July 9, 1961

Scotty Stirling reported that Raider guard and Pacific Northwest tag-team wrestling champion Don Manoukian was quitting football to pursue his wrestling career full time. Manoukian, one of the most well-liked players on the team said the decision was a difficult one that took several months to make.

“I loved playing with the Raiders,” he said, “and will miss such great competitors as Jim Otto and Tony Teresa, but in thinking of my future I realize I’ve got to take advantage of my wrestling opportunities right now. I can only take the bumps for another three or four years and wrestling, I feel, is the answer. (The Raiders are) a great outfit and Bud Hastings was real understanding when I finally called him and told him I was quitting. It was hard for me because I somehow felt I was letting the team down. Besides, there are a few guys in the AFL that I would like to clobber again, like the corner linebackers at Boston.”

Hastings and Eddie Erdelatz were very disappointed at the news. “The loss of Manoukian is hard to take,” said Hastings. “He was the heart of our fine offensive line last year.”

TV News

Hastings also announced that the team had resolved matters with ABC television and that a fourth away game was returned to the TV schedule: October 15 at Denver.

Oakland Tribune

June 6, 1961

The Raiders’ second-round draft pick, George Fleming was in town for an extended visit prior to training camp next month. He was there to get acquainted with both the team and the local facilities of the brewing company where he had worked while attending the University of Washington in Seattle.

When asked what he thought of his chances of making the team, he said, “I feel confident that I have the ability to make any team I try for, but I know it takes an all-out effort. I picked the Raiders over the Bears—who had drafted him in the NFL—not because I felt it would be easier to play for Oakland, but because of several other factors.

“The Raiders and the American League are just getting started and have no place to go but up. I like to be in on the ground floor. My employment situation with Rainier (Brewing) is another factor. My off-season job is on the Coast and it will help me to be playing with a California team.”

While in town he would meet with Eddie Erdelatz and get a copy of the playbook. He was hoping to be ready for the first exhibition game against the Oilers. Though Fleming had been a halfback with the Huskies, Erdelatz planned to try him out at flanker.

When Fleming remarked that he probably wouldn’t be able to wear his college number, 25, because Tony Teresa had it, and worried that he might not get a number at all, Erdelatz said, “He’s a cross between Hugh McElhenny and Lenny Moore and somehow I think he’ll have a number.”

Oakland Tribune

June 1, 1961

The team finalized their preseason schedule at four games:

August 11 vs Oilers in Honolulu
August 19 vs Broncos in Spokane
August 27 vs Chargers in San Diego
September 4 vs Broncos at Kezar Stadium

The game at Kezar would be a benefit for the Children’s Hospital of the East Bay.

The team also announced they would open training camp on July 22 in Santa Cruz, last year’s site. “There is no place I’d rather train than Santa Cruz,” said Eddie Erdelatz. “The weather is ideal and we felt we had one of the finest training sites in which to work when we were there last year.”

Oakland Tribune
Salinas Californian
Santa Cruz Sentinel

 

May 29, 1961

The team announced the signing of two more players today: 6’4”, 220-pound end Earl Randolph out of Arizona State-Flagstaff (now Northern Arizona) and 6’4”, 235-pound tackle/linebacker Julius Varnado from San Francisco State.

Randolph played a variety of positions in college, including in the secondary, which is where Eddie Erdelatz wanted to try him out first. He had been in camp with the Dallas Cowboys for a while last season. Varnado was also in the Cowboys organization as their 15th-round draft pick this year, but he chose to give Oakland a try.

Raiders exonerated

Milt Woodard, assistant commissioner of the AFL, announced that the league had exonerated the Raiders of tampering chargers regarding quarterback Joe Kapp of the Calgary Stampeders. The big revelation was that these charges had been filed by the Canadian League weeks before Kapp’s recent announcement that he wouldn’t sign for 1961.

“Kapp’s statement that he would play rather than sit out a year indicates some inducement had been offered,” said Canadian League official Sid Halter. “It may not have been the general manager but it’s quite evident that Kapp was approached by someone in Oakland a long time ago.” Also named in the complaint was Calgary guard Tony Pajaczkowski, but the Raiders said that name was unfamiliar to them.

Woodard threw out the complaint, saying, “It was a rather nebulous protest and we’ve determined after an investigation that the Raider management has been complete above board in the Kapp situation and not guilty of tampering.”

Halter admitted he didn’t have solid evidence. “It’s difficult to pinpoint,” he said, “but I still feel there was some tampering going on, no doubt about it.”

Owens on Fleming

University of Washington football head coach Jim Owens though former Huskies running back and Raider second-round draft pick George Fleming was a pretty fair ballplayer.

“George Fleming will make the pro fans forget a lot of their heroes,” he said. “Here’s a (young man)[1], in my judgement who’s tailor made for professional football. He’s about as versatile an athlete as I’ve ever seen, well equipped to become a really great back in pro ball. All you have to do is watch (him)see note 1 move around a football field a little bit and you know he’s got it. He’s the kind of ball carrier who can break the back of the opposition at any moment. He’s got excellent hands as a flanked-out receiver, he’s a good defensive back and a placekicker of professional capability.”

Fleming had been drafted by the Bears, too, but Owens said, “he wants to play on the West Coast and he really wants Oakland. He feels he’ll have the opportunity to move along with a growing club that’s going to go places, where he might get lost behind a (big) name in the NFL. He started on the ground floor at Washington and grew into a great college back. He can do the same in the pro ranks. I think you’re going to like George Fleming in Oakland.”

Oakland Tribune
San Francisco Examiner
San Mateo Times

[1] Substituted for the original term used, a common word used by football coaches across the country in reference to African-American players with the intent, conscious or otherwise, to infantilize them. It needs no further noting here except to say it’s no less obnoxious or racist because of it was the “style of the time.” Owens didn’t stand out from the crowd in this regard.

May 21, 1961

In an informal meeting with the local press, Raiders general manager Bud Hastings held forth on stadium matters and the team’s financial health. “The Raiders are in a sound financial state,” he said. “We will continue in business and be ready to move in when Oakland’s stadium is completed.”

Talking further about an Oakland stadium, he said, “Even starting construction will help us with our season ticket sales because the stadium will be a large and concrete monument to the fact the Raiders are a permanent part of the community. Human nature being what it is, fans are reluctant to let themselves become interested in any team if there is a chance it might not be permanent.”

Head coach Eddie Erdelatz was at the confab, too. “Last year we had to go with what we had,” he said, “(we had to) make the methods used suit the men. Although Oakland had last choice in personnel because it was the last organized, we did discover that we owned several very fine ballplayers. Generally speaking, we had a very young club. We know that some of the youngsters who were just average last season will return heavier and more matured, with the confidence that comes with experience. By drafting and trading, we will be able to build around our key men.

“If things go as we hope we will be able to suit the men to the method most apt to bother the team which we are playing. They say the first year is always the hardest and we are certain that this was so with the Raiders. Everything was new and had to be learned. The result was a more orthodox and conservative game than I like to coach. This year, though, we know what we have. We can start teaching the refinements on the first day of practice which make pro football great.

“We will have improved coaching this year because we too have a year’s pro experience and know the tools available for the various jobs. We are going to have some surprises for the opponents when we play that first league game.”

Read more “May 21, 1961”

April 28, 1961

The AFL announced the 1961 schedule today and Raiders coach Eddie Erdelatz responded by saying, “At least we’ll find out real quick just how big a job we’ll have in front of us.” His team would open the season on the road against last year’s title game participants in consecutive weeks. The dates for the final two games were still undecided though the opponents were locked in.

September 9, at Houston
September 17, at San Diego
September 24, vs Dallas

October 1, vs Denver
October 15, at Denver
October 22, vs San Diego
October 29, vs New York

November 5, at Buffalo
November 13, at New York
November 17, at Boston
November 26, at Dallas

December 3, vs Buffalo
December 9 or 10, vs Boston
December 16 or 17, vs Houston

Raiders on wheels

After a pair of defeats on the basketball court, the Raiders finally bested the 49ers, outscoring them 37-36 on the roller derby rink. Tom Flores, not mentioned when the rosters were announced a couple of weeks ago, led all skaters with 13 points.

Oakland Tribune

April 4, 1961

Confirming rumors of a week ago, the Raiders made what was called “the biggest trade in their short history” today. The team sent quarterback Babe Parilli and fullback Billy Lott to the Boston Patriots in exchange for halfback Dick Christy, fullback Alan Miller, and defensive tackle Hal Smith. By season’s end last year, Parilli had been firmly relegated to backup status, but Lott was a key member of the offense, finishing second in rushing with 520 yards and leading the team with 49 catches.

The 25-year-old Christy, at 5’10” and 190 pounds finished second on the Patriots in rushing, was useful in catching passes out of the backfield, and was their primary kick return man. However, he was also capable of playing in the defensive backfield and the Raiders hinted he would be tried there.

The 6’0”, 220-pound Miller, 23, led his team in rushing with 416 yards and caught 29 passes. Both he and Christy showed a propensity to fumble the ball, a problem the plagued the Raiders last year, though Lott had not been part of the problem, having coughed the ball up just twice.

At 6’5” and 250 pounds, the 25-year-old Smith added much-needed bulk to the Raider defensive line. He played in 13 games last year, starting the season with three games for the Broncos before moving to the Pats.

Eddie Erdelatz was happy with the deal. “We’re extremely sorry to lose Lott and Parilli, but by the same token, we feel we have strengthened ourselves immeasurably by getting these three fine ballplayers,” he said.

Boston coach Lou Saban echoed his Raider counterpart. “We hated to part with Miller and Christy,” he said, “but to get what we wanted we had to give up good men. We needed a veteran quarterback to go along with Butch Songin.”

Raider general manager Bud Hastings said the team was continuing to look for other good deals.

Boston Globe
Hayward Daily Review
Oakland Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Examiner

March 30, 1961

The Tribune’s Scotty Stirling reported today that the Raiders were looking to trade up to two of their offensive backs in return for some help on defense, particularly at defensive tackle, outside linebacker, and cornerback. The team wouldn’t mention which players were on the block.

“We look, first of all, for the best football player, regardless of position,” said line coach Marty Feldman, “so in any trade we may get a man for a position other than those we feel need the most help.”

Stirling also said Eddie Erdelatz was in the process of hiring another assistant and was currently conducting interviews.

Oakland Tribune

March 21, 1961

The season ticket publicity campaign continued today in Prescott Sullivan’s column in the Examiner. He detailed the challenges the players faced in their door-to-door campaign as they sold a whopping 66 tickets in their first day of work in Oakland. The team planned to shift their efforts to San Francisco soon and general manager Bud Hastings suggested that Eddie Erdelatz could soon be dragooned into efforts to collect payments from those who chose the layaway plan.

“Coach Erdelatz has a persuasive way about him,” said Hastings. “In my opinion, he would make a crackerjack bill collector.”

San Francisco Examiner

March 4, 1961

A Game in Hawaii

Raider general manager Bud Hastings announced that the team would open their 1961 preseason slate against the Houston Oilers in Honolulu. According to Scotty Stirling of the Tribune, the game was actually a gift to the Oilers players from the team’s management for winning the AFL championship and the Raiders were just lucky beneficiaries. The Oilers would open training camp in Hawaii three weeks prior to the game.

According to an Oilers official, the plan came from owner Bud Adams. “It will be a change from the hot, humid camp we had in Texas last year,” said the unnamed official, “and the trip certainly should be enjoyable to the squad.”

The Raiders had yet to schedule their other three preseason games, but said one would likely be played in Candlestick Park, another would take place in Sacramento or Stockton, and the last would probably be against the Chargers in their new San Diego home. The team was still deciding between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa for their own training camp, with Eddie Erdelatz plumping for Santa Cruz.

Contract News

Wayne Crow, who reportedly had been at odds with management over his contract for 1961, said he thought his situation, which had involved confusion or disagreement over whether offseason payments were part of his 1960 contract, said he thought things had been “straightened out.”

John Dittrich, for his part, said he was “very happy” with his new deal. Stirling reported that Marty Feldman called Dittrich the team’s best guard.

Oakland Tribune
San Mateo Times