The reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. That offense. That quarterback. That short guy who wears Number 10. Geez....
The Chiefs are an original American Football League (AFL) franchise with origins back to 1960. They began in Dallas and were christened the “Texans.” Their owner was Lamar Hunt, who tried to get the established National Football League (NFL) to grant him an expansion team.
At the time, the NFL was only 12 clubs. The Baltimore Colts had just won back-to-back championship seasons. Two teams called California home, whereas the rest of the league called the east or Midwest home. The owners all liked each other, got along in most respects, been in the league for quite a while and were all self-made.
Hunt was the son of an oil man. A very wealthy oil man. The old school guard of the NFL wanted no part of some silver-spooned Harvard grad; Hunt actually went to SMU, but he looked and talked like a high-brow lawyer school grad.
The NFL told Hunt in 1958 that they were happy with being a 12-club league and thank you for stopping by. In 1959 when he returned to inquire again about expansion, they told him the same thing. But this time, they informed him that if he really wanted to own an NFL team, he would have to purchase an existing team. And the only one that might be for sale was the Chicago Cardinals.
When he contacted the Bidwells, owners of the Cardinals, eventually they agreed to sell him 20% of the club. When he expressed an interest in relocating the Cardinals to Dallas, the Bidwell’s explained to him that he would be welcome to spend his money but the team would remain in Chicago.
Almost every season, the Cardinals were bottom feeders and were at – or near – the bottom in attendance. The crosstown Chicago Bears drew very well and annually were one of the best teams. The Bears had already won seven NFL crowns. Hunt was adamant about moving the Cardinals to Dallas, his hometown. The Bidwell’s said no thank you and take your fancy diploma with you.
So, Hunt began his own league. He found a partner in Houston and thus the AFL was born with the Dallas Texans and Houston Oilers.
Instantly, the NFL said they were indeed going to expand and their first location planned was to place a club where? In Dallas. The NFL dubbed their newest franchise the Dallas Steers – without an owner, a stadium lease, players, colors, equipment or even a single football. The Steers were later sold and that owner renamed them the Rangers. Later, the Rangers became the Cowboys.
Which all leads us to the Chiefs. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about the Kansas City Chiefs:
1. The AFL Texans were more popular than the NFL Cowboys
Dallas is a city of almost 1.4 million and is the fourth largest populated U.S. city. Back in 1960, that number was just shy of 680,000 where college football was king. In fact, Dallas wasn’t even close to being ranked in the Top-10 of cities and in fact would be the NFL’s second smallest city behind Green Bay. The city did have the Cotton Bowl stadium, home to Hunt’s alma mater SMU Mustangs. However, the city could just barely support one college team, much less adding a set of professional clubs.
The Texans were masters at self-promotion and gave themselves the icon “Football’s Zing Team.” They charged 10 cents more per ticket than the Cowboys to establish a sense of “class.” The club established the “Huddle Club” which for $1 gave a child free admission to every game plus a Texans t-shirt. Once, the franchise set loose thousands of balloons into the city with coupons valid for free game tickets. If fans used Sinclair gas stations, they were given free tickets. Anyone wearing a barber smock would get in free on “Barber Day.”
The Cowboys were a mesh of NFL castoffs while the Texans featured Abner Hayes, an exciting local star running back from North Texas State College. Head coach Hank Stram used defenses never before seen at the professional level and labeled that the “triple-stacked defense.” He also invented the “moving pocket” for his offense.
The Texans opened up in front of 37,500 at the Cotton Bowl whereas the Cowboys only drew 18,500 in their first game. There aren’t any details from either game of exactly how many patrons actually paid.
For 1960, the Texans finished 5-6-0 while the Cowboys went 0-11-1. The Texans were winning while the Cowboys were building. In their first season together, the Texans drew just over 171,000 while the Cowboys totaled only 128,000. The Texans led the AFL in attendance.
By 1962 the Cowboys did better at drawing crowds with just over 152,000 while they finished 5-8-1. The Texans were one of the AFL’s best teams with an 11-3-0 record, yet only netted 155,409 fans for the year.
That same season the Texans won the AFL Championship while Stram was named AFL Coach-of-the-Year. The following season they left town but outperformed the Cowboys on the field as well as with attendance.
2. Racism is one of the reasons they ended up in Kansas City
Even though Dallas was his home, Hunt realized that the only way his Texans could survive at the gate was one of the Dallas teams had to relocate. He decided, despite being the reigning AFL champs, that franchise would be his.
Dallas was famous for racism as evidenced by the 1957 Cotton Bowl in which Syracuse star fullback Jim Brown had to be housed in a separate hotel than his teammates because there weren’t any segregated hotels in Dallas.
There was a petition to have the hotels segregate once pro football arrived and finally one hotel, the Ramada Inn next to Dallas Love Field, changed their policies.
Hunt was adamant about racial equality and even hired Lloyd Wells, pro football’s first black full-time scout.
Whichever city he relocated the franchise to, he wanted to be close to his hometown of Dallas where he maintained a home.
When Hunt decided to move the Texans, he first visited Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. The city was just under an eight-hour drive and was a growing city. However, Tulane Stadium’s seating was strictly segregated and didn’t have any plans to change. So, Hunt looked at Atlanta.
In the meantime, he received a call from H. Roe Bartle, who explained to Hunt that he was the Mayor of Kansas City. After many meetings and negotiations, the Texans moved to Kansas City - who sold tickets to black patrons.
If Tulane Stadium and the City of New Orleans had worked with Hunt to segregate, more than likely the Dallas Texans would have moved there and therefore the Kansas City Chiefs would never exist.
3. The Chiefs named after American Indians?
Kansas City Mayor H. Roe Bartle is credited with getting the Texans to move to this Midwestern city. The city was growing tremendously and already had the Kansas City Athletics pro baseball team.
Bartle lured Hunt with free use of practice facilities and office space, a very good season ticket holder base, an addition of 14,000 more seats to Municipal Stadium (home of the A’s), and an overwhelming show of support by the community.
Plus, the Cowboys had agreed to buy the Texans’ practice facilities for $100,000 if they left; and Kansas City was the same eight-hour drive to Dallas than to New Orleans.
Ar first, Hunt was going to name them the “Kansas City Texans” and even developed a logo of the State of Missouri with a single star inserted to pin the City of Kansas City (which was to honor the Lone Star State of Texas). However, team President Jack Steadman convinced Hunt to offer a new team name.
A “name-the-team” contest ensued and with all of the submissions, Hunt chose the name “Chiefs.”
“The Chief” was Bartle’s nickname.
4. Their “KC” helmet logo is patterned after an NFL club
The Texans wore red helmets with the State of Texas in white with a single yellow star highlighting the location of Dallas.
After renaming his Texans the “Chiefs”, Hunt designed a simple interlocking “KC” logo on a napkin that resembled the “SF” logo of the San Francisco 49ers. Instead of an oval background that San Fran used, Hunt drew out a simplistic arrowhead as the backdrop.
What is identical is how the “K” is the outer letter that lays over the second letter as does the outer letter “S” which rests on the “F” while both are outlined in black. And if you look closely, the “K” and “C” even have serifs, just like the “S” and “F.”
5. The Chiefs were the first to have colored facemasks because....
Chiefs’ head coach Hank Stram loved defense. And what he hated most was the fact that a strategy of offensive linemen of the time was to latch onto to the facemask of one of his bull-rushing defensive lineman and use this tactic to maneuver players.
At the time there were only two types of facemasks: a brown steel cage manufactured by Schutt or the gray double-barred plastic variety offered by Riddell. These were standard equipment for every professional football team.
Complaints to the referees regarding the practice of holding onto his player’s facemask was a mixed bag. At some point the officials just ignored his pleas game-after-game.
To solve the problem, in 1974 Stram had his equipment man, Wayne Rudy, paint all of their gray facemasks white so that the referees could plainly see the fingers of the offensive linemen holding onto his defenders in this manner.