SI Vault
Edwin Shrake
August 29, 1966
An AFL plot to sign top NFL quarterbacks at any cost, secret until now, nearly wrecked the pro-football merger and made the nervy 49er star a millionaire
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August 29, 1966

The Fabulous Brodie Caper

An AFL plot to sign top NFL quarterbacks at any cost, secret until now, nearly wrecked the pro-football merger and made the nervy 49er star a millionaire

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The heart of the contract is a series of ten $75,000 payments. The first installment is Brodie's salary this season: the second is for 1967 and the third for 1968. The remaining seven installments will be paid to Brodie in the seven years after his retirement as a pro player. The 49ers get Brodie's services as a player for five years. If he stays with San Francisco exactly five more years, playing out his option in the last year, he will get a salary of $90,000 in the fourth year (1969) and $81,000 in 1970 (the latter figure being $90,000 minus the standard 10% salary cut for men playing out options). The sums for 1969 and 1970 are over and above the series of $75,000 payments. And if Brodie plays more than five more years he will receive additional salary for that. Actually, Brodie should be able to play more than five years, and thus his future income from professional football should be well beyond these minimums—something over $1,000,000.

Of the basic $996,000 (including legal fees) that Brodie will receive for playing the minimum five years, the 49ers will pay $571,000 and the other 23 teams in professional football will pay $425,000, a contribution of some $18,000 per team.

Why did Brodie return from Oahu without the full million he probably would have been offered if he had waited? The suspicion is that he was sincerely anxious to come back and play.

When Brodie reported to camp at St. Mary's College in Moraga, a little town in the hills outside Oakland, he was greeted gleefully by the veterans. They did not resent his strike. Brodie had proved he deserved the money, and the 49er players knew they would not have a chance at the Western Division championship without him. Also, he is the sort of fellow who is supposed to be wealthy. His parents are well off, and he has that air about him, the assurance that he not only has more money than you do but is a better dancer. It is difficult to imagine Brodie broke or embarrassed. On his first day in camp he bent to take the snap from Center Bruce Bosley in a passing drill, took his precise steps into the pocket, looked at the ball and started laughing.

What Bosley had snapped him was not a ball but a pineapple with a sign on it that said: "One million dollars, less $3,000"—a reference to the amount he would owe the 49ers in fines for reporting late. "We're not mad at you, J.B.," some of the players yelled. "We may have a few parties at my expense," Brodie said grinning. Fine money is used for team parties, and Brodie seemed delighted to contribute. "I really missed the camaraderie around here," he said later in the dormitory room he shares at training camp with John David Crow. "I was getting antsy to start performing. Every day I wanted to read reports on how the 49ers were doing. Any athlete loves this part of it."

Although he is a good enough golfer to have played two winters and springs on the pro tour, runs his own insurance business in Palo Alto and has a daily radio show, Brodie considers professional football players his favorite people. "I prefer them to insurance salesmen, golfers, entertainers, journalists, anybody," he said in a San Francisco bar called the Shadow Box, where the 49ers gather after home games. That afternoon, in the first preseason game, Brodie had stood—never sitting—on the sidelines and had watched George Mira operate the team in a 24-13 loss to Dallas. Now Brodie was surrounded by his favorite people. His two closest friends on the club, Crow and Dave Parks, sat nearby, and Brodie's pretty blonde wife was beside him. "People say pro football players are entertainers," Brodie said, "but we are very different. Pro athletes have earned what they have through ability. That's not necessarily true with entertainers. Most golfers are spoiled. I'd rather be around pro football players. It's good for them to get to know me, too, so that on the field if I call somebody a filthy so-and-so he'll know I don't mean it personally but am expressing myself in my usual way."

Someone mentioned that although Brodie led the NFL in several categories last year, he would not be recognized by fans in most league cities. "I enjoy not being recognized," he said. "I can walk down the street in New York and nobody knows me. Maybe they know my name, but not my face. With TV exposure growing, the recognition is bound to come, I guess."

Unless, that is, he remembers to keep his helmet on during time-outs, which is never a bad idea when Brodie is playing at Kezar. The booing often sounds like cattle bawling in a stockyard. "The booing doesn't bother me," he said. "The people who really understand the game are so caught up in the techniques of it they don't have time to boo."

Brodie's critics have accused him of being slow to release the ball, of running an erratic offense, of relying on the percentage pass patterns. However accurate that may have been in the past, last season Brodie ran the NFL's best offense, although some critics did not see it that way.

Brodie says, "Those guys who are always rating quarterbacks in the papers, what do they know? I guess you are never known as a great quarterback unless you win a championship. There are a lot of things that happen that the public doesn't know about or understand. I think statistics are fairly indicative of a quarterback or anybody else over a period of years. The top offensive teams—Green Bay, us and New York—are the solid, simple offenses. The teams that use a lot of tricks are admitting their weaknesses. I say you're better off relying on ability rather than tricks."

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