Before the modern-day New York Jets of today’s NFL – before Joe Namath, before the infamous “Heidi Game,” before the guaranteed Super Bowl III victory – there were the New York Titans. A charter member of the upstart American Football League in 1960, the underfunded Titans played for three seasons to meager crowds in Upper Manhattan’s decrepit Polo Grounds, flirting with bankruptcy and collapse from virtually day one. Author/historian Bill Ryczek (Crash of the Titans: The Early Years of the New York Jets and the AFL) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the Jets’ ignominious beginnings as the Titans, including notable performances by:
· Owner Harry Wismer, the volatile sportscaster with a talent for hustling, a penchant for drinking, and a habit of bouncing paychecks;
· Head coach Sammy Baugh, the prescient hall-of-fame player who refused to show up for a press conference announcing his signing until he was paid his full salary in advance – and in cash;
· Successor (and first-time) head coach Clyde "Bulldog" Turner, who inherited a dispirited squad weary of uncertain finances, inadequate publicity, and front office instability;
· AFL commissioner Joe Foss, the constant Wismer foe, whose tolerance was tested until ultimately pushed to seize control of the franchise; and
· William Shea, the New York attorney whose dream for a Continental League baseball franchise in a newly-constructed Flushing Stadium materialized too late to save Wismer’s foundering Titans, but eventually catalyzed the re-born Jets.