The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project—unveiled every Wednesday from May through July—detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.
The league’s transformative commissioner penned his many missives, from high school until his retirement in 1989, on a Royal typewriter, writing the history of the NFL on its keys.
Well before his influence on the popularity of the Super Bowl, the AFL-NFL merger and the negotiation of lucrative TV deals, Rozelle’s father, Ray, purchased a black Royal for his son, on which young Pete penned romantic sports recaps for the student newspaper at Compton (Calif.) High, as well as a kind of manifesto and precursor to his service in the Navy during World War II: “We must answer the call. If we do, then through our efforts and the grace of God in heaven we will win this war and save for the world the democratic ideals for which we stand.”
As evocative as he could be in ink, Rozelle was resolute in voice. According to Michael MacCambridge’s “America’s Game,” when Rozelle was accused by a journalist of “disrespect” on the day he regrettably chose to stage games the weekend after President Kennedy’s assassination, Rozelle offered, “There can be no disrespect where no disrespect is intended.” In ’64, when Rozelle hosted the first network bidding war for the burgeoning league’s TV rights, a colleague in the room recalled, “Pete was always cool.” And even when the dollar figures tripled that of the previous contract, “He didn’t bat an eye, he just read out each bid.” With presence like that, who needs a typewriter?
Special thanks to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for facilitating the photo at the top of this story.