*Included in the summer-long exhibition at Union Station of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's history of the game is a substantial collection of Kansas City Chiefs artifacts dating back to the earliest days of the franchise and the creation of the American Football League by team owner Lamar Hunt *
Over the next couple of weeks, we'll identify some of what fans and long-time football enthusiasts might call "treasures" – some never seen by the general public before the exhibition's opening this past Memorial Day weekend. The exhibition, which traces the history of the game from its roots, is open daily at Union Station and closes September 7.
"The AFL-10 Year Patch"* *
If you've followed the Chiefs from the team's earliest days here you recognize the importance patches played in highlighting special occasions in club history. While never tinkering with the team's uniform design or colors, Lamar Hunt, the team's founder, was never shy about adding a patch to the sleeve or chest of Chiefs jerseys for commemoration purposes.
Kansas City players wore anniversary patches for any number of years including the 25th, the 35th, 40th (highlighting 40 years in Kansas City), 50th, and 75th (in conjunction with the NFL's anniversary), to name but a few.
Perhaps the most celebrated patch, at least for the fellows who had started and finished their careers in the American Football League, was the "AFL-10 year patch."
It's hard for today's fans to understand the passion many of the young league's players had for what the AFL had given them. For those discarded by the NFL, the AFL provided a place to continue their careers, for those just coming out of college, it was an opportunity to get on the field sooner and not languish for years on the bench if they were lucky to have made the team.
After winning the AFL's last championship in Oakland in 1969, head coach Hank Stram ordered new red jerseys to be worn for what would be the final Super Bowl between the two leagues – the merger would come into play the next year. Stram had also asked that all the helmets be repainted but the players immediately protested, insisting that the idea of a battle-scarred helmet better fit their mindsets for what was to be a chance to match the older NFL in Super Bowl wins, two-to-two.
While stories persist today about the AFL's problems staying afloat, the players held mostly fond feelings for the league and what it had accomplished in ten years. So, AFL president Milt Woodard and longtime AFL fan Angelo Coniglio came up with the "AFL-10" patch and made plans to have it placed it on the left shoulder of the Kansas City jerseys for Super Bowl IV.
Woodard designed the patch which highlights the AFL's ten-year existence and while worn by the Chiefs in their win over the Minnesota Vikings in the title game, really does much more. All the players who had competed down through the years in the fledgling league took special pride in knowing Kansas City that day was representing them as well.
If You Go
*A number of "10-year" patches can be found in the Chiefs section of Gridiron Glory, part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's exhibit at Union Station in downtown Kansas City, to include Len Dawson's Super Bowl IV jersey, Mo Moorman's jersey, and in the case celebrating the team's win in Super Bowl IV.