blame Frank Leahy for the Patriots
by olson (2019-02-04 12:33:40)
Edited on 2019-02-04 12:52:33

1959

The American Football League(AFL) was forming as a new league- to challenge the NFL.

The plan was to start out in 1960 with 8 teams

Frank Leahy was hired as GM for the just former AFL LA Chargers-owned by 32 year old Baron Hilton(son of hotel magnet Conrad Hilton).

There are two versions of how Boston got one of the 8 franchises-both involve Frank Leahy.

#1 Leahy called his old buddy Billy Sullivan & told him the final AFL franchise would be his (and Boston's) IF Sullivan could come up with the money.

#2 Sullivan called Leahy to plead his case for the AFL to award the final franchise to Boston.

Sullivan, a '37 BC grad, had been BC head football coach Frank Leahy's publicity director at BC & went with Leahy to Notre Dame in the same capacity in '41-before entering the military in WWII...after the war, Sullivan had become a very successful fuel oil co. owner in Boston(after a brief stop as publicity director for the MLB Boston Braves.)

In '59 Boston was reportedly competing with Philadelphia, Oakland and/or San Francisco for the final AFL franchise.

The other 7 AFL teams had already been awarded to Dallas, New York, Houston, Minneapolis,Denver, LA and Buffalo.

The selection committee for the final franchise was:

Frank Leahy GM LA Chargers
Harry Wismer Owner NY Titans
Lamar Hunt Owner Dallas Texans

Wismer, a longtime broadcaster, had been the radio voice of Notre Dame football along with Joe Boland. Sullivan's brief ND affiliation & history with Leahy helped get Wismer on board.

Leahy and Wismer teamed up to convince Hunt to award the final franchise to Boston.

Sullivan forked over $25,000 -monies he had saved to buy a beach house on Cape Cod(Craigville beach); much to the disappointment of his wife...Sullivan brought in 9 junior partners to buy the franchise; one of whom was former Red Sox Dom DiMaggio.

Sullivan hired Ed McKeever (former BC and ND assistant under Leahy & interim HC at Notre Dame in 1944) as the first Patriots GM.

A draft was held in which each of the teams were given a first territorial/bonus pick......Chargers GM Leahy picked Notre Dame's Monty Stickles E with the Chargers 'bonus' pick; & NY Titan's Wisner selected Irish QB George Izo....as it would turn out, both ND players chose instead to play in the NFL(both were selected in the first round of the NFL draft-Izo the second selection overall by the Cardinals).

The major development of that AFL draft was when LSU star HB Billy Cannon, after a bidding war, chose the AFL Houston Oilers over the NFL(Cannon was the #1 selection in the NFL-taken just before Izo).

Houston Oilers HC Lou Rymkus (a former Notre Dame player & Hwyt Bengal Bouts champ to boot) convinced Cannon to sign with the Oilers...Rymkus' Oilers would go on to win the first AFL championship.

With the draft out of the way, a bombshell dropped. The NFL offered a franchise to Minneapolis....this team would become the NFL Minnesota Vikings in '61...and meant that another AFL franchise opened up.

Baron Hilton made short work of that opening-getting another franchise for the West Coast & the Oakland Raiders took the Minneapolis spot....ironically, the draft was already completed, so the Raiders simply absorbed the Minneapolis picks!

Leahy would resign for health reasons during that first season, but before that hired Sid Gilman as head coach & assistants Al Davis & Chuck Noll.

Al Davis had just left USC after he had been passed over for HC. The Trojans had hired John McKay.

Chuck Noll had briefly played for Leahy at Notre Dame-but Leahy had cut Noll from the Irish squad after Noll had had a epileptic seizure during a preseason practice....Noll transferred to Dayton & was allowed to continue his football career.

The first Boston Patriots exhibition game ever was vs the Buffalo Bills...With the Bills starting QB Tommy O'Connell (a 1948 Frank Leahy/ND recruit who transferred to Illinois).

The first regular season Patriots game was vs the Denver Broncos..the starting QB for the Broncos was former ND star Frank Tripucka.

In 1971,after years of playing at Boston U field(former Braves Field), Harvard Stadium & Fenway Park, the Patriots finally got a permanent home field-in Foxboro, Ma.

The Sullivan family's honored guest for the home opener in Foxboro was Frank Leahy.






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