New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Club owner

Harry Wismer

Harry Wismer (Sportscaster and club owner.  Born, Port Huron, MI, June 30, 1913; died, New York, NY, Dec. 4, 1967.)  From his start at WJR in Detroit in 1935, Harry Wismer was one of America’s leading sportscasters.  In 1941, Wismer became the sports director and lead announcer for NBC’s second radio network (“Blue”), which shortly became ABC.  He continued in that position as ABC moved into the television era.  But it was as a football announcer that Wismer gained his greatest broadcasting fame.  He started as the play-by-play voice of the Lions in the 1930s and then shifted to the Washington Redskins.  Before World War II, Wismer handled Big 10 games for WJR.  For 16 seasons (1944-59), he was the radio voice of Notre Dame football.  He also did a nightly sports show on the Mutual Network (MBS) and a 15-minute radio show after Brooklyn Dodgers home games during the mid-1950s.  In 1957, Wismer called play-by-play for NBC on the N.F.L. championship game, the Sugar Bowl, the East-West Shrine game, the Pro Bowl, the North-South game, the Masters, and U.S. Open golf, while still doing Notre Dame and the Redskins.  A small, hard-drinking, and often combative man, Wismer was unpopular with many sportswriters and, sometimes, even his own partners.  He was, however, a part-owner of both Detroit and Washington in the N.F.L. (the only man ever to hold an interest in two N.F.L. clubs simultaneously) and a formative figure in the founding of the American Football League.  When the A.F.L. was officially formed in Chicago on Aug. 14, 1959, Wismer became the owner of the New York franchise that he later called Titans (“larger than Giants,” he said).  He negotiated the original network television contract for the A.F.L. with ABC (1960-64), spreading the revenue on a league-wide cooperative basis, unlike other leagues.  Wismer, through his friendship with general manager Mims Thomason and sports editor Leo Peterson of  U.P.I., assured the A.F.L. from its inception of parity in wire service coverage with the 40-year-old N.F.L.  His ownership of the Titans, he later said, cost him $2 million, and he was forced out after the team went bankrupt midway through the 1962 season.  Playing in the old Polo Grounds, the Titans were 7-7 in each of their first two seasons and fell to 5-9 in 1962.  A consortium fronted by Sonny Werblin bought the team out of bankruptcy in early 1963 and renamed the team the Jets.   As the Jets, the franchise became a box office success when it moved into the newly-opened Shea Stadium 1964.  It is doubtful, however, that the A.F.L. would have survived its early years without Wismer.  The team he founded was sold for $635 million in 2000.

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The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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About Bill Shannon

A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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