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The 1963 AFL New Orleans Saints


B-Rich

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It being just a few days after All Saints Day, a date on which the New Orleans NFL franchise (later to be officially dubbed the Saints) was announced back in 1966, it appeared appropriate to present something which has been occupying far too much of my time recently.

I recently completed a pretty good book by Dave Dixon, a local businessman and founder of the USFL who was instrumental in the city obtaining the Saints and the Superdome being built. The book is entitled The Saints, the Superdome and the Scandal, and presents a pretty good history of all these happenings as well as an autobiography of Mr. Dixon?s life.

One part of the book really stood out to me, though, as a ?what if? kind of question. In 1963, Mr. Dixon posits that New Orleans had a very strong shot of acquiring the Dallas Texans AFL franchise-- in fact; he states that had he not made certain mistakes, Lamar Hunt would have almost certainly moved the team there. As most of you know, for the first three years of that team?s existence, they shared the Dallas market with the Cowboys. After the 1962 season, Hunt began looking elsewhere, eventually settling on Kansas City, where his franchise became the Chiefs that we know today. Dixon states that following the 1962 season, Lamar Hunt?s manager came to New Orleans to work with Dixon and arrange a deal to play at Tulane University. This is borne out not only in Dixon?s book (pp.53-57. ?The Lamar Hunt Opportunity?) but also is referred to in Jeff Miller?s history of the AFL, Going Long, by first-hand testimony of both Dixon and Lamar Hunt (pp. 72-73)

However, as Dixon relates, Hunt was so concerned about secrecy and security that he asked Dixon to tell the Tulane University committee that the request for stadium availability was for any AFL franchise. The Tulane board, which was holding out hope for an NFL expansion franchise and was not about to commit to the possibility of an expansion team in the upstart AFL, never formally reacted to Hunt?s request. Dixon states that in looking back, he realizes he should have used his powers of persuasion to convince the Tulane board to make a commitment to the AFL, subject to their approval of an individual team owner. In that way, the Tulane committee could have been protected, Hunt?s secrecy wouldn?t have been blown, and the Texans would have become the New Orleans Saints in the 1963 season.

How would these Saints have looked? Well, from looking at how easily the Texans transformed into the Chiefs (basically just changing the helmet logo), probably pretty easily. They would have looked a lot like this:

63saintshelmet.JPG63saints.JPG

And who knows, maybe the line drawing logo, instead of going from this: texans.JPG

to this: chiefs.JPG

may have even changed to this:

63saintsmap.JPG

But what gets interesting is to think how this simple innocuous change would affect later events in at least three other pro sports, how via ?the butterfly effect? things would be different. This is my take on how things would progress:

1963- Dallas Texans move to New Orleans, become New Orleans Saints.

1964 ? Charlie Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics baseball team, requests to relocate his team first to Louisville, KY, then to Oakland, CA. As in our world, both requests are denied. However, unlike in our world, as he is ?the only game in town? Finley does not agree to a 4-year lease with Kansas City?s Municipal Stadium, instead remaining a tenant-at-will?.

Houston Astrodome is completed in late November. Talk of a similar domed stadium for New Orleans to house the Saints and a possible MLB team begins in earnest.

1965-- Similar to our world, the AFL?s efforts to place a team in Atlanta are thwarted by the NFL, who awards that city a franchise that later becomes the Falcons. The AFL awards a franchise to Miami, later named the Dolphins. Both franchises are to begin play in 1966.

In Kansas City, mayor Ike Davis enlists his predecessor, H. Roe ?The Chief? Bartle, to head up a committee to obtain a pro football franchise for their city. Missouri Senator Stuart Symington is also on board.

In November, Louisiana citizens pass an amendment allowing the creation of a domed Stadium in New Orleans.

1966- Similar to our world, in April 1966, Joe Foss resigns as AFL commissioner and is replaced by Al Davis. Several movers and shakers within both the NFL and AFL meet secretly, hammer out details, and then announce a merger agreement in principle in June of 1966. However, it becomes clear that the new merged league will need a limited anti-trust exemption granted to it by Congress? by the end of baseball season, Charlie Finley announces that he is planning to seek relocation approval to move the A?s to New Orleans and their soon-to-be constructed Superdome. Before a vote (which seemed likely to pass) was taken, however, Missouri Senator Stuart Symington threatens legislation to revoke the major leagues? antitrust exemption. Seeing their chance, Rozelle and AFL figures make their move. Meeting with Symington, Louisiana Senator Russell Long and House majority Leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana (and later involving owners and officials of major league baseball) they convince them to draft a ?pro sports limited anti-trust exemption? measure, which places some limits on MLB?s anti-trust exemption, but also gives pro football the exact same status. The implicit payoff is that Kansas City will be awarded an expansion football team, Finley will be forced to sell the A?s to local interests, and New Orleans will receive an MLB expansion franchise in the coming years. Within a month of the passage of the measure by Congress, Kansas City is awarded an NFL franchise to begin play in 1967. The owner selected by the merged league is John Mecom, Jr. In a ?name the team? contest, the team is dubbed the Chiefs (mainly to honor the efforts of beloved H. Roe Bartle). The team colors are black and gold, with a nod to the owners? source of wealth (oil) and in a nod to the state university. The uniforms in fact bear a noted resemblance to those of the Missouri Tigers:

67chiefshelmet.JPG67CHIEFS.JPG

1967 ? Green Bay Packers defeat the New Orleans Saints in the first AFL-NFL championship game, later to be known formally as the Super Bowl?. In the fall, the Kansas City Chiefs begin play, and Kansas City voters approve the funding of a sports complex to house facilities for the Chiefs and the A?s.

1968 ? Major league baseball announces a four team expansion, with teams beginning play in 1971: San Diego and New Orleans in the National League, Seattle and Oakland in the American League?.Cincinnati Bengals begin play in the AFL.

1970-- Super Bowl IV, originally to be held in the new Superdome, has to be held in Tulane Stadium due to construction delays. However, the New Orleans Saints become the first and only NFL team to play in and win a Super Bowl in their home stadium, defeating the Minnesota Vikings.

1971 ? Seattle Pilots begin play in a well-renovated Sick?s Stadium on a ?temporary? basis while the Kingdome is being planned. Oakland Oaks begin play in Oakland-Alameda Stadium, the Padres begin play in San Diego Stadium, and the Superdome is finished just in time (barely) for the season opener of the New Orleans Pelicans.... New Orleans Saints move into the Superdome later that year.

1972?Superdome hosts its first Super Bowl? Kansas City Chiefs begin playing in Arrowhead Stadium? Cincinnati?s NBA franchise relocates to Kansas City-Omaha and becomes the Kansas City-Omaha Royals (later, just the Kansas City Royals).

1973 ? Kansas City A?s begin play in A?s Stadium.

1976- Seattle Pilots move to their new digs in the Kingdome, along with the NFL expansion Seahawks. Baseball awards expansion franchises to Milwaukee and Toronto to begin play the following year.

1987- Due to stadium issues and lack of attendance due to poor play and a downturn in the local economy, the New Orleans Pelicans are sold and moved to Denver, Colorado.

Your thoughts? Differs? (I know there's a few alternative history buffs on the board) ^_^

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1972 - 1974 - Kansas City A's begin their 3-year run as World Series Champs

1985 - St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Toronto Blue Jays in 4 games in the 1985 World Series

1993 - Expansion is awarded to Florida and Arizona in the NL, Tampa Bay and Washington DC in the AL. Florida and Washington begin play in 1993, Tampa Bay and Arizona in 1998.

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all of this seems very very plausible, though for some reason my gut says the chiefs would have come up with colors other than black and gold.

also, i'm dying to see the saints pencil drawing......... i'm getting 404 not found for that image :\

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all of this seems very very plausible, though for some reason my gut says the chiefs would have come up with colors other than black and gold.

also, i'm dying to see the saints pencil drawing......... i'm getting 404 not found for that image :\

Yeah, I agree that the Chiefs would have come up with another set of colors. MU might be the state school, but Lawrence is 45 minutes from KC and much more popular than Mizzou is in the city. I've been to a lot of sporting events in KC, and I don't see very much black & gold. It's mostly KU.

BTW, I'm also getting the 404 thingie.

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Re: the line drawing logo-- my bad; sorry, something must have been wrong with the FTP thing. I'll fix it when I get to work after a Dr.'s appointment and voting..... (edit-- now up-- for those who may not get it, that's supposed to be St. Michael the Archangel, one of the more "aggressive" saints...)

I agree, black and gold might NOT have been the choice, but I noticed a few things that would trend toward that color scheme being used: (1) that color scheme being "available" in 1967, (2) the strong possibility of Mecom becoming the owner of an NFL franchise at the time (he had some serious connnections to Dallas Cowboys ownership) and the fact that he picked the Saints color scheme in "our" world on the 'black gold'= 'oil' premise; (and 3) the whole MU angleand teams like the Falcons and Chargers adopting color schemes similar to local college programs in the early-mid sixties.

Maybe Blue for Kansas and (metallic) Gold from Mizzou? That would have been original and unused back then....

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Re: the line drawing logo-- my bad; sorry, something must have been wrong with the FTP thing. I'll fix it when I get to work after a Dr.'s appointment and voting.....

I agree, black and gold might NOT have been the choice, but I noticed a few things that would trend toward that color scheme being used: (1) that color scheme being "available" in 1967, (2) the strong possibility of Mecom becoming the owner of an NFL franchise at the time (he had some serious connnections to Dallas Cowboys ownership) and the fact that he picked the Saints color scheme in "our" world on the 'black gold'= 'oil' premise; (and 3) the whole MU angleand teams like the Falcons and Chargers adopting color schemes similar to local college programs in the early-mid sixties.

Maybe Blue for Kansas and (metallic) Gold from Mizzou? That would have been original and unused back then....

...It still is, 32 years later.

(No...the St. Louis Rams navy don't count here.)

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The Alternate NFC West of 1970:

Atlanta Falcons

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Rams

San Francisco 49ers

The Alternate AFC West of 1970:

Denver Broncos

New Orleans Saints

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

1967-86: Chiefs play 20 straight losing seasons

1993: Joe Montana is traded from the 49ers to the Saints

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Gotta say I love things like this. First off, the fact that everything is so plausible and maybe missed by just one denial way back when.

And second of all, the butterfly effect "what if?" extrapolation.

I do a lot of things like this as pet projects. For example, I'm (occasionally) working on a project showing what would have happened if soccer in America had evolved like in Britain or the rest of Europe, with old amateur teams turning pro, promotion/relegation, etc. Similarly, a "lockout" following the Y2K scare, gave me grounds for starting fresh in all my sim sports leagues I ran, without having to worry about synching up the history if I chose to sim it too. Yes, it's laziness (and a massive thread-jack, which I'm quite good at, apparently), but it still follows the trend of one small thing changing everything to follow, even from a sports perspective.

Back on track though, I wonder what this would have done for Nashville and Memphis teams? With New Orleans in MLB (at least for a while) would owners be more or less likely to consider a Tennessee market for another expansion run? And what about the NFL? How would the Oilers be affected, and would this have hurt or helped with the eventual stadium deal and subsequent run to Memphis and then Nashville? Makes you wonder.

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I enjoyed reading this and am frankly surprised that Dave Dixon couldn't pull it off. One joker in this deck though, aside from the thought they would have kept the colors, is the assumption that the team's destiny would have remained the same. New Orleans is a far different place than Kansas City, and supposedly one reason the early Saints were so awful for so long was that they had a tough time keeping guys off of Bourbon Street. Granted the Texans' organization might have been better at that but who knows? My personal opinion is that the absolute incompetence of just about everybody associated with the team had way more to do with the Saints sucking than Bourbon Street ever did.

Thanks for sharing it. Makes a nice what-if scenario, and the fact that it didn't happen that way is perfectly in keeping with the general soul-crushing nature of being a Saints fan. :cursing:

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I enjoyed reading this and am frankly surprised that Dave Dixon couldn't pull it off. One joker in this deck though, aside from the thought they would have kept the colors, is the assumption that the team's destiny would have remained the same. New Orleans is a far different place than Kansas City, and supposedly one reason the early Saints were so awful for so long was that they had a tough time keeping guys off of Bourbon Street. Granted the Texans' organization might have been better at that but who knows? My personal opinion is that the absolute incompetence of just about everybody associated with the team had way more to do with the Saints sucking than Bourbon Street ever did.

Thanks for sharing it. Makes a nice what-if scenario, and the fact that it didn't happen that way is perfectly in keeping with the general soul-crushing nature of being a Saints fan. :cursing:

New Orleans would have had a better shot, though, because of the difference in ownership. I'd take Lamar Hunt over John Mecom any day. Stram coached in both cities, but he never had a chance in New Orleans. He built as if he was going to get five years in New Orleans and Mecom pulled out the rug after two years.

The Chiefs were highly successful in the AFL. Though they stunk for most of the '70s and '80s, they turned it around again in the '90s. The Saints never had a winning season until after Mecom sold the team in 1985.

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Another thing to consider is that, if the MLB team left town, would a group of New Orleans investors have been more advantageous in trying to convince another sports team to come over? At the same time, the Spurs were looking for a new arena, with New Orleans being a strong possibility. Would they have moved to fill in the hole left by the Pelicans?

Subsequently, would San Antonio make more of an effort to gain an NFL expansion team?

Very fascinating report, especially for a Saints fan.

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Great rewrite of history. I've talked with Dixon before and I found him to be a BS artist. This is the first I've heard of the Dallas Texans moving to New Orleans. One thing though. According to the history of the Miami Dolphins (Pro Magazine [Dolphins game program], 1973), when Al Davis took over the league, he sought to put one expansion franchise head to head with the NFL. They were looking at Philadelphia (McClosky Family which later owned the NASL Philadelphia Atoms and I believe was originally awarded the Tampa Bay Bucs franchise before Hugh Culverhouse) when they switched gears and actually awarded a franchise to Atlanta. I am not sure why Chicago was not considered by the AFL, but the NFL looked in the 70s, albeit breifly at putting a second team in Chicago. When the NFL announced Atlanta, the AFL revoked the franchise and actor Danny Thomas, Joe Robbie and others secured the franchise for Miami.

Two other bits of information. Two orginial AFL franchises never took the field - Minneapolis and Seattle. When the Seattle franchise could not get the University of Washington to budge on using Huskie Stadium, the franchise went to Buffalo. Minneapolis, after the NFL awarded Max Winter an expansion franchise, shifted the team to Oakland.

So if we want to rewrite history:

1959 - NFL, under prodding from George Preston Marshall, owner of the Washington Redskins, says the NFL will not expand nor relocate. Marshall considered the South all the way to Texas his territory as he had games broadcast throughout the south and Texas.

1959-Lamar Hunt, after fruitless attempts to secure an expansion franchise or buy a team and relocate it, forms the AFL, which will begin play in 1960. Teams announced: Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, New York, Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston, Denver.

1959-NFL expands to Dallas (1960) and Seattle (1961); with NFL team coming to Pacific Northwest, University of Washington agrees to let stadium be used while Kingdome is built. Team names are announced: Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Kings (it was considered back in '76 when Seattle was awarded a franchise)

1959-AFL: Seattle moves to Oakland. AFL has national footprint: SoCal, NoCal, Texas, Midwest, West and Northeast

1962-Dallas (AFL) moves to Kansas City; Los Angeles to San Diego

1963-Both leagues start looking at potential expansion cities: New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Buffalo. Buffalo and New Orleans had made the strongest pitches for teams

1965-AFL awards expansion franchise to Atlanta; NFL awards expansion franchise to Atlanta. AFL moves franchise to Miami. Both new teams begin play in 1966

1966-67-Merger announced. Both teams will add one team before leagues merge. New Orleans gets NFL franchise; Cincinnati AFL franchise with promise of new stadium built in Queen City in time for 1970 season.

1970: Balt, Pitt, Cleve move to AFC

1972-After most successful season to date, NFL declares no expansion

1973-World Football League formed with teams in Chicago, Honalulu, Buffalo, Toronto, New York, Boston, Orlando, Memphis, Birmingham among others. NFL forms expansion committee

1973-Buffalo promises new stadium if NFL grants franchise.

1974-NFL expands to Buffalo; WFL Buffalo team relocates to Portland; NFL seeks geographic balance and awards franchise to Tampa Bay. Both Buffalo and Tampa Bay will begin play in 1976. The divisional alignment is:

NFC East: NYG, Wash, Atl, Phila, Tampa. NFL Central: St. Lou, NO, Det, GB, Chic NFC West: LA, SF, Dall, Sea

AFC East: Buff, NYJ, Mia, NE, Balt AFC Central: Cleve, Minn, Cinn, Pitt AFC West: KC, SD, Oak, Hou, Den

1976: WFL ends. Memphis, Birmingham are on short list for further expansion.

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all of this seems very very plausible, though for some reason my gut says the chiefs would have come up with colors other than black and gold.

also, i'm dying to see the saints pencil drawing......... i'm getting 404 not found for that image :\

Yeah, I agree that the Chiefs would have come up with another set of colors. MU might be the state school, but Lawrence is 45 minutes from KC and much more popular than Mizzou is in the city. I've been to a lot of sporting events in KC, and I don't see very much black & gold. It's mostly KU.

I would guess they'd use some combo of KU and MU's colors:

Royal & Old Gold (would be unique in the NFL)

Red & Old Gold

Red & Black

Blue & Black

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all of this seems very very plausible, though for some reason my gut says the chiefs would have come up with colors other than black and gold.

also, i'm dying to see the saints pencil drawing......... i'm getting 404 not found for that image :\

Yeah, I agree that the Chiefs would have come up with another set of colors. MU might be the state school, but Lawrence is 45 minutes from KC and much more popular than Mizzou is in the city. I've been to a lot of sporting events in KC, and I don't see very much black & gold. It's mostly KU.

I would guess they'd use some combo of KU and MU's colors:

Royal & Old Gold (would be unique in the NFL)

Red & Old Gold

Red & Black

Blue & Black

...or, combine KU and Mizzou's colors by using Royal, Scarlet and Old Gold.

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all of this seems very very plausible, though for some reason my gut says the chiefs would have come up with colors other than black and gold.

also, i'm dying to see the saints pencil drawing......... i'm getting 404 not found for that image :\

Yeah, I agree that the Chiefs would have come up with another set of colors. MU might be the state school, but Lawrence is 45 minutes from KC and much more popular than Mizzou is in the city. I've been to a lot of sporting events in KC, and I don't see very much black & gold. It's mostly KU.

I would guess they'd use some combo of KU and MU's colors:

Royal & Old Gold (would be unique in the NFL)

Red & Old Gold

Red & Black

Blue & Black

...or, combine KU and Mizzou's colors by using Royal, Scarlet and Old Gold.

Anyone know who was the first team to actually use three colors (other than white) on their unis at once? I wanna say the Eagles (green, black and silver) but I keep thinking there must have someone before them.

Either way... I got no complaints here...

gelbaugh.jpg

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