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Gadfly bugs Hall of Fame voters to 'remember the AFL' in future

July 27, 2003

Not all halls of fame have corridors lined with gleaming busts of the great. The one Angelo Coniglio founded for the greater glory of the American Football League is contained within a Web site.

"Why there?" he was asked.

"It's my Web site," answered Coniglio, "and I can do anything I want with it."

Coniglio, you should know, tends to become defensive when the AFL comes up. What he has done is establish his own proud, private, easily accessed AFL Hall of Fame. Just tap into and there it is, Coniglio's means of honoring Gene Mingo, Charlie Tolar, Paul Lowe and too many others who in Coniglio's thinking should be in that other hall in Canton, Ohio, and are not.

Coniglio does not take these slights idly. To all the Hall of Fame's electors for whom he has addresses, he has fired off a letter under the banner, "Remember the AFL," in which he lobbies for the nomination and election of AFL stars while they are still living.

At the risk of being repetitious, I must relate how I became aware of Angelo Coniglio. One evening in the early 1960s, my telephone rang. On the line from his residence in the Buffalo area was Coniglio, whose knowledge of me was only that I was in sympathy with the AFL – "an AFL apologist," one of my journalistic associates in New York referred to me. Anyhow, Coniglio had discovered a flaw in the NFL's playoff tie-breaking procedures – something about how ties were handled – that he wished to share with me.

As a consequence of Coniglio's findings, the NFL had to revise its playoff format. Right there, Coniglio, a hydraulic engineer with the U.S. Corps of Engineers, became a hero of mine: one voice that in effect had brought down the lordly NFL.

To describe Coniglio as an AFL loyalist would be an understatement. For years after the AFL-NFL merger of 1970, he refused to show up at Bills games. Meantime, he passed around "Remember the AFL" bumper stickers and otherwise sought to perpetuate the league's image. Thirty-three years after the merger, he still is at it as vigorously as ever, having contacted the players who performed in the AFL and are in the Hall if Fame and asked them to support his campaign to enshrine additional AFL graduates.

"Don Maynard called me and said he agreed with me," Coniglio said, "and Mrs. Gillman called me." Esther, Sid Gillman's widow, is 90, and she did this. Excuse me, but I am touched.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame next weekend is holding what it is calling "an NFL Homecoming." To the induction ceremonies in Canton in which Marcus Allen and Chargers assistant coach James Lofton are among those to be received, it has invited the 144 living Hall of Famers. By the count of Hall of Fame executive Joe Horrigan, 113 have accepted.

"But where does that leave Lance Alworth and Billy Shaw?" Coniglio asked. Alworth concluded his career with the Dallas Cowboys, but his accomplishments, and they were spectacular, were largely with the Chargers. Shaw, a former Buffalo guard, is the only Hall of Famer who served only in the AFL.

"The Hall of Fame may claim to represent all of pro football, but until it corrects the glaring omission of AFL players, it is nothing more than the NFL hall of fame," contends Coniglio. He cites such players as Kansas City safety Johnny Robinson, wide receiver Lionel Taylor of Denver and Houston and Boston receiver/kicker Gino Cappelletti.

Coniglio likes to point out that the NFL has borrowed many of the AFL's innovations. Use of the scoreboard clock as the official game clock. Use of players' names on the back of their jerseys. Two-point conversions.

"The only thing the NFL did not do is keep the name of the AFL, which is a travesty," Coniglio said.

Alworth is not planning to attend next weekend's "Homecoming," but he is championing John Hadl's inclusion in the Hall. Alworth has had prepared a 13-page brochure reciting Hadl's deeds that he has distributed to election committee members.

"John deserves these accolades," Alworth said. "He has, I feel, been overlooked for years."

Angelo Coniglio, I know, would agree.

Jerry Magee: (619) 293-1830.

Copyright 2003 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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Last revision: 10 February 2013 ~ Angelo F. Coniglio,





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