-Caveat Lector-

an excerpt from:
Interference
Dan E. Moldea©1989
William Morrow and Company, Inc.
New York, NY
ISBN 0-688-08303-X
---[9]--
10
A New Commissioner

ON AUGUST 14, 1959, twenty-seven-year-old Texas oilman Lamar Hunt announced
that what soon became known as the American Football League (AFL) had been
created to rival the NFL. Hunt was the owner of the new Dallas Texans and one
of three sons of H. L. Hunt, Jr., an oil-rich tycoon who was also a big-money
sports gambler and a close friend of Mafia bookmaker Frank Erickson. Lamar
Hunt had earlier tried and failed to buy both the Chicago Cardinals and a new
Dallas franchise for the NFL but was rejected. Consequently, he decided to
form his own league.

Harry Wismer—who had been part owner of the Washington Redskins and became
the majority owner of the New York Titans, another AFL team-wrote that he had
first met Lamar Hunt when the AFL was being formed.[1] However, Wismer had
previously known Hunt's father. "I first met the [elder] Hunt at a party
given by Ray Ryan, an old friend of mine. Ryan [was] one of the biggest
gamblers in the country and called the senior Hunt his 'pigeon.' There was
nothing phony about Hunt. He made his fortune by borrowing fifty dollars and
betting he could find oil on land where the geologists said there wasn't any.
H. L. Hunt's philosophy of life was that a man would succeed if he kept
plugging and was willing to gamble. Ryan told me [Wismer] he thought that
H.L. bet close to a million dollars a week during the football season. That's
a staggering sum to most but a drop in the bucket to him. "[2]

Author Don Kowet reported, "Hunt's only use for money, outside of making more
money, was to wager it. He employed a graduate of MIT as a full-time
statistician, to compute the odds on his various bets. He placed those bets
through a special communications system, installed in his office, which
connected him with the major horse tracks and bookmakers around the country.
"[3]

Bookmaker Marty Kane told me, "H. L. Hunt stiffed about four or five
bookmakers for a lot of money, including Gil Beckley. Hunt just told them he
wasn't going to pay. He was really a greasy son of a bitch."

The Hunt family contained serious gamblers. However, there is no evidence
that the low-key Lamar Hunt was ever a sports gambler. Yet, it is difficult
to believe that he did not, wittingly or unwittingly, pass along inside
information about his team to members of his family. There is little in his
father's background to suggest that he was above gaining such an edge.

Another AFL team owner was Barron Hilton. He purchased the Los Angeles
Chargers and moved the team to San Diego in 1961. A longtime gambler, Hilton
was a top executive of the Hilton Hotel chain. He was the son of Conrad
Hilton, who had built the first Hilton Hotel in 1919.[4] Barron's older
brother, Nicky, had been the first husband of actress Elizabeth Taylor.[5]

Barron Hilton, a college dropout, resisted the hotel business at first,
turning down an offer at age nineteen to work for his father. Instead, he
bought interests in other companies. By 1960, he had sold off his own
business and returned to the family fold. He was immediately appointed by his
father as a vice president for the hotel chain. While taking an active role
in Hilton affairs, he helped to create the Carte Blanche credit card company
and bought the Chargers of the AFL.[6]

Hilton told The Wall Street journal that he was called into his father's
office when his businesses appeared to be in trouble. "I've been reviewing
the operations of the football club and I've noticed that you have a very
substantial loss of about $900,000," Conrad Hilton told his son. "And the
credit card business looks to me like it's going to lose about $1.5 million.
What kind of record are you trying to establish?’[7] Barron Hilton later sold
his interest in Carte Blanche, but he kept the Chargers.

Hilton had maintained a long-term personal and business relationship with Los
Angeles attorney Sidney Korshak, according to an official statement made by
Korshak to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. Korshak has also
been described by law-enforcement agencies as "the link between the
legitimate business world and organized crime." He had been active in
Hollywood since the early 1940s but had moved to Los Angeles in January 1948,
beginning a new and more sophisticated era of the crime syndicate's
penetration of the film industry.[8]

Korshak had done legal work for Hilton. He had been recommended to Hilton by
Patrick Hoy, a mutual friend and a top executive with General Dynamics, the
military hardware firm.

The other members of the AFL—all of whom put up $25,000 for their charter
franchises, as well as "performance bonds" of $100,000—were

* Philips Petroleum heir and the AFL's cofounder Kenneth Stanley "Bud" Adams
of the Houston Oilers, a close friend of the Hunt family, who owned Texas
Adams Oil which distributed Philips Petroleum's products;

* minor-league baseball team owner Bob Howsam of Colorado, who purchased the
Denver Broncos and immediately named Frank Filchock as his head coach;[9] and

* Austrian-born Max Winter, an ex-boxing promoter and vending machine
operator, who bought the Minnesota Vikings. Winter was the former owner of
the Minneapolis Lakers of the National Basketball Association. The team moved
to Los Angeles in 1957 and became the Los Angeles Lakers.

Two other AFL franchises were purchased in the fall of 1959.

* Detroit trucking executive and thoroughbred race horse stable owner Ralph
C. Wilson, the owner of Ralph C. Wilson Industries and a onetime minority
owner of the Detroit Lions, created the Buffalo Bills after unsuccessfully
attempting to gain the use of the Orange Bowl for a Miami franchise.

* Pittston Corporation executive William H. "Billy" Sullivan, Jr., organized
the Boston Patriots.[10]

World War II pilot and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Joe Foss, the
former governor of South Dakota, was selected as the AFL's commissioner.
League play was slated to begin in 1960.

The owners of the AFL were nicknamed the Foolish Club. Professional football
experts and the media gave the new league little chance of long-term survival.

However, there was good news for the upstart AFL in July 1960. Giving the new
league a showcase, ABC bought the five-year television rights to AFL games
for $10.65 million. The AFL proved its worth, producing a new, wide-open
style of football featuring exciting passers and pass-receivers, as well as
highscoring contests, which caused oddsmakers to take notice and to begin
setting lines on the new league's games.

On October 11, 1959, two months after the formation of the AFL,
sixty-five-year-old Bert Bell died of a heart attack with six years left on
his contract as NFL commissioner. Also, earlier in the year,
seventy-one-year-old Tim Mara, the founder of the New York Giants, had a
heart attack and died too. His team was taken over by his sons, Wellington
and Jack Mara.[11]

Bell had actually been supportive of the entry of the AFL into the ranks of
professional football and provided the new league's management with
considerable advice and support. Although he may have done so for altruistic
purposes, Bell was also fully aware that in Washington, D.C., Congress was in
the midst of its preliminary investigation into possible antitrust violations
within the professional sports world. By encouraging the AFL, Bell and the NFL
 had hedged their bet.

After Bell's death, NFL treasurer Austin Gunsel became the acting chief
executive officer of the league. Gunsel, a former FBI agent, wanted to
maintain Bell's ritual of keeping in touch with mobsters and bookmakers in
order to monitor the betting line. "When my father died," Upton Bell told me,
"Austin Gunsel asked my older brother [Bert Bell, Jr.] who these people were.
My brother said, 'I don't know, and I wouldn't tell you if I did.' Bert Bell
promised that as long as they gave him the information every week, he would
take their names to his grave-which he did." Consequently, Gunsel had to
develop his own sources.

On January 26, 1960, thirty-three-year-old Alvin "Pete" Rozelle, who had
served as the general manager of the Los Angeles Rams, was tapped to succeed
the seemingly irreplaceable Bell at a meeting of the NFL owners at the
Kenilworth Hotel in Miami. Rozelle was selected as a compromise candidate on
the twentythird ballot of voting.[12] He was strongly supported by New York
Giants owner Wellington Mara, head coach Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns,
and Carroll Rosenbloom, who placed Rozelle's name in nomination. Rozelle left
the room while the vote was taken. A few minutes later, Rosenbloom came out
alone and gave Rozelle the good news.

Tall and lanky, Rozelle, who was born in South Gate, a Los Angeles suburb,
was a former high school basketball player and teammate of the future
Brooklyn Dodgers baseball star Duke Snider. After graduation, he spent two
years in the Navy, serving in the South Pacific during World War II. When the
war ended, he studied at Compton junior College and then landed a job as a
stringer for the sports page at The Long Beach Press Telegram before
receiving his undergraduate degree. He also worked as Compton's athletic
publicity director. That same year, the Cleveland Rams moved to Los Angeles
and set up training camp at Compton. Rozelle began working part-time for the
Rams.

Encouraged by the Rams' public relations director, Maxwell Styles, Rozelle
returned to college and received his degree in English in 1950 from the
University of San Francisco, where he also served as athletic news director.
Through his association with the university and his past contacts, Rozelle
met the Rams general manager, Tex Schramm, who offered him a post as head of
the team's newly vacant public relations office. Rozelle worked with the Rams
until 1955 when he left the team to take a job with P. K. Macker Public
Relations and Advertising in San Francisco. However, urged by Bert Bell,
Rozelle returned to the Rams in 1957 to become the team's general manager,
replacing Schramm, who had left in the midst of a dispute among the Rams'
owners.[13]

As Rams manager, Rozelle was criticized in 1959 for signing Heisman Trophy
winner Billy Cannon of Louisiana State University before he was eligible.
Rozelle had slickly persuaded Cannon to sign an undated contract. However,
just after Rozelle became NFL commissioner, a judge voided the contract
between Cannon and the Rams and chided Rozelle for his actions. Cannon
eventually signed with Bud Adams and the Houston Oilers of the AFL.

The new commissioner, who was married and had a sixteenmonth-old daughter,
was given a three-year contract that paid him $50,000 a year—$20,000 more
than the league's highestpaid player. After he moved the league's front
office from Philadelphia to New York, Rozelle's initial problems with
managing the NFL had to do with questions of expansion and the league's own
television rights.

Rozelle advocated that the NFL sell its television rights to a single
network, and that the money from these rights be evenly divided among the NFL
teams. Rozelle's attempts to make such a deal with CBS were struck down by two
 federal court decisions, However, after Congress passed and President
Kennedy signed the Sports Broadcasting Act in September 1961, permitting
these kinds of single network arrangements, the NFL signed the first such
deal with CBS the following year. The NFL received $9.3 million for two
years; each team received nearly $332,000.

"It was like fate," said Art Rooney. "I don't know of any commissioner in
sports who could have done a better job with television and the league as a
whole."[14]

Rozelle's popularity was well deserved. He was making the NFL owners
extremely wealthy as he embarked upon a plan to share the wealth among all
the teams. According to Rozelle's "revenue-sharing" program, which was
loosely based on the AFL's policy, the NFL owners divided television revenues
and league promotional activities evenly; gate receipts for preseason games
were split fifty-fifty; revenues for play-off games were equally shared; and
gate receipts of regular season games were divided sixty-forty between the
home and visiting teams."

The result of this was that a team with a losing record would still make
nearly the same money as the league champion made.

Acting quickly on rumors of corruption in the NFL, Rozelle had investigators
probe a 1960 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Washington
Redskins—because of a reported sudden and dramatic change in the point
spread. The week before the game, the Steelers were favored by seven points
and then suddenly dropped to only one point, forcing bookmakers to take the
game off the boards. The game, played in Washington, ended in a 27-27 tie.
Those who had placed money on the Redskins and had been given one or more
points won their bets.

The results of Rozelle's investigation showed that during the week prior to
the game a photograph had been published across the country of Steelers
quarterback Bobby Layne—who was holding up his injured passing arm. It was
determined that
 Layne's well-publicized injury had caused the line to change so dramatically.

The incident contributed to the institutionalization of a new NFL
policy-initially begun informally under Bert Bell-which forced NFL teams to
file injury reports to the league's front office every Tuesday and Thursday
during the football season. As soon as these reports were collected and
organized, they were released to the public. Later, NFL teams were required
to describe player injuries under one of four categories: probable,
questionable, doubtful, and out.

A top NFL official told me, "It's just a matter of making sure that the
gamblers and the bookmakers don't have a monopoly on this kind of
information. We publish the injury reports so that it becomes common
knowledge, taking the edge away from the professional gamblers."

Also two days after Rozelle became commissioner, the NFL admitted two new
teams, the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings, the latter of which had
earlier been slated to become an AFL franchise but withdrew when the NFL slot
was offered.

In response to the Vikings' action, the new league immediately filed a $10
million antitrust suit against the NFL, which the AFL later lost. Also in
1960 the AFL sold a new franchise, the Oakland Raiders, to an eight-man
partnership headed by Y. Chet Soda.[16]

pps. 96-102
--[notes]—
CHAPTER 10

1. Wismer hired Sammy Baugh as the first head coach of the New York Titans.

2. Harry Wismer, The Public Calls It Sport (Englewood Cliffs, NJ.:
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1965), p. 66. H. L. Hunt died in November 1974.

3. Don Kowet, The Rich Who Own Sports (New York: Random House, Inc., 1977),
p. 81.

4. Conrad Hilton died in 1979 at age ninety-one. He had named Barron Hilton
the chief executive officer of the hotel chain in 1966.

5. Nicky Hilton died of cardiac arrest at age forty-two in February 1969.

6. Casino gambling would later account for 40 percent of the Hilton empire's
operating income. By 1972, Hilton had the controlling interest in two Las
Vegas hotel/casinos, which later became the Las Vegas Hilton and the Flamingo
Hilton.

7. The Wall Street Journal, 27 March 1987.

8. Involved with the major players in the extortion of Hollywood's motion
picture studios during the late 1930s and early 1940s, Korshak had been
described by Chicago Mafia figure Charles "Cherry Nose" Gioe as "our man."
Gioe, who was among the six Chicago mobsters indicted, told a corrupt
Hollywood union official, "I want you to do what he [Korshak] tells you. He's
not just another lawyer but knows our gang and figures our best interest. Pay
attention to him, and remember, any message he may deliver to you is a
message from us."

9. Howsam lasted only one year. After a 4-9-1 premier season, he sold his
interest in the Broncos to Cal Kunz and Gerald Phipps. Phipps, the son of a
wealthy and respected Denver family, bought out Kunz in 1965. After a 3-11
sequel in year two, Filchock was gone, as well.

10. The Boston Patriots became the New England Patriots in 1971.

11. Jack Mara died in 1965, leaving his interest in the Giants to his own son
but granting the operation of the team to Wellington.

12. Bell's heir apparent going into the first ballot was Marshall Leahy, a
San Francisco attorney who wanted the NFL headquarters to be in his hometown.
Leahy had to have eight votes among the twelve NFL teams to be elected but
could never muster up more than seven. He was opposed by interim commissioner
Austin Gunsel, who had received his support from the older owners but could
not get as many votes as Leahy could. Wellington Mara asked Dan Reeves of the
Rams if he would be interested in the job. He replied that he wasn't-but that
his general manager, Pete Rozelle, might be. Mara and Paul Brown then went to
Rozelle.

13. Reeves won the long ownership battle and bought full control of the Rams.
For what had been a $4 total investment by his partners in 1947, Reeves paid
them $4.8 million in 1962.

14. William Henry Paul, The Gray-Flannel Pigskin: Movers and Shakers of Pro
Football (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1974), p. 274.

15. NFL owners were not forced to split revenues derived from parking and
concessions, among other stadium moneymaking enterprises. Therefore, it was
in the owners' best interests to seek out new stadiums with more lucrative
facilities.

16. Soda and four other partners sold their interests in the Raiders to the
remaining partners-Ed McGah, Wayne Valley, and Robert Osborne-in January
1961. Osborne was bought out by his partners the following year. The Oakland
Raiders became the Los Angeles Raiders in 1982.
--[cont]--
Aloha, He'Ping,
Om, Shalom, Salaam.
Em Hotep, Peace Be,
Omnia Bona Bonis,
All My Relations.
Adieu, Adios, Aloha.
Amen.
Roads End

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