Before the Seahawks, Seattle rooted for the 49ers
As hard as it may be to believe given the current football rivalry between Seattle and San Francisco, the 12th Man used to be a 49ers fan. Or, he at least tuned in to 49ers games on the radio in Seattle every week.
In those bleak years before the Seahawks’ NFL expansion season in 1976, football fans in the Pacific Northwest more often than not looked south to adopt a home team, when San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles were the nearest pro football cities. Seattle radio station KVI 570 AM carried some 49ers games and Los Angeles Rams games here as early as the mid-1950s. KVI then began carrying entire seasons’ worth of San Francisco 49ers games from the early 1960s up through the final pre-Seahawks year of 1975.
KVI recruited local sponsors for the broadcasts, including Rainier Bank, Western Airlines, Metropolitan Life Insurance, Standard Oil and Chevrolet, and the station ran ads in local newspapers to promote the broadcasts. Some longtime local residents can even remember seeing KVI/49ers stickers stuck to heavy chrome bumpers on the cars of that era.
Not to be outdone by its down-the-dial rival, then-future flagship station of the Seahawks KIRO 710 AM offered Oakland Raiders games to Seattle listeners during the 1972 season. The station manager back then, Jack Adamson, told The Seattle Times that, “acquiring the Raiders broadcasts is another step to establish KIRO Radio as the sports station in Seattle.”
Another fixture in Seattle in the pre-Seahawks era was what one Seattle Times’ columnist called “carpetbagger football.” That is, pre-season pro football exhibition games held at Husky Stadium. The first pro football game of the modern era in Seattle was in 1955 when the San Francisco 49ers took on the New York Giants with 49,000 fans looking on. New York won that game 28-17, but the 49ers were back on Seattle turf at least two more times over the next decade and a half, beating the Chicago Cardinals 27-21 in 1957, and losing to the Cleveland Browns 24-19 in 1969. In addition to testing the waters for a franchise someday, many of the dozen or so exhibition games held between 1955 and 1975 were fundraisers for Greater Seattle, the predecessor organization to Seafair.
The last non-Seahawk NFL exhibition game in Seattle was in 1975 when the Cleveland Browns defeated the New York Giants 24-20 before a crowd numbering less than 20,000. By the following summer, the Kingdome was open for business, Zorn was tossing to Largent, and legendary KIRO broadcaster Pete Gross was just beginning to get used to saying, “Touchdown Seahawks!”