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Birmingham Americans logo WFL1974.com
The World Football League Website
Legion Field

Team and League History


October 2, 1973
     World Football League logo
   
Gary Davidson, a Southern California attorney, announces the formation of the World Football League. Birmingham is rumored to be included in the list of cities receiving inaugural franchises.

Davidson is best known as the man who founded the American Basketball Association in 1967 and co-founded the World Hockey Association in 1973. He was also the first president of each league.

December 14, 1973
Local businessman Frank Falkenburg claims he was offered the Birmingham franchise in the WFL, "I worked on it originally and finally wound up turning it down."

Citing economic factors as his decision, Falkenburg says he just couldn't make the numbers work. An earlier group negotiating for a National Football League expansion team could get no concessions or parking rights from the city for Legion Field. Rent of the stadium would have been 10% of the gate; most NFL teams pay only 1 or 2%. Falkenburg said that anyone bringing a team here should expect to lose $1 million the first year.

"They're shooting to try and get (Joe) Namath," Falkenburg said. Namath, former University of Alabama and current New York Jets quarterback, could be involved as a player, owner or both.

Gerald Wallace, brother of Alabama Governor George Wallace, is reportedly interested in rights to the franchise.

In a separate announcement, Davidson names New York, Chicago, Southern California, Toronto, Boston, Florida, Honolulu, Birmingham, and Washington, DC as likely franchise cities.

December 16, 1973
When asked for his opinion on professional football coming to Birmingham, University of Alabama head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant said, "There is a place for pro football, and a place for college football. I'm not excited at all about having pro football in Birmingham. The rivals who do excite me are Auburn and the other Southeastern Conference teams."

December 20, 1973
     Photograph 
  Owner William R. Putnam
   
William R. Putnam is announced as majority owner of the WFL's Birmingham franchise. He has yet to post the required $500,000 check for the franchise fee, however.

Putnam has met with Park and Recreation Board officials and applied for the use of Legion Field on Wednesday and Thursday nights during July through November of this year. After a tour of the stadium, Putnam said, "We were very impressed. All the facilities are outstanding. Birmingham calls itself the 'Football Capital of the World'. What we've seen makes us believers. It'd take $40 million elsewhere to duplicate Legion Field. Birmingham has football interest, it has the stadium, and it's logical to me that pro football should be here. I think this city has the most potential of any franchise in the WFL."

With a strong and diverse background in professional sports, Putnam's resume looks impressive. In the late 1950's, Putnam served on the Board of Directors of the NFL's New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, and the National Basketball Association's Baltimore Bullets. After leaving the J.P. Morgan Company in 1965, he moved to Los Angeles to became the executive vice president of Jack Kent Cooke Enterprises and was instrumental in acquiring the site and building the Forum along with helping establish the National Hockey League's Los Angeles Kings. He was also responsible for the purchase and early operation of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers franchise for Cooke. In 1966 he founded and became president of the NHL's expansion Philadelphia Flyers. Putnam sold the Flyers in 1970. The next year, Tom Cousins brought Putnam to Atlanta and he became president of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. He then purchased an expansion franchise in the NHL, the Atlanta Flames. He also served as president of the Omni sports complex in Atlanta. He sold his interests in the Hawks and Flames in September.

Joining Putnam at the press conference was the team's president, Carol Stallworth, who is an executive administrative assistant of First American Innkeepers, Inc., licensee of Days Inns of America.

Putnam claims to have been working with Davidson since September in setting up WFL cities. Boston, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Vancouver, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Jacksonville, and Birmingham are current front-runners. "Several other places are reasonable prospects to join; Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Northern Ohio (either Columbus or Cleveland), Milwaukee, Phoenix, and Portland."

Regarding the team name, Putnam said, "Somebody suggested 'Alabama Bears' but we weren't quite ready to formalize on the whole name." However, he did indicate the team would probably use the state's name and not the city's name.

Putnam says he will seek some local investors to invest in the team.

December 29, 1973
In a strongly worded letter to Park Board president Carl Salter, a Birmingham group seeking an NFL expansion franchise has asked for a delay in any decision on leasing city-owned Legion Field to the WFL.

The Board will be meeting on January 2nd to negotiate a lease with the WFL franchise, who has asked for exclusive rights to Legion Field.

Frank W. Thomas, Jr., who represents the NFL investment group, requests the Board delay the meeting until after the NFL holds its annual meeting in late February of 1974. "We believe the NFL is considering Birmingham as an expansion city, although we have no commitment," Thomas said.

January 2, 1974
The Birmingham Park and Recreation Board grants the WFL team the right to be the only professional football team to be able to play at the 68,821-seat Legion Field for the next 5 years. Putnam must post a $500,000 bond for the annual $100,000 rent. Alabama Football, Inc. must also file a certified financial statement indicating an $1.5 million investment in the Birmingham franchise before the contract goes into effect.

The city will get 10% percent of gross gate receipts after taxes or a $10,000 minimum per game. They will also waive concession and parking rights to the team.

January 14, 1974
In Los Angeles, the WFL begins its first 2-day organizational meeting and announce 11 franchises are preparing to play beginning in July. An additional franchise will be awarded before the league's first draft next Tuesday.

Birmingham, Memphis, Florida, New England, Toronto, New York, Southern California, Philadelphia, Hawaii, Chicago, and Washington, DC were the cities named. The last franchise will be chosen from Detroit, Boston, and Portland.

A team in Mexico City, Mexico is planned but will be a year away.

January 20, 1974
Putnam announces his first choice for general manager and head coach, Vince Costello, would become an assistant coach for the NFL's Miami Dolphins. Costello was the linebackers coach for the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals in 1973.

Costello and Putnam had agreed on terms, "but on Wednesday night Vince called me and said he had been offered the Miami job. I didn't stand in his way," Putnam said. Putnam had interviewed 5 other candidates for the job.

The league names Washington, DC as the 12th and final franchise.

February 5, 1974
     Photograph 
  Head coach Jack Gotta
   
The former head coach of the Canadian Football League's Ottawa Rough Riders, Jack Gotta, is named head coach and general manager of the team.

Gotta led the Rough Riders to the CFL's Grey Cup game the last 2 years, with them winning the championship last year. Gotta was also voted the CFL's Coach of the Year the past 2 years. His coaching career started when he received a position with the CFL's Saskatchewan Rough Riders in 1965. In 1968 he left to become an assistant at Ottawa. He became head coach in 1970, where he remained until stepping down to take the position in Birmingham.

"Sometimes, the time to be moving is when you're winning. We had some good players in Ottawa, but it's difficult to get them. We have the import restrictions and bidding with the NFL is tough. I've had the opportunity before, but I'd rather go where everybody's getting out of the gate at the same time, where there's an opportunity to win. The opportunity is great here to have a winning football team. I'm glad to be a part of it from the first," Gotta said.

February 17, 1974
The Boston Bulls will move to New York and merge with the New York team. League commissioner Gary Davidson initiated the move to avert a possible conflict of interest. Bulls owner Howard Baldwin is also the co-owner of the WHA's New England Whalers along with Bob Schmertz, who owns the WFL's New York franchise.

The original New York franchise will be sent to Portland, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, or Mexico City.

February 18, 1974
Word leaks out that the Birmingham franchise will be known as the Americans. The Washington, DC team has been running a name-the-team contest. The most popular response has been "Americans". However, the Washington Post published an article saying, "Americans would seem to be appropriate for Washington. Unfortunately, the Birmingham franchise has grabbed the name first and also has stolen the colors red, white, and blue."

Birmingham's public relations director, Tommy McCollister, declined to confirm or deny the name, "we will have an announcement of the team name and colors in 2 weeks."

February 19, 1974
Steve Arnold, owner of the Memphis franchise, says he will be moving his team to Portland. The city is dragging their feet in stadium lease negotiations because they believe Memphis is on a short list of NFL expansion cities. The Memphis mayor has publicly stated he will risk his political career to keep the WFL out of Memphis.

The WFL announces they have signed a contract with TVS to televise 23 selected games throughout the year for $1 million. The games will consist of 13 national games and 10 limited broadcast games to top television markets throughout the United States.

February 21, 1974
Canada's Health Minister, Marc Lalonde, says he will do everything in his power to keep the WFL out of Canada. A franchise has already been awarded to Toronto. If the CFL is to grow, "not even a portion of it's biggest and richest market can be allowed to go to a US-based football league."

February 23, 1974
Frank Thomas, Harold Blach, and Red Clark will be attending an NFL meeting in Miami to pitch Birmingham as an expansion city. The 3 local businessmen were heartened by the city's rewriting of the exclusive portion of the stadium lease.

"We felt so strongly about our chances that we reserved a copyright on the name Alabama or Birmingham Vulcans," Thomas said.

February 25, 1974
The NFL cut its list of possible expansion cities to 5. Birmingham was not on that list. Honolulu, Memphis, Phoenix, Seattle, and Tampa were. The NFL owners will decide in April whether to expand in 1975 and, if so, how many franchises to let in.

"The expansion situation was really cut-and-dried. The committee actually met last Saturday. The press conference announcing the 5 prime cities was held before Harold (Blach) and I met with commissioner Pete Rozelle. We were still stunned by this thing, especially after what we had been told and what the situation had been concerning Birmingham. I don't think the NFL is through with expansion. But I do think we're dead in Birmingham this decade. I do look for the league to further expand in the 1980's," Thomas said.

February 27, 1974
Officials with the Americans and the Park Board sign a lease agreement for Legion Field.

March 31, 1974
John Bassett, owner of the Toronto Northmen, announces he has signed NFL and Miami Dolphin superstars Larry Csonka, Paul Warfield, and Jim Kiick to a package worth more than $3 million. The 3 players won't play in the WFL until the 1975 season but will play out their contracts with the world champion Dolphins. Putnam was happy about the announcement, "Its an exciting thing. And if anybody had any doubts about our league, I think this pretty much tends to erase them."

The Americans are making progress with players of a similar stature, but Putnam won't name them. "The one's we're getting don't want to announce until after the 1974 season."

Kiick indicated the other 11 WFL teams put up $1 million for the deal to go through.

April 1, 1974
     Photograph
  Oakland Raiders quarterback
Kenny Stabler
   
Putnam announces the signing of Kenny Stabler, who is currently playing for the NFL's Oakland Raiders. Details of the long-term contract were not released.

Stabler said, "I'm as happy as can be. Getting with a super organization and the financial benefits were key factors, but the biggest thing to me is getting back home. Getting to play before the people in the South is where it's at for me. In 2 years I'll be in Birmingham if I have to hitchhike."

Stabler, who will report to the Americans in 1976, is also a former star quarterback of the University of Alabama. "If I can do for the WFL what Joe Namath did for the AFL, I will feel that I have really accomplished something. I was born in the South and raised in the South and played football in the South. Oakland could have offered me as much money as Birmingham but they couldn't have let me play in the South," Stabler said.

May 6, 1974
Memphis Park Commission approves the Toronto franchise to negotiate a lease to move.

May 8, 1974
The CFL's Ottawa Roughriders file suit against Gotta and the Americans for breach of contract. Gotta had 2 years remaining on his 3-year contact. "I'm really surprised by the suit. I don't see how they can sue me, since I'm in another country and another league. I'm going to turn it over to my lawyer in Canada and let him take care of what needs taking care of. I'm really not bothered by it," Gotta said.

May 14, 1974
The WFL is granted permission by U.S. District Judge David Porter to continue their discussions with players under contract with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals. The suit had become known as "The Bill Bergey lawsuit".

May 18, 1974
The Virginia Ambassadors have been purchased by a Florida group who will move the team to Orlando.

May 21, 1974
The Florida Blazers announce they will not be called the Florida Suns due to a possible name conflict with the Southern California Sun.

May 22, 1974
Samford University's Executive Board turns down the Americans inquiry on using their nearby facilities to practice. Samford dropped football a few moths ago but the Board said they have been unable to work out "problems of scheduling our various facilities for the usual and regular demands of our ongoing Samford University program."

May 28, 1974
Marion Institute allows the Americans to use their facilities in Marion, Alabama for training camp.

June 12, 1974
At a league meeting in Birmingham, WFL team owners voted to do away with the extra point and will instead have an "action point", which must be run or passed from the 2 1/2 yard line. Touchdowns are also worth 7 points.

"The new rule de-emphasizes the kicking game and puts more offense in the game. What the league is trying to do is satisfy demands of the fans. They want action on every play. We're continuing to add offense to the game rather than kickers, " Gotta said.

June 19, 1974
     World Football League logo
   
Sources with the Americans indicate the team has inflated the amount of season tickets sold. Previous announcements have stated 20,000 season tickets have been sold but the official number is closer to 7,200. The padded numbers were used to create an illusion of season ticket urgency for the general public.

Gotta was angry when he heard the season ticket controversy. "I'd ask our ticket people how things were going and they'd tell me fine. I made a talk to a civic club in Birmingham Tuesday and told them we'd sold 20,000 season tickets. Now I understand it's much less than that. This makes me look like a jackass. Something like this, where there's deceit, is not right. Publicity gimmicks are one thing, but deceit is something else. Things like that can harpoon your program."

Meanwhile, Putnam is still searching for local investors. Putnam claims he has already invested $800,000 in the team and any local investors that join him will own 35% of the franchise. "The mistake I made was thinking I was going to raise money in Birmingham in February and March. Birmingham is more conservative, investment-wise, than I thought." Along with his 52% stake, Putnam is already joined by Atlanta investors Cecil Day, Lon Day, Don Smith, Irv Gack, and Irv Plesko, who own 13% percent.

Don Newton, executive vice president of the Birmingham Area Chamber of Commerce, arranged a meeting with local businessmen via letter. The letter contained 3 alternatives for the team; 1) the club could fold; 2) the club could be sold to outside investors and moved to another city; or 3) capital or credit could be secured locally "to assure the success of the club". However, Putnam said the first option is ridiculous and the second option isn't likely to happen. The franchise is worth $4 million according to Putnam and "if I wanted to sell it for that I could" but the club isn't for sale.

June 27, 1974
Putnam announces the Americans will definitely play in Birmingham in 1974. "We're 98% financially set and by tomorrow I think it will be 100%, but we're already 100% set to remain in Birmingham this season."

July, 1974
 
1974
 World Football League 
Western Division Central Division Eastern Division
    Hawaii Hawaiians     Birmingham Americans       Florida Blazers
    Houston Texans (Shreveport Steamer)        Chicago Fire     Jacksonville Sharks   
    Portland Storm     Detroit Wheels     New York Stars (Charlotte Hornets)   
    Southern California Sun       Memphis Southmen     Philadelphia Bell
  xxx   xxx   xxx  
             
Birmingham Americans logo    Chicago Fire logo    Detroit Wheels logo    Florida Blazers logo
              
Hawaii Hawaiians logo   Houston Texans logo   Jacksonville Sharks logo   Memphis Southmen logo
              
New York Stars logo   Philadelphia Bell logo   Portland Storm logo   Southern California Sun logo
                
Charlotte Hornets logo   Shreveport Steamer logo        
             
September 14, 1974
While visiting Birmingham, Don Anderson, the league's vice president of public relations, said they are thinking of having an All-Star Game after the inaugural season ends. "Gary (Davidson) and I were in Mexico City recently, and there's a good possibility we'll have a franchise there next year. We might test the market with an All-Star Game there in December. There are 2 excellent stadiums. Aztec, which seats over 100,000 and Olympic, with over 50,000 seats available to us. And the population in that area is over 12,000,000."

September 18, 1974
Shreveport, LA mayor Calvin Allen announces that the WFL is moving the Houston Texans to Shreveport. "It's our team. The league owns the team, and is offering us an option to buy it." The team will get a new nickname under the 'play now, pay later' agreement. Financial problems have forced Texans owner Steven Arnold to allow the team to be taken over by the league. The Texans, who have a record of 3-7-1, have more NFL veterans on payroll than any other WFL club.

September 19, 1974
     Photograph
  New local investors join ownership group
(back L to R): Max Price, Lester Newby, Neal Andrews, James Price. 
(front L to R): "Pee Wee" Burgess, Harry Ruffin, William Parker,
John Dixon (representing Ed Ashton)
   
Texans head coach Jim Garrett is suspended by the league for urging the Texans players to not report to Shreveport.

Putnam announces he has sold 5% of the Americans for over $250,000. After going after some big-name investors, Putnam turned to season ticket holders A. E. "Pee Wee" Burgess, Harry D. Ruffin, William Parker, James B. Price, Max Price, Edwin Ashton, and Neal Andrews. Putnam says he was "stupid" for wasting time going after the big guns. "If a man is not willing to spend two or three hundred bucks to see the team play, how could I figure he'd want to invest in it's stock?"

September 23, 1974
The WFL announces it is taking over Fran Monaco's Jacksonville Sharks franchise. A lack of proper finances have made the club suffer for the last few weeks where players and coaches haven't been paid for the last 4 games.

Bassett believes the Detroit and Houston franchises should fold if they can't overcome their financial troubles. "If some of these teams can't get going let's fold them. If somebody's not found to take over those teams in the next 2 or 3 weeks, I'm going to be standing up on the table and saying, 'Kick 'em out of the league - we'll play with 10 teams'."

Unsure of how the Houston team would do in Shreveport, Bassett hopes it could be as successful as the Americans are in Birmingham, who lead the league in attendance. "Maybe that will happen in Shreveport. Football in Louisiana and Alabama - that's like booze to an alcoholic."

Basset said the league has faced some "very grave and serous problems", but nothing unexpected. Money from the other clubs are going to Detroit and Houston to help support them. "I don't see why the people of Memphis, who have been given a first class operation, should be propping up some promoter in another town who's trying to make a fast buck. The league owes us a lot of dough. That's a debt to us and I would hope we would get it."

September 24, 1974
Prior to the New York and Detroit game in New York, the players of both teams were given bad news. Detroit has just filed a bankruptcy petition in U.S. District Court while New York has been sold to Boston investor Upton Bell and will relocate to Charlotte, NC.

October 4, 1974
The WFL takes over the Florida Blazers from managing general partner Rommie Loud after he failed to come up with $2 million to over debts and payroll. The players haven't been paid in 4 weeks.

October 8, 1974
A Florida Circuit Court Judge has ordered the league to reinstate the Blazers franchise back to the original owner.

October 11, 1974
Florida Blazers players announce they will not play any more games unless they're paid before their next game.

Davidson announces the Detroit and Jacksonville clubs are not folding but has removed them from the remainder of the league's schedule.

October 17, 1974
Davidson says the WFL may move to a fall schedule in 1975 and could play on Sundays.

October 28, 1974
Speculation is that the Chicago Fire ownership will pull the team out of the league with just 3 games remaining because its home schedule has been completed and there would be no possible source of new income for the team. Bassett, the newly appointed executive committee chairman, blasted the Fire management, calling them "completely irresponsible". WFL owners will decide the Fire's fate today in an emergency meeting.

October 29, 1974
     Photograph
  World Football League founder
Gary Davidson
   
At a league owner's meeting in Chicago, commissioner Gary Davidson announces he is resigning. Davidson will continue as a member of the executive committee, chairman of the expansion committee and part-owner and governor of the Southern California Sun franchise. Donald Regan, the WFL's general council, was named league executive director in lieu of a commissioner.

Davidson's departure was triggered by the Chicago Fire's owner Tom Origer's threat to drop out of the league immediately. Earlier in the season, Origer had tried to strip Davidson from the commissioner's post, saying he spread the league's operations too thin financially with less than suitable franchise investors.

"I feel I can be of more assistance to the league as a club operator and as chairman of the expansion committee. I prefer the selling rather than administrating," Davidson said.

October 30, 1974
At a luncheon organized by mayor George Seibels, Putnam met with local businessmen, bankers and professionals in hopes of securing additional financing for the team. The city, however, will not be part of that investment pool. "I was asked at the meeting about the possibility of the city getting into financial support of the team. My initial reaction was that the city could not support a private venture, as popular as that venture may be," Seibels said.

November 3, 1974
Portland Storm players vote to not practice or play until they are paid for the last 2 games. For the past month, they have received only partial payment as well.

November 6, 1974
A Baton Rouge, LA cleaner claims the Charlotte Hornets owe him $26,216 for cleaning bills and persuaded a judge to issue a writ of attachment on all the Hornets uniforms and equipment to pay their tab. Deputies seized the gear immediately after the Hornets game in Shreveport.

November 11, 1974
Origer says the Fire will not play their final game.

November 13, 1974
A court ordered the Americans assets to be attached to the State of Alabama for non-payment of taxes due. The Americans also owe the city of Birmingham and Jefferson County for unpaid taxes. In total, the Americans owe $100,000 in back taxes.

November 14, 1974
Gotta confirms rumors that the Americans players, coaches and some other staff positions have not been paid for weeks. However, he remains optimistic that they will be paid soon. "They'll be paid. Everybody will be paid even if Bill (Putnam) has to sell the franchise out of here. Nobody has been sweating it. They know it's there and they know they're going to get it. I told them before the Shreveport game to get their heads screwed on and go play football. We've got the best owner in pro sports and things will be straightened out when they'll be straightened out."

Gotta also confirmed the Admiral Benbow Inn has asked the coaches to vacate their offices because their bills haven't been paid.

Gotta went on to cite 3 main reasons for the Americans situation; 1) the team paid huge bonuses to the NFL veterans who will join the team in the future; 2) the failure to secure local financial investors; 3) and when the numerous other teams began sinking the franchise made contributions to the league to help keep them running.

November 19, 1974
Putnam says there is no guarantee the team will remain in Birmingham next season. The lack of local investors is the primary reason. "Birmingham is a great football city. The fans are here and pro football belongs here. But it's kinda out of my hands now. I know the Americans have generated a lot of good for the city, but when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, that's as far as it goes. I've looked under every rock there is to look under, and there is simply no significant money forthcoming."

Putnam also went as far as saying there was a behind-the-scenes movement to keep potential investors away. "I think there are people who would like to get rid of us. I know certain people have put out the word to potential investors. These people want an NFL team, but I guarantee you we have a much better club than an expansion team would be."

"We've had a successful year at the gate. We took in approximately $2.3 million. That would leave us only $300,000 short of operating the club, but we've paid out $1.2 million in bonuses to future players. The mistakes I made were picking 1974 to start and paying out all the bonus money."

The Internal Revenue Service has filed a suit against Putnam for $160,676.96 for unpaid Federal taxes of $236,691. Birmingham Trust National Bank is also calling in their loan for $789,416.99.

The Americans could host a second round playoff game if details can be worked out with the state and local tax agencies. The Americans will be idle for the first round of the playoffs.

November 21, 1974
Putnam announces that the IRS, state and local tax agencies and BTNB have all agreed to allow a playoff game to be played in Birmingham.

November 22, 1974
At a league meeting in Memphis, Hawaii Hawaiians president and owner Chris Hemmeter was named president of the WFL. One of the main reasons for his selection is his plan to force each team to be accountable and stable. His plan calls for centralized control of the finances of each franchise via a series of trust funds that would be established before the 1975 season. These trust funds would guarantee pre-paid expenses. It would also guarantee that once a team went to training camp, it would finish the season. Strong franchises would therefore not be sucked down by weaker franchises. A central controller would check each franchise on a regular basis to see the money was going into the proper accounts.

"I'm very heartened by the meetings. I think the 'Hemmeter Plan' can put the league on a sound financial basis. I don't agree with his proposal, but the basic idea is sound," Putnam said.

In response to rumors that the league will fold, Bassett said, "I think the outlook for 1975 is just fine. I'm sure we'll have a league. Under proper financial control and proper screening of future owners, it will be a healthy league. There is nothing wrong with the WFL that strong leadership won't cure."

November 29, 1974
The Florida Blazers upset the Memphis Southmen 18-15, which means the World Bowl will be played in Birmingham. If the Southmen had won, the World Bowl would have been played in Memphis.

December 2, 1974
The Americans players walked away from a scheduled practice Monday and said that if financial arrangements are not made they will boycott the World Bowl.

Gotta was stunned by the player's actions. "There have been high days and low days for me in football, but this has to be my lowest. I really don't know what the players are thinking. When you're competing for a championship, everything else, including dollars, is secondary. They're not hurting me or the staff, or Bill Putnam. They're hurting themselves. And football. They're crucifying football, and no player comes out unscathed who tries to crucify football. To compete for a championship is something few people have an opportunity to do, and when that opportunity comes you'd better focus on it 100%."

December 3, 1974
Americans players announce they have called off their World Bowl boycott "for the citizens of the community who want us to stay here," said player representative Charley Harraway.

December 5, 1974
In a thrilling game that came down to the wire, the Birmingham Americans defeat the Florida Blazers 22-21 in the inaugural World Bowl.

After the game, Gotta heaped praise on his team, which overcame many obstacles just to get to the league championship. "A lot of excellent football players dedicated themselves to this and paid a tough price to get where they are tonight. This night will live long in their memory. I know it will mine. I believe like I have all along. The best team won. It's a great feeling. We had to beat a good football team. It's great for the players. I had hoped this would end on a positive note, and I feel our league benefited by tonight. The good thing about tonight is we won the championship for this city and these fans. We now have 13 straight wins at home, and nobody's ever had that many before."

The Americans had the ball at the Blazers' one yard line when time expired. "One point was just perfect," Gotta said. Entering the fourth quarter, the Americans led 22-0 and had to hold on for dear life. The difference in the game was a failed action point run by Florida.

Everything about the evening was not perfect, however. Immediately after the game, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department stormed the winner's locker room and confiscated uniforms and playing equipment on behalf of Hibbett's Sporting Goods. In an attempt to retain mementos from the game, a few Americans players were seen smuggling their uniforms and helmets out the front door while others passed theirs out the windows to waiting family members.
 
Photograph
Prior to kickoff at the World Bowl, Birmingham Americans head coach Jack Gotta (left) and Florida Blazers
head coach Jack Pardee (right) meet with officials. Pardee would return to Birmingham in 1995 as head
coach of the Canadian Football League's Birmingham Barracudas in 1995.
 
Photograph
Birmingham Americans players celebrate their World Bowl victory
 
December 14, 1974
At a league meeting in New York, president Chris Hemmeter said, "I feel comfortable that we will have a league in 1975. I had guarded optimism before, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Before, I think all we saw were reflections on the wall."

January 4, 1975
Putnam addresses rumors that there is a local group wanting to purchase the Americans. "I am working to get a letter of credit funded. If and when I am successful, I will go ahead with a public stock offer. Apparently there is a group over there (in Birmingham) interested in purchasing the ball club. I don't really know who they are, but they have made approaches through the bank and the league. They have not been in touch with me personally, no. Chris Hemmeter has talked with them. He is aware of the terms it would take. I would prefer to keep the team and operate it. The league thinks selling is a good solution to the problem, but I can't say they've pressured me to sell. However, I'm not happy with that solution, though I agree with the league the team should stay in Birmingham."

Potential investors met with Hemmeter during World Bowl week and will meet again this week when Hemmeter comes to Birmingham.

February 11, 1975
Local businessmen Ferd Weil, A.E. "Pee Wee" Burgess, and Fred Sington meet with commissioner Hemmeter to discuss their investment group's efforts to secure a team in the league for the 1975 season. "There is much work to be done yet but I believe we can do it. The city proved it wanted pro football last year, proved it with its support, and we can't afford not to get things going again," Burgess said.

The group will evaluate the franchise's $2 million of debt before deciding what course to take.

February 22, 1975
Weil indicates that Putnam and the Americans are out of the picture for Birmingham. "First of all, I want to stress that we have nothing to do with the old regime. What we like to say its a new ball game. We're going to negotiate with players, coaches, and creditors in an attempt to make arrangements to clean up the debts. However, the new group is not liable for any past debts because it did not incur them. But we're not going to turn our backs on our business friends."

Fan support will be critical to the city's future, and not just in football. "We're looking down the road at hockey, basketball, and possibly baseball on a major league scale, and if we don't support this football team we have no chance of getting the others," Weil said.

February 25, 1975
Putnam announces from his office in Atlanta, Georgia that he is still very much in the picture for the Americans to return to Birmingham. "I am actively pursuing relocation of the team. I am talking to a couple of cities, which I can't name at the present time. There is still a remote possibility I could get the Americans financed and stay in Birmingham, but negotiations going on over there the past few weeks make it virtually impossible."

Weil says his financial group isn't concerned with Putnam. "We're not going after the franchise Mr. Putnam had. We don't want it. Ours is a new franchise. We'll have a new name and new policies. We have nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Putnam. Legally, the franchise has never been taken from Alabama Football, Inc. I have attended every meeting of the World Football League and there has never been a motion passed, or introduced, to take the franchise. As far as I'm concerned, Alabama Football still owns the Birmingham Americans."

March 9, 1975
The Internal Revenue Service announces that they will put up the 59 Americans player contracts for sale tomorrow. The Americans owe over $2000,000 in back taxes. Gotta said he is sure that the players and coaches would be happy for the IRS to take over their contracts and pay them all the back money owed them by the Americans. "I'm happy to know that the federal government wants to do something else with its money besides giving it to Cambodia."

March 18, 1975
Putnam says he may sell the team to an investment group in New York. "I notice Mr. Hemmeter says there will be no WFL franchise in New York this season. I may have a surprise for him."

Still believing he has a team to actually sell, Putnam also claims there is an individual that is interested in keeping the Americans in Birmingham. "They mailed me a copy of the minutes from a meeting January 16, and that was supposedly when the franchise was revoked. I also received a copy of the minutes from a meeting in Toronto February 13, supposedly reaffirming Alabama Football, Inc. was in default and has until March 31 to correct it. I wasn't at that meeting."

Epilogue
Local businessmen were able to secure another team for the city and the Birmingham Vulcans made their debut in 1975 along with the newly restructured World Football League. The high hopes fans had for the team and league soon faded as the league folded in October. After that event occurred, the local owners and John Bassett petitioned for Birmingham and Memphis to be absorbed by the National Football League. Neither were allowed to join the league.

Putnam never found investment partners or buyers for his franchise, which did not play in 1975.

A few years later, Putnam was involved with the Super Soccer League, an indoor soccer league slated to begin play in 1978. Birmingham was set to have a franchise in the proposed league, the Birmingham Bandits, but the league never played a single game.

 
 
 
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Last update: July 15, 2018