A Look at Professional and College Football in 1962
Hello sports fans! Today Roadtrip-'62 ™ takes a look at football in 1962. I’ll start with the stadiums, which back then typically hosted both a baseball team and football team. Cleveland is a good example, with both the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns playing at Cleveland Municipal Stadium back then. That was one of the early multi-purpose stadiums, originally constructed in 1932 in a failed bid by Cleveland to host the Olympics. It was demolished in 1996 and a new Cleveland Browns Stadium now stands on the lakefront site of the former Municipal Stadium. Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado was also a multi-purpose stadium, built in 1948 to host the Denver Bears baseball team. It was expanded to accommodate the Denver Broncos, who began playing there in 1960.
No new NFL or AFL stadiums opened in 1962. The most recent new stadium before that was Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, which opened in 1957. Lambeau is of course the home of the Green Bay Packers and the stadium was first called City Stadium, the same as its predecessor at the city’s East High School. It was renamed in 1965 to honor Packers founder, player, and long-time head coach, Curly Lambeau. It is now the oldest continually operating NFL stadium. When opened, capacity was 32,132 attendees, but it was expanded in 1961 to 38,669, so we would have seen the larger stadium in 1962. The Green Bay Packers won their second straight National Football League championship this year, defeating the New York Giants. (more on that later)
Two college football stadiums currently in use were constructed in 1962, Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, North Carolina. Falcon Stadium is the home of the Air Force Falcons of the United States Air Force Academy. Kidd Brewer Stadium is the home of the Mountaineers of Appalachian State University. While Green Bay may be unusual for having NFL games played at a municipal high school stadium, many teams in both the NFL and AFL played at college stadiums. On our US-6 roadtrip through Los Angeles, we passed the University of Southern California and Exposition Park, right next door. One of the features of Exposition Park is Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which is handy for the USC Trojan’s football team, which plays here. The Coliseum was also home to the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams from 1946-1978.
You may have noticed that I’ve been mentioning two professional football leagues in 1962. That’s because we still had a second pro league, the American Football League (AFL). The AFL played from 1960-69, merging with the National Football League effective in 1970. Many of the features of modern football were first adopted by the AFL, such as the two-point conversion, names on the players' jerseys, and nationally televising of all league games with all teams sharing in the TV revenue. The league also had many civil rights firsts, including the first black head scout and the first black starting quarterbacks of the modern era. The league began with 8 teams from 1960-65: the Boston Patriots, the Buffalo Bills, the Houston Oilers, the New York Titans (which became the Jets in 1963), the Dallas Texans (who moved and became the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963), the Denver Broncos, the Los Angeles Chargers (who moved to San Diego in 1961), and the Oakland Raiders. It added a new team in 1966-67, the Miami Dolphins, and a final team in 1968, the Cincinnati Bengals. And of course, the Super Bowl owes its beginnings to the AFL, because without two leagues to challenge each other, it would not have begun. This first World Championship Game was played in 1967.
Since I never played football, even in junior high school, football cards were more interesting than the actual game. There were three companies printing cards in 1962. Topps and Fleer both packaged them with their bubble gum, like baseball cards. But unlike the Topps and Fleer cards, Post Cereals cards were printed on the backs of various cereal boxes. That meant kids had to cut the cards out themselves and so the margins of surviving cards can vary a lot. Post Cereals published 200 cards in their set, and all are NFL players. They are broken down alphabetically by team city and then the player's last name. They published more cards than Topps, meaning that many players featured in the Post set did not have cards in the Topps set, including some who debuted as rookies in 1962. Card #1 was Henry Jordan, a defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers. He was named the Outstanding Lineman of the 1962 Pro Bowl classic game.
Topps published 176 cards in their set, and they were released in a single series. Many of the black-and-white inset photos on the 1962 Topps cards do not show the player whose name is on the card! Topps altered the jersey number on some of the images to match the number of the player. After one year of featuring players from both the NFL and the AFL, Topps returned to their practice of having only NFL players. Card #1 was John Unitas, Baltimore Colts quarterback, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979. His record of at least one touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games stood for more than 50 years. Fleer published only 88 cards in their set. For 1962, Fleer returned to featuring only players from the AFL after a year where both leagues were included in its set. The set is numbered so the players are grouped by team name. Card #1 was Billy Lott, Boston Patriots fullback. He played only one more year after 1962.
Enjoy some video highlights from great 1962 football games! First up is the conclusion of the 1962 NFL Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants. The game was played at Yankee Stadium in New York on December 30, 1962. Temperatures during the game were in the low teens and a raw wind with sustained speeds of 31mph was blowing steadily. Television crews used bonfires to thaw out their cameras, and still one cameraman suffered frostbite! The conditions of course made throwing the ball difficult. Some fans tore up wooden benches in the bleachers and set fire to them for warmth! The Cardinal Dougherty High School marching band from Philadelphia performed the halftime show and band members recall, "We didn't have any thermal underwear. We were so cold that when we finished our pregame performance we were all crying." The horns did not perform due to the cold: lips might freeze to the metal mouthpieces. Green Bay, perhaps used to the cold, won the match 16-7. You can watch at the NFL website.
Next we have highlights from the 1962 AFL Championship game between the Houston Oilers and the Dallas Texans. The game was played at Jeppesen Stadium in Houston, Texas on December 23, 1962. Acting as an honorary referee, Astronaut Gus Grissom placed the ball on the kicking tee at the start. At the time, it was the longest game in the history of professional American football, and it remains the longest professional championship game in football history. It ran into two overtimes, including a sudden-death overtime. Dallas won the match 20-17.
In college bowl game action from 1962, we have a link to the 1962 Liberty Bowl Game. This game was held in Philadelphia between the Oregon State Beavers versus the Villanova Wildcats on December 15, 1962. You can see Terry Baker's long run for the only score of the game. Bad weather made for a frozen field, with the temperature never reaching over 25 degrees. The film also shows highlights from the remainder of Oregon State University 1962's games, including contests versus Iowa State, Iowa, Stanford, Washington, University of Pacific, West Virginia, Washington State, Idaho, Colorado State, and Oregon. You can view the video at the Oregon State University website. Other bowl games played in 1962 were the Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Gator Bowl, Bluebonnet Bowl, and the Gotham Bowl. Speaking of college football, the rankings operated differently in 1962 than they do today. The 1962 NCAA University Division football rankings were a combination of two human polls, the Associated Press Poll and the NCAA Coaches’ Poll. Unlike most sports, college football's governing body, the NCAA, does not give a national championship.
And finally, we have football for the rest of the world, which we call soccer. The FIFA World Cup Soccer Games were held in Chile in 1962, resulting in a case of notorious bad sportsmanship known as the Battle of Santiago. You won’t find Roadtrip-'62 ™ heading to Chile anytime, but come back soon for a short trip down highway US-25.
All photos by the author and Copyright © 2019 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.
All other content Copyright © 2019 - Milne Enterprises, Inc.