With Tom Flores unavailable to play quarterback in the near term and with roster reductions looming, Raiders head coach Eddie Erdelatz was planning to give more playing time to the men on the far end of the bench, starting with Paul Larson. So far, Larson hadn’t shown all that much in camp, displaying an inaccurate arm. Consequently, he had received almost no in-game opportunities, but he was going to get a chance tomorrow, sharing time with Babe Parilli. Plenty of other neglected players were going to get their chances, too.
Seven months, almost to the day, following the awarding of a franchise to Oakland, the Raiders assembled to play their first game, against the Dallas Texans at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.
The day dawned chilly and windy, with a drizzling rain that fell all morning. As game time approached, the rain stopped and the temperature climbed into the mid-60s, but the weather was still raw for the Bay Area in July, and as the stands filled, it was clear the team was not going to reach their attendance goals. By the 1:30pm kickoff, just 12,000 or so showed up to watch (later corrected to 10,882).
With the preseason opener just a week away, the Raiders took a break from the two-a-day practice schedule and held only a brief stretching session allowing the squad to recover from yesterday’s scrimmage. For a couple of players, though, the respite was going to be a bit longer as the team cut halfbacks Carl Gordon and Wayne Schneider, reducing the player count to 52. The Raiders still had another month to get down to the league’s first mandated roster limit of 43 on August 23.
Off the field, Chet Soda hired former Oakland Oaks and Stanford University public address announcer Stan Easterling to occupy the same post at Kezar Stadium.
The Raiders held their second scrimmage of camp and this time owners Don Blessing, Ed McGah, Chet Soda, and Wayne Valley were there to observe. Tom Flores led the first-string “gold” squad while Paul Larson ran the second-string “blue” team. Observers thought Larson’s group performed slightly better, with Larson showing a knack for the bootleg run, but also thought both units showed real improvement since the first scrimmage, four days ago. Head coach Eddie Erdelatz singled out offensive linemen Wayne Hawkins, Jim Otto, and Ron Sabal, along with cornerback Joe Cannavino, for praise, and thought the defense in general showed good speed to the ball.
“It was a better scrimmage than last Tuesday”, according to Erdelatz, “but overall I would have to say it was just fair. The running was improved but we dropped too many passes. The defensive line pursuit was fine. We are getting better in all departments and, considering the short amount of practice, we don’t look too bad.”
With just a couple of days to go until the opening of training camp, the Raider brass shared some thoughts about the team.
Owner and general manager Chet Soda spoke about how far they had come in just a few months. “We had an office with two chairs and couple of telephones on the floor (in the beginning)”, he said, “but we didn’t have much chance to use the chairs. We sat on the floor keeping the phones busy attempting to catch up with the rest of the league.”
Head coach Eddie Erdelatz was just happy to make the acquaintance of some of his players, having seen only a handful of them play in person. “I hope most of them are strong enough to make us wince when we shake hands,” he said, “Even if it hurts, it will be an improvement over talking to them on the phone and working them into a system on paper. Now we will find out how the men will fit the system.
“Next year will be different and easier. We will know our players and the other teams. Our problem will be modifying and improving — much simpler than starting with nothing but two chairs and a pair of phones.”
As for early activity in training camp, Erdelatz explained that “we won’t have time at first for much instruction. We have to find those who can play and concentrate on them. Practice will be closed to the public for the first week or two. We can’t afford to waste a second because we have to be ready to play the Dallas Texans in Kezar Stadium, July 31.
“We know we obtained several men from the league pool who can play, but we have a lot to find out about most of the others. This is certainly one case when the lineup isn’t set in advance, when every position is really open.”
He felt that just about anything could happen once the season started. “We don’t know enough about what we have, or enough about the opposition, to be pessimistic,” he said. “The first few games will be interesting from a technical point. None of the teams will know just what preparations to make for the others. It will be a challenge.”
Erdelatz said he didn’t plan to be particularly strict about discipline in camp saying, “We won’t do any spying or have things like bed checks. Football at every level from Pop Warner league through professional requires sacrifice and if a player doesn’t realize this then he won’t do the club any good. This type of player can be spotted without bed checks and the like.”
The coaching staff planned to conduct morning and afternoon workouts each day.
The Raiders announced the hiring of Bud Hastings to the position of assistant general manager. Hastings, 43, had most recently been executive director of the Associated Students of the University of California and would serve as Chet Soda’s top lieutenant.
Chet Soda announced that the Raiders had hired noted swing bandleader and Oakland native Del Courtney to be the team’s musical director. Courtney was “thrilled” to be hired by the Raiders and said he was “looking forward to providing the Raiders and their fans with one of the most colorful and exciting football bands in the country.”
In a conversation with Oakland Tribune columnist, Ray Haywood, Chet Soda discussed expenses. Soda said the team would spend an estimated $925,000 for the 1960 season, including $285,000 for player salaries, $45,000 for equipment, $31,600 for training camp expenses, $13,000 for transportation to get players to camp, $60,000 for air travel during the season; $10,000 for telephone calls, $35,000 for scouting, and $140,000 for administration and admin salaries. Soda estimated the Raiders would need home attendance to average between 30,000 and 32,000 per game to break even.
Raiders owner and general manager Chet Soda announced the team would play its 1960 regular season home games in Kezar Stadium. The team came to the decision by a vote of ownership and was currently negotiating with the San Francisco Park and Recreation Commission to set terms. While the regular season was now set, the team was looking into regional sites for their preseason contests. Though the exhibition opener was to be in Kezar, the team thought they might schedule a game in Sacramento or another city in the area.
The team announced that co-owner and restaurateur Harvey Binns was getting out of the football business by selling his interest in the Raiders back to the remaining seven owners. Binns said he was not happy with the way Chet Soda was dominating football operations. “When we named Soda general manager it was to be a temporary thing until we hired a man with professional football experience,” he explained, “but now he doesn’t want to step down. The club needs someone with a pro background in that spot.”
Soda’s response: “The owners are sincerely regretful that personal reasons require Mr. Binns to sever his interest in the football club. His enthusiasm and support was a great help to the new venture.”
High-level squabbling aside, the Raiders continued to build a roster, announcing the signing of University of California halfback Wayne Crow, whose stellar play helped the Bears get to the 1959 Rose Bowl against Iowa. Crow, who had just completed his junior year at Berkeley decided to go pro to support his wife and young child and had been chosen by the Cardinals in the eighth round of the NFL draft. Soda said the Crow signing was an unusual situation and that the team had no plans to sign other underclassmen. Part of Crow’s contract included money to be set aside for tuition for his senior year. New California head coach Marv Levy praised the Raiders for their handling of the situation, pointing out that Soda had tried to discourage Crow from leaving school. A two-way player for the Bears, he had led the team in both passing and interceptions in 1959.
And, for the first time, the Oakland Tribune printed a complete roster of Raider signees. A total of 54 players were listed (see link below), with 24 names not mentioned in previous reports:
Bill Atkins, a 6’1″, 220-pound guard from San Jose State. A 25th-round draft pick of the Rams in 1958, he did not make the regular season roster.
Charles Bates, a 6’4, 245-pound tackle from Alabama A&M. He spent training camp time with both Chicago teams: the Cardinals in 1956 and the Bears in 1959.
Lou Byrd, a 6’1″, 220-pound guard/linebacker from USC. A two-year letterman for the Trojans, he was awarded the 1958 Marv Goux Award by the school for his outstanding performance against UCLA his senior year. He was not drafted by an NFL team.
Roch Conklin, a 6’1″, 215-pound center from Stanford. After missing the 1957 season because of injury, he returned to have a fine senior season for the Indians, tying for the team lead in interceptions and making an appearance in the East-West Shrine Game. He had no pro experience.
Don Deskins, a 6’2″, 240-pound tackle from Michigan. A former Marine, Deskins was in his mid-20s when he started his college football career with the Wolverines. He was picked by Minneapolis in the AFL draft, with his signing rights eventually falling to the Raiders.
Al Feola, a 6’0″, 185-pound halfback from Pepperdine. A three-year letterman for the Waves, he had not played in either the NFL or the Canadian leagues following his senior year of 1956.
George Fields, a 6’3″, 245-pound lineman/linebacker from Bakersfield College. Fields started out as a fullback for the Renegades, but following knee surgery in 1955, moved to end, playing both ways as a pass catcher and pass rusher. He later put in time with the Bakersfield Spoilers of the Pacific Football Conference.
Wes Fry, a 6’1″, 215-pound center from UC Davis. He was named to the Far Western All-Conference team for his play with the Aggies in 1959.
Alex Gardner, a 5’9″, 185-pound halfback from South Carolina State. He was named NAIA All-America Honorable Mention in 1957.
Carl Gordon, a 5’9″, 173-pound quarterback/halfback from Bakersfield College. An all-around talent for the Renegades, he was named a Junior College All-American in 1954. He, like his teammate Fields, played for a time with the Spoilers.
James Hall, a 5’10”, 180-pound halfback from Mississippi. Part of a very deep Rebels backfield from 1957-1959, he was a significant receiving threat as the team enjoyed three consecutive bowl wins during his tenure.
Vin Hogan, a 6’0″, 190-pound back from Boston College. A nimble halfback and a three-year letterman for the Eagles, he won the Edward O’Melia Award in 1959 for outstanding player in the annual Boston College-Holy Cross game.
Clark Holden, a 5’11”, 210-pound fullback from USC. Originally drafted by Dallas, he tied a Trojans record in 1959 with four rushing touchdowns against Stanford.
Brad Hustad, a 5’9″, 190-pound halfback from Luther. A three-year All-Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference performer with the Norse, Hustad led the nation in rushing his sophomore season with 1,401 yards, and by the end of his college career in 1959, held the national career record with 3,943 yards on the ground.
Stan Jones, a 6’0″, 210-pound fullback from Maryland State. Not to be confused with the University of Maryland and Chicago Bear lineman of the same name, Jones scored twice to lead the Hawks to victory over North Carolina A&T in the 1954 Fish Bowl.
LC Joyner, a 6’0″, 180-pound back from Diablo Valley College. A three-sport star with the Vikings, he set a conference scoring record in 1952. He was drafted by the 49ers in the 21st round of the 1956 draft, but had not played in a regular season game in the NFL.
Charlie Kaaihue, a 5’11”, 235-pound guard from San Jose State. He was signed as a free agent in 1958 by the Eagles, but had no regular season appearances.
Joe Kominski, a 6’5″, 223-pound tackle from Central Washington State. An excellent rebounder for the Wildcats basketball squad, he was a standout on the gridiron as well, making the All-Evergreen Conference team as an end in both 1956 and 1957.
Jack Larscheid, a 5’6″, 162-pound back from Pacific. Invariably referred to as the “little sparkplug” or the like, he mostly played second fiddle to teammate Dick Bass, but closed his college career in spectacular fashion, gaining 119 yards rushing on 14 carries, and nabbing two interceptions in the Tigers’ 52-6 win over Fresno State in the final game of the 1959 season.
Rich Max, a 6’1″, 235-pound center from Cal Poly. He was named to the Little All-America team while with the Mustangs.
Ron Newhouse, a 6’1″, 195-pound quarterback/halfback from St Norbert. A fine runner and passer with the Green Knights, he was named Little All-America Honorable Mention in 1958.
Andrew Pierce, a 6’1″, 210-pound fullback from Southern
Louis Plain, a 6’3″, 265-pound tackle from Stanford
Willis Towne, a 6’4″, 220-pound end from Wichita State (see note)
Boston College football media guide
California State Polytechnic College El Mustang
Diablo Valley College Hall of Fame Yearbook
Luther College Athletics
National Junior College Athletic Association football media guide
San Jose State football media guide
Santa Monica City College Corsair
South Carolina State football media guide
Stanford University football media guide
University of Michigan football media guide
University of California-Davis football media guide
University of Southern California football media guide
Note: The Tribune identified Towne as having played his college ball at UC Davis, and there was a Willis Towne at that school, but that Towne played for them in the early 1930s. However, there was also a Willis Towne who played in the 1950s for the Shockers and was drafted in 1956 by the Chicago Cardinals. The age listed in the paper is about right for that timeline and the most reasonable explanation is that someone with the Raiders or with the Tribune simply made an error in fact-checking.