April 7, 1960

Head coach Eddie Erdelatz reported that the team had signed 40 players, but he still wouldn’t provide a list until the league approved it. Meanwhile, the nickname controversy continued. An Oakland Tribune editorial suggested there was a groundswell of local support for a name change, citing various reasons, such as “Señors” wasn’t fierce enough for a football team, to suggestions that the name would be a source of merriment around the country. And there were hints of a racist component to the rumblings, that the name wasn’t sufficiently American. There was also a rumor, squelched by general manager Chet Soda, that Dallas owner Lamar Hunt had sent a one-word telegram in response to the nickname: “Ridiculous.”

Oakland Tribune

January 30, 1960

In another stunning reversal, the AFL awarded the eighth and final franchise to the city of Oakland. Much of the credit for the change went to Chargers owner Barron Hilton. Hilton, who had been out of town for previous votes, made a strong plea upon his return for choosing Oakland. And on the league’s fifth ballot, the California city was chosen unanimously. Commissioner Joe Foss gave three reasons for the decision: the creation of a west coast rival for Los Angeles, the Oakland community’s strong show of interest, and better geographic balance than would have been provided by a team in Atlanta. Foss also credited a strong presentation by Chet Soda, Wayne Valley, and in particular, Robert Osborne.

Read more “January 30, 1960”

January 27, 1960

Developments in the Oakland ownership derby became more muddled. One of the potential bidders, Bill Jackson, had flown to Dallas to make a presentation, but after witnessing Chet Soda’s pitch, Jackson withdrew from the process, saying Soda had done a great job. However, back in the Bay Area, a fourth group emerged. This one was led by George McKeon, son of a local construction firm owner, and Kezar Stadium concessionaire Bernard Hagen. McKeon and Hagen had sent a telegram to the league asking for consideration of their bid for a team representing San Francisco.

In Dallas, the AFL continued to weigh their options. Observers thought Oakland now had the inside track and that the San Francisco bid seemed unlikely to get much support. These sources pointed out that the AFL had already invaded two NFL cities, New York and Los Angeles, and even a third, if Dallas counted. But the league was still clearly undecided. Bud Adams of Houston and Ralph Wilson of Buffalo were said to favor Atlanta, while Dallas’s Lamar Hunt and Barron Hilton in Los Angeles were Oakland backers. Aiding the Oakland position was confirmation by the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Commission that Kezar Stadium and Candlestick Park would be available as long as a team’s needs didn’t conflict with those of the Giants and 49ers.

Oakland Tribune

January 11, 1960

The first overtures to the University of California were not promising. The school’s athletic director, Greg Engelhard, reaffirmed the university’s policy concerning use of the stadium by professional teams and said a final decision would have to be made by university president Clark Kerr, who was out of the country and unavailable until the 18th. Oakland mayor Clifford Rishell said, in the meantime, he planned to meet with Glenn Seaborg, Nobel Prize-winning chemist and member of the university’s Board of Regents, to discuss the situation.

Despite this setback, Lamar Hunt was reportedly being swayed toward supporting Oakland over Miami.

January 9, 1960

A first meeting to plan strategy for an Oakland bid was convened by Barron Hilton in San Francisco. Among the attendees were Oakland Tribune assistant publisher William Knowland, chairman of the Oakland sports stadium committee George Jacopetti, Oakland city councilmen Robert Osborne and Dan Marovich, Oakland city manager Wayne Thompson, Berkeley city assemblyman Don Mulford, Oakland Chamber of Commerce president William Sparling, Robert Lurie, Hal Schoener, a former San Francisco 49er player representing local magnate Ted Harrer, and AFL leader Lamar Hunt. Hunt pointed out again that time was of the essence and that a local bid had to be put together as quickly as possible. For most of the meeting the focus was on getting a stadium. Of primary concern was the possibility that East Bay fans would not support a team playing in San Francisco, even under the Oakland name. A faint hope was held out that the team could convince the University of California to allow the team to play in 80,000 seat Memorial Stadium until an Oakland stadium could be built, but a long-standing university rule against allowing professional sports to use school facilities stood in the way. There was also a rumor that the city of Hayward, just south of Oakland, was considering building a stadium and trying to land the team.

Some negotiating among the potential owners leaked from the meeting as well. Osborne indicated he would be willing to invest up to $200,000 as part of an East Bay ownership group. Jacopetti also identified himself as a possible investor. Schoener said Harrer would be in, but wanted 51 percent ownership of the team as a condition of his investment.

Frank Leahy, the Chargers general manager, was also at the meeting to assist Hilton, and explained that a draft pool would be created from players let go by the other seven teams and that, in the interest of league competitive balance, efforts would be made to ensure that the pool did not consist solely of scrubs. Leahy thought each team would take about 60 players to training camp in the summer, with roster limits to be set at 33 by the first week of the regular season. Initially, the league was planning to start play the weekend of September 18.

Oakland Tribune

January 5, 1960

Jacksonville and Oakland emerged as additional possible sites for the last AFL franchise. Oakland was promoted as a possibility by Barron Hilton, owner of the Los Angeles Chargers, who wanted a West Coast rival. AFL founder Lamar Hunt was thought to prefer Miami. Numerous East Bay boosters stepped forward to add their support, including Oakland mayor Clifford Rishell and Berkeley city assemblyman Don Mulford. A playing site would be a problem as there were no existing facilities in the city of Oakland that were suitable. The San Francisco Giants’ new home, Candlestick Park, was mentioned as a temporary possibility pending the construction of a stadium in Oakland. Robert Moore, secretary of the San Francisco Parks and Recreation department, was interested in adding tenants, but pointed out that the Giants’ lease required the turf to be in excellent condition, something that would be a problem sharing the field with a football team. Mayor Rishell reluctantly offered his support to such a plan, but only if the team’s stay in San Francisco was temporary and short.

Oakland Tribune

November 24, 1959

The second day of the AFL draft saw another 22 players assigned to each team, making a total 33 rounds over the three days. Meanwhile, conflicting stories continued to appear about the fate of professional football in the Twin Cities. Some reports suggested that the Minneapolis ownership group had already accepted an offer from the NFL to play in the 1960 season. Others said that the owners had rejected the NFL’s offer to stay in the new league. Lamar Hunt was in the latter group, but a spokesperson for the Minneapolis owners said the NFL offer would be given preference. Another story said that Max Winter wanted to leave the AFL group for the established league, leaving HP Skoglund and a third partner, EW Boyer, to continue with the AFL. An almost as an aside, it was reported that former University of Minnesota tackle and current Green Bay Packers assistant coach Phil Bengtson was under consideration for the head coaching spot of the AFL’s Minneapolis franchise.

November 19, 1959

With the AFL draft just four days away, the league was still short one team. Phillies owner Bob Carpenter announced he would not seek a franchise, citing the difficulty of competing with the NFL’s Eagles. Meanwhile, Lamar Hunt was quoted as saying Boston and Miami were still under consideration, but if neither city came up with an acceptable bid, the league might start with seven teams.

November 6, 1959

The AFL continued to finalize its roster of cities, but the NFL hadn’t given up on co-opting the new league to its own purposes. A report surfaced that George Halas had offered franchises to the owners in Dallas, Houston, Buffalo, and Minneapolis. Lamar Hunt duly polled the AFL’s ownership who all gave a thumbs-down except for Minneapolis. At the behest of the group, Hunt countered with an offer to have all eight teams join the NFL, but Halas wasn’t buying.

October 20, 1959

Chicago Bears owner George Halas confirmed that the NFL had taken steps toward expanding to Dallas and Houston for the 1960 season. He said the Dallas team would play in the Cotton Bowl, but that the approval of a Houston franchise was contingent upon finding a place to play. If Houston didn’t work out, Mineapolis/St Paul would be the next option. Lamar Hunt of the AFL called the deal “sabotage.”