San Diego Chargers Team History
Chargers were born on August 14, 1959, when Barron Hilton, a
32-year-old hotel executive, was awarded a franchise for Los
Angeles in the new American Football League. Even though they
won the AFL Western division championship in 1960, the Los Angeles
Chargers received meager fan support so Hilton, buoyed by the
encouragement of San Diego sports editor Jack Murphy, moved
his team 120 miles south to San Diego in 1961. Historic Balboa
Stadium was expanded to 34,000 capacity to accommodate the Chargers.
In San Diego, the Chargers, spurred by coach Sid Gillman, developed
into one of the true glamour teams of any decade. Gillman's
first teams were high-scoring, crowd-pleasing juggernauts that
won divisional championships five of the AFL's first six years
and the AFL title with a 51-10 win over Boston in 1963. Such
stars as wide receiver Lance Alworth, running backs Keith Lincoln
and Paul Lowe and quarterback John Hadl not only made the Chargers
a winning team, they also provided image, impetus and respect
for the entire AFL that was fighting a life-and-death struggle
with the established and well-financed NFL. Gillman, Alworth
and tackle Ron Mix, another 1960s superstar, are now members
of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Chargers moved into a new 60,835-seat stadium -- it is now
called Qualcomm Stadium -- in 1967. While the new home assured
the future of pro football in San Diego, the team itself did
not win another championship until 13 years later in 1979. Gillman
suddenly retired from coaching because of failing health after
nine games in 1969. He did coach 10 more games for the Chargers
in 1971 but the glory days of the early '60s could not be duplicated.
Gillman's 87-57-6 record in 11 seasons in San Diego is easily
the best in Chargers' history.
Only one other long-term San Diego coach, Don Coryell, had a
winning record. Coryell compiled a 72-60-0 record during his
1978-1986 tenure. The Chargers won AFC Western division championships
in 1979, 1980 and 1981 and reached the AFC championship game
the last two seasons. During that period, Coryell's Chargers
played the same kind of exciting football that made the team
so popular in the 1960s. Like Gillman, Coryell emphasized the
forward pass (the offense was referred to as "Air Coryell")
and a future Hall of Fame quarterback, Dan Fouts, was the man
who made his offense go. His targets included such Hall of Famers
as wide receiver Charlie Joiner and tight end Kellen Winslow.
San Diego advanced to the second round of the AFC playoffs in
the strike-shortened 1982 season but then dropped out of contention
for the next 10 years.
Bobby Ross from Georgia Tech became the coach in 1992 and immediately
led the Chargers back to the playoffs, capturing the AFC Western
division title. Two years later the Chargers defeated the Pittsburgh
Steelers 17-13 in the AFC championship game before losing to
the San Francisco 49ers 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX.
Hilton sold the Chargers to Eugene V. Klein in 1966. Klein in
turn sold the team to Alex G. Spanos, a successful Stockton,
Calif. businessman, in 1984. Spanos serves today as Chairman
of the Board.