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          The American Football League Hall of Fame archives contain thousands of items about the AFL.   Newspaper articles about the American Football League . . . stories, columns and letters to the editor about the American Football League.  Photos and collector cards of American Football League players.  Game programs, ticket stubs, game reports and box scores of American Football League games.
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It would be virtually impossible to put all that information on a website, but this page will periodically post selected historic items about the American Football League, as they were written by the sportswriters and fans in the 1960s, as well as more recent articles.  In some cases the dates are approximate.

NOTE:  In the interest of conserving space on this site, at the bottom of the page, I have links to articles on the AFL that are already available at other sites.

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       The following article was one of the first on the West Coast about the American Football League, contributed by AFL author Jim McCullough.  The city of Minneapolis had been granted a franchise in the new league, but the owner, Max Winter was lured away by the other league.  The following article was written as the AFL was trying to decide on an eighth city, to replace Minneapolis.  The original article on the leftcan be enlarged by clicking the columns.  The text is reproduced for easier reading on the right.

Oakland Tribune
ESTABLISHED FEBRUARY 21, 1874
ASSOCIATED PRESS . . . WIREPHOTO . . . UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL . . .CHICAGO DAILY NEWS FOREIGN SERVICE
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, MONDAY, JANUARY 4, 1960

Oakland in
Line for Pro
Grid Team
City One of Four
Considered for
New Grid Franchise
 

By SCOTTY STIRLING

  Oakland is one of four cities being considered for the eighth and final franchise in the new professional American Football League. Lamar Hunt, Dallas, Tex., millionaire who founded the new loop, confirmed today that Oakland, Miami, Atlanta, and Jacksonville, Fla., have been proposed for franchises.
   Hunt added that no formal application for a franchise had been received from Oakland interests, although several people in this area had talks with Hunt on the possibility of establishing a club here.
   The AFL, now composed of Dallas, Denver, Boston, Houston, New York,  Los Angeles, Buffalo is

 interested in a Bay Area to form a "rivalry" with the Los Angeles Chargers.
   Hunt, in a telephone interview, said the major stumbling block concerning Oakland was the lack of a stadium.
   "the possibility of using Candlestick Park for the team has been advanced," the wealthy Texan said.
    Hunt said he had visited the Giants' new stadium when it was in its early building stages and said he feels it is adaptable for football.
   "We have three cities now which enjoy good weather in late fall - Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles -and we are quite anxious to add a fourth in this category, "Hunt continued.
   He explained that Miami, Atlanta and Jacksonville enjoy such weather conditions and that formal applications for franchises had been received from Atlanta and Miami.
   Hunt indicated that these two cities now are considered the prime choices for the eighth franchise.
   During the interview Hunt heaped praise on Oakland's Chris Burford, the pass-catching Stanford end who has signed with the Dallas club.
   "We got a real good one in Burford," the Texan said, "He sure showed his class in the East-West game."


       "Eddie Erdelatz was hired today to coach Oakland's team in the new American Football League."

        "The appointment of Erdelatz completed the list of head coaches in the new league.  The others are Lou Rymkus, houston;, Frank Filchock, Denver; Sid Gillman, Los Angeles; Hank Stram, Dallas; Buster Ramsey, Buffalo; Lou Saban, Boston; and Sammy Baugh, New York."


(Article provided by Charles Oakey.)     


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             The next item is not from the beginning of the American Football League, but from its end.  The following article appeared in the Buffalo Courier-Express in the last week of existence of the AFL, on December 8, 1969.   Subsequent clippings are in chronological order from the earliest clippings.

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From the Boston Herald,
July 31, 1960:

"BUFFALO - Displaying surprising mid-season form in their American Football League debut, the Boston Patriots walloped the Buffalo Bills 28-7 in their first exhibition game of the newly-organized pro circuit Saturday night at Civic Stadium."

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From the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS,
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 1960:
(Courtesy of Dewey Bohling, Titans halfback who had a two-yard touchdown run late in the game.)

"By Dick Young
            A piping-hot Turkey Day football feast, stuffed with 76 juicy points, whetted the appetites of 14, 344 late diners at the Polo Grounds, as the Titans outgorged the Dallas Texans, 41-35.  This was the highest-scoring game of the infant AFL, and so typical of its wide-open play; replete with long passes, longer runs, and virtually devoid of aerial defense."

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From an unknown newspaper,
circa July 25, 1960:

"DALLAS (AP) -- The Dallas Texans are winding up training at Roswell, N.M., and will make their first competitive appearance at Oakland Sunday."

         This story was published at the end of the Texans' first training camp and before their first exhibition game against the Oakland Raiders.  Besides Davidson, other future AFL All-Stars or Hall of Famers included Abner Haynes, Johnny Robinson, Jack Spikes, Chris Burford, and Sherrill Headrick. (Click on highlighted names below.)
         Note misspelled name of Jerry Cornelison.

Article provided by Charles Bennett II, son of center Charles Bennett.

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From the Buffalo Courier-Express,
August 10, 1962:

     "Cookie Gilchrist, the big fullback obtained from the Toronto Argonauts, worked out for the first time Thursday."

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From the Buffalo Courier-Express, September 8, 1962:

"they had never challenged a player in our league with as much strength as Gilchrist"

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             From the Buffalo Evening News, September 11, 1962, after the first weekend of the season:

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             If you've read other pages on this site, you know that Sports Illustrated seldom covered the American Football League.  The following article is a rare departure from SI's early policy.  But in true anti-AFL SI bias, they apparently misplaced their color film for this 1962 feature.  The author, Robert H. Boyle, has informed me that Foss was so pleased with the article, he had it framed and hung it in his office (The following is the sole property of Sports Illustrated Magazine.)  Click on each page for a readable image.

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     Pro football's new league confounds its doubters.  Better teams, bigger crowds and fancy play now add up to a successful future for the AFL               by Robert H. Boyle

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       The TV ratings have jumped.  The American Broadcasting Company calculates that the viewing audience per game this season is 13 million, an estimated 4 million more than last year.  Indeed, if the network's figures are accurate, the popularity of the AFL has increased while that of the NFL has decreased.

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THE FLASH AND FINESSE OF A DAZZLING 100-YARD KICKOFF RETURN

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       With improvement on the field, with sharply increasing attendance, with solid TV backing and with even its weakest franchises being eagerly sought by potential investors, the AFL has a real right to what one of its owners calls the league's new mood --- "cautious optimism.".

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From The Houston Press, October 12, 1962:

 
               "Hit Gilchrist solid," says Glick, "and you see stars.  A fullback that big, who can move like Cookie, should be outlawed." . . . .  "Of course, if you don't get killed hitting him, that's fun, too."

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From the Boston Herald, November 25, 1963:
NFL games were played following the JFK assassination,
American Football League games were postponed.

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In the above article, Alvin "Pete" Rozelle is quoted as follows >

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No
Respect
League

             Don Pierson, Chicago Tribune, reported that later, Rozelle said: "That week after the funeral and after our games were played, there were columns written against my decision across the country.  Obviously it was a mistake."

            [Sad that Rozelle didn't know it was a mistake, until he was TOLD that it was!  And why didn't Rozelle say "If I said that", instead of "If I admitted that"?   Following the wise counsel of Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Jr., the American Football League cancelled its games that Sunday.]

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From The Buffalo  Evening News, November 25, 1963:

The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

"Sports Pay Silent Tribute to Late President Kennedy"  No horses ran at the tracks.  Most of the big arenas . . . were darkened.  The NCAA track championship . . . was postponed.  Scores of college football games . . . were postponed . . . or cancelled outright. ~ The Associated Press
National Football League games . . . went off as scheduled, and the executives responsible were criticized. Respect cannot be mass-produced. ~ Steve Weller

Click HERE to read Scott Pitoniak's column
on the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination
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       Will wonders never cease?  SI actually ran an article that (sort of) called for an AFL-NFL confrontation.  This article was from 1963, and was the FIRST TIME EVER that Sports Illustrated had a cover showing an American Football League team.  In 1964, SI had six covers featuring action pro football photographs: 2 of the Browns, 2 of the Cardinals, one of the Vikings, and one of the Bears and 49ers.  Of course, they had no action covers of AFL teams.  That year,  the Bills started the season 9-0, won thirteen games, and set pro football records on defense . . . not worthy of SI coverage.    The AFL was featured on an SI cover only twice (July 1965 and October 1966, both non-action shots of Joe Namath) again before December 12, 1966, when the magazine ran a black-and-white cover of the Pats vs. the Bills.   (The following images, provided by CHARGER TOM, are the sole property of Sports Illustrated Magazine.)  Click on each page for a readable image.

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 Sports Illustrated, 16 December 1963 ~   Ever since the American Football League was formed four years ago, fans have been excited by the prospect of a "World Series" game between the champion of the new league and the champion of the established National Football League.
Therefore, on behalf of the AFL, I reissue an official challenge to the NFL for the first game to be played at the conclusion of the 1964 season.
As I have said on a number of occasions, we have no plans for such a game.

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February 3, 2011

Sunday could have been Super Bowl XLVIII
BY SHAUN ASSAEL

On Dec. 6, 1963, a Congressional Medal of Honor holder named Joe Foss lent his signature to a letter to NFL Commissioner Peter Rozelle. An innovation known as instant replay was about to make its TV debut during the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia the next day, but Foss was proposing an even bigger breakthrough for TV sports. As the head of the upstart American Football League, Foss wanted to challenge the NFL to a title game.

"Much talking has been done of late by the public and press as to when the American and National Football leagues will meet in a championship game," Foss' Dear Pete letter began. "I feel strongly that the time has arrived for the inauguration of such an annual game."

Rozelle Headline

Foss had the kind of gravitas that usually made people listen to him. Besides being a war hero whose fighter squadron shot down 135 Japanese planes during four months in World War II, the 48-year-old was the former two-term governor of South Dakota and had recently run for Congress.

Rozelle, then 37, couldn't have been more different. He was a slick former PR man who had so little support among the NFL's owners when he was first named to replace Bert Bell in 1959 that it reportedly took him 23 ballots to get the job. Yet Foss was out on a limb writing to Rozelle, and he knew it.

For one thing, the NFL had 14 teams, the AFL just eight. The AFL also was coming off a defeat in a highly publicized anti-trust suit against the NFL. Even though the AFL was about to sign an eye-popping $36 million deal with NBC, the NFL's owners had no intention of legitimizing it.

In that respect, Foss was trying to beat Rozelle at his own game by writing the letter. It wasn't supposed to be a confidential communication between two rivals. "Joe's intent was to get publicity and be cocky," says Joe Horrigan of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. "He was saying, 'We'll meet you anytime, anywhere.'"

Foss might not have conceived the idea. The AFL's brash oil-rich president, Lamar Hunt -- fresh off moving his Texas team to Kansas City and eager to one-up the NFL -- was a genius at promotion and publicity stunts. "It has all the hallmarks of a Lamar Hunt effort," Horrigan says. But the letter reflected Foss' statesmanlike tone.

"Any argument as to which team would win the initial AFL-NFL game is of secondary importance," Foss wrote. "The overriding fact is the establishment of a World Series of professional football is necessary to the continued progress of our game if we're to be true sportsmen and not merely businessmen in sports."

The letter ended with a call to arms. "I think now is the time for action rather than talk, Pete, and if you concur I'll be available to commence arrangements for the game at your earliest convenience.

Reporters were delighted when they got ahold of the missive, eagerly calling Rozelle to read it to him over the phone. Within hours, the commissioner had this statement for them:

"I understand that you intend to write me for the purpose of suggesting a championship playoff between the National Football League and the American Football League in 1964. As I have said on a number of occasions recently when queried by the news media concerning similar public requests made by you, we have no plans for such a game."

Joe Foss
Courtesy Pro Football Hall of Fame Foss had the media on his side for his pitch to Rozelle.

That didn't end the drumbeat for an end-of-the-season finale. Five months later, NBC offered to donate $500,000 to the Kennedy Memorial Library if Rozelle agreed to a championship game. (The move was a not-so-subtle reminder that the NFL played games in the wake of John F. Kennedy's assassination while the AFL did not. Rozelle often said that the move was his greatest mistake.)
 


The NFL still didn't bite, and it took three more years for the leagues to schedule a faceoff in January. The first world championship game was held on Jan. 15, 1967, at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, with tickets selling for $12, $10 and $6. Two years later, the AFL and NFL finally merged.

All we can do today is wonder what the league might have looked like if Rozelle had warmed to Foss' proposal in 1963. For one thing, Cleveland or Buffalo could lay claim to a Super Bowl trophy today, because those are the teams that would have met in January 1964. And there was considerable irony in having them in their positions. Cleveland, after all, belonged to the rival All-America Football Conference until 1949 and was still considered by some a carpetbagger. Hardly a team to carry the NFL banner. Buffalo, meanwhile, was built like an NFL team with a dominant defense and ball-control offense (anchored by Cookie Gilchrist) -- hardly representative of the pass-happy AFL.

Horrigan, for one, thinks that it's probably a good thing the matchup never happened, "If Cleveland won that game, I don't think there would have been SB II," he says. "The NFL could have said, 'See, we told you so' and, like a heavyweight champ, avoided a rematch."

And if the Bills had triumphed? The winning coach on Sunday might have been hoisting the Lou Saban Trophy in Super Bowl XLVIII.

And yet, it's Pete Rozelle who, in NFL revisionist history, gets the credit for "creating the Super Bowl !!!" ~ Remember the  AFL

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The AFL, with only eight teams, can stock each team more solidly.  It follows that as the AFL continues to lead in the yearly draft . . . eventually the top team in that league will be stronger than the top team in the NFL.

DAN JENKINS

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       In time, the AFL can probably field a team strong enough to give the NFL champion a struggle.  But that time is not now or next year.   It is not for several years.

TEX MAULE

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REMEMBER HOW SWEET IT FELT to leave the Vikings for dead, and to have the Chiefs validate AFL fans' loyalty to their league?
Why, oh why, did they ever agree to merge?


BUFFALO COURIER-EXPRESS, Tuesday, January 13, 1970

Red Smith

NFL Needs New Reason to Cheer

NEW ORLEANS-Representatives of the 13 teams that have been relegated to the National Conference of the National Foot­ball League meet in New fork today to divide themselves like amoeba. They'll ar­rive, feeling downhearted, but it is to be hoped they'll go see "Oh, Calcutta" or something, and cheer up.
...
    After all, what happened in Tulane Sta­dium wasn't necessarily the end. What's left of the old NFL can still catch up with the American Football League, and it may not even take 10 years.

To be sure, nothing the old National Leaguers saw here would encourage them to think they could achieve parity with the AFL easily. For the second straight year, the delegates from "That Mickey Mouse League" just up and beat the whey out of the old guard in all departments - offense, defense, rushing, passing, kicking, planning, poise, and execution.

WHEN IT WAS DONE AND THE numbers on the scoreboard read 23-7, apologists for the NFL mumbled about "mistakes." The Minnesota Vikings did err more than once, and some of their errors were costly. But it wasn't their mistakes that beat them in the fourth interleague match for the championship of mankind. The Kansas City Chiefs beat them.

      When the score was 3-0 for Kansas City, Minnesota's Ed Sharockman got caught interfering with Frank Pitts on a forward pass, and that malfeasance helped the Chiefs move into range for Jan Stenerud's second field goal. Next time the Chiefs scored they did so on their own, employing their clever running game to set up Stenerud's third field goal.

      The big play in that advance was a 19-yard end-around dash by Pitts. The Vikings had been warned about this maneuver: Kansas City had used it five times during the season for gains of 28 yards. Not because the Vikings dozed but because the Chiefs executed the play so deftly, Pitts gained 37 yards on three tries in this game.

       Stenerud's third field goal made the score 9-0. The Chiefs had matte a few mistakes of their own. They had had several busted plays when it looked as though they might go in for a touchdown. Balked by their own errors, they had settled for three-point kicks.

SO NOW THE VIKINGS SUFFERED their heaviest blow. Their Charlie West misjudged a kickoff against the wind, tried to field a wet ball on the run, lost it, and gave Kansas City possession on the Minnesota 19-yard line. In spite of an emotional defense that flattened Len Dawson for an eight-yard loss on the first play, the Chiefs went in on their own and took an insurmountable lead of 16-0.

The half was over. Both teams had made mistakes. The Vikings had got nothing out of Kansas City's errors. When opportunity knocked, the Chiefs had responded, but that wasn't the real reason Kansas City was sitting pretty. Kansas City was sitting pretty because on the plays when everybody did his job, the Chiefs had done their jobs best.

They continued to excel, and the better they played the more their confidence swelled. There came a moment when their calm assurance was almost comical.

It was close to the end of the game, when all doubts about the result had evaporated. Minnesota's Alan Page jumped on Dawson's head after the Kansas City quarterback had been tackled, and a flag went down to signal unnecessary roughness. Somebody said something to somebody, and a Minnesota player cocked a clenched fist.

WITH SWIFT DELIBERATION, every man on the Kansas City bench rose up and moved across the field. The big men in the red shirts didn't hurry. They advanced with all deliberate haste, ready to do battle if battle should be indicated, supremely as­sured that they would prevail. No fight developed.

And so pro football got through its first Super Bowl adven­ture in New Orleans. For a while it looked like a wildly reck­less adventure. Up to the day of the game, the weather was wretchedly cold. Then it came up mild and wet. The playing field was blotchy with marshy areas, but the athletes held their feet pretty well and the game was truly played. In the last few minutes, the setting sun sent yellow rays slanting down to brighten the scene.

In the closing seconds, Chiefs on the sidelines were hugging one another. When the game ended, they rushed out and cud­dled colleagues coming out of the fray. Only one went visiting among the enemy.

 Mike Garrett sprinted away from his Kansas City playmates and ran down a couple of purple shirts. He must have shouted something, for two of the Vikings turned and took his outstretched hand. One was the Vikings' predatory end, Carl Eller. The other was Earsell Mackbee, the cornerback who hadn't been able to handle Kansas City's Otis Taylor. Who knows what comfort Garrett gave him?

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Although American Football League teams won the World Championships after both the 1968 and 1969 pro football seasons, All-Pro selectors were still mostly blind to the accomplishments and abilties of AFL players.  This bias has been perpetuated until today, explaining why many AFL greats are still not in the "pro football" hall of fame.

Only Seven from AFL Named on All-Pro

Buffalo Courier-Express
January 14, 1970

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     George Blanda may have started and ended his career in the other league, but his comments in this article at his retirement in 1976 leave no question that he was 'AFL all the way'.
    "In 1960, the year after my involuntary retirement, a great thing happened to pro football.  The AFL was formed.
    "I can still hear the laughter.  The entrenched NFL owners and their toadies in the NFL sat Back and almost split their sides.  Or pretended to.
     "But after the AFL won two Super Bowls and in general proved its equality, and often its superiority, some of the laughter died down.
     "Now it's all NFL, but I still think of myself as an AFL player and I always will.
     "I only regret that we didn't have a Super Bowl from the very first.  But the NFL guys ducked us.  They were wise.  We'd have held our own - more than held our own."

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THE BUFFALO NEWS
SPORTS
Wednesday, February 14, 2001
Copyright 2001 by the Buffalo News

Felser chronicled the growth of Professional Football in Buffalo

Larry Felser: a Buffalo guy at heart

COMMENTARY

Jerry Sullivan

A younger sports writer can only imagine what it must have been like to cover the American Football League in 1960. It seems like such a distant time now. John F. Kennedy had not been elected when the first game was played. The space program was in its infancy. The tumult of the Sixties was still a faraway murmur.

It must have been incredibly exciting to be Larry Felser back then, to be a young reporter getting his first crack at pro football, to feel a writing career and a new football league ascending together, uncertain where it would all lead.

Felser hopped aboard the AFL that first year, and he got the ride of his life. This week, he rides into retirement, leaving daily newspaper work exactly 50 years after taking his first job as a copy boy at the Courier-Express.

Pro football took him from creaky old ballparks to shiny domed stadiums; from portable typewriters to Windows 98; from Cookie Gilchrist to O.J. Simpson to Thurman Thomas; from the old Courier to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He saw the AFL grow, in the space of 10 years, from a maverick upstart league to a respected competitor and, finally, a partner when it merged with the NFL in 1970. He chronicled the league as it evolved into America’s pre-eminent sporting institution. He has covered all 35 Super Bowls and saw his hometown team play in it four consecutive times.

By the end of the 1960s, Felser was a national figure in the sports media; he was a respected weekly voice in The Sporting News for a quarter century. But through it all, he remained at heart a Buffalo guy, a local treasure, an all-around good person who never changed and never lost sight of his roots.

“He’s one guy you don’t have to lie about,” said Jerry Izenberg, the veteran sports columnist at The Newark Star-Ledger. “Larry Felser comes from a class of columnists who wrote for the people. They didn’t write lines, they wrote for the people. It’s a dying thing. There was no question who Larry’s audience was. From what I know of him and about Buffalo, I think it was the perfect marriage.”

Izenberg and Felser are among the eight sports writers who have covered every Super Bowl. It’s a distinction they cherish. Every year, the eight look forward to meeting for dinner during the week of the big game.

“It’s like a drug,” Izenberg said. “If we’re not there, that means we’re dead. Generally, we hold each other up.”

Izenberg said he and Felser shared a special affinity because Newark and Buffalo were similar cities, unfairly maligned in the national consciousness. He said Felser rose above any negative perceptions of his hometown. Vic Carucci, who worked alongside him for nearly 20 years on The News’ football beat, said Felser felt it was his duty to represent Buffalo well.

“He carried the Buffalo pride thing more than any of us,” Carucci said. “You weren’t just a representative of The Buffalo News, you were from Buffalo. No matter where you went, whether it was New York, Chicago or LA, they showed a remarkable respect for this man, and by extension, for Buffalo. He understood that how you carry yourself went a long way, and it was a valuable lesson. It was never anything he spoke of. You had to observe it to learn it.”

That level of respect doesn’t come by accident. Felser achieved it through decades of dedication and hard work, through countless hours spent cultivating sources and earning the trust of coaches, players, executives and other writers. They say the most important thing a man has is his word. In Felser’s case, his word – or his words – were impeccable.

“When people read Larry Felser, they said, ‘This is accurate. This is true,’ ” said Will McDonough, the longtime Boston Globe football writer and TV analyst, and one of the eight to cover all the Super Bowls. “Everybody respects him. He’s been fair, honest, accurate – everything you’d want if you owned a newspaper. Married to the same gal, all the traditional values. And he’s never changed.”

Former News columnist Jim Kelley, who worked with Felser for more than 30 years, said Felser is more appreciated outside Buffalo than anyone could imagine. “And that’s saying a lot,” Kelley said, “because he’s really appreciated here. Everywhere I’ve ever gone, if I told someone, ‘Larry Felser said hello,’ the door swings open. The guy opened more doors for me than any doorman at the Marriott. And no one ever said, ‘You’re friends with that jerk?’ Never.”

He was always ready with a kind word, or a helpful piece of advice, for a fellow writer. Carucci said one of the highlights of his early career came when former Bills coach Chuck Knox called him with a scoop, because Felser had told him Carucci could be trusted. The highest compliment you could get was when Larry called you “Cuz,” which meant you were OK in his book.

Felser was a tough guy to compete with. Jim Peters, who took over the Bills’ beat for the Courier when Felser came to The News in 1963, said he worked hard to build up contacts, but he could never keep up. But he was grateful, because going against Felser kept you on your toes. It made you better. And you could always count on him as a friend.

“I remember the day the Courier-Express closed in 1982,” said Peters, who is now retired from The News. “I wasn’t in the office 10 minutes when the phone rang. It was Larry. He said, don’t do anything foolish. We’d like you to come down here. It was one of the most welcome phone calls I ever had. I’ll never forget him for that.”

The guy wasn’t perfect. Like many sports writers, he had his share of adventures with cars. Carucci says he’ll never forget the time Felser drove a rental car out of the Orange Bowl parking lot after covering a Bills-Dolphins game and took a wrong turn. Carucci and Milt Northrop looked on in horror, certain they were about to die, as Felser narrowly missed colliding with a car going 80 mph.

“He’d been at the Orange Bowl more than the rest of us put together,” Northrop said. “And every time he left that place, he still turned the wrong way.”

Carucci said from that point forward, he was the designated driver on road trips. Felser did not object.

Edwin Pope, the veteran Miami Herald sports columnist (and yes, another of the original eight), recalled that he and Felser covered the United States’ historic win over the Soviets in hockey at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. When they came out of the arena, Felser’s rental car was gone. It had been towed. Felser paid about $150 to reclaim it at the police station, only to find that the front end had been ruined. Miracle on Ice indeed.

Pope said it was the only time he ever saw Felser really angry. Mostly, he just rolled with the punches.

Affable and accurate, that’s Larry. A gifted writer and dogged reporter who gave you the clear, unvarnished truth.

“I used to call him the Swami,” said Ed Abramoski, who was the Bills’ trainer for the first 36 years of their existence and is now on the Wall of Fame. “Larry was always so up on what was going to happen in the NFL, he’d tell me ahead of time. I’d say, ‘Go on. What are you, a swami?’

“The players might not have liked what he wrote. But one thing they always told me was Larry always had the facts. You might not agree with the premise or the conclusion, but his facts were always correct. As a matter of fact, when Billy Shaw asked me to give his introduction at the Hall of Fame, I called up Larry, and we went to lunch.”

Abramoski said Felser was instrumental in Shaw becoming the first Hall of Famer to play his entire career in the old AFL, although Felser wouldn’t take the credit. But he could be a persuasive voice when those votes were being taken.

“When he gets up and talks in those meetings, everybody listens,” Pope said.

“They don’t make them like him anymore,” said Knox, who met Felser as a Jets assistant in 1963. “I really believe that. He’s one of a few that came up through the ranks and got better with his profession. I never felt it was personal with Larry. He looked at it, and if we didn’t play well, he had the right to say it.”

Jerry Green, who has covered all 35 Super Bowls for the Detroit News, said Felser knew more football than most of the national writers, and most important of all, he was a workhorse.

“Larry was sort of an offensive lineman among sports writers,” Green said. “He did the blocking, the smashing. He had that kind of work ethic. Games are won in the trenches; that’s where the good stories come from, too.”

In fact, Felser was an offensive lineman. He started at guard for Canisius High in 1950. Even then, he was a class act. Jack Fahey, one of the team’s stars back then, said it was Felser who convinced him to stay on the team when he wanted to quit as a junior. As a senior, Fahey became a high school All-American.

It’s a rare man who can say he’s covered all 35 Super Bowls and played in a St. Joe’s-Canisius football game. People in Buffalo don’t know just how good they’ve had it all these years, to have a giant like Larry Felser come up in their midst and spend his entire professional life here.

It’s a good thing they don’t use those old typewriters anymore, because it’s pretty clear that none of us could carry his.

Jerry Sullivan's commentaries appear regularly on the Sports pages of the Buffalo News

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Could '64 Bills have won 'Super Bowl' against Browns?
The Buffalo News
5/29/2005

By MARK GAUGHAN

The old war stories will be traded back and forth when former Buffalo Bills from the team's two great eras reunite for the team's Celebration of Champions next weekend.

Jack Kemp, Jim Kelly and a slew of other ex-Bills will return to Ralph Wilson Stadium for the 40th anniversary of the 1965 championship team and a 15th anniversary of the Bills' first Super Bowl team. Festivities run Thursday through Sunday, highlighted by the unveiling of the team's throwback jersey at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

So it's a good week to chew on a hot stove topic: How would the Bills' greatest AFL championship team, the 1964 squad, have fared against the NFL champion Cleveland Browns?

"We'd have won hands down," former Bills cornerback Booker Edgerson said.

"This is all hearsay and all talk," said Bills Hall-of-Fame guard Billy Shaw. "I've said it many times before of the AFL champions prior to the Super Bowl, that was probably the team that could have really played with NFL champions. I'll say this: We matched up really good with them. I'd have loved to have had that opportunity."

The '64 Browns went 10-3-1 and whipped the Baltimore Colts, 27-0, in the NFL title game. Baltimore had the No. 1 offense and the No. 1 defense in the league. The Browns boasted Pro Football Hall of Famers in running back Jim Brown, receiver Paul Warfield, kicker Lou Groza and coach Paul Brown [Editor's note: Blanton Collier replaced Paul Brown* as coach in 1963.  The 1964 Browns were Collier's team.]. The Browns had two other all-league players (tackle Dick Schafrath and linebacker Jim Houston) plus two others who would become repeat all-league picks (receiver Gary Collins and guard Gene Hickerson).

The '64 Bills went 12-2 and whipped the San Diego Chargers, 20-7, in the AFL title game. The Bills had one Hall of Famer in Shaw. Shaw was one of three Bills on the AFL's All-Decade Team, along with defensive tackle Tom Sestak and safety George Saimes. Ten Bills made all-league in '64.

The Bills' defense was superior to the Browns' defense.

Buffalo allowed the fewest rushing yards of any team in AFL history in '64 - 913 or just 65 yards a game. The Bills also had 50 sacks, more than in any season since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

The Browns' defense was good but not great. It ranked fifth in points allowed. There probably were only two Browns defenders - Houston and defensive end Bill Glass - who could have started for the Bills that year.

Because the Bills were noted for defense, it's surprising to note that the '64 Buffalo team compiled the fourth-most yards of any offense in AFL history - 5,206.

The Bills had great balance, with Cookie Gilchrist leading the running game and deep-threat receivers Elbert Dubenion and Glenn Bass averaging 27.1 and 20.9 yards per catch, respectively.

Kemp had a superb arm and was a great big-game quarterback but ran notoriously hot and cold that year. He threw 13 TD passes and 26 interceptions.

The Browns were quarterbacked by Frank Ryan, who had 25 TDs and 19 INTs. The Browns had a superb offensive line, led by Schafrath, Hickerson and center John Morrow. Warfield was an all-time great, and Collins was a 6-foot-4, better version of ex-Niner Dwight Clark.

If the Bills could shut down Lance Alworth and the Chargers' passing game, they could have shut down Warfield and Collins.

The Bills would have put Edgerson on Warfield and Butch Byrd on Collins and played a physical style. Edgerson and Byrd were great at bump-and-run coverage.

"I think we would have had an advantage with the bump and run," Edgerson said. "The NFL receivers didn't know how to handle it. It took them several years (into interleague games) before they figured out how to handle it. I'd drive Lance to the inside all the time, where you've got (linebackers) John Tracey and Mike Stratton waiting for him. You don't let him get to the outside."

The game would have given Gilchrist a stage on which to perform against Brown, the greatest running back of all time.

Kemp, who will be at the stadium Saturday, is judicious in his assessment of the two teams, but he doesn't hold back when it comes to Cookie.

"Cookie was better than Jim Brown," Kemp said. "Jim Brown is a good friend of mine. But Cookie, in my opinion, was better all around. He could block. He could catch passes. He could tackle. He could kick field goals. He was really one of the greatest all-around football players ever. Jim Brown was the greatest runner."

Could the Bills' great defense have contained Brown well enough to win? That's the intriguing, unanswerable question.

"I think with our ends, Ron McDole and Tom Day, they would have forced him to the inside," Edgerson said. "I didn't see a whole lot of games Jim played. But to me he never was as successful running right up the middle. He'd bounce it outside and he was gone. Cornerbacks didn't want to tackle him. I think we could have kept him from getting outside."

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....Welcome to the Electronic Edition of the Buffalo News....
1/14/2007

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by Larry Felser

Chargers field best team since '63 champions

I can still picture the break-open play the last time the San Diego Chargers met the Patriots in a postseason game, the 1963 AFL championship in crumbling old Balboa Stadium.
On the second play from scrimmage, running back Keith Lincoln ran 56 yards up the middle to set up San Diego's first touchdown. For Lincoln and the Chargers, it was just the beginning. The next time Lincoln touched the ball he ran 67 yards for a touchdown. The Patriots interrupted with their only touchdown of the day but Lincoln's sensational running-back partner, Paul Lowe, scored San Diego's third touchdown of the first quarter on a 58-yard run.
By the time he was through, Lincoln carried the ball just 13 times for 206 yards, caught seven passes, including a third touchdown, for 123 yards and completed his only pass for 20 additional yards. In winning, 51-10, the Chargers rolled up 610 yards in demolishing a defense that had choked off the Bills in their 26-8 playoff victory for the Eastern championship in Buffalo eight days earlier.
Until today, that may have been the greatest San Diego team of all time. Early in the '70s, after the merger of the AFL and the NFL, the editor of the Super Bowl program, impressed by a popular debate feature on 60 Minutes called "Point-Counterpoint," wanted to stage a similar debate in the program's pages. He hired two sportswriters to debate whether any AFL champion could have defeated the NFL champ before Super Bowls were invented.
The selection of the pro-NFL debater was obvious. Tex Maule of Sports Illustrated, who was partially responsible for the mushrooming popularity of pro football, had been an unabashed NFL homer since the AFL was formed. In 1964 he concocted a phony playoff between the Bills, the AFL champ, and the NFL's Cleveland Browns in the pages of his magazine. Tex had the Browns winning by seven touchdowns, with Daryle Lamonica scoring the only Buffalo points in garbage time.
His debate opponent was me.
The debate was played out in the program's centerfold with a photo of Tex and me - our sleeves rolled up, our fists cocked, ready to duke it out - above it.
My argument centered on the 1963 season, with the Chicago Bears, a team almost the direct opposite of the Chargers, the NFL champion. The Bears, in fact, were similar to the current Chicago team, brutally effective on defense and full of holes on offense. Their defense, coached by future Hall of Famer George Allen, had three future Hall of Fame players in its lineup - middle linebacker Bill George, end Doug Atkins and tackle Stan Jones.
The Bears lost only one game, although they were tied twice late in their 14-game schedule. They allowed foes an average of just 10.3 points and then smothered the New York Giants, 14-10, in the NFL championship game, intercepting quarterback Y.A. Tittle five times. The Bears had to play great defense because nine of the league's 14 teams scored more points during the season. With journeyman Bill Wade their starting quarterback, they finished with fewer passing yards than 10 other teams. So the "paper game" hinged on whether the Chicago defense could completely stop an offense devised by Hall of Fame head coach Sid Gillman, father of the modern passing game, with two other future Hall of Famers, wide receiver Lance Alworth and tackle Ron Mix, along with Lincoln and Lowe and a stellar offensive line.
My argument was that speed would give the day to San Diego. Alworth was the fastest receiver in football. Lincoln and Lowe were deadly, particularly running outside on quick tosses behind two great tackles, Mix and Ernie Wright. Al Davis had left Gillman's staff to build the Raiders' dynasty that season. The Raiders owner, Wayne Valley, asked him "why can't we run those quick tosses like San Diego?" Davis' answer was "because we don't have tackles like Mix and Wright."
The Chargers defense? It contained stars like end Earl Faison and 6-foot-9, 320-pound Ernie Ladd, the biggest man in football at the time. It was also coordinated by a coach whose future would be brighter than that of George Allen's - Chuck Noll, who won four Super Bowls as the Steelers' coach.
No winner was declared. That conclusion was left to the readers. Today's game will be far different, too, than the Chargers-Patriots title match of 43 seasons ago: Back then the Pats didn't have a Tom Brady playing quarterback.

Larry Felser, former News columnist, appears in Sunday's editions.

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Welcome to the Electronic Edition of the Buffalo News
10/23/2005

TackleHeardRoundtheWorld.gif (426780 bytes)

Sports

BUFFALO SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Stratton's 1964 hit still brings smiles
 


Tackle in title game will be major topic at arena induction

By BUCKY GLEASON
News Sports Reporter
10/23/2005

  Click to view larger picture

Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News file photo
"I really enjoy being remembered for something that was decent. I don't want to be infamous."

It was only a brief moment in history, a few seconds of a life that now spans 64 years, but Mike Stratton is still asked about it all the time. Every time he visits Western New York, somebody mentions the play. Every time old clips come on ESPN Classic, he stares at the television and smiles.
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Stratton remembers everything about his lick on Keith Lincoln in the 1964 American Football League championship game. It was the most memorable hit in Buffalo Bills' history, one that's credited with changing momentum and lifting the Bills to a 20-7 victory over the San Diego Chargers.
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In truth, Stratton worried he was getting burned.
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"Fear took over," Stratton said. "It got me there about the same time the ball got to Lincoln. I knew both of us felt it, but you pretend like it
 
didn't hurt. When I saw he wasn't getting up, I was really happy. He had already done enough damage. I didn't want him to be hurt. I just didn't want him to play any more that day."

Stratton's hit led the Bills to their first of two AFL titles over the Chargers and helped earn him a place on the Wall of Fame. On Tuesday, during a ceremony in HSBC Arena, he will be inducted to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame along with another former Bills linebacker who wore No. 58, Shane Conlan.

The other inductees include Buffalo State basketball coach Dick Bihr; late Sabres trainer Frank Christie; the late Erie Community College bowling coach Kerm Helmer; archer David Hryn; former Jamestown High football coach Wally Huckno; former Buffalo News columnist Jim Kelley; amateur golfer John Konsek; weightlifter Don Reinhoudt; and late three-sport star Phil Scaffidi.

"I have so many wonderful feelings and emotions with the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Bills," Stratton said. "The problem I'm going to have is trying to boil some of those down so they might make sense to someone else."

Lincoln had gained 47 yards on three carries and caught one pass for 11 yards in helping the Chargers take a 7-0 lead. On their second possession, Lincoln ran into the flat for a swing pass, was leveled by Stratton and never returned. The collision heard throughout War Memorial Stadium became known as "The Hit Heard Around the World." Many believed it helped solidify the future of the Bills.

"I would love to take credit for that," Stratton said, "but that's ludicrous."

Stratton was selected in the 13th round of the 1962 AFL draft from the University of Tennessee. He played 11 seasons with the Bills, was chosen for six straight AFL all-star games and played for both championship teams. He finished his career with 30 and a half sacks and 18 interceptions over his 142 games with Buffalo. He was considered one of the best linebackers in the league, but he's most known for the hit on Lincoln.

"I really enjoy being remembered for something that was decent," he said. "I don't want to be infamous. If somebody has an opportunity to remember something from 40 years ago, I'm tickled to death."

Stratton left the Bills after the 1972 season, then played one year for San Diego before retiring. He never played in what is now Ralph Wilson Stadium. He spent his entire career playing home games at War Memorial, which was known as the "Rockpile." Lincoln joined the Bills in 1967 and played through the 1968 season.

"We had some opportunities to talk about it," Stratton said. "They were rather short conversations."

Stratton has visited Ralph Wilson Stadium every year for the past decade and has fond memories of living in Western New York. Stratton and his wife, Jane, have four children, 10 grandchildren. They live in Knoxville, Tenn., where Stratton started his own company, Financial Solutions.

His two oldest children were born at St. Joseph's Hospital in Cheektowaga. His oldest daughter, Melanie, was born Nov. 12, 1964, and was wrapped in a blanket at the Rockpile when Stratton made the hit on Lincoln.

"Buffalo was like going home," he said. "It was the biggest surprise to us. We came from an area that was supposed to be known for southern hospitality, but the people and everything around Buffalo made such an impression on us that it was more like home living in Buffalo than it was in Tennessee."

e-mail: bgleason@buffnews.com

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       Back in 1971, Mike Curtis was still whining about the Colts' loss to the Jets in the Third World Championship Game, and complaining that the Colts had to "move to the AFL".
       AFL fan
nospam.johnyrad@optonline.net was kind enough to send us this copy of a "letter to the editor" from the December 1971 Football Digest.

       "So Mike Curtis doesn't like being in the AFL?  Well, the feeling is mutual.  AFL fans would rather have kept their name and emblem and let the NFL keep their three teams."

       "The Jets burst the NFL's balloon.  You can't put a balloon back together, Mike."

       "The Vikings may get a shot at revenge against the Chiefs someday, but the Colts never did and never will beat the Jets in a Super Bowl."

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