An original AFL team that has called the West Coast home
#1. Named after a credit card
The Los Angeles Chargers were an original American Football League (AFL) team and began in the AFL’s maiden season of 1960. The original owner was Barron Hilton, who took over the Hilton Hotels chain founded by his father Conrad. Hilton had quite a few other projects in the works including a credit card called “Carte Blanche.”
Credit cards were still in their infancy in the 1950’s going into the 1960’s. Diner’s Club was the first company to offer the concept of charging goods and services in 1950. American Express had been in business beginning in 1850, but didn’t go into the credit card avenue until 1950. Visa begun in 1958, but both were still small companies as far as credit lines go. 1958 is when Carte Blanche was first available.
Hilton had the idea to advertise his new venture by calling his team “Chargers”, which meant he wanted people to be credit card chargers. In 1968, Carte Blanche was sold to a national bank which later would be renamed Citibank.
#2. Was going to bolt the AFL unless another California team was formed
The AFL began with eight franchises. Los Angeles was the only western team other than the Denver Broncos.
When the Minneapolis franchise left the AFL for an NFL franchise instead, Hilton saw this as an opportunity. He threatened to pull his financial stability out of the league unless a regional club would take its place, thus giving Los Angeles a natural rival.
This forced the AFL to look hard at other West Coast cities. Seattle was their first choice and went as far as naming their club the Seattle Rangers, but there were stadium issues that were never resolved. Several months later, a franchise was placed in Oakland and named the Raiders.
#3. Chargers had two future Hall of Fame coaches on their maiden season team
Today, NFL clubs have as many as 25 coaches. In 1960, the coaching staff of the Chargers was just five men. Two of those five men would end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Al Davis and Chuck Noll.
Davis had been hired away from the USC football team’s staff to be on head coach Sid Gillman’s Chargers staff. Davis coached the offensive backfield which today would be the running backs coach plus the QB coach. A few years later he became head coach of the Oakland Raiders and then a minority owner before taking over the ownership of the Raiders.
Noll resided on the other side of the ball as the Chargers DL and DB coach plus the defensive coordinator. In 1969, Noll was hired as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers who dominated the 1970s with four Super Bowl victories.
Davis had been a scout for the Baltimore Colts before his USC coaching gig, but for both of these men, the job with the Chargers was their first indoctrination into coaching at the professional level.