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TIME Magazine, January 3, 1949, p. 31:|
SPORTS: Fantastic Situation?
When the upstart All-America Football Conference was in kneepants, Elmer Layden, then commissioner of the rival pro National Football League, was asked whether his well-heeled, well-established league would recognize it. Layden scornfully replied: "Let them get a football." By last week, three years later, the junior circuit had succeeded so well that both leagues were practically broke.*
Only two National League teams (the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins) and one All-America club (the San Francisco 49ers) seemed likely to show a profit. The Chicago Rockets of the All-America Conference would lose more than $300,000, the Los Angeles Rams of the National League about $200,000. Complained Owner Alexis Thompson of the Philadelphia Eagles: "[It's a] fantastic situation that finds me with a championship team that will lose close to $32,000 this year."
Up Go Salaries. Unable to agree on drafting players, the two leagues were knocking each other out in bidding for college football stars. The average salary had been bid up from $4,000 to $8,000 for a four-month playing season. There were just not enough pro football fans to support three Chicago teams or three New York teams (New York was about to get a fourth--the National League's Boston Yanks, moving to the big city because attendance in Boston fell as low as 6,800). And the two leagues had steadfastly failed to get together even for crosstown contests, let alone a World Series.
Everybody agreed that the two pro leagues would have to make peace or perish, but neither side was prepared for peace. Last week, in Philadelphia, officials of both leagues talked truce for twelve futile hours. The National League's unacceptable terms: add the Browns and 49ers to the ten-team National League, fold up the other six All-America teams.
What Will the Traffic Bear? In Philadelphia and Cleveland, club owners vied for the privilege of trying to sign such top 1948 college stars as Nevada's champion passer, Stan Heath, Southern Methodist's snake-hipped quarterback, Doak Walker (who still has another year of college play), Pennsylvania's burly center, Chuck Bednarik. That eliminated bidding between teams in each league but not between leagues. Nobody knew how much the traffic would bear. The Brooklyn Dodgers had signed Columbia's fullback, Lou Kusserow, but it was a fair bet that the Dodgers might not have a team next year for Kusserow to play on.
* Professional baseball's National League also refused to recognize a rival American League in 1900, three years later was forced to make peace when the junior circuit stole away players by doubling salaries.