July 25, 1961

Not everyone showed up for training camp on time, as it turned out. While George Fleming’s absence to train with the College All-Star team was known and excused, the Raiders reported today that defensive tackle Ramon Armstrong hadn’t shown up either, and hadn’t contacted the team at all. Efforts by the team to reach him had gone for naught so far.

Oakland Tribune

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.”

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

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.

January 27, 1961

Today the Raiders announced their biggest signing of the offseason so far, inking halfback George Fleming to a contract. From the University of Washington, Fleming was the team’s second-round pick and the sixth-round pick of the Chicago Bears. To convince him to sign with Oakland, Eddie Erdelatz traveled to Seattle to speak with him in person. After the deal was announced, the Raider head coach was “elated.” “Needless to say, we’re very pleased to sign our number two draft choice,” he said. “He’s an outstanding football player and I’m confident he’ll see plenty of action with the Raiders. We plan to use him as a flanker back and also expect to utilize his ability as a placekicker. He’ll help us in several spots.”

Fleming had played quarterback with the Huskies and had been named co-outstanding player in the 1960 Rose Bowl.

In other news, supporters of a multi-purpose stadium in Oakland received encouraging news. Word came out that the American League had identified Oakland as likely site for Major League Baseball expansion by 1964. In response, the chair of the Oakland Coliseum Committee, Robert Nahas, responded by saying, “This gives us a great impetus to proceed with all speed along the lines we are now pursuing with the construction of an all-purpose stadium.” The committee was, at present, trying to fill out the directorship for the non-profit corporation tasked with getting the project underway.

Hayward Daily Review
Oakland Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle

January 24, 1961

The Raiders signed three more players today, but George Fleming was not one of them. The inking of the team’s second-round pick had been thought to be imminent, but Fleming was quoted today as saying, “I never said I’d decided on the Raiders. I haven’t decided on anything yet. So far as I’m concerned, everything is still open.”

A Raiders spokesperson said, “We can’t make any announcement until we actually sign him.”

The first player they did sign was their 21st-round choice, quarterback Mike Jones out of San Jose State, who had also been selected by the Steelers in the 20th round of the NFL draft. Jones, at 6’1” and 200 pounds, completed 71 of 152 passes for 1,049 yards with the Spartans in 1960 and had been an honorable mention All-America choice. Assistant coach Marty Feldman said Jones “has a strong arm and is a fine thinker.”

The team also signed 6’1”, 230-pound guard Roger Fisher of Utah State. The Raiders’ 23rd-round pick had been a two-year letterman on both sides of the line for the Aggies. He had started his college career at Modesto Junior College.

Finally, the Raiders signed free agent guard Arnold Metcalf from Oregon State. At 6’4” and 250 pounds, Metcalf was 25, having spent two years in the army after his college stint had ended.

Oakland Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle

January 19, 1961

A report appeared in a Seattle newspaper that the Raiders’ 2nd-round pick, University of Washington halfback George Fleming, had said he would sign with Oakland. This was the first the team had heard of it and no deal had been officially announced. Fleming said he had spoken with both the Raiders and the Bears, who had picked him in the 6th round of the NFL draft, and added that the Raiders were ready to meet his salary demands and use him as a flanker and placekicker.

San Francisco Chronicle

January 12, 1961

San Francisco Chronicle scribe Darrell Wilson wrote about the Raiders’ poor luck signing draft choices. Except for a couple of late round picks, the team had announced no other agreements. Of the first six choices, five had signed elsewhere: Joe Rutgens with the Redskins, Myron Pottios with the Steelers, Elbert Kimbrough with the Rams, Dick Norman with the Bears, and Bobby Crespino to the Browns. Only their second-round pick, George Fleming, had yet to sign and the Raiders were still hoping to nab him.

Player personnel director Wes Fry hastened to say the team had “signed about seven players. We’ll make the announcement soon. I think we’ll do a lot better from here on in. Things are looking up. As a whole, the AFL is doing a pretty good job. Of the league’s first 100 draft choices, we definitely have signed 29 and have lost 24 to the NFL and 3 to Canada. Of the first 50, we’ve signed 15 and have lost 15 to the NFL.”

Head coach Eddie Erdelatz, upon hearing that his team had signed seven players, asked, “Have we? Are they drafted players?” He said he wasn’t complaining, but said, “Any coach would be unhappy to lose five of the first six draft choices. We’ll be very happy to sign anybody. However, it’s really not my place to talk about these things. Ask the club officials.”

San Francisco Chronicle

November 21, 1960

The AFL announced the results of the first five rounds of their college draft. The Raiders went with tackle Joe Rutgens, a former All-American selection out of Illinois with their first choice. The complete list of their picks follows:

  • 1st round, T Joe Rutgens, Illinois
  • 2nd round, HB George Fleming, Washington
  • 3rd round, G Myron Pottios, Notre Dame
  • 4th round, E Elbert Kimbrough, Northwestern
  • 5th round, QB Dick Norman, Stanford

Locally, Norman got the most attention for obvious reasons, but he was playing it cool. “I’ll play where the money is,” he said. “I know what I want and if they don’t give it to me I just won’t play. If the pros don’t meet my terms I won’t even bother to turn out. I’ll just go back to school.”

The teams would make a sixth pick in a couple of days with the remaining 24 rounds coming sometime in December.

In stadium news, it was announced that the meeting between city and county officials to make a decision about a site and a funding plan, scheduled for tomorrow, would be postponed until December 7. This would give the parties time to make further investigations into the legal questions surrounding the proposal.

Associated Press
Oakland Tribune