California Whales
Division West
Founded 1936
Inaugural AFA Season 1952
Stadium Clarendon Park (1936–1973)
Stanford Stadium (1976)
Serra Stadium (1977–)
City San Francisco, California
Team Owner/President Rosanna Gross
Head Coach Eddie White
Team Colors Blue, White
Division titles 5
West: (1954, 1956, 1967, 1968, 1973)
Victory Bowl titles 0
History San Francisco Whales (1936–1973)
California Whales (1976–)

The California Whales are a professional football team based in San Francisco, California, United States. They are a member of the American Football Association, which they joined in 1952 as the San Francisco Whales and resumed play in 1976 after two seasons of inactivity. They play their home games at Serra Stadium.


The Whales were founded in 1936 as a member of the Pacific League. They had a successful run there, winning the 1947 championship and holding their own against teams such as the Los Angeles Comets and the San Diego Destroyers. Originally, it was thought that the Destroyers would come on board, but the Comets made it clear that they would not join the AFA if the Destroyers did, so the offer was made to the Whales instead. (San Diego would eventually get an AFA team 23 years later, with the new Destroyers set to begin play in 1976).

While they would have marginal success in the AFA, winning five Western Division titles, ultimately, brash (and often-absent) leadership from team owner Robert Culpepper (in particular regarding the deteriorating condition of Clarendon Park and his demands regarding a new stadium) led to the Whales' demise, with Louis Steele purchasing the team and moving them to Phoenix as the Arizona Firebirds while folding his Canadian Football Association team the Toronto Bruins. However, the Whales' name, logo, and history remained in San Francisco with the Firebirds themselves being considered a first-year expansion franchise.

In 1975, a new franchise was granted to Brent Gross, which allowed the Whales' legacy to continue, and they resumed play for the 1976 season. The team is now called the California Whales in an effort to distance themselves from the Culpepper era, with a new logo and uniforms as well. Sadly, Gross's tenure as team owner was short and came to a tragic end. On March 11, 1977, he was found dead in his Tiburon, CA, home, less than a year after the Whales retook the field. Police ruled the death a suicide, and control of the team passed to his wife, Rosanna.

There was initially a great deal of speculation that the team would be sold. No woman had ever been a primary owner before, though the Chicago Butchers were owned in equal parts by Herb and Alice Granger, the children of team founder Hal Granger. Moreover, few took Rosanna Gross seriously. She was a former beauty queen and model, and was 19 years younger than her late husband, so many treated her as a trophy wife. Plus, at 44 years old, she was one of the youngest owners in the league. She quickly dispelled these ideas however, and proved to be a strong and capable leader of the team.


SanFranciscoWhalesold SanFranciscoWhales CaliforniaWhales
San Francisco Whales logo
San Francisco Whales logo
California Whales logo

Season-by-season resultsEdit

Victory Bowl Champions Victory Bowl Appearance Division Champions Playoff Berth
Season League Division Regular season Postseason results
Finish Wins Losses Ties
San Francisco Whales
1952 AFA West 3rd 5 6 1 Missed playoffs
1953 AFA West 3rd 6 5 1 Missed playoffs
1954 AFA West 1st 6 6 0 Lost Semifinals (Boston) 13–17
1955 AFA West 2nd 6 4 2 Missed playoffs
1956 AFA West 1st 5 5 2 Missed playoffs†
1957 AFA West 2nd 5 3 4 Missed playoffs
1958 AFA West 3rd 3 9 0 Missed playoffs
1959 AFA West 3rd 6 6 0 Missed playoffs
1960 AFA West 3rd 4 8 0 Missed playoffs
1961 AFA West 4th 5 8 1 Missed playoffs
1962 AFA West 4th 7 5 2 Missed playoffs
1963 AFA West 3rd 7 7 0 Missed playoffs
1964 AFA West 3rd 8 6 0 Missed playoffs
1965 AFA West 4th 4 7 3 Missed playoffs
1966 AFA West 2nd 9 4 1 Lost Quarterfinals (Colorado) 24–38
1967 AFA West 1st 8 4 2 Lost Quarterfinals (Houston) 3–6
1968 AFA West 1st 8 5 1 Lost Quarterfinals (St. Louis) 27–31
1969 AFA West 4th 5 9 0 Missed playoffs
1970 AFA West 4th 2 11 1 Missed playoffs
1971 AFA West 4th 1 6 2 Missed playoffs
1972 AFA West 4th 3 10 1 Missed playoffs
1973 AFA West 1st 8 4 2 Lost Quarterfinals (Minnesota) 6–7
1974 On Hiatus; Did Not Play
California Whales
1976 AFA West 4th 4 10 0 Missed playoffs
1977 AFA West 4th 4 10 0 Missed playoffs
1978 AFA West 4th 6 8 0 Missed playoffs
1979 AFA West 3rd 7 7 0 Missed playoffs
1980 AFA West 3rd 7 7 0 Missed playoffs
1981 AFA West 4th 9 7 0 Missed playoffs
Total 158 187 26 (includes only regular season)
0 5 0 (includes only the postseason)
158 194 26 (includes both regular season and postseason)

† - Despite winning the division in 1956, the Whales failed to qualify for the playoffs.

e v American Football Association teams
North: Chicago Butchers · Cincinnati Guardians · Cleveland Ghosts · Detroit Gladiators
Northeast: Boston Captains · Buffalo Stampeders · New York Imperials · Philadelphia Railers · Pittsburgh Miners
Southeast: Atlanta Rebels · Baltimore Royals · Miami Suns · Washington Wasps
South: Arizona Firebirds · Houston Hurricanes · New Orleans Krewe · Texas Stallions
Central: Colorado Centennials · Milwaukee Wolves · Minnesota Angels · St. Louis Aces
West: California Whales · Los Angeles Comets · Portland Dragons · San Diego Destroyers · Seattle Grizzlies