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THE FABULOUS BRODIE CAPER
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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"He's very definite in there," says Crow. "He will lose his temper if you blow an assignment, but usually he's pretty cool."

Cool is what Brodie is—cool in the confident and calculating sense—and that helps him as a gambler. "I like action," he said. "I like to play golf or cards for whatever amount it takes to make your opponent try. It doesn't have to be a bunch of money. Y. A. Tittle, Matt Hazeltine, Gordie Soltau and I have some of the most competitive bridge games in the world, and we're playing for a 150th of a cent a point. It's that competitive feeling that keeps a football player going."

Competitiveness brought Brodie back from a couple of near calamities—San Francisco's "shotgun offense" of 1960 ("I hate to run," Brodie says. " Jim Murray wrote in the Los Angeles Times that I run like fourth-class mail, and that's right. Pro teams with good running quarterbacks never win") and a car crack-up in 1963 in which Brodie broke his right arm. He went back to football before his arm was fully healed and promptly broke it again. That could have finished many quarterbacks. But Brodie stayed at it to become one of the NFL's best and certainly its richest.

His return has not soothed all the rancor that the shoveling out of big money has caused in pro football in the past six years. After he got back, several 49er veterans who had not signed threatened to walk out of camp unless their salaries were raised. But that cannot be blamed on Brodie, who saw his opportunity and took it. The fault lies in the conduct of pro football itself and mostly in the NFL's refusal to come to terms with the AFL until at least two years after it was evident that the other league was not going to vanish. Nobody has yet figured out how to cure money sickness. Consider this pithy dialogue overheard recently between a pro football owner and a veteran.

Veteran: Now that the leagues have merged, I guess all this money is going to go where it rightfully belongs.

Owner: It sure is.

Al Davis, who resigned in disgust after the AFL lost its identity in the merger, now owns a piece of the Oakland franchise. That makes him one of Pete Rozelle's bosses. It is rumored that Davis will be appointed to the AFL executive committee, which would make him a negotiator in details of the merger. This would be the final irony in one of the more astonishing confusions in the history of sport.

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