|Billy Sullivan headed to Pats HOF||03.24.09 at 4:46 pm ET|
Without Billy Sullivan, there would be no NFL franchise in Foxboro. Without Billy Sullivan, there likely would never have been Pat Patriot or the Flying Elvis. And without Billy Sullivan, there would be no Gillette Stadium, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and three Lombardi trophies sitting at One Patriot Place.
Owner Robert Kraft, one of the franchise’s most famous fans, realizes this and on Tuesday recognized the team’s first owner by inducting him into the team’s Hall of Fame.
The team issued the following release.
In a fitting tribute on the occasion of the New England Patriots’ 50th anniversary celebration, Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft has inducted the franchise’s original owner, Billy Sullivan, into the Patriots Hall of Fame as a contributor. Sullivan is the first contributor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, which was heretofore comprised of 13 players, with a 14th to be selected by fans in 2009.
Any former Patriots player or head coach who has been retired from the game for at least four years is eligible for hall of fame consideration by a nomination committee. Others deserving of hall of fame consideration are only eligible for induction as contributors to the team.
“Billy Sullivan made professional football a reality in New England,” said Kraft. “We are celebrating the Patriots’ 50th season and all of the wonderful memories we have as fans of the Patriots. Without Billy Sullivan, the Patriots would not exist. I hope this recognition will ensure that Patriots fans never forget his contributions.”
On Nov. 16, 1959, William H. Sullivan, Jr. was awarded the eighth and final charter franchise of the American Football League. Sullivan, with nine other investors, sold non-voting public stock in the franchise to raise capital to help post the franchise fee of $25,000.
A public contest resulted in the naming of the team, which was known as the Boston Patriots for its first 11 seasons. During the 1960s, the Patriots played home games at stadiums throughout Boston, including Boston University Field, Fenway Park, Harvard Stadium and Boston College’s Alumni Stadium. A year after the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the franchise moved to the newly-constructed Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. and the team was renamed the New England Patriots.
In 1975, Sullivan purchased additional stock to become majority owner. In 1976, he purchased all the remaining non-voting stock in the team. In 1983, Schaefer Stadium was renamed Sullivan Stadium to honor Sullivan’s contributions to the franchise. Sullivan owned the Patriots through 1988, when he sold the franchise to Victor Kiam.
“I can speak for my entire family, in particular my mother Mary, in thanking the Kraft Family for this singular honor,” said Patrick Sullivan, son of the late Billy Sullivan. “With the kick off of the Patriots’ 50th anniversary season, to be associated with the great names in Patriots history, the great fans of the Patriots, and to have an honored spot in The Hall at Patriot Place is something that I know my father would be immensely proud of. The Hall pays tribute to the great Patriots, both past and present.
The fans, who Dad regarded as the cornerstone of the franchise, are also honored. For my father to be remembered by this great franchise and these great fans in this great Hall of Patriot history is an honor that we will cherish forever.”
In 2009, the Patriots are celebrating their 50th anniversary with their fans through a series of acknowledgements and dedications. As part of the celebration, the team is unveiling a series of 20 “Top 10 All-Time” lists for fans to discuss and debate. Each list will be featured on the popular Patriots TV program, “Patriots All-Access” as well as the team’s newspaper, Patriots Football Weekly. Fans will have an opportunity to vote for their Top 10s in each of the 20 categories on the team’s website, patriots.com. Later this month, the Patriots’ Hall of Fame nominating committee will select the franchise’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Yesterday, the NFL announced that the Patriots, who hosted the AFL’s first regular season game on Sept. 9, 1960 at Boston University Field, will be featured in the NFL’s first “AFL Legacy Game” on the opening weekend of the 2009 season. On Sept. 14, 2009, the Patriots will host the Buffalo Bills on ESPN’s nationally-televised Monday Night Football. It will be the first of three “AFL Legacy Games” that the Patriots will appear in this season, which will feature the Patriots’ red and white “throwback” uniforms, replicating the uniforms worn by the 1963 team that claimed the franchise’s first division title and competed in the franchise’s first league championship game.
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