July 27, 1961

The Raider coaching staff held a surprise scrimmage today and afterward head coach Eddie Erdelatz offered only the very faintest of praise. “This wasn’t too bad a scrimmage for the first time,” he said, “but we’ve got an awful long way to go.”

He did single out a handful of players that performed well in his estimation. He had good words for the blocking of fullbacks Jetstream Smith and Alan Miller and said the team had “good, healthy competition” for the position. He was also happy with the effort shown by Jack Stone and Wayne Hawkins on the offensive line and by tight end Doug Asad’s much-improved work running pass patterns.

Prior to the scrimmage Scotty Stirling had filed a camp report in the Tribune the included bad news for the team involving running back Tony Teresa. In previously unreported news, Teresa had spent a week and a half in a hospital in June because of back pain and it was acting up on him again. According to Teresa it didn’t bother him during practice but got bad at night.

The hospital told him there was “swelling, causing pressure back there and the only thing that will clear it up is lots of running, and time.”

Despite the news, trainer George Anderson was pleased with the way things were going so far. “We had at least a half-dozen guys on the sidelines with muscle pulls after the first couple of days work last year,” he said. “So far this year we’ve had only one pull and that wasn’t serious. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Stirling also reported that linebacker Al Bansavage was continuing to impress his coaches. Secondary coach George Dickson said, “he has good size and speed and one other quality I greatly admire, ruggedness.”

Eddie Erdelatz said he was happy with the defense, overall: “They seem to be getting much better—greatly improved over last year at the same time. I liked the way our defensive line and linebackers were moving.”

Dickson added, “We’re not doing things too differently from a technique point of view, but (the players are) making a real effort to improve. They must set a high standard and achieve consistency. The secret of pass defense is aggressiveness, cohesion, and unity, and they’re working toward it.”

Other injury news

Guard Jim Green had his nose broken during the scrimmage, but wouldn’t miss any practice after getting a more protective facemask for his helmet

Lineup change

John Harris, who spent most of last year as a reserve in the secondary, was promoted to a starting corner position ahead of the reigning team leader in interceptions, Eddie Macon. Erdelatz said Harris had been the top defensive back in camp so far and deserved the spot.

Read more “July 27, 1961”

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 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 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.

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.

April 9, 1961

As hinted at a few days ago, the Raiders have hired George Dickson to coach their offensive backs. The 37-year-old Dickson played his college ball at Notre Dame, then took a series of assistant coaching jobs in the collegiate ranks, including at Glendale Junior College, NYU, Notre Dame, Dayton, Marquette, and USC, before landing most recently at the College of the Pacific.

Oakland Tribune

 

April 7, 1961

The Raiders announced the signing of five more free agents today: halfback Bob Cabanyog, defensive back Ted Cano, guard Tom Cousineau, halfback Herm Urenda, and defensive lineman Dave Williams.

The 22-year-old Cabanyog, a 6’1″, 205-pounder from Salinas, played his college ball at Pacific where his speed and blocking skills were particularly prized.

Cano, 23, 6’0″ and 190 pounds, went to high school in San Francisco before going north to play running back for Washington State. Given the overwhelming need for players in the secondary the Raiders were going to try him out there.

Cousineau, now 27, had been with the Raiders briefly in training camp last year, but returned to Indiana to “fulfill a high school teaching commitment” and was being given another shot at pro ball this season.

The 5’10”, 180-pound Urenda, 22, was a backfield teammate of Cabanyog at Pacific and despite good running skills in the open field was also going to be tried out in the defensive backfield.

The Raiders hoped that the 22-year-old Williams, at 6’6″ and 270 pounds, would provide more size and strength to a unit that was badly overmatched at times last season. He played his college ball at Sacramento City College.

Fresno Bee-Republican
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 16, 1961

The Raiders announced four free agent signings today: Bo Bankston, John Freim, Charley Moore, and Fred Tunnicliffe.

Bankston, at 5’10”, 200 pounds out of New Mexico, was signed to play defensive back. All All-Skyline Conference player for two years running with the Lobos, he tried out with the Steelers last year at linebacker, but was deemed too light to play at the position and was released prior to the season.

Freim, 23, was a 6’3”, 225-pound tackle from Adams State in Colorado. He earned Little All-America honorable mention for the Grizzlies last year.

This was Moore’s second go-round with the Raiders. The 6’4”, 220-pound tight end out of Northeastern State in Oklahoma had signed on August 2 last year, but was waived at the end of the month.

The speedy Tunnicliffe played end for UC-Santa Barbara setting NAIA records for receptions and receiving yards in a season in 1959. His head coach with the Gauchos that year was former Raider assistant Ed Cody. The 21-year-old stood 5’9” and weighed 175 pounds.

More AFL stats

The league released another batch of stats today, this time covering punt returns. Among teams, the Texans led the league with 15.0 yards per return. The Raiders were dead last at 5.8. Abner Haynes of Dallas led individuals with his 15.4 average. Jack Larscheid finished third bringing back 12 punts for 106 yards and an 8.8 average.

Hayward Daily Review
Oakland Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Examiner