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Tex Maule
September 04, 1961
No team in professional sport ever got off to a more auspicious start than the Minnesota Vikings, who will play their first football game this month with 27,000 season tickets already sold
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September 04, 1961

Birth Of A Very Solvent Baby

No team in professional sport ever got off to a more auspicious start than the Minnesota Vikings, who will play their first football game this month with 27,000 season tickets already sold

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The five owners included three from Minneapolis (Boyer; H. P. Skoglund, president and principal stockholder of the North American Life and Casualty Co.; and Max Winter, a Minneapolis sports entrepreneur who formerly owned the basketball Lakers), one from St. Paul (Bernie Ridder Jr., publisher of the St. Paul evening Dispatch and morning Pioneer Press among other newspapers), and one from Duluth (Olaf Haugsrud, a wholesale candy and tobacco dealer who, incidentally, once owned the Duluth Eskimos in the old NFL.

Upon acquiring their franchise, Boyer and company, who were now the Vikings, moved logically to implement it. Their first employee was Joe Thomas, a football-wise former assistant coach for the Los Angeles Rams. He was hired in April of 1960 at the suggestion of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to do two things: first to scout college talent so that the Vikings would go into their first NFL draft meeting well prepared to make an intelligent selection of available college seniors; second, to scout the NFL itself so that the Vikings would be certain to pick the best of the players made available to them from the rest of the teams in the league.

Thomas did a good job; so good, in fact, that the Vikings will begin their maiden season in the NFL roughly 30% stronger than the Dallas Cowboys, who rushed into existence in the too-short space of six months and without the benefit of a player draft of college seniors.

Next in the order of business was the employment of a knowledgeable general manager. After considerable research, and after listening to an almost unanimous recommendation from the NFL club owners, the Vikings settled on Bert Rose Jr. Rose, who was at the time the publicity director for the Los Angeles Rams, fitted everybody's specifications neatly. He was—and is—an intense, intelligent man with a thorough background in pro football. Perhaps more important, he had worked for the most promotion-minded club in the NFL. As a side benefit, he had also worked for a group-owned team in the Rams—and in their case it was a group of five owners split by an unbridgeable schism. Diplomacy came as naturally to Rose as breathing.

"We turned the whole thing over to Bert." Boyer says. "Even now, I only spend about an hour a day on Viking business. We want to be informed. We leave all the decisions up to Bert and to Coach Norm Van Brocklin."

Rose, who had despaired of ever becoming the Rams' general manager, took over the Viking job with a sure hand and a ready imagination. He sat down and listed on a yellow, legal-size note pad the things he had to do. By last week the list had grown to 147 items, most of them completed and crossed off. No. 87 on the list, for instance, was a cryptic note: "Chain-gang uniforms." This was a reminder to Rose that he had to find easily noticed shirts for the officials who would man the first-down chains.

The most pressing immediate problem, and first on Rose's list, was the sale of 25,000 season tickets, a prerequisite for admission to the National Football League. Rose opened his season-ticket campaign just seven weeks after he was hired. By December I he had sold 19,000 season tickets—a record for a new professional team in any sport.

"We had to get all of Minnesota working for us," Rose says. "We had a luncheon in Minneapolis September 27, with about a thousand people there. We had another one in St. Paul the next day and a third in Duluth the day after."

But far more important than the luncheons were the Minneapolis Minute Men, whom Rose recruited as salesmen. A group of 25 or 30 young Minneapolis businessmen who are dedicated to the growth and improvement of the city, the Minute Men originally organized to sell bonds for the construction of the stadium. They were divided for the ticket-selling campaign into 13 teams, named for the other 13 clubs in the " NFL, and they proved as successful with the tickets as with the bonds.

From September to April 8, 1961, the Minute Men sold 9,000 season tickets. To honor them, the Vikings threw a banquet and presented a prize to the team which had sold the most season tickets. Ironically enough, this team was named the Dallas Cowboys; their namesakes in the NFL a year before had set what is probably an alltime low in the sale of season tickets.

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