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.
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.
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
San Mateo Times
On game day, Raider head coach Eddie Erdelatz was still shuffling players right up until the 8pm kickoff. The biggest news was that Babe Parilli would start over Paul Larson at quarterback. Parilli and Larson were competing to be Tom Flores‘ understudy, as Erdelatz had indicated he would only carry two quarterbacks on the roster in the regular season, but Parilli wasn’t ready to accept second place yet. “I’m going to try and play some football for Oakland. I wouldn’t be here if I had lost my enthusiasm for the game,” he said.
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.
After having watched films of the Titans game, Raider head coach Eddie Erdelatz said he was making some changes to the offense. The team would now use a split end and a tight end instead of the two tight end formation they had previously been using. Along with that change, Erdelatz announced a shuffling of the depth chart at the ball-handling positions. To wit:
Split end: Charlie Hardy, Alan Goldstein, John Brown
Tight end: Gene Prebola, Charles Moore
Flanker: Dan Edgington, Irv Nikolai, Brad Myers
Halfback: Tony Teresa, Jack Larscheid, Ron Drzewiecki
Fullback: Billy Lott, Buddy Allen, Dean Philpott
Despite the changes, the Raider coach had nothing but good things to say about his team’s performance, praising the interior of the offensive line — Jim Otto, Wayne Hawkins, and Ron Sabal — in particular.
“We played well as a team against the Titans,” he said, “It appears as though the way we practice is paying off. The kids could have gone another half had they needed to. This gang has great spirit. I’ve seen such hustle work wonders before and it looks like it’s happening again.”
Hayward Daily Review
San Mateo Times
It had been an uncomfortably hot day in Sacramento but by game time the sun had gone down and the temperature had dropped into the mid-70s. A pleasant breeze took any remaining heat off the air and clear skies promised a perfect evening for football. It was under these conditions that the Oakland Raiders and New York Titans took the field at Hughes Stadium, on the campus of Sacramento City College. Just 9,551 paying customers filled the 22,000-seat facility to see the 0-1 teams get acquainted for the first time.
With the first preseason game just ten days away, the Raiders were still far from deciding on a first-team quarterback. Both Tom Flores and Paul Larson were proving to be highly accurate passers in practice and were making the coaching staff’s decision as difficult as possible. A favorite target of both men was Tony Teresa, the former San Jose State quarterback, who had recently moved from defense to offense. Head coach Eddie Erdelatz said the move was only temporary and was intended to give Teresa experience at multiple positions.
It wouldn’t be a camp report without injury news and today was no exception. Middle linebacker Tom Louderback and defensive end Larry Barnes each sustained mild shoulder bruises and would probably have light duty for a few days. More seriously, end Ron Beagle and defensive lineman Jim Woodard were entering their second week off with no end in sight. But on the plus side, halfback Jack Larscheid had fully recovered from his hamstring pull and guards Don Manoukian, Charlie Kaaihue, and defensive lineman Charley Powell were expected back on the field any day.
Faced with an overwhelming number of hopefuls, the Raider coaching staff ran the players through a number of tests and drills, such as a timed 50-yard dash, and used the grades to make a first round of cuts. Sixteen players got the axe (counting three who left camp voluntarily), including the supremely confident Sandy Lederman, and George Washington’s Ed Hino, who was thought to be a leading contender for the quarterback position early on. The complete list is below.
At the quarterback spot, Tom Flores and Paul Larson appeared to be leading the field. Head coach Eddie Erdelatz said Tony Teresa, a fine two-way quarterback with San Jose State, would be playing halfback. Also garnering early praise from the coaches were halfback Billy Lott, defensive back Eddie Macon, linemen Chris Plain, Don Manoukian, and Don Churchwell, and ends Gene Prebola and Charlie Hardy.
The first crack at a possible starting lineup on offense was:
Over in the trainer’s corner, Wayne Crow, the first training camp casuality, appeared to have recovered from his ankle injury and was expected to return to camp almost immediately. However, five other players were sent to sick bay with ailments of their own, including end Walt Denny (hamstring pull), halfback Jack Larscheid (hamstring pull), tackle Fred Fehn (unidentified muscle pull), defensive end Charley Powell (strained Achilles tendon), and tackle Jim Woodard (strained right knee). Fehn was expected to be out the longest, at two weeks. The other four were expected to miss no more than a few days.
T Charles Bates
LB Tom Davis (voluntary)
HB Al Feola
HB Max Fields
HB James Hall
QB Ed Hino
HB Vin Hogan (voluntary)
T Curt Iaukea (voluntary)
HB Stan Jones
E Joe Kominski
QB Sandy Lederman
E Mose Mastelotto
QB Ron Newhouse
HB Andrew Pierce
E Gordon Tovani
E Willis Towne
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.