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Relocated NFL Teams: The LA Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers were a short lived American Football team that played in the AFL (American Football League) during the 1960 season. They are predecessors to the San Diego Chargers of today. The team was set up by Hilton Hotel chain owner Barron Hilton as one of the charter franchises of the AFL. The AFL was then composed of seven other teams which included the Boston Patriots, the Oakland Raiders, the Houston Oilers, the New York Titans, the Denver Broncos, the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Texans. The name Chargers was drawn from the chant “charge!” which was popular with Dodgers and USC fans and it was picked by team manager Frank Leahy. The name was approved by Hilton who liked it because it agreed with three elements associated with the team and his company; the charging horse symbol on the club’s stationary, the lightning bolt on the team’s helmet and the Hilton Blanche Carte charge card. The Chargers would share the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with NFL and crosstown rivals California Rams. The team’s first coach was Sid Gillman who had been coach of the Los Angeles Rams for five years. Their first draft pick was Monte Stickles of Notre Dame.

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The Chargers were one of the best teams in the AFL during the 1960 season. They had some memorable performances in the course of the season as they raced to a 10-4 record which saw them top the league standings. They would meet the Houston Oilers in the Championship Game in Houston to decide who would be crowned champion. The game was played at the Jeppesen Arena, a high school stadium, because the Chargers had agreed to give up home advantage to a place where greater attendance could be guaranteed. Ben Agajanian was in inspiring form, scoring two quick field goals in the first quarter to give the Chargers a 6-0 lead. In the second quarter he added a 27 yard field goal, but his efforts were cancelled out following a 17-yard kick by Houston’s George Blanda. In the fourth quarter, the Chargers fell behind by eight points following an 88-yard rushing touchdown by Bill Canton. The game eventually ended 26-14 in the Oiler’s favor to deny the Chargers a championship win on their very first attempt.

Why were the Los Angeles Chargers Relocated?

Although the Los Angeles market was one of the largest in the US, it was already dominated by the Los Angeles Rams and college teams at the time and fans were not ready to welcome the Chargers or the AFL. While the Rams had no trouble filling up the 100,000 seat Memorial Coliseum, the Chargers struggled to reach 10,000 fans in any of their games. Most of those in the stands were beneficiaries of complimentary tickets handed out by the team. The team also encouraged players’ wives and families to attend games while employees of the Hilton hotel chain were handed free tickets to boost attendance. Coach Sid Gillman once recapped how he stood on the sidelines for one game, personally counted all the fans and jokes about feeling afraid that there would be more players than fans that day. That season, the franchise made a $900,000 loss and Hilton expressed his desire to move to a more suitable city in order to cut his losses. San Diego was his favorite destination and negotiations started way before the 1960 season concluded. His conditions for the move were that the city of San Diego provides a state of the art stadium on a one-year rent free agreement and that they guarantee the sale of 20,000 season tickets. The Balboa Stadium in San Diego, which had a capacity of 24,000 was expanded, locker rooms renovated and luxury boxes installed. The official agreement was signed on February 9, 1961 after which the team moved in and was renamed the San Diego Chargers. Lately there has been talk of the Chargers as well as the Raiders going back to Los Angeles. If this should materialize it would be the first time LA would be hosting an NFL team since the Rams left for St. Louis in 1994.

Los Angeles Chargers Notable Players

Ben Agajanian K

Paul Lowe HB/KR

Don Norton SE

Ralph Anderson SE

Dick Harris RCB/PR

Royce Womble T

Don Norton RB

Howie Ferguson FB

Jack Kemp QB

Paul Maguire P/RCB

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