1960: Oilers Win 1st Official Game, 37-22

George Blanda (#16), QB of the 1960 Houston Oilers

George Blanda (#16), QB of the 1960 Houston Oilers

The weekend of September 9-11, 1960 marked the birth of the new American Football League as the time for the eight club circuit’s first four official games. Here are a few notes to help you keep track of the teams this UPI report is actually talking about. Because of certain changes and double uses, it may be confusing to newcomers as to how these mascot names have sometimes evolved, disappeared, or mutated into favor in some other cities over time:

Boston Patriots: Boston is still good enough as an identity for the Red Sox, but not the Pats. Infected by the marketing era of trying to make each club more appealing to a larger fan base area, they later became what now are, the New England Patriots. Hmmm. Makes you wonder how the Boston Red Sox ever managed to stay popular without also becoming the New England Red Sox, doesn’t it?

Buffalo Bills: They always were. Always will be. And always remain the same old Buffalo Bills. – Now, does that all three time stations description of the Buffalo Bills also make them “God”? My guess is – “only in Buffalo”.

Dallas Texans:  There’s a scent of missed irony here, among current television media people covering the 2013 NFL, at least. Maybe it’s just old news that no longer matters, but I will express it here, anyway. Last Sunday, when the Houston Texans lost 17-16 to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, they fell to the club that was originally known as the Dallas Texans. That is, before they moved from Dallas to Kansas City and became the Chiefs as part of the NFL-AFL war settlement.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos won the first official league game over Los Angeles on Friday, 9/09/1960. They have remained over time who they always were – the Denver Broncos.

Houston Oilers: Most of us in Houston know this one by heart. When the club deserted us in 1997, they took our identity with them to Tennessee to play briefly there as the Oilers before adopting an old New York moniker  and becoming the Tennessee Titans that still are today.

New York Titans: This club has no common team history with the bunch now operating in Tennessee. They had to change their nickname for the best of reasons. – The early years performance record of the New York Titans was no better than the success mark of the great steamer Titanic. All their hitting ran them straight into business icebergs that sank the ship every season. You guessed it. – They changed their name to the New York Jets and were later saved by Joe Namath.

Los Angeles Chargers: The club eventually moved south to become the club they still are today, the San Diego Chargers.

Oakland Raiders:  Theirs was the perfect identity for the “Somali Pirates” of professional football. Like Jean LaFitte too, the Raiders sometimes pulled up stakes for safer ground, but always returned to their home in the waters of Oakland. Today their middle years playing out as the Los Angeles Raiders almost seems like a bad dream that never really happened. – But it did.

In The Beginning

Now let’s take a brief look at how Houston and the others did on their first weekend of regular season play back in 1960 as the American Football League:

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Pro Football Round Up

OILERS WHIP RAIDERS, 37-22;

CHARGERS NIP TEXANS, 21-20

By United Press International

National Football League castoffs provided most of the thrills in the American Football League’s first weekend of operation, but the fans hardly knocked down the doors to watch the new pro loop’s debut.

Still, the turnout in Boston was encouraging; three of the four games were exciting, and the well-heeled and optimistic backers of the infant league were banking on the closeness of competition to help make their venture a financial as well as an artistic success.

Heavy Downpour

The New York Titans were victims of bad weather Sunday as only 9,607 (5.727 paid) turned out in a heavy downpour to see the team’s impressive victory over the Buffalo Bills, 27-3. A crowd of 12, 709 watched the Houston Oilers spoil the Oakland Raider’s first home appearance, 37-22.

At Los Angeles Saturday night, 17,724 paid to watch the home town Chargers whip the Dallas Texans, 21-20, in a battle of two of the AFL’s best teams. Boston drew the biggest house of the weekend Friday night when a crowd of 21,597 attended the Denver Broncos’ 13-10 upset victory over the Patriots.

60,000 Paid

That added up to about 60,000 paid admissions for a whole week’s schedule, but if the American Leaguers were disappointed, they didn’t show it.

“We had a bad break in the weather,” said president Harry Wismer of the Titans. “But we looked good in winning. We knew it might take a few games for the league to catch on. As the fans become aware of the close, exciting football in this league, I’m sure we (will) do better.”

NFL Refugees

George Blanda, Al Dorow, Jack Kemp, and Ben Agajanian, all refugees from the NFL, played important roles in weekend victories.

Blanda, a 12-year handyman with the Chicago Bears, passed for four touchdowns, kicked four conversions, and an 18-yard field goal in Houston’s victory over Oakland.

The outweighed Raiders gained a 7-7 halftime tie and went ahead in the third period when Ed Macon ran back a pass interception 42 yards for a TD. Blanda then passed 32 yards to Bill Groman and three yards to Johnny Carson, putting the Oilers ahead. Blanda’s field goal and an eight-yard touchdown run by Dave Smith put the game out of Oakland’s reach.

Billy Cannon, highly publicized L.S.U. All-America halfback, gained 59 yards in 12 carries for Houston.

~ excerpt from the Oxnard (CA) Press Courier, Monday, September 12, 1960, Page 9.

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Save the Dome!

Save the Dome!

 

 

“Save the Astrodome. ~ Give new life to the Eighth Wonder of the World. ~ Vote Yes on Harris County Proposition 2.”

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2 Responses to “1960: Oilers Win 1st Official Game, 37-22”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    The Denver Broncos won the first-ever AFL game on September 9, 1960, but it was against the Boston Patriots at Nickerson Field. The first-ever touchdown came on a pass from Frank Tripucka to Al Carmichael. Gene Mingo added the extra point. Tripucka’s number “18” was the retired by Broncos, but is now being worn by Peyton Manning–with Tripucka’s blessing. Frank Tripucka died September 12th. All the original mascot names have survived–including Titans and Texans–except Oilers, the team that won the first two AFL championships.

  2. Bob Hulsey Says:

    Here are a few great anecdotes about the fledgling league:

    The original Oakland Raiders were awarded to Minneapolis but the NFL quickly rushed expansion franchises to Minnesota and Dallas, prompting the exodus to Oakland and, later, the migration of the Dallas Texans to Kansas City.

    The original Raiders were a team built on a shoestring whose games were held at a variety of high school fields – one named for a local undertaker. Al Davis started as an assistant coach who quickly worked his way up to head coach, team owner and AFL Commissioner. He was the league’s “evil genius”.

    The “Jets” was a handy moniker that rhymed with the “Mets” whom they often shared stadia with, first at the Polo Grounds then Shea Stadium. Later the rhymes included the pro basketball “Nets” and the World Team Tennis “Sets”. Shea Stadium was also well known for the noisy jet airplanes that roared on their way to and from nearby JFK Airport. It was marketing genius.

    Hotel magnate Baron Hilton owned the Chargers who were not named after lightning bolts or horses as some might imagine. Hilton was heavily invested in a rather new invention known as the “charge card” (aka credit card) and Hilton thought this name might help him drum up some extra business.

    The Boston area had no pro football team for decades after the Redskins moved to Washington DC. Their name came not as an homage to Native Americans but as a spin off of the popular Beantown baseball franchises of the day – the Red Sox and the Braves. Therefore “Redskins” could lure fans from both camps.

    It’s amazing to think that professional football could not sell in New England but the NFL stayed clear of the area for a long, long time.

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