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Celebrating "Broadway Joe" Namath - Part I

Way back in 1964 the St. Louis Cardinals of the National Football League and the New York Jets of the American Football League engaged in a bidding war over Alabama quarterback Joe Namath. It symbolized the war between the two leagues for star players with ability, who would also be television attractions.

At Beaver Falls High School in Pennsylvania, the 6-2, 200 pound Namath had excelled in baseball, basketball and football. He quarterbacked his high school team to a perfect season and the Western Pennsylvania championship. He dazzled the opposition on the baseball field as an outfielder and pitcher, but turned down a $20,000 bonus offered by the Baltimore Orioles of the American League claiming he wanted to concentrate on football.

At the University of Alabama, Namath was "all everything." His legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant said of him: "He is the greatest athlete I have ever coached."

Joe Willie guided the "Crimson Tide" to Orange Bowl appearances in 1963 and 1964. The following season, as an All-American, he led 'Bama to a perfect Season, the SEC title, and the national championship even though his team was defeated by the University of Texas in the Orange Bowl. In his collegiate career at Alabama, Namath was instrumental in getting his teams to post a 28-3-0 record .

The huge and highly publicized bidding war for Joe Namath saw the AFL and the Jets come out as victors. Namath didn't do too badly either. He was signed to a four-year contract at $25,000 per season, plus a $200,000 bonus. Scouting jobs were provided for his three brothers and a brother-in-law at $10,000 a year. A green Lincoln Continental plus other luxury features were included in the deal which totaled approximately $427,000 - a lot of money for that time.

What was to be called "the Namath Effect" was now in place. Off the playing field, Joe was showcased with glamorous starlet types with the Manhattan skyline as his backdrop, and the saloons and penthouses of New York City as his nesting and resting places. His props were long hair and sideburns, expensive and flashy clothes, and quip-loaded speech.

The American Football League's leading man, an affable, charming, outgoing man, Namath attracted the ardor of women and the envy of men. They called him "Broadway Joe." It was a well-publicized and well- deserved nickname for the most famous football figure of his era in the Big Apple.

There were those who criticized him for his flamboyant lifestyle. There were those who were just flat out jealous. In 1969, he suffered some come-uppance for what some perceived as his over the edge ways. He was ordered by NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle to sell his interest in Bachelors III, a nightclub on Manhattan's Upper East Side because it was allegedly frequented by gamblers.

Despite having four knee operations, Namath not only survived but prevailed in the grueling world of pro football. Rookie of the Year in 1965, two years later Namath became the first QB to pass for more than 4,000 yards in a season.

He had many shining moments in his time in professional football, but there was nothing ever better for him, the American Football League and the New York Jets than a January day in 1969.

# # #

You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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