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Chargers Owner Alex Spanos Dies At 95

Alex Spanos, owner of the San Diego Chargers, celebrates, Oct. 27, 1993, in Rosemont, Ill., after the NFL announced that San Diego secured the 1990 site of the Super Bowl.
Associated Press
Alex Spanos, owner of the San Diego Chargers, celebrates, Oct. 27, 1993, in Rosemont, Ill., after the NFL announced that San Diego secured the 1990 site of the Super Bowl.
Chargers Owner Alex Spanos Dies At 95
Chargers Owner Alex Spanos Dies At 95 GUEST:Jay Paris, author, "Game of My Life, San Diego Chargers: Memorable Stories of Chargers Football"

Our top story on Midday edition. One of the biggest names in San Diego's sports world for more than 30 years has died. Alex Spanos who bought a majority stake in the San Diego Chargers franchise in 1984 died today at the age of 95. Although he ceded day to day operations of the team to his son Dean years ago Alex Santos retained ownership even as the team moved to Los Angeles. Joining me is sportswriter Jay Paris author of Game of My Life San Diego Chargers memorable stories of Chargers football and Jay welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. MARTIN Now even though Alex Spanier has not been running the team for years what kind of influence has he retained with the team. Well I think it was always still Mr. Santos his team. That's certainly how I refer to him. Dean Santos son did take over day to day operations in 1992 or 1994 excuse me which was the year of the Chargers went to their only Super Bowl. So the Send send it pops pretty proud on that one. But this guy was almost bigger than life. That he just such a Energetic and outgoing personality. Whereas Sundeen is a little more reserved and not really wanting to get into confrontations. Alex thanas usually knew where he stood. You may not agree with it but he wasn't shy about sharing his opinion. And really that's how he made his fortune. He had been suffering from dementia in recent years. Do we know if he had any part in the decision to move the Chargers to L.A.. You know I couldn't say with complete clarity. I would doubt he would be involved with that very much. You know fortunately he had to quit coming down to the games in San Diego because of dementia. And I think he was pretty in distress toward the end. So to think he had much of the day to day operations or made a decision of that magnitude. I couldn't say with any clarity but Marine but I don't think he had much of that say in that one. Now Jay you've you've actually written the book on the history of the Chargers. Why did Alex Spanos decide to invest in the Chargers back in the 80s. The story is still baloney sandwiches to the migrant workers and in the rest of this story and he brought my vision workers up to Stockton. He was not only selling one meal a day he sold them three meals a day and he was also housing them as well. From that he became a millionaire almost four years. He had to have extra money to play with in the early 80s. And Jean Klein was selling the team and Jean Klein was a Delmark guy. Rancho Santa Fe very well known in horse racing circles. He sued Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders which endeared him to Trauger fans. And this guy was a local San Diego guy. And here comes Mr. Santos showing up you know still to this day lived in Stockton and would fly in for the game. So it really wasn't that connection with the community and they weren't very good. That was the tail end of the Dan Fouts in the Air Coryell era. So the combination of him not being a local and the Chargers fallen on hard times into the early years of his ownership kind of got him off on the wrong foot. You know they got a little better footing when they went to the Super Bowl. Now as you say the 1994 Super Bowl I guess that was the high point and spent his time with the Chargers. How controversial has the Spanish name become main San Diego since the team left. It's a stain that won't go away. I mean they broke the hearts of people within Rudy for this franchise for nearly six decades. They broke the hearts of these people invested not only financially but emotionally into a product that frankly often wasn't very good. You know people often joked that his apartments resembled his football team. How are they still standing. Because the charges were very good for quite a while but the people still came out and supported him. And that's really the key is building any fanbase so you know the Spanos family that that name will turn out a lot of frowns in the sports world. And I know he was awful proud of that during the Super Bowl. But I think he was almost equally as proud as bringing the Republican National Convention to San Diego. I mean he was a big donor to George W. Bush. And in May he moved in those circles. Rush Limbaugh wrote the foreword for his book. So he was also politically active and he had his fingerprints on a lot more than just sports in San Diego that's for sure. Now Jay as I've said you've covered the Chargers for years. What are your personal memories of Alex as a man who would walk in and be as straight shooter. Now you might not want to hear what he had to say but you know you wrote something that maybe you didn't agree with the tone of it. You would often hear about it. But but I also think it was really telling in this stadium saga that that went on and on words and deeds would have a lawyer talk for him would have a lawyer representing him or get him out. Alex bandos lithographed phone at any time and let you know what he wanted and what he wanted. So you know I just I admired him for that. You know I didn't agree with him a lot of things but he was his own guy and there is a guy whose parents were Greek immigrants and they were dirt poor. And he became a mule. I mean he was the American dream really if you wanted to put it in that light. So a real giant really in the San Diego community. It's a shame that you know I'm sure the L.A. people have no idea who Alex Vanous was. But down here his name certainly means something. Do you remember seeing him at the stadium during the games. Oh yeah the great part was the you thought you got there for really more me and I know you like to jockey for chargers games. No nobody beat Alex spaniels to the stadium. You know why. Because they have would have these legendary gin rummy games up in the owners. They'd get there at 7:00 or 8:00 a.m.. You're talking Baron Hilton Alex bandos Bob Hope. I mean these are the guys he ran with and they would sit up there and play Generali and have breakfast all the way leading up to the football game and then he'd leave after the game. You know Schwarzenegger would come to games Bob Polk was the most games. That's the kind of guy he hung with. He'd love nothing more than showing off Bob Hope that he was a friend. Each home around him and they'd play gin rummy games and I don't know put a bigger smile on his face if he won if he won the card game or the Chargers won later that afternoon. I've been speaking with Jay Parris author of Game of My Life San Diego Chargers memorable stories of Chargers football. Jay thank you so much. Thanks for having me in. Great to hear your voice.

Chargers owner Alex Spanos, the protagonist of a rags-to-riches story, died Tuesday, his family announced. He was 95.

"It is with heavy hearts that the Spanos family announces the death of Alexander Gus Spanos, founder of A.G. Spanos Companies and owner of the Chargers NFL Franchise," according to a family statement. "Alex passed away peacefully surrounded by his loved ones on Tuesday morning."

The statement said that Spanos, the son of Greek immigrants, rose from humble beginnings to become "the top apartment builder across the nation" and the owner of an NFL franchise.

In 1984, Spanos fulfilled one of his lifelong goals by purchasing the San Diego Chargers, and "one of his most memorable moments was watching the Chargers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to play in Super Bowl XXIX," the family said. Spanos turned over the day-to-day operations of the Chargers to his oldest son, Dean, in 1994.

Spanos was a dedicated family man. He was married to his wife Fay for around 70 years and had four children, 15 grandchildren and 12 great- grandchildren. Fay died in August at the age of 92, but his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren all survive him.

"In 1951 at the age of 27, Alex Spanos decided he could no longer support his growing family on $40 per week working in his father's bakery. So he borrowed $800, purchased a used catering truck and set out on his own by providing catering and support services for the migrant farm workers in California's Central Valley," according to a biographical sketch provided by the team.

In 2008, the President of the Republic of Greece, Mr Karolos Papoulias, awarded Spanos the Medal of the Commander of the Order of Honor in recognition of his many contributions to the birthplace of his parents

In the NFL, Spanos served on several committees, including the League's Expansion and Realignment Committee. He used his influence with other NFL owners to secure Super Bowl XXXII in 1998 and Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003, bringing estimated windfalls of close to $300 million per game to San Diego's economy, according to the team.

RELATED: Chargers Announce They’re Moving To Los Angeles

Spanos was born on Sept. 28, 1923, in Stockton, California, one of six children. He pursued an engineering degree at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, but following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Tarpon Springs, Florida. It was there he met his future wife, Faye Papafaklis, who would be by his side for the next 77 years. Once his military service ended in 1946, he returned to Stockton and enrolled at the University of the Pacific where he earned varsity letters in swimming and diving.

Over the course of his life, Spanos contributed generously to charitable causes. One of his most generous contributions resulted in the opening of the Alex G. Spanos Heart & Vascular Center in Sacramento in 2014. He was often the first to offer aid in times of need, donating $1 million dollars to the American Red Cross to assist flood victims in Northern California in 1997 and in 2003 donating $1 million dollars to the San Diego Fire Relief Fund after devastating wildfires ravaged the county.

Funeral services will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in the name of Alex Spanos to the following charities: American Legion, Karl Ross Post #16, 2020 Plymouth Road, Stockton, CA 95204; The Stockton Scholars Endowment Fund at UOP, University of the Pacific, Attn: University Development/Stockton Scholars, Endowed Fund, 3601 Pacific Avenue, Stockton, CA 95211; The Discovery ChalleNGe Academy, 2922 Transworld Drive, Stockton, CA 95206; or YMCA of San Joaquin County, 2105 West March Lane, Suite 1, Stockton, CA 95207.