The Birth of Fantasy Football
Although its popularity in the mainstream marketplace has skyrocketed in recent years, the birth of fantasy football dates back to 1962. Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach, who had a financial stake in the Oakland Raiders, invented and played fantasy games involving golf and baseball in the 1950’s that later provided the inspiration for fantasy football.
Fantasy football was born in a room of the Manhatten Hotel – now the Milford Plaza. With cocktails in hand, Winkenbach and two writers – Scotty Stirling and George Ross – created a scheme and set of rules to govern a game where sports fans could draft players from professional teams onto their fantasy rosters, playing weekly games against others in a league that rewarded the team with the best record.
The world’s first fantasy football league – the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League – had eight teams in it assembled by the founders and friends at the Tribune and the Raiders.
Winkenbach - the chief founder of fantasy football - died March 7, 1993, at the age of 81.
Fantasy football - and fantasy sports in general - has grown along with the technology it is now commonly played on. From three men in a hotel room to now more than 30 million players in the U.S. and more than 2 million players in Canada, it continues to grow and evolve from its roots in California at faster rates than ever before.