This sharp looking exhibition game program is one of my favorite editions from the doomed World Football League (1974-1975) of the mid-1970′s. An announced crowd of 22,705 turned out at Anaheim Stadium for this preseason tune-up between the Southern California Sun and the visiting Memphis Southmen (also known as the Grizzlies).
Memphis got most of the national media attention (including a Sports Illustrated cover) after Southmen owner John Bassett lured a trio of offensive stars – Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield – away from the Miami Dolphins of the NFL. All three were key contributors to the Fins undefeated 1972 championship team. This road game in Anaheim would be their first appearance in WFL uniforms after nearly a year of anticipation.
More quietly, the Southern California Sun signed aging Oakland Raiders quarterback Daryle “The Mad Bomber” Lamonica, who is pictured in the cover illustration of this program in the eye-popping magenta-and-orange of the Sun. The team also inked a pair of high profile rookies from nearby USC, in running back Anthony Davis, who was the 1974 Heisman Trophy runner up, and cerebral quarterback Pat Haden. (The Sun appeared to be stacked at QB, but Lamonica would get hurt early in the season and Haden left the team by earlier agreement in September to beginning his Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford).
The Southmen were expected to dominate the WFL in 1975, after finishing the 1974 season 17-3 without the services of Csonka, Kiick and Warfield. But in this first showing, the Sun defense manhandled with erstwhile NFL stars, limiting the Southmen ground attach to 55 yards on 24 carries. The big story was Anthony Davis, who scored four touchdowns to lead the Sun to a 47-16 victory.
The exhibition proved to be a pretty good foreshadowing of the regular season. Davis dominated the league, running for 1,200 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns in only 12 games. The Southmen were only OK at 7-4 through eleven games. Csonka and Kiick played second banana in the Memphis rushing attack to the immortal Willie Spencer and Warfield was nowhere to be found among the league’s receiving leaders.
On October 23, 1975 the poorly capitalized league ran out of gas and shutdown in mid-season. The Memphis trio returned to the NFL in 1976 and finished out their careers in reduced roles in the late 1970′s. Davis kicked around in short stints with a couple of NFL teams and the Canadian Football League during the late 1970′s but never came close to recapturing the brilliance of his USC career or his brief adventure in the World Football League.