Saturday, June 14, 2008

Charlie Jones an AFL original

I was saddened to learn that the voice of the American Football League, a league not thought capable of competing with the legendary NFL, Charlie Jones passed away at 77 years of age.
How fitting, 77, a number that for some bizarre reason elicits AFL action at its best. Didn't one of the key San Diego Chargers have some outrageous number like 77? (Actually, #77, was retired by the Chargers, for Ernie Ladd. It was #22 that was worn by both Dickie Post and Keith Lincoln. It was sort of their magical number, the way #20 was the Detroit Lions' number..Lem Barney, Billy Sims, and finallyBarry Sanders wore the number. The Lions retired the number, for Barry Sanders. Perhaps as a ploy to get Sanders out of retirement? Well that failed, but the number lives in a sort of sui generis.)

The San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Boston/NE Patriots, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Houston Oilers have Charlie Jones to thank for putting them on the map. His unique voice and sense of humor added an ingredient to the fledgling league until Pete Rozelle and associates decided it was time to unite.

He was an NBC staple and did his share of baseball broadcasts. (Cincinnati Reds 1973-74; Colorado Rockies' first TV broadcaster, which began in 1993.) But what I remember about Charlie Jones , aside from his silver hair and stylish specs, was his willingness to say things in that waggish manner equipped with an unmistakable voice, as he expertly informed and entertained his audience and side-kick, as well. He, like all the jewels of their craft, was truly one of a kind.

He just may have been insightful enough to be the nearest thing to Branch Rickey, where the AFL was concerned. Branch broke the color line, Charlie broke the NFL/AFL barrier.
As a youngster watching the early AFL, I don't think I'm off the mark in this assessment.

(I know this is a San Francisco Giants blog. But anybody who contributes to the sports medium, and contributes in a Hall of Fame caliber, will get acknowledged by yours truly.)

Kevin Marquez (thanks to Wikipedia)