Way back in April of 2013, I posted an article that listed ten significant events in the history of the Denver Broncos. I invited readers to share their own suggestions for significant events. My thinking was that I would compile a list with a thumbnail description of each event and then ask readers to vote for the ten most significant events in franchise history. There were many great suggestions offered up and I decided that each deserved a longer treatment than just a line or two.
I offered up the first of those events in Significant Events in Broncos History: How Baseball Brought Football to Denver. Here is the second installment from those suggestions.
The date: Friday, September 9, 1960
The place: Nickerson Field at Boston University
The weather: 76 degrees with 19 mph winds
The event: The first-ever game of the American Football League
The schedule makers for the American Football League not only had the newly formed Denver Broncos travel to Boston to face the equally new Patriots, but scheduled that game to occur on a Friday evening. The reason for that scheduling is one of the interesting footnotes to the American Football League's inaugural season.
According to a report in a Boston paper -- which was included in the Patriots' program for that first game -- indicated that the Patriots had picked Friday night after a survey of their 1000+ season ticket holders indicated a preference for games played on Friday nights over games played on Saturday nights. In fact, all of the Patriots' 1960 home games were played on Friday nights.
Ticket prices for those Friday night games were $5 for reserved seats and $6 for box seats. Season tickets were sold for $35 (reserved seats) and $42 (box seats). By way of comparison, Denver's home games would set fans back $3.50 (North and South stands seats) and $4.00 (East and West stands seats). The Broncos' season tickets were $24.50 (North and South stands seats) and $28.00 (East and West stands seats).
Although Boston scored first on a 35-yard field goal by Gino Cappelletti, the Broncos scored touchdowns in the second and third quarter to take a 13-3 lead then held on to win after the Patriots scored later in the third quarter.
This game also saw a number of firsts, in addition to being the first game of the American Football League:
The first play from scrimmage was a 5-yard run from the Denver 17-yard line to the 22-yard line by Broncos' running back Al Carmichael.
The first first down of league history was made by the Broncos on a 15-yard run by Dan Riley on a pitchout to the right side.
The first AFL punt was by Denver's George Herring. It traveled 26 yards from the Broncos' 45-yard line to the Boston 29-yard line.
The AFL penalty was an offsides call against the Broncos that nullified an incomplete pass by Boston.
The first pass in AFL history was a pass from Patriots' quarterback Butch Songin to running back Walt Livingston. It came on a 2nd-and-11 from the Boston 38-yard line and fell incomplete.
The first AFL score was a 35-yard field goal by Boston's Gino Cappelletti.
The first AFL touchdown came on a 59-yard pass from Broncos' quarterback Frank Tripucka to Al Carmichael. According to the official game book, the pass was made to the right flat where Carmichael reversed his direction just after crossing the line of scrimmage then went the rest of the distance down the left side. Gene Mingo added the extra point.
This game also included the first AFL punt returned for a touchdown. On 4th-and-6 from its own 26-yard line, Boston punter Tom Greene kicked the ball to the Denver 34-yard line. Gene Mingo fielded the punt then raced 76 yards along the right sideline for the score. Mingo then missed the point after attempt.
The Denver Broncos had the first African-American professional football placekicker in Gene Mingo.
More importantly, the Broncos posted the first-ever win of the American Football League by winning the first game that they ever played.