I recently learned of the passing of Andrew Mousalimas, a World War II veteran and a man that is largely considered a founding father of fantasy football. However, he was so much more than that.
Mousalimas passed away on May 20 at the age of 95. He lived most of his life in the Bay Area. The legacy he left behind is immense.
He was barely 18 before volunteering with the 122 Infantry Battalion in World War II in 1943. He was one of 200 volunteers in the O.S.S (predecessor of today’s C.I.A), where he served as a paratrooper for two years. He parachuted into enemy territory serving his country and motherland of Greece.
Their work in the OSS “resulted in some of the bravest acts of the war and forever changed the course of history,” according to a citation that was given to Mousalimas when he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2018. Mousalimas shared his memoirs from the war decades later.
“What he did in the Second World War was amazing, but when people find out about fantasy football, being a war hero takes a back seat to fantasy football for most people,” Andrew’s son, James Mousalimas, said. “It is pretty funny.”
In the 1960’s Mousalimas opened King X, Oakland’s first sports bar, which later became the home of some of the earliest fantasy football leagues in history.
Oakland Raiders’ limited partner Wiflred “Bill” Winkenbach approached Mousalimas about providing a home for this new idea of picking real NFL players to form your own “fantasy” teams.
Winkenbach formed the first reported fantasy football league, called the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League (GOPPPL), with eight teams. Mousalimas had the first pick in the first draft in 1963 and selected George Blanda.
I had the pleasure of meeting Andrew at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Conference in Chicago back in 2005. All participants were given a copy of the draft board above and Mousalimas addressed the crowd telling his story.
At that time, my company was working with dozens of bars offering a variety of fantasy games. It was the same core principles he successfully applied to his business years earlier. In addition, I spent a decade and a half of my life as a bartender and bar manager, including during that time period as I was trying to supplement my income and a young entrepreneur. Just hearing him tell old stories about his bar in general was something I really resonated to.
I approached him after his session to introduce myself. We spoke one-on-one for about 10 or 15 minutes that day. It amazed me how so many of the ideas he had for his bar were principles that were decades ahead of their time.
Later that night, I was sitting with my business partners and some new friends at the hotel bar. Andrew came up to us to meet them and thanked me for sharing my story with him earlier that day. He bought us a round of beers and shared in a toast. It was easy to see why he was loved by so many.
ESPN Magazine did a nice feature on him in 2012 where he shared 5o years of fantasy lessons learned. Mousalimas was inducted to the Toyota Fantasy Football Hall of Fame in 2011 and talked more about his role in the evolution of fantasy football at that time:
He is survived by four children and seven grandchildren. Mousalimas was an American hero and an innovator well ahead of his time. May he rest in peace.
*Photo from ESPN.com