Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jack Kemp, an original Charger

       I saw Jack Kemp play in the Coliseum. It was 1960 and he was the quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers, an original American Football League franchise owned by Barron Hilton that played in L.A. for one season before it moved to San Diego. The Chargers wore their white helmets with the gold lighting bolts on the sides, white pants and royal blue jerseys, which were darker than the powder blue shirts  that they would wear at home games in San Diego. I still have the iron-on patch with the Chargers logo that I bought at the game.
       The Chargers played the New York Titans that day in December and it was the final game of the regular season. The crowd was small, about 19,000. Kemp, who had little success playing in the NFL and also in  Canada,  had blossomed into a proficient passer that season for the Chargers, who were coached by Sid Gillman.
       The game was high scoring, as were most AFL contests in those days, and L.A. was led by Kemp's passing and Paul Lowe's running. The Chargers' roster was filled with local players, including Kemp, who went to Occidental College, and Ron Mix, who played at USC.
       The Titans, who would later become the Jets, had a wide receiver named Don Maynard, and he would be the only player from that 1960 squad  that would play in Super Bowl III with Joe Namath.
       Kemp, who would go to lead the Buffalo Bills to the AFL title, and then have a successful career in politics, died over weekend at age 73.

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