Some personal remembrances:
In 1966, Billy Sullivan, who had once been the Boston Braves publicity director, made a big deal about having two former Heisman Trophy winners on the squad - Joe Bellino and John Huarte. Because Babe Parilli got hurt at the end of a game, Huarte was announced as the starter for the next context. Sullivan did a big PR push on "our two Heisman winners" in the Patriots backfield. The first time that Huarte got the ball, he flubbed the handoff to Bellino who promptly fumbled it.
At one time, one third of the team was either from BC, BU, Holy Cross, or Northeastern. Those schools would alternate their bands for the halftime entertainment.
Temporary bleachers covered the left-field wall at Fenway during the football season. About 5,000 fans could sit there. At the end of the game, you could walk across the field in order to get to the exits behind the Red Sox dugout.
The Patriots played in a blizzard for the 1964 AFL Eastern Division in mid December against their rivals, the Buffalo Bills. Over fifteen inches of snow fell in Boston that day. Sadly, we lost by 8 points.
In the mid-sixties, their backup quarterback, Tommy Yewcic, was their punter. When he got hurt during one game, starting quarterback Babe Parilli punted for him.
Dom and Emily DiMaggio had season tickets next to my parents. At the time, Dom wanted to buy the Patriots outright from Billy Sullivan. Dom thought that Billy Sullivan was an absolute buffoon.
Sherm Feller did the public address announcing for a spell. Art Gleason, Ned Martin, and Bob Starr all served as the voices of the Boston Patriots. Years later, when they were playing in Foxboro, Curt Gowdy was their radio play-by-play man in 1987.
They never had extra subway cars for the Patriots. It was not a good idea to take the Green Line in for games, though we often did it.
Offensive lineman Justin Canale used to kick off Lou Groza style (straight-on) and the kicks would often soar. One time, he struck a ball so long that it landed deep into the end zone and one-hopped into the Red Sox bullpen.
The Souvenir Shop was open before games and did sell some Patriots jerseys and banners. I bought a Jim Nance shirt there before the big Buffalo game in 1966.
They practiced in White Stadium near Logan Airport because Tom Yawkey refused to let them use Fenway for anything but games.
I once saw them play in a classic, wide-open style AFL game - a 49-49 tie with the Oakland Raiders at Fenway.
When the Pats played at BC, the capacity was only 29,500 people. When they used to show someone punting the ball, most of the time all one could see on TV was the football in the air with trees in the background (as the stands were that low). Talk about playing in the sticks.
In 1969, a certified nut case, the late Clive Rush, coached the team. The former offensive coordinator of the then World Champion New York Jets, Rush brought in such ex-Jets as Randy Beverly and Bake Turner to bring "the winning attitude" to the Pats. Rush was a talker – not a doer – a man, my late father once claimed, who could out bullshit Mr. Bullshit, Patriots Owner Billy Sullivan. At his first press conference when he was introduced, Rush almost died when a live wire he touched shocked him to his very core. He was never the same man again.
When the Pats lost a blowout game in San Diego late in that season, Coach Rush actually ordered the bus driver to drive down the off-ramp of the California Freeway in the opposite direction in order to punish the players. In the beginning stages of alcoholism, Rush drank Scotch like it was Gatorade.
The infamous BC fire? Oh, I was there - running for my life after some shithead had discarded a cigarette in a trash heat under the stands which then ignited them. We were playing the Redskins that day in August (an exhibition game), and some ten thousand of us sprinted onto to the field while the game was still being played. Needles to say, play stopped, and I ended up shaking hands with Sonny Jerguson as the smoke encircled Alumni Field.
When the Pats then moved to Harvard Stadium for the 1970 season, they used to dress at the Colonnade as Harvard refused to have them use the Harvard locker rooms. An hour before game time, both teams would emerge in a local hotel lobby fully dressed for the game. They would then be shuttled over to the Stadium and enter the park with the fans.
When the great Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts came to Cambridge to play the Boston Patriots in late September that year, the Pats actually played their best game of the season. With a minute left in the game, Gino Cappeletti struck a field goal to make the score, 7-6, Colts. Clive Rush called for an onside kick. To his great surprise, the kick went to one of the up-men, Tom Matte, who picked up the ball and ran untouched for six points. Why? Because the entire Patriots kickoff team had overrun the ball. The Colts fan sitting next to me laughed so hard that he cried. So did every Pats fan.
After Rush was fired, he was replaced by the immortal John Mazur, a man who had an Eddie Kasko-like demeanor as compared to the shiftless, alcoholic Rush. When Mazur was asked what he would do differently from Rush, he famously stated, "No comment".
When Billy Sullivan decided to sign holdout Joe Kapp, the celebrated former quarterback of the Champion Minnesota Vikings, he had the temerity to put Kapp in a uniform after arriving in Boston two hours before game time in front of forty thousand smashed Pats fans who then screamed for Kapp to get into the game. When Pats quarterback Mike Taliaferro had his bell rung in the fourth quarter, the fans began to scream for Kapp, simultaneously cheering when Taliaferro was helped off the field on a stretcher. Kapp entered the huddle not knowing one Patriots play. In the end, in pick-up game style, he fingered in the Stadium dirt where each receiver and running back should go. His throws looked like kickoffs.
Joe Kapp’s best game was in after a raging snowstorm at the Stadium in December when he nearly knocked Alan Page out after tackling him. Another funny thing about that game: Harvard forgot to plow out the Stadium. Thus, we all sat in 2-3 foot drifts which made snowball throwing that day a must. The referees almost called the game for the Vikings when entire sections decided to target one Viking and hurl their snowballs at one unfortunate player - quarterback Gary Cuozzo.
When the Pats moved to Foxboro, the sign on the Bay State Racetrack proclaimed proudly, "Welcome Bay State Patriots!" It took an intervention on behalf of Pete Rozelle to have Billy Sullivan change the name from the Bay State to the New England Patriots.
Phil Bengston replaced John Mazur as the interim head coach in the middle of a horrendous 1972 campaign. Bengston had been Lombardi's number one assistant and had replaced him as the Packers coach. After Bengston did his time in Foxboro, he was reported to have said, "That's it. I am never going to do anything connected to pro football again." He died not long afterwards. The Patriots killed him in the end.
I can tell you from firsthand experience, the toilets did not work very well at the new Schaeffer Stadium. There was a flood in one which seeped out of one of the exits and began slowly to spill onto the field.
When Schaeffer Stadium opened up in 1971 with a regular season contest against the Oakland Raiders (won by the Jim Plunkett-led Patriots), some Pats fans hired a local airplane sign firm out of Norwood Airport that flew over the Stadium with a banner that read, "Keep Gayle Knief!" Gayle Knief was a hard-working, overachieving, diminutive wide receiver who had just been released earlier that week by Head Coach John Mazur. At the time, he was one of the most popular of the Pats players. When the team won the 2002 Super Bowl, the first thing my brother said to me on the phone, "It's a long way from the 'Bring Back Gayle Knief' days."
Steve Kiner was an all-time stoner who was also a pretty good linebacker for the Patriots in the early seventies. That said, he was a walking freak show who actually lived in a VW bus in the Schaffer Stadium parking lot with his hippie girlfriend. They used to smoke weed in the bus and then take long walks around the parking lot at dusk. Kiner was a Dead Head - their music could be loudly heard from his VW bus all hours of the day.
At Schaeffer Stadium, the Pats decided to hire a guy by the name of Jumping Joe Garlick to jump from three hundred feet above the stadium and free-fall to a large balloon mattress below during halftime of the first Monday night game ever played in Foxboro (on election eve, November, 1972). Just as Garlack jumped, a stream of air picked up, and Garlick's descent suddenly seemed out-of-kilter, Ol' Jumping Joe ended up landing half on the edge of the mattress and nearly died. the guy sitting next to me said, "It looks like that guy works for the McGovern campaign."
When the Pats clinched a playoff berth one year, a group of fans tore down the north goal post and began to carry it down Route 1. They hit a hot wire with it and almost all perished due to being electrocuted. My father said at the time, "Maybe the are all relatives of Clive Rush."
A note to all you youngsters: relish this time. The good old days were not the Mel Witt, Ike Lassiter, Halvor Hagen, R. C. Gamble, John Outlaw Patriots. It makes what happens over the past six seasons all the more remarkable.
Edited by jacklamabe65, 11 January 2007 - 10:55 AM.