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”
After three games, with a 1-2 record, the Raiders were a definitively middling team. All three games were close and the team’s point totals on both sides of the ball were near the league median. The Raiders had significantly outscored their opponents in the first and fourth quarters, but the reverse was true in the middle two periods and they had yet to score at all in the third. Yes, it was the preseason and this was all meaningless, but the Raiders were thought to be under a real handicap because of their late start and to see them play competitive ball was both a relief and encouraging.
Overall, the Raider play calling on offense was balanced, with a 98 to 104 run/pass ratio, but the running game was lagging behind at this point, with the team averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry. Only Jack Larscheid, with his 6.3 yard average, was anything more than workmanlike in the run game. Billy Lott and Buddy Allen were given the lion’s share of the work in the backfield, but Lott’s pass catching ability gave him the advantage when it came to competing for a starting spot. Tony Teresa was the only other runner getting a serious look, but he, too, was more effective catching the ball and, in fact, was going to get his reps in at the flanker spot going forward, at least until tight end Gene Prebola returned from injury.
As for the quarterback spot, there was no competition. Eddie Erdelatz had to all intents anointed Tom Flores the starter and, despite his recent injury, he would presumably get his job back as soon as he returned. In the meantime, Babe Parilli and Paul Larson would fight over the scraps.
The biggest area of uncertainty, though, was at wide receiver. Prebola was the tight end, by default, and Charlie Hardy seemed to be taking the split end spot as his own, but the other side was still up for grabs. Teresa was working there for now, but the team’s long-term plans for him were still unclear. He had thrown a few halfback passes and was adequate catching passes coming out of the backfield, but he was woeful in the running game, averaging just a couple of yards per carry and was often stuffed behind the line.
On the offensive line, only 5’9″ Don Manoukian was mentioned with any regularity in press dispatches, so it was hard to tell what was going on there. It was clear, however, that the offense was still very much a work in progress.
The Raider defense was in the same boat. They were good at getting the ball from their opponents—eight turnovers in three games—but they were giving up a lot of yards otherwise. Opponents were averaging nearly a yard more per run and better than six yards a clip through the air, and the Oakland rush had sacked opponent quarterbacks only once for a paltry five yards.
On the defensive line, end Carmen Cavalli was getting the most attention, but it was clear that the unit wasn’t getting it done. Among the linebackers, Bob Dougherty and Tom Louderback seemed to be doing a fair job, but still needed to get stouter against the run. And in the secondary, cornerback Joe Cannavino was rising above the crowd in pass coverage and was showing a nose for loose balls.
Erdelatz appeared to have settled on linebacker Larry Barnes to do the placekicking. He was true on extra points and was okay so far on field goals as well. Halfback Wayne Crow had laid claim to the punting job with his 45-yard average. The return and coverage teams were performing within expected norms.
The consensus among observers was that the Raiders had beaten expectations so far. They held their own in preseason losses against the Texans and the Chargers, teams that were thought to be title contenders and, above all, they hadn’t embarrassed themselves. And it was clear that many people thought they would. They were about to face a pretty stern test of two games in five days, but they were also in a position to get a good feel for the players who, to this point, hadn’t played all that much. After that, they would have two full weeks to get ready for the Oilers in the regular season opener.
A report from Raiders team trainer George Anderson said tight end Gene Prebola’s pulled hamstring muscle would keep him out of Wednesday night’s game in Buffalo. The team held out hope that the Boston University product would recover in time play against the Patriots on Sunday.
Two other players, defensive end Carmen Cavalli, who had suffered a broken nose against Los Angeles, and fullback Billy Lott, who bruised a shoulder in the same game, were going to be ready to go against the Bills, according to Anderson. However, there was still no word about the health of quarterback Tom Flores, who had taken a beating of his own Friday night.
Now that two-a-days were done the players had time to indulge in a little team promotion. With an afternoon practice scheduled, the Raiders bused from Santa Cruz to Jack London Square in Oakland to participate in a “Welcome Raiders” parade. The front office expressed satisfaction with their local popularity in general and said tickets for the Texans game, a benefit for the Children’s Hospital of the Eastbay, were selling briskly with more than 20,000 already sold, according to PR man Gene Perry.
Head coach Eddie Erdelatz said the team appeared to have been inspired by the event and looked particularly crisp and spirited during their workout. Only non-contact blocking and tackling drills were performed, as the coaches hoped to prevent further injuries before the game.
Their hopes weren’t realized, though. Middle linebacker Tom Louderback, who was practicing with a bruised shoulder, exacerbated the injury and was pronounced doubtful for the upcoming contest. On the other hand, the Raider quarterback picture brightened immeasurably when Tom Flores was able to return to practice following treatment of his pulled calf muscle and third-stringer Bob Webb was seen on the field as well.
Looking ahead, the team provided a provisional depth chart for the game that included few surprises, aside from the absence of Flores and Webb. On the offense, Chris Plain and Don Churchwell were at tackle, Lou Byrd and Ron Sabal were at guard, and Jim Otto was at center. At the ends were Alan Goldstein and Gene Prebola. In the backfield behind Paul Larson were Buddy Allen, Tony Teresa, and Billy Lott.
On defense, the front four consisted of Carmen Cavalli and George Fields at the ends, Joe Barbee and Ramon Armstrong on the inside, Louderback at middle linebacker, flanked by Billy Ray Locklin and Bob Dougherty. In the defensive backfield were Joe Cannavino, Alex Bravo, Eddie Macon, and LC Joyner. Larry Barnes was the placekicker, while the punting job was up for grabs among Barnes, Wayne Crow, and Bob Fails.
The Raider coaching staff began to turn their focus toward the first preseason game, against the Texans. To that end, head coach Eddie Erdelatz added a final set of plays to the offense’s playbook so Tom Flores and Paul Larson could work with the complete offense installed. The defense was still working with just two of the planned four defensive sets and the full defense wouldn’t be in place until the regular season opener against Houston.
In injury news, the team finally gave up any hope that defensive lineman Jim Woodard would recover from his knee injury in time for the start of the season and sent him home to Texas. That decision left Carmen Cavalli in possession of a starting defensive end spot.
Fully a week into training camp, the Raiders held their first scrimmage and head coach Eddie Erdelatz was cautiously pleased. “For the first time out it wasn’t too bad,” he said. At quarterback, Paul Larson looked a sharper than Tom Flores, completing 11 of 21 passes with many of the incompletions coming from receiver drops. Flores had a rougher time, connecting on just 5 of 14, throwing three interceptions. Third-stringer Bob Webb got off to a good start, connecting on the longest play of the day, an 18-yard pass to Charlie Hardy, but disaster struck when he went down with a knee injury. Trainer George Anderson said he may have torn cartilage and could need surgery, which would shut him down for the year. At other positions, tight end Gene Prebola, defensive end Carmen Cavalli, and cornerback Eddie Macon looked particularly good. Observers thought the defensive line played well as a group, but Erdelatz downplayed it, saying, “The defense is always ahead of the offense at this stage of the game.”
Once the scrimmage was over, it was time for another round of cuts, reducing the number of players in camp to 56. On their way out were tackle Cloyd Boyette, halfback Purcell Daniels, halfback Wes Fry, Jr., son of Raider player personnel director Wes Fry, Sr., tackle Willie Hudson, a former honorable mention AP Little All-American for Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, who was in camp without a contract after getting cut by the Chargers, and Hudson’s former college teammate, tackle Rich Max.
Long Beach Press Telegram
After a day’s rest, the squad returned to practice to find a newcomer in their ranks. Tom Louderback, a 6’2″, 230-pound guard/linebacker out of San Jose State. A two-year starter for the Spartans, Louderback made second-team UPI All-Coast in 1954. He was picked in the tenth round by the Redskins in 1955, but didn’t make it out of training camp and spent the rest of the year with Hamilton in the Canadian leagues. He signed with the Browns a year later, but joined the US Navy before the season. Mustering out in 1958, Cleveland cut him in September, after which he earned a starting linebacker spot with the Eagles, where he spent the next two seasons. He was now in Oakland to try his hand with the new league.
Meanwhile, two more players left camp. Citing personal reasons, backs Marv Lasater and George Blanch packed their bags and departed. The Raiders had had high hopes for Lasater, offering him a nice bonus to sign, but once in camp his lack of speed seemed to doom his chances to stick. Blanch had been installed on the third team and probably got out the door just before the headsman arrived.
On the field, head coach Eddie Erdelatz continued to push his charges hard and was very pleased with what he saw. “If they keep coming at this rate,” he said, “we’re going to fool a few teams.” Erdelatz was generous in his praise for members of the offensive line including tackle Chris Plain, guards Don Manoukian and Ron Sabal, and center Jim Otto. Defensive secondary members Alex Bravo, John Brown, LC Joyner, Eddie Macon, and Tony Teresa, were also mentioned by name as were receiver Charlie Hardy and defensive end Carmen Cavalli.
Over in sick bay, Charley Powell‘s strained Achilles tendon had healed enough to allow him to practice, but linebacker Buddy Alliston had pulled a groin muscle and took Powell’s place on the bench to recuperate.
Eureka Humboldt Standard
Hayward Daily Review
Long Beach Independent
Long Beach Press Telegram
Lubbock Morning Avalanche
Ukiah Daily Journal
Early on the first morning of the league meeting in Oakland, commissioner Joe Foss and Oakland general manager Chet Soda made an announcement that 14 players had been assigned to the team:
George Blanch, a 6’0″, 195-pound halfback from Texas. A solid performer for the Longhorns in 1957 and 1958, he made UPI 2nd team All-Southwest Conference his junior year, but in his senior season, 1959, his performance faded on offense and he spent most of his time on the defensive side of the ball.