to 1961, there was no pro football in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
There were no childhood fans either. Everyone came on the scene in 1961, fans
largely due in part to parents giving in children's dreams of purple. The Vikings'
birth was due to the persistence of Austrian-born businessman Max Winter.
In 1947, Winter had founded the Minneapolis (later Los Angeles) Lakers basketball team. While he was still president of the Lakers, Winter attended his first pro football game in 1955 in Chicago. He loved it. As soon as he arrived back home in Minneapolis, Winter wrote letters to the AFL and NFL, requesting permission to organize a new team in Minnesota. At first there was no answer, but Winter kept writing more and more letters. Finally in 1959, the AFL granted Winter an expansion team which would have become that league's 21st team. But in 1960, the NFL granted him their league's 14th newest franchise. With a decision to make, Winter opted to pull out of the AFL (who replaced us with the Raiders) and enter the NFL.
"Let's make this a team we can always be proud of," he said in announcing the deal. And if there's one thing the natives of Minnesota are proud of, it's their Scandinavian heritage. "They say that the Norwegian Vikings were the first to discover America. Let's make Minnesota the first state to discover Viking football. Let's call them the Minnesota Vikings," stated Winter.
The fans crowded into Metropolitan Stadium to catch their first glimpse of their Vikings. And there, in their first inaugural game, the Vikes pulled a shocking, 37-13, upset victory over the fierce Chicago Bears. "How about that?" grinned Vikings head coach, Norm Van Brocklin. "You can't ask for a better start than that." Of course, they didn't win very many more games that season. Expansion teams just don't do that. But Minnesota played a bruising brand of football just the same.
Easily the most colorful and talented player on that early Vikings roster was Fran Tarkenton, the young quarterback. The rest of the team was largely made of rookies and castoffs from other NFL clubs. One of those castoffs was Don Hultz who set the NFL record for opponents' fumbles recovered in a season.
Schmidt had eight recoveries one year (1955), and Alan Page (1970) and Jack
Lambert (1976) both had seven, but Hultz beat 'em all. Hultz had nine
for the Vikings in 1963.
He was a rookie that season, a free agent defensive end out of Southern Mississippi. In his second game, Hultz fell on a fumble by the Bears' Willie Galimore. The loose balls kept on bouncing his way.
Soon his teammates were calling him "The Magnet." The newspapers began to notice, too. After he got number six, the Minneapolis Tribune reported: "His fumble recovery play is now an integral part of the Viking offense."
Indeed, six of Hultz's recoveries set up scores (two touchdowns, four field goals). Three got the Vikings on the board first, while another, with four and a half minutes to go against Detroit, led to the game-winning TD.
That was his eighth recovery, tying Schmidt's mark. The record became his when he pounced on a fumble by Philadelphia's Sonny Jurgensen in the season finale.
"I just happen to be there when another one of our guys is shaking somebody up," said Hultz, who considered his feat an accident. "I don't go hunting for the ball. I try to be alert, but you can say the same thing about anybody else on our defensive line.
don't have much of a history for this sort of thing. I played on defense and
offense at Southern Mississippi, and if I do say so, I caught a couple of touchdown
passes. But fumbles? Not much."
Hultz was traded to the Eagles the next season since the Vikings had drafted a young man named Carl Eller. Hultz played 11 more years, finishing with the Bears in 1974. He recovered only three more fumbles.
Young, lesser-known talent was present elsewhere. The offensive line was especially raw. When Tarkenton dropped back to pass, the enemy defense usually ran right over the Minnesota offensive line. That left Tarkenton retreating like a scared rabbit, running in circles, weaving in and out of trouble. The sportswriters called Fran's crazy antics 'scrambling,' a new term in those days. At first, rival teams claimed that Fran's scrambling was illegal, but the Vikings QB wasn't breaking the rules, only tradition.
By darting around the pocket, he confounded pass rushers and forced opponents to change their game plans. "Why should I stand there and get broken in two?" argued Fran. "If I run, there's always a chance that I will find a receiver." Coach Van Brocklin, who had been a stand-up, no frills NFL quarterback in his earlier days, did not approve of Tarkenton's scrambling. He felt it was too showy and risky. Time and again he tried to persuade Tarkenton to change his ways, but the brash young QB insisted on doing things his way. Besides, the Vikings were already becoming famous for their unpredictable, helter-skelter offense. What's more, by 1964, Minnesota was beginning to win some games.
That season, Tarkenton shared the spotlight with running backs Tommy Mason and Mel Triplett, and split-end Paul Flatley. The offensive line, led by stalwart Grady Alderman, was also taking shape. On defense, big, quick Jim Marshall was forcing opposing quarterbacks to scramble just like Fran. 1964 also produced the Vikings' first winning record of 8-5-1 and a tie for second place with none other than today's arch rivals, the Green Bay Packers led by Vince Lombardi. But trouble was brewing behind the scenes.
Brocklin was always quick tempered, impatient, and insisted on doing things
his way or else. In 1966, he blew his top and harshly criticized his own players.
Tarkenton was embarrassed, mad, and demanded to be traded. So did other players.
The fans answered by demanding Van Brocklin's resignation and eventually got
it. But it was too late. Tarkenton had already been traded to the NY Giants
and all playoff hopes went with him, or so everyone thought. Not only did the
hard-nosed in-your-face QB Joe Kapp come to town, but a new coach arrived as
The next coach for the Vikings would become one of the league's most noteworthy men, Harry Peter 'Bud' Grant. Grant had been Max Winter's first choice in 1961 but he declined in order to play for the NBA Lakers. But Winter's re-offer to Grant in 1967 was accepted. Unlike Van Brocklin, Grant was reserved and quiet, standing motionless on the sidelines, showing little expression and eventually became affectionately known as 'The Great Stone Face'.
Grant would begin rebuilding the team as he thought a team should be run with a ball control offense. And he started by luring the CFL's (Canadian Football League) greatest QB, Joe Kapp.
But it would be Grant's defense that would gain him his initial respect in
the league. During the next three years, he drafted Alan Page, and Bobby Bryant
for the defense. He also drafted Ron Yary to anchor to offensive line. Trades
acquired Gary Larsen, Paul Krause, and Wally Hilgenberg. With that, the famous
defense had been created and become known throughout the league as the "Purple
People-Eaters." By the end of the 1969 season, the Vikings found themselves
as the NFL Champions facing the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV.
|Best Regular-Season Record:
|Worst Regular-Season Record:
||QB Fran Tarkenton (had to be in fantastic shape to scramble so much)
||WR Gene Washington (lighting fast)
||RB Bill "Boom-Boom" Brown (slow, but bruising and punishing)
|Most Intimidating Player:
||LB Lonnie Warwick (not the best, but fearlessly relentless)
||First regular season win (Vikes 37, Bears 13)
||Jim Marshall's wrong-way run for a safety
||Names on the backs of jerseys. Purple pants on the road.
|Least Appreciated Player:
||Joe Kapp's knee on the chin of Browns linebacker Jim Houston.
||Tarkenton is traded to the New York Giants for four draft picks (1967-1st, 2nd; 1968-1st; and 1969-2nd). With the picks, the most notable acquires by the Vikings are Ron Yary in 1968 and Ed White in 1969.
Vikings 60's Timeline:
- January 28, 1960 - Expansion
- In 1959, headed by Max Winter and Bill Boyer, the AFL granted a franchise to the Vikings for $25,000. However, in 1960, they drop out of the AFL and in January of 1961, were granted an NFL franchise for $600,000: a $50,000 franchise fee and $550,000 to stock the team with veteran players. Other original owners include William Boyer, H.P. Skoglund, Ole Haugsrud, and Bernard Ridder Jr.
- April 12, 1961
- The Vikings are assigned by the NFL to the Western Conference which also
included the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles
Rams, Baltimore Colts and San Francisco 49ers.
- August 5, 1961
- The Vikings play the Dallas Cowboys in the first game (preseason) in franchise
history and posted a losing effort by a score of 38-13 in Sioux Falls, SD.
- September 10, 1961
- The first home game played at the Old Met results in a 21-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
- September 17, 1961
- The Vikings play their first regular season game and post a shocking upset of the Chicago Bears with a 37-13 win. Also notable is that Fran Tarkenton played in his first game in a Viking uniform and came off the bench to complete 17 of 23 passes for 250 yards with one TD pass on his was to establish more than 5 NFL records.
- March 27, 1963
- Randall Cunningham is born in Santa Barbara, Calif.
- November 24, 1963
- Two days after the assassination of President Kennedy, the Vikings beat the Detroit Lions 34-31. The Vikings distributed 20,000 copies of the Star Spangled Banner and played Auld Lang Syne at half-time.
- October 25, 1964
- The most famous play in Minnesota's professional football history occurred
in San Francisco's Kezar Stadium. Jim Marshall, the Vikings right defensive
end, recovered a fumble, got turned around, and ran 66 yards to the end zone
that his team was defending, scoring a safety for the 49ers.
- December 19, 1964
- Randall McDaniel is born in Phoenix, AZ.
- December, 1964
- The Vikings post their first winning season with a record of 8-5-1 under Head Coach Norm Van Brocklin.
- November 25, 1965
- Cris Carter is born in Troy, OH.
- December 2, 1966
- The NFL realigned itself to make up separate divisions within each conference.
Unable to come to a common conclusion, Commissioner Pete Rozelle placed the
final decision in the hands of his secretary, Thelma Elkjer. Of nine original
proposals, five were placed in a vase and Thelma picked one out at random.
She chose the third plan which kept the Lions, Packers, Bears, and Vikings
in the Black and Blue Central Division and removed everybody else. Had she
picked any of the other four options, the Vikings would have ended up in the
Eastern Division. Thanks Thelma!
- February, 1967
- Norm Van Brocklin "The Dutchman," resigns as Head Coach of the Vikings after building a record of 29-51-4.
- March 7, 1967
- In a stunning move, QB Fran Tarkenton is traded to the New York Giants for four draft picks (1967-1st, 2nd; 1968-1st; and 1969-2nd). With the picks, the most notable acquires by the Vikings are Ron Yary in 1968 and Ed White in 1969.
- March 10, 1967
- One of the most successful coaches of all-time joins the Vikings when Bud Grant is hired as Head Coach. His previous coaching experience was with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for ten years, winning four Grey Cup Championships in the process.
- September 28, 1967
- Jake Reed is born in Covington, GA.
- December 12, 1967
- John Randle is born in Hearne, TX.
- May 15, 1968
- Leroy Hoard is born in New Orleans, LA.
- December 16, 1968
- With the help of a Bears loss to the Packers and a win of their own over the Eagles, the Vikings win their first Division title.
- February 2, 1969
- Jeffrey Allen Christy (Krusty) is born in Freeport, PA.
- February 23, 1969
- Ed McDaniel is born in Batesburg, SC.
- December 27, 1969
- The Vikings win their first post season playoff game at home over the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 23-20 to win the Western Conference Championship game at the Old Met.
- January 4, 1970 (1969 season)
- The Vikings win the NFL championship by a score of 27-7 over the Browns in the Old Met.
- January 11, 1970 (1969 season)
- The Vikings attend their first Super Bowl (IV) and become the first modern team to appear in the Super Bowl, but lose to the Kansas City Chiefs, 23-17.
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