July 26, 1961

Jim Otto dropped a bombshell on the team today by announcing he would play out his option after the season and seek a spot in the NFL next year, according to George Ross of the Tribune. Unsurprisingly, money was at the heart of it. He and the Raiders were “several thousand dollars” apart from an agreement and Otto said he wasn’t “going to budge.” He also said he knew of three NFL teams that would pay him what he was asking for.

Otto, who made $8,000 last year, said he “was disappointed after winning the all-league honor last season. This usually brings a bonus from the club, $500 to $1,000 from some clubs. I got just one thing, a (newspaper) clipping somebody sent me. I want to be able to retire with something when I finish playing. It’s not just the salary, either. It’s a matter of off-season opportunities, too.

“We have a great bunch of guys on this club and this is the best coaching staff I’ve ever played under. But this is, after all, a profession. I had to prove I could make the team last year and after making it, I went out to prove I was the best. I think that’s worth a good raise.”

Bud Hastings, who was also trying to come to an agreement with Tom Louderback, said, “We’re still trying to work the thing out. We’ll talk to him (Otto) in a couple of days.”

Thinning the crew

Raider training camp was in full swing today and a new series of cuts were in. Five men, all of whom where free agent signings during the offseason were placed on waivers: running back Bo Bankston, defensive back Clive Bullian, linebacker Dick Carlsen, defensive back Grover Garvin, and defensive back Ed Whittle. Also, the team finally got in touch with defensive lineman Ramon Armstrong, who told them he was retiring from football to help run his father’s ranch back home in Texas.

Armstrong’s decision left the Raiders short on both lines. Eddie Erdelatz said, “We’ll have to figure on some position changes to strengthen both spots,” and suggested that some prayer wouldn’t hurt, either.

Camp news

Scotty Stirling’s camp report in the Tribune included news of a “near fight” between Al Bansavage and Bob Coolbaugh, and Tommy Kalmanir’s praise for the work of running backs Oneal Cuttery, Alan Miller, Jetstream Smith, and Tony Teresa. Joe Cannavino, Wayne Crow, and Bob Voight also looked good.

Stirling said Erdelatz was already installing his new defense and that he was pleased at how fast the veterans were catching on. “We are throwing the stuff at them fast,” he said, “and they seem to like the change.”

Linebacker Bob Dougherty concurred, “Coach Erdelatz is doing a lot more coaching with the defense than he did last year and I’m confident we’ll be a lot tougher.”

Read more “July 26, 1961”

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.

December 28, 1960

Both the Associated Press and United Press International announced their all-AFL teams today and several Raiders found themselves named.

Center Jim Otto made AP first-team and UPI second-team. Defensive back Eddie Macon was picked first-team by the UPI but wasn’t mentioned by the AP. Defensive back Joe Cannavino and linebacker Bob Dougherty made second-team UPI. Honorable mentions for the AP were guard John Dittrich, linebacker Tom Louderback, guard Don Manoukian, and defensive end Charley Powell. Dittrich was also a UPI honorable mention as was fullback Billy Lott.

Associated Press
United Press International

December 17, 1960

The Raiders saved their best for last, turning in a dominating performance, including 31 fourth quarter points, to beat the Broncos 48-10.

The morning’s discovery of damage to Candlestick Park’s goal posts led to some frantic activity, but repairs were completed by game time. The Broncos came to town with a 4-8-1 record and had gone seven games without a win. The Raiders at 5-8, with a three-game losing streak of their own, needed a win here to avoid the Western Division basement. With these modest stakes on the line a crowd of just 5,159 showed up to see the locals end the season in style.

After the Oakland defense forced a three-and-out on the opening drive, Tom Flores and the offense moved to the Denver 11 in 12 plays where Larry Barnes opened the scoring with an 18-yard field goal. Later in the period, the Broncos evened the score with a 37-yarder from Gene Mingo. Babe Parilli replaced Flores after that but couldn’t get his team in the end zone. Eddie Erdelatz sent Flores back in with about five minutes to go in the second and the team promptly responded going five plays to score, with Flores getting the last few inches on a sneak. Read more “December 17, 1960”

October 18, 1960

The team got some bad news today when fullback Billy Lott, one of the heroes in the Patriots game, pulled a hamstring in practice. The severity was unknown, but the team said he was doubtful to play this Sunday against the Bills.

Despite the setback, Eddie Erdelatz was cautiously enthusiastic about his team. While refusing to get caught up in talk of a title run this year, he said the potential was there down the road.

Citing the youth of his team, he said, “With two years experience and added weight, they could lick ’em all. Lack of experience has hurt us this year and maybe the lack of weight, but just figure a guy like Oglesby, for instance. Right now he is 23, stands 6’4″, and weighs almost 230. In two years, he’ll be close to 260, with two full years experience behind him. And it is the same with almost all our young kids. Crow, Prebola, Goldstein, Cannavino, Fields. Right down the line we have young, first-year men in key spots. They are bound to make mistakes, but they are an intelligent bunch, so we don’t have too many men making the same mistakes twice.”

Oakland Tribune

October 16, 1960

Final statistics

 

The Patriots hadn’t lost a game on the road and the Raiders hadn’t won at home, but that was all out the window at the end. It was probably the Raiders’ best game to date, but they were also lucky to get away with a 27-14 win over the Patriots on an unseasonably warm afternoon at Kezar Stadium.

Almost immediately, things began to go Oakland’s way. On the second play from scrimmage at the Raider 13, Jack Larscheid, starting in place of Tony Teresa, took a pitch from Tom Flores and took it 87 yards for a score. And if that weren’t a rousing enough start, Ron Burton fumbled on Boston’s first offensive play and Carmen Cavalli recovered for Oakland at the Patriot 31. Flores couldn’t move his team much closer and the score stayed 7-0 when Larry Barnes’s 40-yard field goal attempt came up short.

Most of the rest of the quarter was a punting duel. The Patriots did get close enough to give Gino Cappelletti a chance to kick one from 47 yards out, but his attempt was short, too. Frustrated with Flores’s inability to move his team after the first drive, Eddie Erdelatz put in Babe Parilli late in the quarter, but on his second play Bob Soltis picked him off and returned it back to the Raider 9. Three plays later, Alan Miller took it in to score from the 2, but Riley Morris, in the game despite numerous reports saying he wouldn’t play, blocked Cappelletti’s extra point attempt and the Raiders kept the lead. Read more “October 16, 1960”

October 9, 1960

It started out slowly enough but got wild in the second half. The Texans got on the board first with a long drive in the second period, but Oakland head coach Eddie Erdelatz gave his team an ass-chewing at halftime that spurred them on to a 20-19 nail-biting victory over the Texans in Dallas.

Read more “October 9, 1960”

September 7, 1960

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.”

Montana State University football media guide
Oakland Tribune

1. The author was probably Scotty Stirling, but no byline was included.

 

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.

August 19, 1960

It was one of those late August evenings in San Francisco where the first hint of autumn chill reminded everyone that summer doesn’t last forever. A stiff breeze off the water was present as usual, but there was a thick fog filling the bowl of Kezar Stadium that refused to budge. It was hard to know if it was the weather that kept people away, or if it was simple disinterest, but just 6,521 curiosity-seekers came out to watch the Chargers play the Raiders in the first meeting of these California rivals.

Read more “August 19, 1960”