The Mid-Week Take: August 23, 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.

Offense

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.

Defense

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.

Special Teams

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.

July 26, 1960

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.

Oakland Tribune

July 16, 1960

Hard work continued at Raider training camp. As the first week came to a close it was evident that getting the players in shape was the first goal of the coaching staff. Eddie Erdelatz was happy so far. “We’ve got our toughest week behind us now,” he said, “I’m satisfied with the improvement and I think we have accomplished our mission this first week. These players want to play and they have a great attitude, which is very important. They are hearing me, so to speak, and from what I observed they like this type of camp. After one week I think we have good backfield speed, which will improve as our timing is perfected. Our line has average speed, but again, this will improve as the big guys get into better shape, and the squad is beginning to work as a team.”

Tom Flores, who was the early frontrunner for the starting quarterback position, and end Charlie Hardy were standout performers on offense, while Wayne Crow and Tony Teresa were looking good on defense.

Still, the injuries kept coming. This time around it was running back Brad Myers. Myers, who hadn’t been mentioned in previous reports, was a 6’1″, 195-pound back out of Bucknell. He ended his collegiate career as the Bison’s career leader in rushing yards and points and made honorable mention Associated Press Little All-America in 1952. He was picked in the ninth round of the 1953 draft by the Rams and had a nice rookie season, but went into the army afterward. Upon returning to Los Angeles in 1956, he couldn’t quite regain his old form and an injury ended his season early. He was traded to the Steelers, but was cut in camp, then ended up with the Eagles in 1958, but played sparingly. Now with the Raider, he joined the many players who had succumbed to a muscle pull and was unable to practice for now.

There was also one defection on the day. Idaho end Walt Denny (misidentified in the Tribune as Idaho State end Jim Denny, of whom there is no record) decided he had had enough and left camp voluntarily.

Bucknell football media guide
Oakland Tribune

July 14, 1960

Head coach Eddie Erdelatz announced that halfback Wayne Crow, who was now fully recovered from an ankle injury suffered a few days earlier, would likely play on defense for the Raiders. Blocked at quarterback by Tom Flores and Paul Larson, and slower afoot than Buddy Allen and Billy Lott, the current pack leaders at halfback, Crow would be utilized most effectively at cornerback.

Meanwhile, practice went on. Flores, who had been slowed recently with a pulled muscle, was thought to have the upper hand over Larson at quarterback, but Larson was working hard to keep up, putting in extra time at the end of sessions. Not that this came without its costs. During one such workout with Larson, end Irv Nikolai turned an ankle and was not at full strength thereafter. Other injured players were tackle Cloyd Boyette, victim of a muscle pull and guard Charlie Kaaihue with an injured ankle. But the most serious injury so far belonged to defensive tackle Jim Woodard. Aggravating an old knee injury, Woodard, according to the team, could be out several weeks recuperating and was due for a more thorough examination to determine the extent of the damage.

Erdelatz attributed most of the injuries to a lack of conditioning and was frustrated at how they hampered practice. “It’s hard to schedule (a) scrimmage because the injuries prevent us from running the squad in teams. Today, for instance, we wouldn’t have had enough men to stage an effective scrum.”

There was one departure from camp when guard Tom Cousineau left for personal reasons. Erdelatz said he didn’t expect further cuts until at least the 16th.

In other news, assistant general manager Bud Hastings announced that former Cal backfield coach Wes Fry was named the team’s player personnel director. Fry was expected to be focused primarily on college scouting, but his most immediate task was to review camp cuts from the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins. According to guidelines set up by the league, the Raiders had first rights among AFL teams to any 49er cuts and half of any players set free by Washington.

Oakland Tribune

July 13, 1960

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.

Among the players who rated highest in the speed category were backs Buddy Allen, Alex Bravo, John Brown, LC Joyner, and Wayne Schneider, and end Dan Edgington.

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:

E Charlie Hardy
E Dan Edgington
T Chris Plain
T Don Churchwell
G Charlie Kaaihue
G Don Manoukian
C Jim Otto
QB Tom Flores
HB Buddy Allen
HB Billy Lott
FB Dean Philpott

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.

Roster Cuts:

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

Oakland Tribune

April 28, 1960

The Raiders continued to be enthusiastic about the signing of Cal halfback Wayne Crow. Head coach Eddie Erdelatz said that Crow, who had been the Bears’ starting quarterback, would return to his halfback spot with the Raiders. However, Erdelatz also said he planned to install an offense that used plenty of halfback passes, so Crow would still get to air it out on occasion.

In other news, there was more about the departure of former owner Harvey Binns. Oakland Tribune columnist Alan Ward suggested that Binns’ displeasure with his fellow owners was something of an open secret and his selling out was no surprise. Binns was said to be unhappy with the “slide rule” approach to putting together a team and thought more attention should have been paid to assembling a team with more entertainment value.

Oakland Tribune

April 27, 1960

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
Jet
Luther College Athletics
National Junior College Athletic Association football media guide
Oakland Tribune
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.