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”
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”
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”
Eddie Erdelatz named his starting offense today. As mentioned a couple of days ago, Tom Flores would start at quarterback. Joining him in the backfield would be Jack Larscheid, Billy Lott, and Tony Teresa, who would man the flanker spot. On the ends would be Charlie Hardy and Gene Prebola. Ron Sabal and Dalton Truax were to start at the tackles, with Don Manoukian and Wayne Hawkins at guard, and Jim Otto in the middle.
On the practice field, the team ran through their last workout before the game and the next time they put on pads they would be facing the Houston Oilers to get the whole shooting match underway.
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The Raiders made more personnel moves today. In a continuing effort to upgrade their lines, the team signed Glenn Holtzman, Paul Oglesby, and Riley Morris. Holtzman, a 6’3″, 250-pound defensive end out of North Texas State had been drafted by the Rams in 1954 in the 26th round and spent four years in Los Angeles, one of them as a starter. After the Rams traded him, along with six other players and a pair of draft picks, to the Cardinals in exchange for Ollie Matson, Holtzman refused to report to Chicago and pursued careers in acting and professional wrestling instead. Sid Gillman had tabbed him a few months ago to play for the Chargers, but cut him earlier this week, giving the Raiders a chance to pick him up.
Oglesby, a 6’4″, 235-pound tackle from UCLA had been drafted by both the Cardinals and the Oilers and went with Houston. He was plagued by minor ailments in camp, and the Oilers eventually gave up on him and let him go.
Morris, a 6’2″, 220-pound linebacker out of Florida A&M had been released by the Oilers the same day as Oglesby and picked up by Oakland at the same time. Oglesby was added to the active roster right away, but the team was waiting for Holtzman and Morris to report in person before adding them.
To make room on the roster, the Raiders released halfback Buddy Allen. Allen, who scored the first points in franchise history, had looked good early on, but found his playing time reduced as the preseason unfolded and he became a forgotten man as Jack Larscheid and Billy Lott got more attention. Unofficially, Allen ended the preseason with 81 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 32 yards. Allen’s departure left just Lott, Larscheid, JD Smith, and Tony Teresa, and Luther Carr in the offensive backfield.
While these moves were going on, Coach Erdelatz continued to prepare for Sunday’s game by naming team captains. On offense the captain would be Tom Flores. A member of the squad since early June, Flores had been the front-runner for the starting quarterback position almost from his arrival and was a clear choice. On defense the captain would be linebacker Bob Dougherty. Dougherty was one of the players chosen in the AFL’s allocation draft back in the spring and had stood out for his exemplary play in the preseason.
On the public relations front, today was the day for the big parade in Oakland. A 4:30pm departure from Jack London Square saw the players and other team officials convoy in convertibles on the half-hour long route to a park next to Lake Merritt with fanfare, autographs, and pictures to follow.
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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.”
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1. The author was probably Scotty Stirling, but no byline was included.
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.
Continuing to regroup following the grueling road trip, the Raiders took stock of the health of their team. Counted amongst the wounded were backs Luther Carr, Wayne Crow, and Ron Drzewiecki, all with rib injuries, defensive lineman Charley Powell with a sprained knee, guard Wayne Hawkins with a sprained right ankle, and fullback Dean Philpott who continued to nurse a knee injury. Trainer George Anderson said none of the injuries were serious and each of the players, plus quarterback Tom Flores and tight end Gene Prebola, would be available for the Houston game.
All, that is, except Drzewiecki and Philpott, who were placed on injured reserve, reducing the roster to 41 players. The league required all teams to get their count down to 38 and to comply, the team waived guard Jerry Epps, defensive end Jerry Flynn, and receiver Charles Moore, none of whom had made much of their opportunities in preseason work.
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 There was some disagreement among the sources whether Drzewiecki and Philpott were waived or put on IR. The Review and the Times said IR, the Tribune said they were waived.
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.
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