"If this merger had been put off two more days," said Stirling, "we would have had 10 NFL players under contract at Oakland, and four of them were quarterbacks. Roman Gabriel is still ours."
In all, there were seven NFL quarterbacks who were prepared to sign with the AFL. Reportedly, they were Rudy Bukich of Chicago, Jim Ninowski of Cleveland, Sonny Jurgensen of Washington, Milt Plum of Detroit, Fran Tarkenton of Minnesota, Gabriel, who did sign, and—John Riley Brodie, the millionaire-to-be.
Brodie entered the picture in late May—two weeks after the signing of Gogolak—when he flew to Houston with a friend, Sonny Marx, and checked into room 306 of the Warwick Hotel under the name John Marx. Brodie went to a baseball game at the Astrodome with Klosterman, motored around town and talked business. Brodie had asked the 49ers for a raise to $65,000 based on his performance in 1965, when he led the NFL in completions, percentage, yardage and touchdown passes. They had done a lot of coughing but no agreeing.
Then Klosterman made Brodie an offer. Klosterman wrote down the figures on a memo pad—which was later to become most important in assuring Brodie his new wealth. Brodie picked up the piece of paper and read: $750,000, spread over 10 years, to sign a five-year contract with the Houston Oilers.
There is a general misunderstanding about that offer. Klosterman made the offer to Brodie in the name of the AFL, not in the name of the Houston Oilers, which explains why the Oilers did not have to pay more in subsequent negotiations. Brodie, however, would most likely have been allocated to Houston from the AFL's proposed quarterback pool. Gabriel was to go either to Oakland or to a new franchise in Anaheim. Bukich was rumored to be heading toward a new franchise in Chicago. Ninowski was marked for Denver. The disposition of the others had not been decided and, in fact, none had yet signed, nor did they ever, because of the sudden approval of the merger. (It was so sudden that Bill MacPhail, vice-president in charge of sports for CBS television, which is paying the NFL $22,000,000 a year under the current contract, found out about the merger at a press conference. He then refused to speak to Schramm and Rozelle, his two best friends, when they tried to apologize to him at P. J. Clarke's saloon in New York.)
Brodie concurred with Klosterman that $750,000 was a nice sum. Before accepting it, though, he phoned 49er General Manager Lou Spadia to give San Francisco first chance to dissuade him. Spadia told Brodie he would call back at 2 p.m. on May 30. The merger talks were moving at a frantic pace. Dan Reeves, owner of the Los Angeles Rams, was so eager that he reportedly had offered to move his team to San Diego and allow the Chargers to move to New Orleans if that astonishing maneuver would speed up the merger (the basic idea being to abandon the Los Angeles Coliseum as unwieldy and poorly located and place an expansion team in Anaheim. Calif.). With the romance that hot, Lamar Hunt called Davis and Houston Owner Bud Adams to ask them to hold off signing Brodie until 6:30 that evening, since it could wreck the mood necessary for the agreement.
Klosterman called Al Davis and said, "This is one of those decisions, Al. Do we sign him?"
"I'd like to hear the NFL's proposal," said Davis. "But if it means going back on your word, sign him."
Several hours later Klosterman told Brodie, "You're the guinea pig. You're cither going to be a rich man or bring about the biggest pro football story in six years."
The deadline passed and Brodie was unsigned. Brodie took the piece of paper from the memo pad and asked Klosterman to put his name on it, which Klosterman did not do. Brodie stuck the piece of paper into his pocket, went to Las Vegas and then home to Palo Alto. He was playing golf at Lake Tahoe with Sun Francisco Chronicle Sports Columnist Art Rosenbaum when Rosenbaum was called to the telephone.