When the 49ers were formed in 1946, their roster was filled with locally known talent. While their's was a roster that would eventually earn an invitation to the NFL, one man continually stood out among the rest. Alyn Beals was a scoring machine from the moment he stepped foot in Kezar Stadium. In an era where a solid ground attack still ruled the sport, Beals took to the air. His dominance was like a shooting star, short-lived but worth watching.
The Early Years
Alyn Richard Beals was born on April 27, 1921 in Marysville, California. He and his mother moved to San Francisco shortly after his parents divorced and he grew up around an atmosphere of sports. He starred on the gridiron at San Francisco's Polytechnical High School, playing on a field that he would come to know well, Kezar Stadium.
After high school, he chose Santa Clara University over Cal-Berkeley. In those days, The Broncos consistently fielded winning teams and had found a home amongst the top 20 programs in the nation. In four years at Santa Clara, Beals won two Sugar Bowls and scored 46 touchdowns. After graduation in 1943, he was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the eighth round of the NFL Draft. But life would take a different turn for the aspiring receiver.
Having joined the ROTC program while in college, Alyn Beals entered World War II as a Field Artillery Battery Commander. He saw action during the war. Lots of it. Primarily on the European front, he dodged death at Remagen Bridge and the Battle of the Bulge.
With all the turmoil surrounding him, the game of football was never far from his mind. While working security at the Nuremberg Trials and possibly inspired by a similar event on Guadalcanal about a year earlier, Alyn Beals organized an All Occupation football game among the officers. While the final score never mattered, he was named "All Nuremberg" by his comrades.
By the fall of 1946, Alyn Beals needed a change. Having been discharged from the military, he returned home, having learned of an opportunity in San Francisco.
Alyn Beals was excited. He was back home in the City by the Bay, playing the sport that he loved. What's more, he was being coached by an old mentor: Buck Shaw. The two had grown close while they led Santa Clara to two Sugar Bowl victories. Under orders to sign as many local star as he could, Beals' name was high on his old coach's wishlist.
Although he had played at Kezar Stadium all through high school and in parts of college, Alyn Beals' pro career did not start well. In the 49ers' first official game against the New York Yankees in San Francisco, Beals only caught one pass for ten yards in his debut.
But that was just a mirage. Soon, he was catching touchdown passes left and right from quarterback Frankie Albert. In fact, he led the league in touchdown catches every year that the 49ers were in the AAFC.
He was sensational as a rookie, catching 40 passes for 586 yards and 10 touchdowns while earning All-Pro recognition. He was even better in 1947, catching 47 passes for 655 yards and again catching 10 touchdowns.
In 1948, he started to set records. In Week 2, he caught a 49-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter of a 36-20 win over the Dodgers. The following week, he again opened up the second quarter with a 13-yard touchdown in a 41-0 win over the Yankees. In the next two weeks, he caught scoring passes of 19 and 29 yards to either open the scoring (36-14 over the Dons) or tie the game (38-28 over the Bills) in the first quarter.
In Week 6, he opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 15-yard touchdown pass in a 31-14 win over the Rockets. The following week, he caught an 18-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter of a 56-14 demolition of the Colts. After he failed to score in a single catch, 20 yard performance in a 21-7 win over the Yankees the next week, Alyn Beals' scoring streak ended at six games. Every single one of those touchdowns was thrown by his reliable quarterback, Frankie Albert.
He made All-Pro that year, having caught 46 passes for 591 yards and 14 touchdowns, a franchise record for nearly four decade and the AAFC's record for all time.
Alyn Beals was again sensational in 1949, earning All-Pro honors for the third and final time of his career and gaining 678 yards while scoring 12 touchdowns. In what can be argued was the best game of his career, he caught five receptions for 106 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-24 win over the Chicago Hornets in the middle of that season. Meanwhile, with a scrambled schedule due to numerous teams going bankrupt, the 49ers clawed their way toe the final AAFC Championship Game that year. Despite a talented roster, they didn't stand much of a chance against the mighty Cleveland Browns.
In the final AAFC game ever played, Alyn Beals caught three passes for 26 yards in the 49ers 21-7 loss at Cleveland. Despite the disappointing end to an otherwise excellent year, Alyn Beals ended his time in the folding conference gleaming with pride and confidence. With his 12th touchdown catch that year, he set the league mark for points scored in a career with 278.
Record-wise, Beals would never again experience the level of joy that he and his teammates experienced in the AAFC. Entering the established NFL in 1950, the 49ers were ill-equipped to win on a regular basis. They needed time to gel.
Time that Alyn Beals lacked. After having been his team's top playmaker for so long, his body could only take so much more pounding. He spent just two years in the National Football League, catching a combined 34 passes for 441 yard and three touchdowns (all in 1950). When he retired after 1951, his 49 touchdown catches were third all-time in pro football history and his 211 receptions were sixth all-time. With the advent and continued improvement of passing attacks, his numbers are buried by much gaudier numbers today. Still, he was truly an outlier of his era.
Not much is known of his life after football. Alyn Beals died on August 11, 1993 in Redwood City, California, having lived a full life.