September 22, 1960

The Raiders were heading to Houston tomorrow and Eddie Erdelatz had something to get off his chest before they did. “It’s unfortunate a team in our position was scheduled against the two best teams in four of the first five games,” meaning Dallas and Houston.

“Because of our late start, we are still trying to place our personnel while almost every other team in the league has been set for weeks. Sometimes you have to experiment quite a lot before you find the right man for the right spot, and it is even more difficult with us because we are still trying to help ourselves with cuts from other teams.

“We’ve had quite a turnover in personnel and it isn’t finished yet, so you can see that we have problems in addition to the routine work involved in preparing for a football game each week. Take Dallas and Houston, for instance. They were two of the first teams in the league and they have top personnel. They knew pretty well what their players could do before training opened, and they have gone pretty much with the same units since early in the exhibition season.

“Most of our players were complete strangers, so it was a matter of slowly grading them to find out just who could do what. Now, it is almost like going back into training camp when we pick up new players. We have to first find out if they can play football then teach them to play our way. It puts an added burden on the coaches and the squad because you can’t concentrate on simply preparing for next week’s opponent.”

The roster experimentation continued today with another move. The team signed 5’10”, 185-pound halfback Bob Keyes. Keyes, who played his college ball for Antelope Junior College and the University of San Diego, had previously been in camp with the 49ers, but had been cut by them a little over a week ago. To make room for Keyes, the Raiders released defensive back LC Joyner. On the team since April, Joyner had looked pretty good in the preseason and had started the opener against Houston, but became expendable in the interim.

There was also a report in the Hayward Daily Review that Babe Parilli would start at quarterback in place of Tom Flores, but the piece didn’t identify a team source for the information and no mention of the switch was found in the other area papers.

While last minute preparations for travel were underway, the team was hit hard by the sobering news that offensive line coach Ernie Jorge had suffered a heart attack sometime during the evening. Erdelatz reported that his long-time assistant was expected to make a full recovery but would likely be bedridden for more than a month in the meantime.

Billings Gazette
Farmington Daily Times
Hayward Daily Review
Oakland Tribune

September 21, 1960

After Eddie Erdelatz tinkered with the offensive lineup yesterday, some observers thought there might be further changes to come. Quarterback Babe Parilli and fullback JD Smith had performed well against Dallas and seemed poised to start against Houston, but the Raider head coach said no, Tom Flores and Billy Lott would still be in there to open the game. Explaining his decision, he acknowledged that Smith had looked good running the ball, but that Lott was the better blocker.

There would be a change on the offensive line, though. With the injury to tackle Dalton Truax, recent acquisition Paul Oglesby would take his place on the line against the Oilers, with the newest Raider, Bill Striegel, getting some action on offense as well.

Oakland Tribune

September 16, 1960

Final statistics

The Raiders hosted the Dallas Texans on a cool, breezy Friday night at Kezar Stadium. The Texans were coached by Hank Stram, last seen as an assistant at the University of Miami, and were led on the field by quarterback Cotton Davidson, who had taken the field briefly with the Baltimore Colts in the mid 1950s. The Texans had gone through the preseason with a perfect 6-0 record, but lost to the Chargers in their season opener, 21-20. Read more “September 16, 1960”

September 13, 1960

Two days out from the loss to the Oilers, the Raiders made a number of personnel moves. Four players were cut, including tackle Joe Barbee, halfback Luther Carr, tackle Don Churchwell, and quarterback Paul Larson. Read more “September 13, 1960”

September 11, 1960

The glad day had finally arrived. A crowd of 12,703 fans came to Kezar Stadium to watch the Raiders host the Houston Oilers, a team coached by old Cleveland Browns warhorse Lou Rymkus and led on the field by quarterback George Blanda, a veteran of ten campaigns with the Chicago Bears. The weather was fine, if windy, and after long months of preparation and sweat, the locals in black were ready to embark on their big adventure. Read more “September 11, 1960”

September 7, 1960

The team announced today that Tom Flores would start at quarterback against the Oilers on Sunday. Flores had sat out the final two exhibition games because of an injury he suffered against the Chargers, but the Raider training staff pronounced him fit for duty again, pushing Babe Parilli back to reserve duty.

Flores and the rest of the squad would be joined on the field by a new recruit. The Raiders signed 6’4″, 260-pound defensive tackle Ron Warzeka. A three-time All-Rocky Mountain Conference performer at Montana State, Warzeka was named to the second-team Little All-America team while with the Bobcats in 1955 and was drafted in the 14th round by the 49ers in 1957. The Niners cut him just before the start of the regular season and Warzeka spent the next two years in the military, playing at least one year for the Fort Meade club in Maryland. San Francisco re-signed him late in 1959, but had cut him again shortly before the Raiders picked him up.

Eddie Erdelatz was happy to get another big body on the defensive line. “Warzeka has the real good attitude,” he said, “and with his size he should help us once he becomes familiar with our system.”

With the regular season just four days away, the Tribune published a special section of the paper devoted to the Raiders and the AFL and included an unattributed story titled “The Raider Spirit.”1 The piece discussed, at length, Erdelatz’s coaching philosophy and how it influenced the players.

Erdelatz had been thought of as a topnotch motivator while coaching at the Naval Academy and he had brought the same skills to bear here in Oakland. Players and coaches alike were expected to give full effort at all times and show a hustling spirit. The staff put together practices that were meticulously organized and players could count on Erdelatz sticking to his word, once given. The Raider coach was serious about preparation, but he was no stoic. “It has to be fun for the players, for my assistants, and for myself,” he said, then elaborated, “We want to win every game, exhibition or league, because then the game becomes more fun. Thinking of football in a fun sense doesn’t mean you don’t put out or don’t care about the outcome. It means playing hard and playing to win, because that, after all, is what makes a great game.”

And so far, players like Joe Cannavino were buying in. “I’ve played for Woody Hayes at Ohio State, Weeb Ewbank of the Baltimore Colts, and Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns,” he said, “and none can put ball players at ease like Coach Erdelatz. He tells us the game will be fun, so we go into it expecting to have a good time, and we do.”

Montana State University football media guide
Oakland Tribune

1. The author was probably Scotty Stirling, but no byline was included.

 

September 6, 1960: View from the Future

It’s a truism and probably a truth that we can’t tell much about football teams from their preseason performances, but it might have been a little less true for the AFL in 1960. With every team consisting of players who, in almost all cases, had never played together before, for coaches they’d never played for, there was plenty of uncertainty, and lots of incentive to find out just what they had before competing for keeps. Eddie Erdelatz, just as an example, said explicitly that he was playing to win and there’s no reason not to think that at least some of the other coaches felt the same way. It sure looked like Hank Stram and Sid Gillman felt that way. The Texans and the Chargers had gone undefeated in the preseason, affirming a sense among league observers, developed before the exhibition schedule began, that they, along with the Oilers were the class of the league. The jury was still out on Houston, though. At 2-3, they were no better than the Raiders at this point. The surprise was Boston at 4-1. No one expected much from them going in, so it would be interesting to see if they could translate their success into the regular season. Also-rans were the Bills and Titans at 1-4 and the Broncos at 0-5.

Read more “September 6, 1960: View from the Future”

August 28, 1960

It was hot and sweaty, there was next to nobody watching, and the Raiders were on short rest twice over. But for a half it didn’t matter. With the temperature creeping up toward the high 80s, just 3,500 locals turned out in the early afternoon sun to see the Pats host Oakland at University of Massachusetts Stadium.

Read more “August 28, 1960”

The Mid-Week Take: August 26, 1960

It’s hard to take preseason games seriously. A win is a win, sure, but it doesn’t mean anything in August. What can be concluded is that the team was capable of successfully traveling across the country and playing a decent football game. The team didn’t embarrass itself and the rest of the league would have to acknowledge that the Raiders were on more or less equal footing with the other teams. It’s clear from the quotes by players and coaches there was a real fear they could have been a laughingstock. But that was put to bed by this game.

Aside from that, the game probably didn’t settle much except to confirm that Tom Flores was their best quarterback. It was probably too soon to tell about Babe Parilli, but Paul Larson, who’d created so much excitement at the time of his signing, wasn’t getting it done. Elsewhere on offense, the running game was unsettled, except for Jack Larscheid, and at just 160 pounds, he wasn’t likely to be able to take the pounding a workhorse back would need to take. And the receiving corps was inspiring no one. The offensive line was a cypher at this point to the distant viewer.

This was just as true for the defense. The Chargers did a number on them, to no one’s surprise, but while they turned in respectable per-play numbers against their other opponents, no one really knew how good any of those teams were, so again it was anyone’s guess how the Raider defense would perform in the regular season.

What did stand out among all the unknowns was the epidemic of minor injuries the players were suffering. Whether the players were out of shape, were being overworked by the coaches, or were poorly looked after by the training staff, seemingly everyone on the roster was dealing with muscle pulls or joint strains that kept them from performing at their best or performing at all, in many cases. Unless player health improved, the team would never find out how good they could be.

At this point, the best the team could hope for was to get past the Patriots, head home, and take full advantage of the remaining two weeks of the preseason. They just needed to survive the road trip without any additional troubles.

August 27, 1960

With one game left in the preseason, the Raiders were just trying to keep any more players from getting injured. The team’s top running threat, Jack Larscheid, was reportedly hurt with an unspecified ailment and wasn’t expected to play against Boston. Defensive back Wayne Crow was suffering from a pulled ligament that was likely to restrict him to punting duties. And the team labeled halfback Buddy Allen as doubtful to play, too.

Interestingly enough, the player least likely to play on Sunday was someone who said he was healthy and ready to go. Quarterback Tom Flores said his shoulder felt “much better” and hoped to get in there against the Patriots, but head coach Eddie Erdelatz said that probably wasn’t going to happen, both because he wanted to give his top signal-caller more time to heal and because he wanted another long look at Babe Parilli and Paul Larson.

With the end of the preseason near, some of the Raider players took time to reflect on the team’s chances for the season. Though they hadn’t seen all of the teams in the league yet, most of the players thought the Chargers were the team to beat, while a few others favored the Dallas Texans. One player who wasn’t ready to concede to anyone just yet was Larscheid.

“I don’t think you can count us out,” he said. “I think we can beat both Dallas and Los Angeles. We were just getting organized when we played Dallas and I’m convinced was can take Los Angeles.”

While the team still faced some serious holes in its lineup, the league had provided them at potentially valuable remedy. The Raiders would get the first crack at signing any players let go on the final cut-down day, September 6.

Hayward Daily Review
Oakland Tribune
San Mateo Times