July 24, 1961

The Raiders conducted their first organized training drills today and according to Scotty Stirling of the Tribune Eddie Erdelatz was happy with how things went, especially at quarterback. “The quarterbacks in this camp are much better than what we started with last year,” he said. He added that rookies Mike Jones and Nick Papac “were impressive in our passing drill and, of course, Tommy Flores is an exceptional thrower. Tom obviously has been practicing prior to coming here, so we’ll be much further along with our quarterbacking than in 1960.”

Several players commented on how quickly things were moving this year, including linebacker Bob Dougherty who said, “We’ve got more hustle and spirit than we had last year. With a year’s experience behind us and with a couple of good rookies to fill in, we can have a real good team.”

Stirling noted that a few of the rookies stood out from the crowd, including running back Oneal Cuttery, defensive back Herm Urenda, and ends Jerry Burch and Clair Appledoorn.

Position switch

Nyle McFarlane, who played on offense at halfback and flanker last year, was being given a shot in the defensive backfield. As McFarlane explained, “Before joining the Raiders I started on defense in six games for the Dallas Cowboys, so I’m familiar with the position.”

Crowded at the top

In today’s Examiner, Bob Brachman reported that the team’s plan to add as many as 35 limited partners to the ownership group was well on its way to fruition. According to general manager Bud Hastings, “the stuff (shares in the team) went like hotcakes. Most buyers were successful East Bay businessmen, which was heartening, because we took the quick sale to be indicative of the confidence they have in the team’s future. The most significant aspect is that the Raiders organization is now on its way to becoming a community enterprise. It has generated a broader interest base. Of course, none of the 35 will have any say about running the team.”

Read more “July 24, 1961”

July 23, 1961

The Examiner ran their season preview today under Bob Brachman’s byline. Brachman highlighted the ways things would be different for the Raiders this year, some good, some not so good.

In the not so good column, he pointed out that the team no longer had first dibs on 49ers and Redskins castoffs and, as Eddie Erdelatz pointed out, “It’s a cinch NFL releases will be funneled to Minnesota and Dallas (the two expansion teams) if at all possible.” And even the draft wasn’t much help as only six of the 30 players picked would report to camp with second-round choice George Fleming the only one from the first 12 rounds.

Erdelatz, again: “I don’t say any or all of these might not turn out (to be) good players, but it’s kind of slim pickings when you consider that San Diego picked up 11 of their first 14 draftees, Buffalo got 9 of 12, and Houston and Dallas did just about as well. They were the strong teams to start with, so we’ve got our work cut out.”

According to general manager Bud Hastings, parsimony on the part of the ownership, particularly before the reorganization in January, played a role. “If we had been able to offer a little extra inducement, as all other clubs did this past year, we could have hooked half a dozen of our top draft picks who got away,” he said. Hastings was now able to offer signing bonuses, but that change occurred well after the prime draft pick signing period.

Hastings also explained that the team’s scouting system had been improved. While most scouting last year had been via telephone, he said, “that gets you nowhere fast. Unless you have that personal contact with prospects, you don’t get very far. Our owners (now) recognize that you have to have a top scouting system and that it costs money. We’re going to have four or five people looking for talent across the country.”

In the Tribune, Scotty Stirling wrote that many of the Raiders had bulked up this year after being one of the lightest teams in the league last year. Most notable among the gainers was Jim Otto who, after starting last season at 210 pounds and finishing at 235, reported in at 248 pounds this year, putting him more on par with his counterparts across the AFL. On defense, Charley Powell came in at 245, some 30 pounds above his former boxing weight, but said he’d probably get down to 235 for the season.

There are quite a few guys who have grown considerably in a year,” said trainer George Anderson, “and most of them have been running and working out for several weeks so it looks like solid growth to me.” For the guys who were bigger but less diligent about their training he said, “We will set up the fat man’s training table immediately.”

In case the coach reads all the papers

Middle linebacker Tom Louderback was the subject of sports editor George Hower’s column in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. After talking about Louderback’s work during the season ticket sales campaign, Hower reported the linebacker’s opinion of playing for his head coach, saying Erdelatz “drives us real hard and we like it.”

July 22, 1961

Training camp opened today for the Raiders with 62 players, including 26 rookies, reporting to the Palomar Hotel in Santa Cruz for physical examinations. Per Scotty Stirling of the Tribune, the team was much more organized this year, compared to last year.

Unlike last year, when travel plans were made almost in the moment, this year the team hired a company called Random Services to manage their transportation needs. “We had one plane load each from the East Coast, Midwest, Southwest, and Los Angeles,” said company president Fred Sullivan. Plans were in place more than a month ago and Sullivan also said all “transportation, hotel, and practice field arrangements” for this season’s road trips were also complete.

As Sullivan pointed out, “Last season the club did its travel on a game-to-game basis and there were a few mixups. That won’t happen this year.”

Camp cuts

Two players were placed on waivers today: offensive tackle Dalton Truax and defensive tackle Don Deskins. Two others, defensive tackle Ron Warzeka and end Fred Tunnicliffe, informed the team they would not report to camp. Warzeka, Truax, and Deskins all had extensive playing time last season. Per the Chronicle, Warzeka cited a shin injury as his reason for not reporting.

July 21, 1961

Ed Schoenfeld of the Tribune reported that new Raider defensive coaches George Dickson and Bob Maddock were going to preach aggressive team play to their charges when camp got underway.

“I don’t think a guy can be a good football player defensively without being mean on the field,” said Dickson. “Football is a team game above everything else. You’ve got to have unity, unselfishness, and be willing to sacrifice. There’s never been a championship team in any sport that wasn’t extremely aggressive and competitive and if you don’t improve, the parade will pass you by. If a team can improve just one percent a day, it will be a pretty good team long before the end of the season. There is no point of stagnation. You either go forward or backward.”

Schoenfeld emphasized both coaches’ experience as players at Notre Dame and said both men saw defensive football as combat. Maddock said you prepare a player to go to war through “rigorous mental and physical training.”

In the same issue, Scotty Stirling offered a preview of the team with a focus on some of the new players that would be in camp, including a pair of free agents just signed today: 5’11”, 190-pound quarterback Nick Papac out of Fresno State, and speedy 6’2”, 195-pound halfback Ed Whittle from New Mexico State.

Stirling also coaxed some more from Eddie Erdelatz about the team’s prospects for the upcoming season. “We will be facing tougher, bigger, and faster clubs this year,” said Erdelatz. “We must completely overhaul our defensive team and add more polish and speed to our attacking unit. We’ll move much faster during training than we did in 1960, but it still will be the toughest part of the season, physically and mentally, for coaches and players.

“If we can improve the offense, which did a great job last year, and patch up that defense, we’ll be in there with all of them.”

When pressed to predict the team’s record in 1961, he said, “It’s much too early to talk about that. Right now, I’m concerned with getting our club down to a workable number and building a solid, eager organization.”

Erdelatz offered the usual bromides about every position being up for grabs, but Stirling identified players he thought had jobs already sewn up: cornerback Joe Cannavino, defensive tackle George Fields, quarterback Tom Flores, wide receiver Charlie Hardy, center Jim Otto, and halfback Tony Teresa.

More roster news

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that tackle Ray Schaack, signed by the Raiders as a free agent in February, told the team he was going to focus on his education and would not report to camp.

No radio?

The San Mateo Times reported that KNBC, the team’s radio broadcast partner last year, had yet to renew the contract.

July 20, 1961

In Scotty Stirling’s piece in today’s Tribune, Eddie Erdelatz talked about the departed Billy Lott and Don Manoukian..

Erdelatz: “We’ll miss their playing ability, of course, but even more, we’ll miss their leadership. Every football team—high school, college, or pro—has one or more leaders and Manouk and Bill were ours. Some guys are natural-born leaders and when a coach has three or four of them around, he’s in clover. Sometimes it takes a while to show up, but if it’s there it usually comes out.

“We’ve got 26 new men coming into camp and maybe among that group we’ll find replacements for Manoukian and Lott. Some of the rookies were college stars and captains of their teams so you can never tell.”

July 19, 1961

Scotty Stirling of the Tribune reported today on a conversation with Eddie Erdelatz wherein the Raider coach gave a summary of what the team would try to accomplish in training camp.

“I had been away from pro football for almost ten years when I took the Raider job,” he said, “and a lot of things had changed. There is a great difference between college and pro football. We went along last year doing pretty much what everybody else in pro football was doing, but with that first season behind us we’re going to do more coaching and try a few things.

“We were hurt badly late in the season because of defensive weaknesses, not all of them due to personnel failures. We stayed strictly with the standard pro defense, and it just didn’t work in certain situations. Our big job at Santa Cruz and during the exhibition season will be to install a new defense. It’s almost a 100 percent change from last year, although it may not look too different to the fans. We’re still going to use the standard pro defense as a base but we’re putting in a lot of modifications to correct the soft spots.”

One thing that set an Erdelatz camp apart from that of other teams was his emphasis on having shorter practices with higher activity levels, including running everywhere during practice. “Running pays off in two ways,” he said. “First, it gets the team in shape. We had fewer injuries by far last year than any team in the league. Secondly, the constant hustling builds spirit. We had keen desire last year and it will be stronger this season. Running and hustling are the keys. The veterans know what is expected and their enthusiasm will rub off on the new men.”

Full workouts were scheduled to begin on the 24th with two-a-days until some of the early player cuts had happened. According to Erdelatz, that game the team plenty of time to prepare for the preseason opener against Houston in Honolulu on August 11. “We had the same amount of time last year,” he said, “and lost to Dallas by a touchdown, so we should be sufficiently well prepared for Houston to give them a ball game.”

Columns

Also in today’s Tribune, George Ross took Oaklanders to task for not supporting the Raiders while the team continued to work toward getting a playing site in Oakland. Ross said the team was making a good-faith effort, but that it was hindered by the lack of Oaklanders willing to cross the bay to watch the team in the meantime. To heighten the shame, he pointed to news that the Reno Chamber of Commerce had “adopted” the Raiders as the closest thing to a hometown team and that several hotels there had bought or were planning to buy blocks of season tickets to support the team.

July 18, 1961

New Raiders Dick Christy and Alan Miller continued their media blitz with Mel Bowen of the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Christy and Miller were the first two arrivals in Santa Cruz for training camp that was scheduled to start in a few days. Neither Bud Hastings nor Eddie Erdelatz had yet put in an appearance so the two former Patriots were reduced to working out on the beach for several hours each day.

Christy was trying to get down to his playing weight and, by his account, still had eight pounds to go. Miller, for his part, was battling a sinus infection, and Christy said, “that’s what he gets” for laying “five hours on the beach.”

Miller said neither he nor Christy had met Erdelatz, but that he had played against his Navy teams while attending Boston College and said Erdelatz “always had the wagons then.”

July 14, 1961

The Tribune reported today that the Raiders had acquired 6’2”, 230-pound linebacker Al Bansavage from the Chargers in exchange for a “top choice” in the 1962 draft. The round was not identified in the story. Bansavage was at the center of a dispute last season between the two teams. He had been selected by Minneapolis in the first AFL draft, but was later signed by the Chargers without compensation, despite the AFL having awarded his signing rights to the Raiders. When Bansavage played in the first meeting between the two teams in November, Chet Soda petitioned the league to declare the game a Chargers forfeit. Commissioner Joe Foss conceded that the Raiders had a case but said any penalties would not include a forfeit. Eddie Erdelatz said he planned to try Bansavage on offense as a replacement for the departed Don Manoukian at guard.

July 13, 1961

John Simmonds of the Tribune reported that new Raiders Alan Miller and Dick Christy were in town ahead of the opening of training camp later this month and the pair had some nice things to say about their new teammates.

Miller: “With Jim Otto at center and John Dittrich and (the now retired) Don Manoukian at guards, the Raiders had the best offensive interior line in the league. The line can be the difference between a big gain or a loss, so you can understand why Dick and I are concerned over Don’s decision to quit the game.

And: “(Tom Flores) is well thought of all over the league. Just give him a little more experience and watch out.”

Christy: “Dittrich and Manoukian are particularly good on downfield blocking. They know just when to break upfield.”

Some other notes from Simmonds:

Miller plans to study law after his football career and is an accomplished pass catcher out of the backfield.

Christy is a speedy back who is adept at getting outside and turning the corner and will be an asset in the return game.

Miller on the comparative talent between the NFL and AFL: “There’s a couple of teams in the NFL that would lose to some of our top clubs right now. The real difference now is that there are more experienced players in the NFL but as they retire and new players take their places the quality of the two leagues will grow closer and things will even out. It’s just a matter of the AFL hanging in there for a few years. If the people will give us a hand this league will go places.”

Rumors

The Tacoma News Tribune printed a bit suggesting that former Washington State quarterback Bobby Newman “may hook on” with the Raiders. Newman was in camp with the Raiders for a few days last August before getting released.