SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Chargers ceased to exist Thursday.
They were born in Los Angeles as an original AFL team in 1960, moved to San Diego’s Balboa Stadium in 1961 and will be rolling back up the freeway to LA after team chairman Dean Spanos announced they will join the recently relocated Rams in the nation’s second-largest media market.
Here are some of the biggest moments in the history of the San Diego Chargers, who were the city’s beloved Bolts for 56 seasons:
1963 AFL CHAMPIONSHIP: The Chargers routed the Boston Patriots 51-10 at Balboa Stadium to win what remains San Diego’s only major professional championship. Keith Lincoln lived up to his college nickname, “Moose of the Palouse,” by bulling his way to 349 total yards and two touchdowns. Lincoln had 206 yards rushing, 123 yards receiving and 20 yards passing. Also on that team was future Hall of Famer Lance “Bambi” Alworth.
1994 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: No one gave the Chargers a chance against the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers yet they pulled off a 17-13 shocker that was sealed when Dennis Gibson knocked down Neil O’Donnell’s fourth-down pass in the end zone. Three Rivers Stadium fell into a stunned silence as the Chargers leaped for joy. Junior Seau had one of the finest games of his Hall of Fame career, and “Touchdown Tony” Martin’s over-the-shoulder catch of Stan Humphries’ 43-yard heave was the game-winner. Hours later, a crowd estimated at 68,000 welcomed the Chargers back to San Diego. Two weeks later they were routed by the San Francisco 49ers in their only Super Bowl appearance. Sadly, Seau became the eighth member of that team to die before the age of 45 when he killed himself in 2012.
OVERTIME THRILLER IN MIAMI: On Jan. 2, 1982, Rolf Benirschke’s 29-yard field goal in overtime lifted the Chargers to a 41-38 victory at Miami in one of the most epic playoff games in NFL history. An enduring image of that game is an exhausted and dehydrated Kellen Winslow, with a towel over his head, being helped off the field by two teammates. Winslow caught 13 passes from Dan Fouts for 166 yards and one touchdown. A week later, the Chargers lost the AFC championship game to the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-7 on the coldest day in NFL history. The temperature was minus-9, with a wind chill of minus-59.
TOMLINSON’S DASH INTO HISTORY: On Dec. 10, 2006, LaDainian Tomlinson sent the Qualcomm Stadium crowd into frenzy when he swept left and scored his third touchdown of the day against the Denver Broncos, breaking the NFL single-season touchdown record with his 29th. Tomlinson was engulfed by the behemoths on his offensive line, hoisted onto their shoulders and carried toward the sideline. Tomlinson held the ball high in his right hand while waving his left index finger as the crowd chanted “L.T.! L.T.!” and “MVP! MVP!” Tomlinson finished with 31 touchdowns, 28 rushing, in one of the greatest seasons in NFL history. He also ran away with the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award. He is a finalist for the Hall of Fame.
1994 PLAYOFF VICTORY: The Chargers were propelled to the AFC championship game with a heart-stopping 22-21 home victory over Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins. Fans went into a frenzy when Pete Stoyanovich pushed a 48-yard field goal attempt wide right with 1 second left. Stan Humphries, who had given the Chargers the lead with an 8-yard TD toss to a wide-open Mark Seay with 35 seconds left, stood on the sideline with his arm around equipment manager Sid Brooks as Stoyanovich missed.
The Chargers leave San Diego on a down note, having missed the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons.
The Chargers were purchased in 1984 by Stockton construction and real estate magnate Alex Spanos, who never was warmly accepted by San Diego fans. In 1986, Alex Spanos fired legendary coach Don Coryell, whose Air Coryell offense helped change the NFL. The late Coryell is a finalist for the Hall of Fame.
After clashing with then-general manager Bobby Beathard, Alex Spanos ceded daily control of the team to son Dean prior to the 1994 season.
Under Spanos ownership, the San Diego Chargers were 249-278 (.472) with 12 winning seasons, 14 losing seasons and seven .500 seasons. They made nine playoff appearances, including the franchise’s only Super Bowl appearance and reaching the AFC championship game following the 2007 season.
The Los Angeles Chargers will play the next two seasons at the StubHub Center in Carson before joining the Rams at a stadium scheduled to open in Inglewood in 2019.