In celebration of Titans Throwback Day on Sunday vs. the Eagles, this is the first of a five-part series on the beginning of the franchise we now know as the New York Jets:
PART I: THE BIRTH OF THE AFL AND THE NEW YORK TITANS
August 14, 1959:The American Football League's first organizational meeting was held in Chicago under the leadership of Lamar Hunt of Dallas. Charter franchises were granted to New York and Harry Wismer, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Denver and Houston.
After some shuffling of cities, the league established its divisional setup, grouping the Titans in the East with Boston, Buffalo and Houston and placing Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles and Oakland in the West.
Nov. 22, 1959:The AFL held its first draft, lasting 33 rounds, then 20 more rounds 10 days later. The Titans took Notre Dame QB George Izo with their first overall pick. Izo signed with the NFL Cardinals.
Dec. 18, 1959:Wismer hired Hall of Famer-to-be Sammy Baugh as the first coach of the Titans at $28,000 a year. Later, the Titans show some scouting prowess, finding flanker Don Maynard, a free agent after playing one season in the CFL, who became the first Titans player to sign a contract. Wismer gained access to New York's Polo Grounds for Titans home games and established his team's colors of blue and gold.
Quote from head coach Sammy Baugh, April 26, 1960:
"We're going to have a real team. We'll start training up in New Hampshire with about 70 boys, none of whose names, probably, are known to the general public. But what's in a name? Give me boys like we have signed, most of them 200 pounds and over and most of them quick, and I'll have a football team. Steve Sebo, our general manager, who's been coaching some himself and knows talent when he sees it, informs me, for instance, that we will have nine outstanding quarterback prospects. He has an imposing list of halfbacks, fullbacks and linemen, too. I don't mean to give the impression that the Titans, in their first year, will be the greatest football team ever organized. We'll have to build and experiment and change. But we'll have a football team at the start that'll be worth watching." (The New York Times)
Facts about Harry Wismer before he founded the Titans
- Native of Port Huron, Mich.
- Played college football at both the University of Florida and Michigan State University.
- Began broadcasting Michigan State sports on MSU's radio station, WKAR.
- In 1934, he was hired as the public-address announcer for the Detroit Lions and began doing a daily 10-minute radio show covering the Lions on WJR, in addition to his PA duties while continuing as a student at Michigan State.
- Achieved the height of his fame as the voice of the Washington Redskins. His first game for the Redskins was a most inauspicious one, their 73-0 loss to the Chicago Bears' great "Monsters of the Midway" team in the 1940 NFL Championship Game.
- In the late Forties he provided the voice talent to numerous 16 mm college football films.
- In the early Fifties he was involved in an early attempt to expand football into prime time network television with an edited replay on Sunday nights of the previous day's Notre Dame games.
- In 1953 he was spokesman for a syndicate interested in buying the St. Louis baseball Cardinals from Fred Saigh, who eventually sold the team to Anheuser-Busch.
- In June 1956 Wismer was listed as a vice president and 25 percent stockholder of the NFL's Washington Redskins. He feuded with George Preston Marshall, the club president, and the relationship between the two had greatly degenerated by the late Fifties over several issues.
Tuesday: The First Training Camp