Southern California  WFL

Sun  - 1974 - 75


Like most of the other WFL teams, ownership however, was shaky, even with WFL Czar Gary Davidson listed as part owner of the franchise. Majority owner and team President Larry Hatfield had the inglorious distinction of being the first and only WFL owner investigated by the F.B.I. for violation of the Federal Reserve Act due to bank fraud. Hatfield brought in two minority owners, one reputed to represent organized crime interests in Cleveland. Hatfield shuffled a number of unsecured loans with the approval of a bank official who was subsequently fired and which sparked the investigation. The bottom line indicated that Hatfield “purchased” the Sun franchise and area rights for literally nothing when Davidson had to step in and immediately pay off the unsecured loans that originally garnered the franchise rights, with WFL funds. What this meant in terms of reality, not WFL reality, was that the World Football League had given Hatfield the rights to the lucrative Southern California region, and when it came time to pay for those rights, the league paid itself with money it had collected from the owners of other franchises. Was something wrong with this picture? When the team owner and President had an outstanding automobile loan for $4000.00, a credit limit of only $2500.00, and homes valued at a total of $45,000.00, even at 1974 prices, he had no business owning a professional football team! Thus, from the very beginning, this was a football franchise mired in financial shenanigans although the on-field product was highlighted by many proven players.


The Sun’s offensive fire power was more potent than its ability to play defense, at least when it came to “star power.” Rookie quarterback Tony Adams had been the NCAA’s third ranked passer in 1972 and NFL experienced receiver Dave Williams, formerly of the Cardinals and Chargers provided a proven target. Booker Brown teamed with long time Ram’s tackle Joe Carollo to form a fine tackle tandem. With McAlister and Johnson, the running game was solid. Under the tutelage of former Chicago Bear defensive lineman Earl Leggett, the group of no-name defensive trenchmen developed into a solid unit. Led by former N.Y. Giant and Kentucky All America Dave Roller, they played aggressive, bull-rushing defense. The other tackle, John Hoffman, was a local having gone to Western High School that was literally down the block from the Sun’s home field in Anaheim. Hoffman began his college career at USC but transferred to Hawaii where he was a Little All America. He kicked around the NFL for four years, putting in most of his time with the Redskins under both Lombardi and Bill Austin before drifting on to the Bears, Cardinals, and Broncos. At 6’7”, Hoffman was a fearsome rugby player who had a national level reputation in that sport. Ken Lee and Cleve Vann had made their mark in college and were adequate linebackers although none of the players behind the front wall were well known. Fears had brought one hundred and forty seven players to camp before whittling them down to a workable roster of forty-two players who won the Western Division title with a 13-7 record. In the first round of the makeshift playoff system, altered at what was literally the last minute due to the demise of a number of the franchises, the Sun fell behind the Hawaiians early 17-0 and could not overcome the underdog’s lead, losing 32-14. What many newspaper accounts missed, in the few newspapers that gave the struggling league space, was that leading rusher Kermit Johnson and stalwart tackle Booker Brown refused to play, having been stiffed on their paychecks for the final regular season game. With these two presumably watching on television, the Sun entered the playoff tilt offensively undermanned. When quarterback Adams, who had finished the season as the WFL’s leading passer and running back McAlister went down with injury, the valiant comeback attempt of the Sun was eclipsed!


The Southern California Sun did not sink slowly in the west. Although Hatfield, after pleading guilty in a U.S. District Court to submitting a false financial statement, hung on and retained his position as team President and General Manager for 1975, new ownership in the person of Sambo’s Restaurant kingpin Sam Battistone brought an infusion of cash that had the Sun ready for yet another year of the New League WFL play. Retention of Fears and his coaching staff and a reshuffling of players gave the Sun’s fans cause for optimism. While Johnson and McAlister headed for the NFL, they were replaced by USC legend Anthony Davis and the NFL’s famed quarterback Daryle Lamonica. The Sun fell short in 1974 but felt certain of better things to come in 1975.


The Sun had a great and unique uniform. An outstanding magenta home jersey was highlighted by orange numbers, certainly a uniform as bright as their nickname! The white helmet had a very memorable Sun logo that seemed to literally throw off heat. The wide orange stripe flanked by thinner purple stripes with large rear numbers topped the uniform off smartly.  When they wore their orange pants, the look was “different” yet very effective and this remains one of the best professional football uniforms of all time.  BACK...


If interested in any of these or more WFL helmets please click on the photos below.