Book Report: Ten-Gallon War
by Randy Snow
Originally posted on Yahoo! Voices, Wednesday, May 14, 2014
In the 2012 book, Ten-Gallon War, author John Eisenberg tells the story of the feud between the NFL Dallas Cowboys and the AFL Dallas Texans in the early 1960s. The two teams both debuted in 1960 and fought for the attention of pro football fans in Dallas for three seasons.
The NFL had a team in Dallas in 1952 called the Dallas Texans. A group of Dallas businessmen purchased the New York Yanks and relocated the team. They posted a disappointing record of 1-11 and left town to become the Baltimore Colts the next season.
The American Football League was the brainchild of Lamar Hunt, the son of H.L. Hunt, the Texas oil millionaire. Lamar had tried unsuccessfully for a couple of years to bring an NFL team to his hometown of Dallas, but the NFL said it had no plans to expand past the 12 teams it already had. He then tried to buy the Chicago Cardinals and move them to Dallas, but the owners refused to sell the team to him because they wanted it to remain in Chicago.
In 1959, Hunt decided to form a new pro football league along with Bud Adams in Houston. There would be eight teams in the new league; Dallas, Houston, New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Minnesota, Buffalo and Boston.
The NFL, and in particular, Chicago Bears owner George Halas, was not happy about the new league and especially about a team going to Dallas. The NFL soon announced that they too planned to place expansion teams in both Dallas and Houston. The team in Dallas was originally going to be called the Dallas Rangers and the franchise was awarded to another young Texas millionaire, Clint Murchison, Jr.
The Dallas team eventually changed their name from the Rangers to the Cowboys. The name Rangers was being used by a Dallas minor league baseball team that was set to fold, but the team decided to continue to operate so the NFL team settled on the Cowboys nickname instead.
One of the first people Murchison hired was Tex Schramm who became the team's general manager. Schramm had been the general manager of the Los Angeles Rams. Schramm, in turn, hired Tom Landry to be the head coach of the team.
Lamar Hunt also tried to hire Landry, who had been the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. But when that was no longer an option, he hired an unknown coach in Hank Stram. Stram had been an assistant coach at several colleges over the years including Purdue, Miami and Notre Dame. Stram had also been an assistant at Southern Methodist University at the time Lamar Hunt was a player there.
The fight over players by the two teams began even before the NFL officially granted a team to the city. Both teams wanted to sign quarterback Don Meredith from SMU. Hunt was trying hard to convince Meredith to sign with the AFL, but Schramm and the Cowboys ultimately succeeded. Because the team had not been approved by the NFL owners yet, Schramm signed Meredith to a personal services contract.
One of the first things the AFL did in the fall of 1959 was to select a commissioner. The owners decided on Joe Foss, a former Marine pilot and a two-time governor of South Dakota.
At the NFL owners meeting in January 1960 in Orlando, their first order of business was also to select a new commissioner to replace Bert Bell. They argued for almost two weeks until they finally agreed on Pete Rozelle. Rozelle had been the GM of Rams, succeeding Schramm. Prior to that, he had been the team's Public Relations director. The NFL owners then turned their attention to the subject of expansion.
Murchison needed a majority of the NFL owners to approve his team in Dallas, so he went campaigning for votes. One man he approached was George Preston Marshall, the owner of the Washington Redskins. Murchison had tried to buy the Redskins from Marshall in 1958. When he was turned down, Murchison had one of his associates buy the team's fight song for him, "Hail to the Redskins." He paid $2,500 to its composer, the Redskins team bandleader, who had recently been fired by Marshall. Murchison agreed to return the song rights to Marshall in exchange for his vote.
Dallas was approved for an expansion team, but a Houston team never got off the ground. The AFL Houston Oilers had already secured the rights to play at a large high school stadium and the only other suitable stadium, which was at Rice University, refused to allow an NFL team to play there. The NFL then convinced the ownership group in Minnesota, which was going to be a part of the AFL, to join the NFL instead. The Vikings would begin play as an NFL team in 1961. To fill the void left by the loss of a team in Minnesota, the AFL awarded a franchise to the city of Oakland.
Not only were the Cowboys and Texans playing in the same city, they were also playing in the same stadium, the Cotton Bowl. In 1960, the NFL played a 12-game season while the AFL played a 14-game season. The Cowboys had a rough time in their first season as an expansion team finishing with a record of 0-11-1. The Texans, however, posted an 8-6 record, good enough for second place in their division, but they did not make the playoffs. After the season, many fans wanted to see the two teams play each other. One newspaper article even suggested that the loser of the game should have to leave town. The game, of course never happened.
Both leagues played a 14-game season in 1961. The Cowboys improved their record to 4-9-1 and the Texans slipped a bit to 6-8.
In 1962, the Cowboys posted a record of 5-8-1 while the Texans went 11-3 and won the AFL Western Division title. The Texans played in the AFL title game against the two-time defending AFL Champion Oilers in Houston on December 23, 1962. Dallas took a 17-0 lead, but Houston tied the game in the second half 17-17. The game went into double overtime before the Texans kicked a field goal to win the game 20-17.
Texans fans were ecstatic to see their team win a pro football title, but their joy was short lived. As the season went along, Hunt realized that attendance figures for his Texans games simply were not generating enough revenue for his team to turn a profit. Knowing that this could go on for years, it became clear that he would have to move his team to a new city where they were not competing with another team for fans. He secretly met with Murchison and Schramm and told them that Dallas could not support two teams. He boldly offered to pay the Cowboys to leave town, knowing that they would never accept such an idea. As expected, they refused, so Hunt suggested that they pay him to move his team out of town. Murchison agreed and secretly paid Hunt reportedly about $300,000 to "get out of town." Hunt has succeeded in putting one over on his cross town rivals one last time.
In February 1963, Lamar Hunt confirmed what many newspapers had rumored for some time, that the Texans were looking to move out of Dallas and play somewhere else. Hunt narrowed his choices to New Orleans and Kansas City.
The mayor of Kansas City, Harold "Chief" Bartle, made Hunt an offer that he couldn't refuse. Bartle offered to rent them Municipal Stadium for $1 in each of the first two years if they came to Kansas City. He also offered the team a free training facility as well as a free practice field and offices. The team would also get half of all the concession from the stadium venders during their games. Bartle went so far as to guarantee that he could get the team 25,000 season ticket holders. This however, never happened. Bartle was only able to deliver 13,000, but it was more than the Texans had ever had in Dallas.
The Texans were renamed the Chiefs, partly because of Mayor Bartle's nickname, but also because of the Native American heritage of the area.
The Chiefs went on to win a second AFL title and appeared in the first NFL-AFL Championship game (a.k.a. Super Bowl I) in January 1967, losing to the Green Bay Packers 35-10. Ironically, the Packers had to defeat the Cowboys in the NFL title game in Dallas to get to the Super Bowl. The following year, the Cowboys and Packers met again in the NFL title game, this time it was played in Green Bay. You may have heard of that particular game before. It has become known as The Ice Bowl.
Three years later, the Chiefs returned to beat the Minnesota Vikings (the team that spurned the AFL for the NFL) 23-7 in Super Bowl IV. That was the game when coach Hank Stram secretly wore a microphone on the sidelines and became a sensation, thanks to the game highlights produced by NFL Films. Who will ever forget the Chiefs most famous play ever, 65 Toss Power Trap?
In 1970, the NFL and AFL officially merged and became one league.
The Cowboys finally made it to Super Bowl V in 1971, but lost to the Baltimore Colts 16-13. Dallas beat the Miami Dolphins 24-3 for their first title the following year in Super Bowl VI.
During the 2009 season, the NFL celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the first season of the American Football League. The original eight AFL teams donned throwback uniforms whenever they played each other. On October 11, the Chiefs wore their Dallas Texans uniforms in a home game against the Dallas Cowboys. It was billed as "The Game That Never Was." In true Texas fashion, the game was tied 20-20 at the end of regulation. The Cowboys eventually won the game, 26-20 in overtime. Sadly, all of the major figures from the early days of the two teams, coaches Tom Landry and Hank Stram, owners Lamar Hunt and Clint Murchison, Jr. as well as Cowboys GM Tex Schramm, had all passed away by the time this game was played.
While the Dallas Cowboys may have had more success on the field over the years, it is clear that in the early years, the Texans and Chiefs were the teams that had more success and better records. Lamar Hunt's team survived a three-year war in Dallas against the Cowboys, brought a title to the city and then won two more AFL titles and a Super Bowl in Kansas City.
Fans of the Dallas Texans, and make no mistake, there were many, never got a chance to see their beloved AFL champions take to the field the next season in Dallas. They never got to see the two Dallas teams play each other, either. However, they did get to witness the birth of a new pro football league, a future Hall of Fame coach in Hank Stram and Lamar Hunt's dream of pro football in Dallas becoming a reality.