I apologize to everyone that I wasn't able to get this written up sooner. Unfortunately, 49ers' limited partner Franklin Mieuli passed away of natural causes on April 25 of this year. Mieuli may be best known for having been majority owner of the Golden State Warriors from 1962 through 1986, but his influence has been felt throughout Bay Area sports as a limited owner with both the San Francisco 49ers and San Francisco Giants.
Franklin Mieuli was born on September 14, 1920, in San Jose, California. He was 89 years old on the day that he left us.
In 1962, Mieuli was a member of an investment group that purchased the Philadelphia Warriors and moved them west. After the move, the team suffered from extremely poor attendance, and Mieuli became sole owner as the rest of the investors quickly backed out and sold their shares to him. It was under Mieuli's ownership that the Warriors won the only NBA Title in team history.
However, as the owner of the Warriors, Mieuli will be remembered more for his offbeat personality than anything else, a personality largely symbolized his trademark casual wardrobe, bushy beard, and deerstalker cap. He fed this offbeat image by frequently disappearing from the team for days at a time. He was also an avid motorcyclist, and in fact owned more motorcycles than he could even keep track of.
More important than his public persona, though, were his contributions to racial integration in the NBA. Mieuli was enthusiastic about bringing African American players into the NBA. In fact, when the Warriors won their title in 1975, over 80% of his roster was African American.
As a young man, Mieuli grew up in San Jose before going to college at the University of Oregon. After college, he returned to the Bay Area to become an advertising executive in San Francisco, forming a working relationship with then 49ers owner Tony Morabito. According to the franchise, it was actually Mieuli who, in 1954, produced the very first telecast of a 49ers' game. This was no small feat, considering Morabito's tense relationship with the local media. Later that same year, the relationship between Mieuli and Morabito led to his purchase of 5% of the 49ers' interests - an ownership interest that he held for the rest of his life.
With an interest in radio and broadcasting, Mieuli took an active role in getting the 49ers - and still later the San Francisco Giants - on the airwaves. In 2007, he was inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame.
Of Mieuli and his passion for the 49ers, John and Jed York has these kind words to say:
Dr. John York: "Franklin was unique. He had his own style and thought process, as well as a tremendous enthusiasm for sports. He attended every 49ers game and cheered with all his heart. The 49ers organization is saddened by his passing, but grateful for having been able to experience his personality and support."
Jed York: "I have a lot of respect for Mr. Mieuli. He meant so much to Bay Area sports, in particular the 49ers family, and he will certainly be remembered for his contributions. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this tough time."
If you have any memories of Franklin Mieuli, whether as owner of the Warriors or as a presence with the 49ers or the Giants, please feel free to share them here. He was a great man in the history of Bay Area sports and, more simply, a great man by any measure.