Top five: books for Kansas City Chiefs fans

In the end it took 50 years to get back to the Super Bowl. The team founded at the birth of the AFL as the Dallas Texans were a power-house early on. After three seasons in Dallas, including one as AFL Champions, they became the Kansas City Chiefs from the 1963 season, won two more AFL Championships and went to two of the first four Super Bowls, winning one. And then nothing.

More than 20 years passed without so much as a playoff win before the team enjoyed a short period of success in the early 1990s under Marty Schottenheimer. That peaked with an AFC Championship Game loss to the Bills in 1993 and then another 20 year wait for sustained success, which came this time under Andy Reid, who established them as perennial winners of the AFC West and, eventually, returned them to the Super Bowl.

Understandably, books about the Chiefs tend to focus on the 1960s and early 1970s. The team was founded by Lamar Hunt, who created the AFL and had a strong influence on professional football thereafter. They played in the first Super Bowl, losing to Lombardi’s Packers, and then won the fourth – the last Super Bowl before the AFL-NFL merger.

There’s plenty of history to cover, and that’s where these books focus. Those who want something more modern could try John Feinstein’s The Quarterback, which takes Alex Smith as one its subjects. Smith was in his final season as a Chief, with rookie Patrick Mahomes looming in the background.

1Lamar Hunt (2012) by Michael MacCambridge

Where else to start but with a biography of the Chiefs’ founder from football’s best historian, and Chiefs fan, Michael MacCambridge. Hunt was just 27 when he announced his plan to set up a professional football league to rival the NFL. Against the odds, and huge opposition from the older league, the AFL not only survived, but thrived, eventually negotiating a merger. Hunt’s own team, the Dallas Texans, struggled for support against the NFL’s Cowboys but eventually found a home in Kansas City. Hunt himself was just beginning and would go on to be an influential figure in a range of sports, including soccer and tennis.
Michael MacCambridge interview
Buy the book: Amazon US

2When It Was Just A Game (2015) by Harvey Frommer

As a precursor to the AFL-NFL merger it was agreed that the champions of the two leagues would meet at the end of each season for the “AFL-NFL World Championship Football game”, which would later become known by Lamar Hunt’s suggested name, the Super Bowl. Fittingly, Hunt’s team represented the AFL in the first Super Bowl. However, the Chiefs couldn’t match Lombardi’s Packers and lost, reinforcing the impression that the upstart league could not compete with the NFL. Frommer’s book is a thorough oral history of that game.
Buy the book: Amazon US | Amazon UK

3’69 Chiefs (2019) by Michael MacCambridge

The Chiefs would not have to wait long to make amends for their Super Bowl defeat. In 1968-69 the Jets won Super Bowl III, showing that the balance of power between the two leagues was closer than NFL-backers had suspected. A year later, the final season before the merger, the Chiefs returned to the Super Bowl to face the Vikings, and came away with a win. MacCambridge’s book about that season, lavishly illustrated with photos from Rod Hanna, shows just what an achievement it was. In many ways, the season peaked with the Championship Game, when the Chiefs defeated their arch-rivals, the Oakland Raiders.
Full review
Buy the book: Amazon US | Amazon UK

4Kansas City Chiefs (1974) by Dick Connor

The NFL’s ‘Great Teams, Great Years’ series never made it past nine editions but it did manage to cover the Chiefs before folding. Denver Post journalist Dick Connor might seem like an unusual choice to write a book about a Kansas City team but his writing is tight and compelling, with a news writer’s eye for a telling detail. The books in the series followed a template: a chapter on team history, a ‘memories’ section of photos, the story of five great games, interviews with important team figures, facts and figures, and so on. This one is no different and it’s an essential for any Chiefs fan.
Out of print: available secondhand

5Ten-Gallon War (2012) by John Eisenberg

It was hard to decide what to choose for a fifth book. I thought about including a title that focuses on more recent Chiefs history, because this list is so focused on the early years. In the end, though, I opted for a good story. John Eisenberg grew up in Dallas and he’s at his entertaining best in this book about the rivalry between the Texans and the Cowboys. It’s well worth a read for any football fan.
Out of print: available secondhand

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