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Bob Howsam, Founder of NFL's Denver Broncos Dies

Bob Howsam, who assembled the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati, helped put the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series and co-founded the Denver Broncos, died Tuesday in Sun City, Ariz. He was 89.

Howsam had heart problems, said his son, Robert Howsam of Colorado Springs.

In a career that bridged two sports and several leagues, Howsam's guiding principle was that the fans came first, his son said.

"He loved the fans. They made his life," the son said.

Howsam started his sports career in 1947 as owner of the Denver Bears of the Single-A Western League, later taking the team to Triple-A as a New York Yankees affiliate, his son said.

Howsam helped found the American Football League in 1959 and was principal owner of the Broncos, selling the team in 1961.

He became general manager of the Cardinals in 1964, the year they beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.

In 1967 he became general manager of the Reds and is credited with building the Big Red Machine that won two World Series titles, four NL pennants and six division titles in the 1970s.

"He put together an organization that became the model for all of baseball," said Bob Castellini, the Reds president and chief executive officer.

Howsam later was a member of the Colorado Baseball Commission, which helped bring the Rockies and major league baseball to Denver.

Howsam was nominated for the Hall of Fame in the executives/pioneers category last year but fell short of the 75 percent of votes required for admission.

Robert Howsam said his father lived in a retirement home in Sun City with his wife, Janet Howsam. He would have turned 90 later this month.