With the basketball game against the 49ers just two days away, Raiders coach Tom Louderback announced the team’s lineup: 6’3” George Fields at center, Wayne Crow and Tom Flores, both 6’1”, at forward, and 6’0” Charlie Hardy and 5’9” Tony Teresa at guard. On the bench would be John Harris, Jack Larscheid, Jetstream Smith, and Ron Warzeka.
The 5-7 Raiders came back from ten points down to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t hold on as the 6-6 Titans scored late and won 31-28 at Candlestick Park. The weather was mild but with the team out of the running a disappointing crowd of only 9,037 showed up to watch an exciting game.
The Titans came roaring out of the tunnel and dominated the first quarter. On the second play from scrimmage Art Powell went long, caught Al Dorow’s pass at the Oakland 40, and dodged various members of the Raider secondary for a 73-yard touchdown. While the Raider offense stumbled repeatedly, the Titans entered Oakland territory twice more and only Bill Shockley’s errant kicking foot kept his team from expanding their lead further.
It wasn’t until just before the end of the quarter that the Raider found their sea legs and embarked a ten-play drive resulting in Nyle McFarlane’s nifty 14-yard touchdown catch of a Tom Flores pass to even the score. The Titans responded to that bit of spirit by driving 89 yards in return, scoring on Dorow’s 12-yard keeper up the middle. Neither team accomplished much more before the half, though the Titans did get Shockley another chance on the last play. John Harris blocked his 31-yard field goal attempt and the Raiders were down just 14-7 at the interval despite a subpar effort. Read more “December 11, 1960”
Despite his team’s elimination from the championship hunt, Eddie Erdelatz still had personnel choices to make. After the release of Al Hoisington, Charlie Hardy was having to play virtually the entire game at receiver as the team had no designated backup at his position. As a remedy, Erdelatz planned to use John Harris on offense for the first time this year. Harris would still get his snaps in on defense but would spell Hardy periodically in the last two games of the season.
The Raider coach also said he was reducing practice time to an hour each day. “The players are in great physical shape and they know the plays backward and forward by this time, so I can’t see any reason for lengthy practices.”
In the front office, rumors of discord among the owners continued to brew. The latest topic was ticket prices for 1961. Chet Soda acknowledged that the team had discussed reducing prices for next year, though he said, “I personally do not think it’s necessary.” Addressing talk that there would be a change at general manager, he added, “It’s been mostly palaver up to now. There’s been a lot of talk and no changes yet, you’ll notice.” So far, the other owners had continued to refer all questions about the running of the team to Soda.
Soda also weighed in on Joe Foss’s decision yesterday regarding Al Bansavage. “It was a positive infraction,” he said, “What the penalty should be, I don’t know. But it should be a really stiff one to teach everyone in the league, ourselves included, that we can’t just go ahead and do as we please.”
Soda had good things to say about the team’s first experience at Candlestick Park. “The main thing we were concerned with was the wind factor,” he said, “but that doesn’t appear to be a problem this time of year. I think Candlestick is a very, very good place to play football. The visibility was outstanding. It certainly is a better spot than Kezar.” As far as continuing there next year, he said, “That decision has not definitely been made but we don’t have much choice.” The only negative that had appeared so far was a number of players complaining about burns they received from the lime used to mark the lines on the field.
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Team trainer George Anderson reported that Charley Powell was doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Bills because of his badly bruised ribs. To take his place on the end of the line George Fields would slide over from tackle and taking Fields’ place would be Ramon Armstrong, Don Deskins, or Ron Warzeka. The Raiders were shifting personnel in the secondary, too. Eddie Erdelatz was benching safety Wayne Crow for unspecified reasons. Alex Bravo would move from his corner spot to take Crow’s place, with John Harris moving in at starting cornerback. Erdelatz wouldn’t comment on the benching, but observers said that Crow’s play had gotten “sloppy.”
In broader league news, Chargers owner Barron Hilton, quoting a conversation with Lamar Hunt, said that all eight AFL teams would return in 1961 and play in the same city as this season. “This goes for Oakland, (too),” said Hilton, “There have been some reports that Chet Soda, co-owner of the Raiders, might move the franchise, but Soda says he will definitely have an Oakland team in 1961.”
As the roster deadline approached the Raiders continued to move pieces, dropping four and adding one. The four players let go were end Dan Edgington, halfbacks John Harris and Brad Myers, and center Mac Starnes. Edgington was perhaps a bit of a surprise as he had been penciled in as a starter opposite Charlie Hardy as recently as the last week of August, but he hadn’t caught a pass in the preseason and with Alan Goldstein and Tony Teresa being considered for the spot, Edgington was apparently expendable. Harris was another who seemed to have a spot on the team, but he had been battling knee problems and the Raiders were comparatively deep in the defensive backfield. Myers was still another who held promise, but he couldn’t get past Teresa, Billy Lott, and Jack Larscheid. Starnes’ release was simple: Jim Otto was already on the roster.
The new player was 6’1″, 220-pound fullback JD “Jetstream” Smith1, out of Compton Junior College. Smith, claimed off waivers from the Chargers, had played against the Raiders on August 19, but hadn’t made the stat sheet. With his combination of speed and power, he could be expected to challenge Lott for the starting fullback spot.
These moves left the Raiders with the mandated 33 players in time for the September 6 deadline.
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1Smith has been identified in several different ways by the press and other sources. Most of the papers at the time referred to him at Jetstream or Jet. Others used the name Jim, while still others called him JD. To confuse matters further, Pro Football Reference lists a total of three JD Smith’s playing in the pros at this time. In addition to Jetstream, there was a HB-FB JD Smith who played in the NFL from 1956-66, mostly with the 49ers, but also with the Bears and Cowboys, and an offensive tackle JD Smith who played with the Eagles and Lions from 1959-66. With no definitive answer and no idea which name Smith himself prefers, the Logbook will refer to him as JD to maintain consistency with Pro Football Reference. If anyone knows different, please let me know.
Raider co-owner Robert Osborne reaffirmed that his group was serious about landing an American League baseball team for Oakland. “Several of the Raider owners are interested in the baseball project,” he said, “and we hope to go after the franchise with the same vigor as we did the football thing.”
Speaking of the football thing, the team was trying to determine who would be able to take the field against Boston. Tom Flores was back to throwing the ball and showing few, if any, effects from his recent shoulder injury, but Eddie Erdelatz still had no plans to play him in the game. His tight end, Gene Prebola, who sat out the Buffalo game, was doubtful for this one, too. Also doing time in the trainer’s room were halfback Dean Philpott and defensive back John Harris, both of whom were battling knee sprains.
In league news, the AFL announced that the regular season roster limit would be 35 instead of 33, giving teams a little more depth, a need felt especially by injury-prone teams like the Raiders. Teams would still have to make a preliminary cut to 38 by August 30. The Raiders currently had 43 players on the squad.
The team had a day off following the game, but head coach Eddie Erdelatz took that time to review the films, and based on what he saw, cut five players the following morning: halfbacks Alex Gardner and Ray Peterson, tackle Willie Boykin, guard Bob Harrison, and defensive back Bob Fails. He then added one back in the person of 6’1″, 185-pound halfback John Harris, formerly of Santa Monica Junior College. Harris combined speed and strength as a runner for the Corsairs and made first team All-Metro Conference in 1957 and later spent a season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Most recently, he had been in Chargers camp, but had been waived, giving the Raiders a chance to pick him up. Also returning to the team was tackle Fred Fehn, who had spent the past couple of weeks nursing a leg injury. This put the head count at 48, five over the limit of the first mandatory cut on August 22.
Erdelatz said he found no surprises in the movies. “We’ll try and correct the mistakes made in that game before going on to the new stuff,” he said. “They performed well considering everything and we’re expecting considerable improvement by the time we play New York.” To that end, he held a surprise 90-minute scrimmage that focused on improving both the running and the passing game.
Afterward, even more changes were made. Guard Charlie Kaaihue, a potential first-teamer who had been temporarily sidelined because of injury, was cut for what was reported as “disciplinary reasons.” The team also announced the signing of yet two more players, fullback Jim Varnado, and end Charles Moore. Additionally, Erdelatz made an offensive line adjustment, moving Ron Sabal from right guard to right tackle, in place of Don Churchwell. Don Manoukian moved in to take Sabal’s spot at guard. And, finally, Varnado’s signing meant a move for Brad Myers from fullback to halfback.
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