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This Day in Bills History, Sept. 26: Kemp comes to Buffalo

Sept. 26, 1962 – Ralph Wilson spent $25,000 to buy an American Football League franchise, an investment that eventually was worth more than a billion dollars. Perhaps his second-best buy involved a quarterback.

The San Diego Chargers had a quarterback on their roster who was suffering from a finger injury. Jack Kemp had been a key player for the Chargers in their history. He was the starter on the teams that played in the 1960 and 1961 AFL Championship Games. The Chargers needed a roster spot to open up, so they put Kemp on waivers to clear space for him.

The Bills noticed that Kemp was available, and claimed him on this day. Kemp was awarded to Buffalo over the claims of two other teams, Dallas and Denver, because it was lower in the standings. The cost? One hundred dollars.

Chargers coach Sid Gillman tried to convince people that the team had tried to sneak Kemp through and got caught. However, there is some evidence that no one on the team knew that teams couldn't recall players placed on waivers on a Saturday or Sunday. It was a new rule in the AFL.

You’d have to say this all worked out perfectly for the Bills. Kemp saw some playing time for the Bills in 1962, and helped the team finish over .500 after a slow start. He later became the starting quarterback on two championship teams. Kemp played in five of the 10 AFL championship games, and then retired to run for Congress. He became a nationally known figure in political circles.

Budd Bailey is a retired sports reporter and editor at The Buffalo News. He is also the author of "Today in Buffalo Sports History." Learn more about the book here.

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