The San Diego Chargers will honor the 50th anniversary of their 1963 American Football League Championship team during a special halftime ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 1 when the Chargers host the Cincinnati Bengals at Qualcomm Stadium, the team announced Monday at a press conference at Chargers Park.
“There have been so many great moments in Chargers history and the accomplishments of the 1963 team are some of the first and finest,” said A.G. Spanos, the team’s executive vice president and chief executive officer. “The ’63 team was made up of some of the greatest coaches and players in Chargers history as well as the history of pro football. With that AFL title, the Chargers of 1963 will forever hold a special place in the history of the San Diego Chargers.”
Members of the ‘63 team as well as all attending alumni will be treated by the Chargers to festivities spanning three days, including a special golf outing on Friday, Nov. 29, followed by a private party on Saturday. All attending alumni will be honored pregame on Sunday, Dec. 1, prior to the Chargers-Bengals game and the 1963 Championship Team will be introduced and honored during the special halftime ceremony.
Expected to attend and be honored during halftime on Dec. 1 are two members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame – wide receiver Lance Alworth and tackle Ron Mix – as well the 1963 AFL Championship Game Most Valuable Player, running back Keith Lincoln, plus nearly a dozen of the championship team members.
“I think it’s pretty special. It’s well-deserved,” said Alworth of the organization’s decision to recognize the ’63 team. “It’s a great piece of history because of the team we had and what it brought to San Diego. I think it’s time, and history is pretty important. It’s a great feeling to know that everyone still remembers.”
Alworth continued: “We had a bunch of really great guys. Everyone played together and they were all very, very talented. It was a great team; a great year. It’s been a long, long time but I think the thing that made it really special for us was that we felt like we had the best team in football. We were looking for the Chicago Bears and they wouldn’t play us. I’m sorry there wasn’t a Super Bowl. We might have brought one of those home.”
In 1963, the Chargers’ fourth season in the American Football League and third in San Diego, the young Lightning Bolts won the AFL title with an 11-3 regular-season record and a 51-10 thrashing of the Boston Patriots in Balboa Stadium on Jan. 5, 1964.
The Chargers of the early AFL, led by the 1963 squad, captured the attention of the football world. Led by Head Coach Sid Gillman, the Chargers’ offense dominated the upstart AFL as well as the weekly television highlights. After moving the team from Los Angeles to San Diego in 1961, the Chargers became an instant hit. The 1961 squad dominated the league and earned home-field advantage in the postseason with a 12-2 regular-season finish, but stumbled in the championship game, 10-3, to the Houston Oilers. Injuries hit the 1962 team hard, particularly the quarterback position. Both starter Jack Kemp and his backup, John Hadl, went down and Kemp was later placed on waivers and lost to the Buffalo Bills. The Chargers struggled to a 4-10 finish that season, it’s only losing season during the 10-year lifespan of the American Football League.
In an effort to toughen his squad heading into the 1963 season and also put the memory of 1962 behind them, Gillman moved the team’s training camp to the backcountry near Boulevard, 60 miles east of San Diego. The Chargers went on to win 11 of their 14 regular-season games and earn home-field advantage in the championship game against the Patriots at Balboa Stadium. In the game, San Diego dominated Boston with a memorable performance by Lincoln, who recorded 329 yards from scrimmage. The team’s 51-10 victory gave the Chargers its lone league title.
The ’63 squad was led by many athletes who now reside in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well as the Chargers Hall of Fame. Alworth was the first AFL player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, entering the Hall in 1978. Mix (1979) and Gillman (1983) soon followed. The three Pro Football Hall of Famers are joined in the Chargers Hall of Fame by 1963 teammates Lincoln, Hadl, running back Paul Lowe, defensive linemen Ernie Ladd and Earl Faison, guard Walt Sweeney, linebacker Chuck Allen, owner Barron Hilton and minority owner George Pernicano. Linebackers Frank Buncom and Emil Karas and tight end Jacque McKinnon were inducted posthumously when the Hall was created in 1976.
In total, 15 members of the 1963 team now reside in the Chargers Hall of Fame.