Hunt and Bob Dee in Boston, Mel Branch and Paul Rochester in Dallas, Bud McFadin in Denver, Don Floyd in Houston and Charlie Powell in Oakland. By the following year, the Chargers had the first Fearsome Foursome in pro football, with Earl Faison, Ernie Ladd, Bill Hudson and Ron Nery.
- San Diego, Boston and Dallas a look like the teams to beat, while the eventual 1960 AFL champion Houston Oilers are ranked as a mid-range team.
- Terrell describes Los Angeles as a city “where the pro football appetite seems insatiable,” which is ironic in that the Chargers only stayed there one season, and L.A. has now gone more than a decade with no professional teams.
Overall Terrell does a neat job in outlining the new league. One of his main tenants is that the majority of AFL owners had the money to stay in for the long haul, which gave them a better-than-fighting chance at success. He, of course, was correct, and the AFL proved more successful than most anyone imagined it would be.
I would encourage anyone interested not only in AFL history, but in the history of any sport, to take a look at the SI Vault. No sign-up or payment is necessary to use the archive, and it is a wealth of information, and a fantastic glimpse into the past.