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The Los Angeles Chargers were a professional football team that played in the American Football Association (AFL) in 1960. Today, the franchise is based in San Diego and is known as the San Diego Chargers. The franchise’s name was picked by the team’s general manager Frank Leahy who claimed to have liked it because fans were yelling “charge” and playing the bulge at Dodgers Stadium. Barron Hilton approved the name because it agreed with three elements of the team’s logo; a charging horse-a symbol on the club’s stationary, an electric charge indicated on the helmet by a lightning bolt, and the Hilton Blanche Carte change card.
How did the Chargers Start up?
The Chargers began as a charter franchise of the AFL in 1960 and was owned by Hilton Hotel Chain owner Barron Hilton. Hilton was one of the people who facilitated the formation of the AFL which was also to be composed of seven other teams namely the Dallas Texans, Buffalo Bills, Boston Patriots, Houston Oilers, Oakland Raiders, New York Titans and Denver Broncos. Hilton convinced Sid Gillman who had coached the LA Rams for five seasons to become the Chargers’ first coach. On November, 22 1960 the chargers selected Monte Stickles of Notre Dame as their first draft pick. The team was to play its home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which they would share with the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL.
The Los Angeles Chargers in Competition
The Chargers’ only season in LA was a relatively successful one. They opened their life in competition with a 21-20 win over the Dallas Texans at the Memorial Coliseum on September 10, 1960. They had to overcome a fierce fight back by Dallas from 21-7 in the fourth quarter to hold on to that win. After two losing games away to Houston Oilers and Dallas Texans over the next two weeks, the Chargers were back to winning ways as they beat the Buffalo Bills 24-10 at home. They then suffered a humiliating 35-0 home loss to the Boston Patriots on October 8, 1960. They recovered again, winning the next four games over the Denver Broncos away, Boston Patriots away, New York Titans Away and the Houston Oilers at home respectively. During the season’s homestretch, they would only lose one game of the remaining five to finish the season with a league topping 10-4 record. They matched to the AFL championship game where they would meet the Houston Oilers on New Years Day of 1961. They were however trounced 24-16 by the Oilers to cut short their hopes of winning the AFL title.
The Chargers’ most Notable Moments
Although they were unsuccessful, the AFL Championship game was undoubtedly one of the Chargers most memorable moments during their time in LA. Having won the league with a 10-4 record, they met the Eastern Division Champions Houston Oilers at the Jeppesen Stadium in Houston. Two field goals by Ben Agajanian gave the Chargers a 6- lead in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Agajanian scored a 27 yard field goal which was cancelled out by a 17-yard kick by Houston’s Blanda. In the final quarter, an 88-yard rush by Bill Cannon for a touch down gave the Oilers an eight point lead which the Chargers were unable to assail and went out as 24-16 losers.
The Los Angeles Chargers’ Most Notable Players
Quarterback Jack Kemp was the most prolific player for the Chargers in 1960. He rushed for a total of 3018 yards and made 20 touchdowns in the regular season and added 238 yards and 8 touchdowns in the championship game.
Rookie halfback Paul Lowe made 135 rushes for 855 yards and 8 touchdowns in regular season and then made 23 catches for 377 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Defensive back Dick Harris made 5 interceptions with no fumbles to help tighten the Chargers at the back.
Other important players for the Chargers include Doyle Nix, Howie Ferguson, Dave Kocourek and Paul Maguire.
What Happened to the Los Angeles Chargers?
It would be fair to say that the Chargers’ entry into the Los Angeles market was ill timed. At the time, the Los Angeles Rams were well-established and the fans were not interested in the Chargers or the AFL. Only about 10,000 fans usually turned up at the 100,000 seat Coliseum. Hilton, having made a $900,000 loss made it clear at the end of the season that he did not want to spend another year in LA and pinpointed San Diego as the favorite destination for the franchise. However, he made a condition that the city had to avail a befitting stadium.
San Diego obliged and expanded the 46-year old Balboa stadium which at the time could only seat 24,000 fans. The capacity was increased and locker rooms renovated. Other demands included a one-year rent free agreement and a guaranteed 20,000 season ticket holders. The official agreement was signed February 9, 1961 and the team moved in shortly after. It was renamed the “San Diego Chargers.”