Editor’s note: On every remaining Sunday in 2020, the Star Tribune will republish a memorable Sid Hartman column from the archives. This is Sid’s column from the Jan. 30, 1960, edition of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune, regarding the new franchise coming to town: the Minnesota Vikings.
It was a year ago this month when the phone rang. It was Walter Wolfner, owner of the Chicago Cardinals football team.
“You and Charley Johnson have been trying to sell me on moving the Cardinals to the Twin Cities. I’m not ready to move and won’t promise I ever will, but if you want to prove that you can support pro football, I’ll give you a chance.
“Get me a $300,000 guarantee and I’ll move two of my league games to Minneapolis.”
This started the wheels turning. Most everybody contacted thought the proposition was outrageous. A lot of people didn’t like the deal even after Wolfner reduced his guarantee to $240,000.
However, several members of the NFL encouraged Chet Roan, Gerry Moore, Bill Boyer and others to accept Wolfner’s terms.
“His price is a little high” was the sentiment among the owners of the NFL clubs. “But this is the price you might have to pay to get an NFL club.
“If you people draw well for the two games, you might get the Cardinals and if you don’t there is a good chance for expansion.”
The first Cardinal game against Philadelphia wasn’t a sellout.
George Halas of the Chicago Bears, Art Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers and other key men in the NFL were anxious what would happen when the leading New York Giants came to town to play the Cardinals.
The fact that the Giants game sold out did a great deal to sell the NFL owners on Minneapolis-St. Paul as a pro football area.
“You sold me,” said Jack Mara of the New York Giants. “And even though the Eagle [game] didn’t sell out, Vince McNally of the Philadelphia Eagles was impressed with the stadium and the pro football interest.”
When negotiations first started to include the Twin Cities in the NFL expansion, Wolfner was a key man in favor of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
He helped get a commitment by wire, assuring 10 votes for expansion to include Minneapolis-St. Paul.
He worked hand-in-hand with George Halas, the Chicago Bear boss who was the expansion chairman and the man who swings the big stick in the NFL.
But suddenly Wolfner changed his mind. The Cardinal managing director said he’d vote for Minneapolis-St. Paul but not for Dallas since he didn’t want to lose the right to televise in Texas.
He started to campaign against expansion. Part of the reason may have been his feeling toward Halas.
However, he wasn’t strong enough to stop Halas, Rooney and others.
But the irony is that Wolfner, despite the fact that he voted against expanding to include Minneapolis-St. Paul, gave the Twin Cities the first chance that helped sell the NFL on the area.
Oddly enough, Max Winter, whose office handled the publicity for both Card games, played a big part in getting the franchise.
Jay Wilkinson, son of Oklahoma coach Bud and Norman, Okla., quarterback, was named to the 1959 Wigwam Prep All-American high school football team. … Frosty Evashevski, son of Iowa coach Forest, was named at quarterback on the sixth team. … Terry Hedstrom, Alexandria fullback, was the only Minnesota boy named. He made the seventh team. …
John Butterfield, a member of the Minnesota freshman basketball squad last year, is averaging 12 points per game for the North Dakota freshmen. …
Wayne Fix, who is coaching the Minnesota freshman basketball team on a part-time basis, is expected to join the Gopher staff full time next year. …
Bemidji will have a delegation to cheer its native son Ray Cronk, Feb. 13. …
If Ohio State goes through the Big Ten undefeated, it will be the first team to accomplish this since the 1942-43 Illinois team. …
Marty Gharrity, Wisconsin sophomore cager, played for Winona Coach John Kenney when John coached Shawano to two state championships.
Jim Kelly, Gopher track coach, “Tom Brown will win some points for us throwing the shot before the season is over. But he is still having trouble with his knee following an operation and isn’t as strong as he will be later.”
Roger Hagberg, Gophers fullback: “We’re getting ready to play the freshmen cagers on Feb. 8. We’ll have a good team with Tom Hall, Mike Wright, Tom Moe, Dick Johnson, Sandy Stephens and others. We feel we can win.”