Hosting the Sports-Ten show
on the Mutual Broadcasting System
|Died||December 4, 1967 54) (aged|
New York City
|Alma mater|| University of Florida |
Michigan State College
|Known for||Sports broadcaster,|
Charter AFL owner:
New York Titans
Harry Wismer (June 30, 1913 – December 4, 1967) was an American sports broadcaster and the charter owner of the New York Titans franchise in the American Football League (AFL).
A native of Port Huron, Michigan, Wismer displayed great interest and prowess in sports at an early age. He was a multiple sport star at Port Huron High School, but bad grades temporarily derailed his college plans and he entered a private school, earning letters in football, basketball, and baseball at St. John's Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin.
Wismer played college football at both the University of Florida and Michigan State College, his playing career ending at the latter school when he damaged a knee severely during a game against the University of Michigan. He then began broadcasting Michigan State sports on MSC's radio station WKAR in a position arranged for him by Spartans head coach Charlie Bachman. In 1934, he was hired as the public-address announcer for the Detroit Lions. The Lions were in their first season in Detroit and were owned by George A. "Dick" Richards, who also owned Detroit radio station WJR. Wismer soon began doing a ten-minute daily radio show covering the Lions in addition to his PA duties, while continuing as a student at Michigan State.
After the 1936 season, Wismer was encouraged by Richards to abandon his studies and come to work for WJR on a full-time basis as the station's sports director. Among Wismer's WJR duties was serving as play-by-play announcer for the station's Lions broadcasts. In August 1940, he resigned to join the Maxon, Inc., advertising agency as an account executive, with the provision that he would continue to broadcast Lions' games.In 1941, he was hired by the NBC Blue Network, the predecessor to ABC. During the 1940s Wismer was named Sportscaster of the Year three years running by Sporting News magazine. In 1947, he was named one of 10 outstanding young Americans of the year by the U.S. Jaycees , along with congressman John F. Kennedy, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and physicist Philip Morrison. However, a subsequent management change at ABC led to a new regime that was hostile to sports, and Wismer became a free-lancer, selling his service to the highest bidder. Wismer became known for an enormous ego and developed a reputation as a "namedropper", preferring to announce the names of celebrities of his acquaintance who were in the audience to the actual game action, and was alleged at times to include them in the crowd of games which he announced when they were in fact elsewhere.
In the late 1940s, he provided the voice talent to numerous 16 mm college football films. Wismer often added the sound commentary long after the games were over, and added a radio style commentary with sound effects such as referee whistles to recreate an authentic sound. He was owner of HarFilms, a short-lived New Orleans-based sports film production company. He appeared in the 1948 Hollywood production Triple Threat as a football broadcaster.
Wismer achieved the height of his fame as the voice of the Washington Redskins. His first game for the Redskins was a most inauspicious one in December 1940, their 73–0 loss to the Chicago Bears' great "Monsters of the Midway" team in the 1940 championship game. At one point Wismer was a 25% owner of the club as well, with the majority of the stock being retained by founding owner George Preston Marshall. However, the relationship between the two had greatly degenerated by the mid-1950s over several issues, not the least of which was Marshall's steadfast refusal to sign any black players. The relationship dissolved in claims, counterclaims, and litigation, and Marshall then set out to destroy Wismer's future as a broadcaster, with some success. Wismer was also involved for a time in the broadcasting of Notre Dame football.
In 1953, Wismer was involved in an early attempt to expand football into prime time network television, when ABC, now with a renewed interest in sports, broadcast an edited replay on Sunday nights of the previous day's Notre Dame games, which were cut down to 75 minutes in length by removing the time between plays, halftime, and even some of the more uneventful plays. (While this format was not successful in prime time, a similar presentation of Notre Dame football later became a staple of Sunday mornings for many years on CBS with Lindsey Nelson as the announcer.) Also that season was the first attempt at prime time coverage of pro football, with Wismer at the microphone on the old DuMont Network. Unlike ABC's Notre Dame coverage, DuMont's NFL game was presented live on Saturday nights, but interest was not adequate to save the DuMont Network, which had by this point already entered what would be a terminal decline (although it did mount a subsequent 1954 season of NFL telecasts, minus Wismer, which proved to be one of its last regular programs).
Wismer was a charter owner in the AFL, which was announced in 1959 and began actual play in 1960. He was one of two owners with experience in sports team ownership and in broadcasting. He had previously been a part owner of the Detroit Lions and the Washington Redskins (Buffalo's Ralph Wilson was also a part owner of the Lions). His New York franchise was nicknamed the "Titans". Wismer devised a plan in which the proceeds from the broadcast rights to league games (initially with ABC) would be shared equally by all teams, very innovative at the time but setting the standard for all future professional football television broadcasting contracts. As Wismer owned what would seem to have been the most potentially lucrative franchise, especially with regard to broadcasting rights, in the nation's largest media market, the act seemed at first blush most generous for a self-described "hustler". However, Wismer realized that the fledgling league needed for all of the eight franchises to be successful in order to survive long-term. Unfortunately for Wismer, his own team, despite being located in the nation's largest city, was probably the most problematic in the league in its initial years. For one thing, the team was relegated to playing its home games in the rotting remains of the old Polo Grounds, which had been abandoned after the 1957 season by the New York Giants baseball team for San Francisco and was never a particularly satisfactory football venue. In contrast, the NFL football Giants played across the Harlem River in prestigious Yankee Stadium in The Bronx; they had moved out of the Polo Grounds after the 1955 season.
Additionally, the New York media for the most part was derisive and dismissive of the Titans, when it deigned to mention them at all. For most New York sports reporters of the era, professional football in New York City began and ended with the Giants. Wismer's volatile personality was of little help in this area; he resented not only other media figures but also Dallas Texans owner Lamar Hunt, whom Wismer saw as a rich boy whose father had bought him a football team as a toy. Wismer also had an ongoing feud with AFL commissioner Joe Foss, and had at times a far-less-than-warm relationship with the Titans' first head coach, hall of fame quarterback Sammy Baugh. (Baugh had been the losing tailback in the 73-0 debacle back in 1940 that had marked Wismer's debut with the Redskins as noted above.) Wismer also lacked the truly "deep pockets" of some of the other early AFL owners, particularly Hunt, possessed. For the most part their wealth had come from sources outside the field of sports, which, although already quite popular in the U.S., was not the major industry it was shortly to become. Wismer's wealth, such as it was, had come entirely from his sports involvement.
The blue-and-gold Titans drew just 114,682 total paid admissions at the Polo Grounds in the initial season in 1960; by 1962 this number had dwindled to a mere 36,161 total for seven home games under new head coach Clyde "Bulldog" Turner and Wismer was broke.Supposedly it was loans from other AFL owners, including Wilson and Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams, which kept Wismer and the Titans (as well as several other teams including the Oakland Raiders and Boston Patriots) afloat. This was a necessity for the league to remain viable, as U.S. broadcasters have traditionally had a very limited level of interest in team sports leagues without a viable New York franchise, due to the size of that market area. Wismer, who had long tended to live "hard-and-fast", began to drink even more heavily, and eventually ruined his relationships with all of the other AFL owners, even Adams. They arranged the March 1963 sale of the team to a more financially stable group of investors headed by Sonny Werblin, who changed the team name to the "Jets" in April and hired Weeb Ewbank as head coach.
The now green-and-white Jets were still at the Polo Grounds in 1963, with four of their home games on Saturday nights,then moved into the new Shea Stadium in 1964, where they played for two decades. When Werblin signed University of Alabama star quarterback Joe Namath in January 1965 for a package worth a then-unheard of value of roughly $430,000, the Jets, and the AFL, were made. The Namath signing, and his subsequent stardom, along with a new, more lucrative television contract with NBC, led more than any other single factor to the AFL–NFL merger. Wismer was left embittered and with debts totalling approximately $2.5 million, which he eventually struggled to settle for 78 cents on the dollar. When Werblin sold his share of the team in May 1968, the franchise value had gone from $1 million to $15 million in those five years.
Wismer wrote a book, The Public Calls It Sport, which was something of a combination autobiography and explanation of his philosophy of life. Sales were not particularly brisk. He got involved in the Michigan Speedway project, which, to his great chagrin, was very slow to get under way. Wismer's health, far from brisk, broke completely from depression and alcoholism on top of his other problems after a trip overseas. In 1967, he sought treatment at the Mayo Clinic for cancer before returning to his hometown of Port Huron, where he underwent more treatments, including the replacement of his cancerous hip.
Largely given up on, Wismer rallied, and soon fulfilled his desire to return to New York City. Once there, he found that he was no longer a celebrity or even much noticed, and of those who did notice, more held him in contempt than liked him. His drinking problem returned with a vengeance, and on December 3 he suffered a fall at a restaurant while drunk, falling down a flight of stairs. Still weakened from his earlier health problems, he died the early the next morning on December 4.An autopsy gave a skull fracture as being the immediate cause of death. Wismer's brother John, a Port Huron radio station owner, claimed ever afterward Harry had been thrown down the stairs by mobsters, though for what reason wasn't clear. Today Wismer is remembered primarily as something of an eccentric rather than as a crucial founder of the AFL and one of the creators of professional football's modern era through shared broadcast revenues.
Wismer was married twice. His first wife, Mary Elizabeth Bryant, was related to the Henry Ford family. They divorced in 1959. His second marriage in 1962 was to Mary Zwillman, the widow of New Jersey mobster Abner Zwillman. Mary Zwillman Wismer was appointed as the Titans' nominal chief executive officer.
"...no matter how good you think you are, how shrewd you are, there is always someone down the block, across the street, in the next town, who is a little better, shrewder, more ruthless."
From The Public Calls It Sport
In a song on Commentary! The Musical , a bonus feature on the DVD of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog , Simon Helberg mentions his character Moist's fear of stairs, commenting "That's how Harry Wismer died."
While pulling the New York Titans and the AFL together, Wismer was approached by writer George Plimpton, who asked to join the team's training camp for a Sports Illustrated profile. Wismer agreed, later forgot about it, and Plimpton ended up playing with and writing about Wismer's old team, the Detroit Lions, for the magazine and in the book Paper Lion. Plimpton on Wismer: "He was an odd man. He used to say 'Congratulations' to many people he met, on the grounds that they had probably done something they could be proud of."
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Arthur Louis Powell was an American football wide receiver.
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The National Football League (NFL)'s New York Jets began play in 1960 as the Titans of New York, a charter member of the American Football League (AFL). When the Titans became the Jets in 1963 the team colors changed from navy blue and gold to green and white, which they have remained ever since, although the franchise has used different shades of green and has at times used black as a third/trim color. For most of their history, the Jets had white helmets with green striping and logos, green and white jerseys with opposite-colored sleeves and shoulder stripes, and white pants with two green stripes down each side. The team switched to green helmets and a simpler design in 1978, replacing the football-shaped logo with a modernized wordmark, then in 1990 added black trim and green pants. In 1998 the team reverted to its "classic" look, with an updated version of the prior logo, and replaced the traditional kelly green with a darker hunter green.
The 1977 New York Jets season was the 18th season for the team and the 8th in the National Football League. It began with the team trying to improve upon its 3–11 record from 1976 under new head coach Walt Michaels and beginning the post-Joe Namath era. However, the Jets struggled and finished with a third consecutive 3–11 season. They won a major off the field court decision. As per the memorandum of understanding signed in late 1961 by team original owner Harry Wismer, Shea Stadium’s co-tenants, the New York Mets, would have exclusive use of the stadium until they had completed their season. The Jets were, in most years, required to open the season with several road games, a problem made worse in 1969 and 1973 when the Mets had long playoff runs. Feeling that this arrangement was a disadvantage, the team announced in 1977 that they would play two home games a year during the month of September at the Giants’ new home in New Jersey, Giants Stadium. Litigation began between New York City and the Jets over the issue, and in the lawsuit’s settlement, the city agreed to allow the Jets to play two September home games a season at Shea beginning in 1978 for the remaining six years in the Jets' lease. In 1977, the Jets were to play one September game at Giants Stadium and an October 2 game at Shea. From 1967 through this season—a span of 11 seasons—the Jets did not play a home game at Shea Stadium in the month of September. As of 2017, the Jets are the first team in NFL history to finish 3 straight seasons with only 3 wins. Since the NFL schedule expanded to 16 games in 1978, no team has finished 3–13 three years in a row.
The 1973 New York Jets season was the fourteenth season for the team and the fourth in the National Football League. It began with the team trying to improve upon its 7–7 record from 1972 under head coach Weeb Ewbank. The Jets finished with a record of 4–10 in the final season under head coach Weeb Ewbank, with their only wins coming against division rivals New England and Baltimore.
The 1964 New York Jets season was the fifth season for the team in the American Football League (AFL). The season marked their first in Shea Stadium, after four seasons in the Polo Grounds. The season began with the team trying to improve on their 5–8–1 record from 1963 under head coach Weeb Ewbank. The Jets finished the season 5–8–1.
The 1960 Buffalo Bills season was the team's first season in the American Football League (AFL). Home games were played at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, New York. Head Coach Buster Ramsey's Bills compiled a 5–8–1 record, placing them third in the AFL Eastern Division.
The Foolish Club were the owners of the eight original franchises of the American Football League (AFL). When Texas oil magnates Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams, Jr. were refused entry to the established NFL in 1959, they contacted other businessmen to form an eight-team professional football league, and called it the American Football League. Though Max Winter had originally committed to fielding a Minneapolis team, he reneged when lured away by the NFL; Winter's group instead joined the NFL as the Minnesota Vikings in 1961. Hunt owned the Dallas Texans, while the Houston Oilers were Adams' franchise. The other six members of the "Original Eight" were Harry Wismer, Bob Howsam, Barron Hilton, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., Billy Sullivan, and a group of eight investors led primarily by F. Wayne Valley and, briefly, Chet Soda. They called themselves the "Foolish Club" because of their seemingly foolhardy venture in taking on the established NFL.