Exhibit celebrates AFL's 50th Anniversary Season

Hall Info Published on : 5/22/2009

This season marks the 50th anniversary for the eight original American Football League teams. As part of the anniversary celebration, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has created a special exhibit that pays tribute to the league’s charter teams.

The AFL, which merged with the National Football League in 1970, played its first season in 1960 with eight teams. The original AFL teams were the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs (played as the Dallas Texans), New England Patriots (played as the Boston Patriots), New York Jets (played as the New York Titans), Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers (played as the Los Angeles Chargers) and Tennessee Titans (played as the Houston Oilers). The Miami Dolphins became the ninth AFL franchise and played its first game in 1966. The Cincinnati Bengals followed as the tenth AFL team playing its first game during the 1968 season.

The Remember the AFL exhibit opens at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday May 23 and will run through February 2010.  Included in the exhibit are one-of-a-kind game-worn artifacts, photos, documents and a video history that pays tribute to the league’s owners, players and coaches, circumstances of play and milestone events. One artifact featured that represents the single most important milestone of the league’s history is the pen that on November 8, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson used to sign Public Law 89-800 that carried the rider approving the merger of the AFL and NFL.  (See related story: Hall receives Rozelle mementos)

Also featured in the exhibit are artifacts from some of the league’s stars including Hall of Famers Jim Otto, George Blanda, Billy Shaw, and Kenny Houston. Artifacts from several other AFL stars like Floyd Little, George Saimes, Ed Budde, Gino Cappelletti, and Lionel Taylor are also presented.  Mementos from the careers of AFL Hall of Fame coaches Hank Stram, Weeb Ewbank and Sid Gillman are also displayed.

Many of the elements that contribute to making pro football the world's most popular sport can be traced to the AFL and the changes its presence brought to the sport. By the time the fierce war between the competing AFL and NFL of the 1960s was over and the merger was complete, the expanded NFL stretched from coast-to-coast and from border to border. As a result, full stadiums and dramatically increased television coverage introduced pro football to hundreds of millions of new fans.