SI Vault
September 14, 1959
International Gamesmanship
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 14, 1959

Events & Discoveries

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5

The young man who started all this is Lamar Hunt, 27-year-old son of H. L. (for Haroldson Lafayette) Hunt, whom FORTUNE has classified ($400-million-to-$700-million class) as one of the seven richest men in the country. Quietly rugged Lamar, whose football experience included playing third-string end at Southern Methodist, where teammates nicknamed him "poor boy," decided that the best way to bring pro football to Dallas was to start his own league in competition with the 37-year-old National Football League. Traveling from coast to coast this summer at a pace that once found him spending a night on a Newark Airport couch, fast-moving young Lamar lined up financial backers in five cities ( New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Houston) to go with his own franchise in Dallas and announced formation of the American Football League.

But moving in on the same potentially lush grazing range now are the sons of two other Texas tycoons, Clint W. Murchison Jr., 35, son of Clint Sr. ($100-million-to-$200-million class), and Bedford Wynne, 36, son of Dallas' unranked but not unremarked Angus Wynne (real estate, cattle, oil). Attempting for some time to get the NFL to move into Dallas, they got a big boost in the hope department the other day when the NFL expansion committee recommended Dallas and Houston as the sites of two new NFL teams.

Getting the NFL expansion news on his car radio while driving home, Lamar's blood got as hot as the sizzling Dallas temperature. "This is an effort to sabotage us that will be apparent to 170 million people," he charged. He immediately reminded the NFL that Congress is well-known to be interested in the monopoly aspects of professional football.

Then, working harder than ever from the small Dallas Mercantile Bank Building office where he answers his own phone, Lamar Hunt began to battle for his newborn league and exchange potshots with his Dallas rivals.

Neither side thought much of what the other could offer on a football field. "It'll be an accident if any new NFL club finishes out of the cellar," said young Hunt. At the same time young Wynne was observing that the chances of Hunt's league proving successful are "very problematical, with the lack of players available and the caliber of players he'd have to go with."

Young Murchison even suggested that Hunt's new league was just a rich man's form of sour grapes. "I think that Lamar would have preferred an NFL franchise himself," said Murchison. "Formation of a new league was more or less a last resort."

But won't the American tendency to back an underdog help handsome young Lamar and his AFL? a questioner asked Murchison.

"Well, I'll be damned!" cried Clint. "You're the first person I ever heard call a Hunt an underdog!"

Meanwhile New Leaguer Lamar was getting set for a Los Angeles meeting this weekend, when two more teams are expected to be added to his AFL and a commissioner named.

In Texas, where you never punt until fourth down, Lamar Hunt still has the ball. (He also has a one-year option on the best ball field in Dallas—the Cotton Bowl.) For the present, Murchison, Wynne and the NFL can chiefly watch and wait.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5