Posts Tagged ‘George Blanda’

1960: Oilers Win 1st Official Game, 37-22

October 22, 2013
George Blanda (#16), QB of the 1960 Houston Oilers

George Blanda (#16), QB of the 1960 Houston Oilers

The weekend of September 9-11, 1960 marked the birth of the new American Football League as the time for the eight club circuit’s first four official games. Here are a few notes to help you keep track of the teams this UPI report is actually talking about. Because of certain changes and double uses, it may be confusing to newcomers as to how these mascot names have sometimes evolved, disappeared, or mutated into favor in some other cities over time:

Boston Patriots: Boston is still good enough as an identity for the Red Sox, but not the Pats. Infected by the marketing era of trying to make each club more appealing to a larger fan base area, they later became what now are, the New England Patriots. Hmmm. Makes you wonder how the Boston Red Sox ever managed to stay popular without also becoming the New England Red Sox, doesn’t it?

Buffalo Bills: They always were. Always will be. And always remain the same old Buffalo Bills. – Now, does that all three time stations description of the Buffalo Bills also make them “God”? My guess is – “only in Buffalo”.

Dallas Texans:  There’s a scent of missed irony here, among current television media people covering the 2013 NFL, at least. Maybe it’s just old news that no longer matters, but I will express it here, anyway. Last Sunday, when the Houston Texans lost 17-16 to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, they fell to the club that was originally known as the Dallas Texans. That is, before they moved from Dallas to Kansas City and became the Chiefs as part of the NFL-AFL war settlement.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos won the first official league game over Los Angeles on Friday, 9/09/1960. They have remained over time who they always were – the Denver Broncos.

Houston Oilers: Most of us in Houston know this one by heart. When the club deserted us in 1997, they took our identity with them to Tennessee to play briefly there as the Oilers before adopting an old New York moniker  and becoming the Tennessee Titans that still are today.

New York Titans: This club has no common team history with the bunch now operating in Tennessee. They had to change their nickname for the best of reasons. – The early years performance record of the New York Titans was no better than the success mark of the great steamer Titanic. All their hitting ran them straight into business icebergs that sank the ship every season. You guessed it. – They changed their name to the New York Jets and were later saved by Joe Namath.

Los Angeles Chargers: The club eventually moved south to become the club they still are today, the San Diego Chargers.

Oakland Raiders:  Theirs was the perfect identity for the “Somali Pirates” of professional football. Like Jean LaFitte too, the Raiders sometimes pulled up stakes for safer ground, but always returned to their home in the waters of Oakland. Today their middle years playing out as the Los Angeles Raiders almost seems like a bad dream that never really happened. – But it did.

In The Beginning

Now let’s take a brief look at how Houston and the others did on their first weekend of regular season play back in 1960 as the American Football League:

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Pro Football Round Up

OILERS WHIP RAIDERS, 37-22;

CHARGERS NIP TEXANS, 21-20

By United Press International

National Football League castoffs provided most of the thrills in the American Football League’s first weekend of operation, but the fans hardly knocked down the doors to watch the new pro loop’s debut.

Still, the turnout in Boston was encouraging; three of the four games were exciting, and the well-heeled and optimistic backers of the infant league were banking on the closeness of competition to help make their venture a financial as well as an artistic success.

Heavy Downpour

The New York Titans were victims of bad weather Sunday as only 9,607 (5.727 paid) turned out in a heavy downpour to see the team’s impressive victory over the Buffalo Bills, 27-3. A crowd of 12, 709 watched the Houston Oilers spoil the Oakland Raider’s first home appearance, 37-22.

At Los Angeles Saturday night, 17,724 paid to watch the home town Chargers whip the Dallas Texans, 21-20, in a battle of two of the AFL’s best teams. Boston drew the biggest house of the weekend Friday night when a crowd of 21,597 attended the Denver Broncos’ 13-10 upset victory over the Patriots.

60,000 Paid

That added up to about 60,000 paid admissions for a whole week’s schedule, but if the American Leaguers were disappointed, they didn’t show it.

“We had a bad break in the weather,” said president Harry Wismer of the Titans. “But we looked good in winning. We knew it might take a few games for the league to catch on. As the fans become aware of the close, exciting football in this league, I’m sure we (will) do better.”

NFL Refugees

George Blanda, Al Dorow, Jack Kemp, and Ben Agajanian, all refugees from the NFL, played important roles in weekend victories.

Blanda, a 12-year handyman with the Chicago Bears, passed for four touchdowns, kicked four conversions, and an 18-yard field goal in Houston’s victory over Oakland.

The outweighed Raiders gained a 7-7 halftime tie and went ahead in the third period when Ed Macon ran back a pass interception 42 yards for a TD. Blanda then passed 32 yards to Bill Groman and three yards to Johnny Carson, putting the Oilers ahead. Blanda’s field goal and an eight-yard touchdown run by Dave Smith put the game out of Oakland’s reach.

Billy Cannon, highly publicized L.S.U. All-America halfback, gained 59 yards in 12 carries for Houston.

~ excerpt from the Oxnard (CA) Press Courier, Monday, September 12, 1960, Page 9.

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Save the Dome!

Save the Dome!

 

 

“Save the Astrodome. ~ Give new life to the Eighth Wonder of the World. ~ Vote Yes on Harris County Proposition 2.”

Remembering George Blanda

December 16, 2011

George Blanda, 1st Oiler QB, 1960

Longtime NFL fans remember George Frederick Blanda as “The Grand Old Man.” Born September 17, 1927 in Youngwood, Pennsylvania, He was the son of a Slovak-born Pittsburgh area coal miner. For one thing, that just meant that George came into his adult years totally unafraid of hard work or play. You worked hard, if there was work to be done; you played hard, if there was any time left on the clock. Everything about George’s total package (his genes, his culture, and his desire) prepared him for the major recorded accomplishment of his football career: George Blanda would play 26 seasons as a professional football player, the longest such career on record. It was a career that would take Blanda through Houston during one of the most periods in the city’s sports history.

When George Blanda. came of age athletically in the golden Post World War II Era. it was a time of recovery from war for professional baseball, but more silently, at first, it served also as a time for American discovery of professional football.

George Blanda first played as a quarterback and kicker at the University of Kentucky (1945-48). The legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant arrived in Blanda’s sophomore year as the new Kentucky head coach. The Bear got there in time to take over a Wildcat team that went only 1-9 in Blanda’s freshman year, but this was back in the day that first year students were withheld from varsity play in favor of freshmen team ball.

Change was measurably positive. Kentucky lost only three games per year over the course of Blanda’s three varsity seasons (1946-48) under Bryant. Years later, upon a return visit to Kentucky, George Blanda recalled the time he met Bryant: “I thought this must be what God looks like.”

Blanda was the starting quarterback for UK during his junior and senior seasons at Kentucky (1947–1948), compiling 120 pass completions in 242 attempts (49.6 percentage) for 1,451 yards gained and 12 touchdowns.

During his first year out of college, December 17, 1949, George Blanda married Betty Harris. The couple parented and raised two children together – and they remained married until George’s death in 2010.

Blanda signed with the Chicago Bears prior to the 1949 season. Bears owner/coach George Halas gave $600 to sign, but then demanded the money back once Blanda made the team. It was very different era.

After a brief sojourn to the 1950 Baltimore Colts, Blanda was back in Chicago that same season for a nine-year rocky run with the Bears as a QB/Kicker. Blanda mostly kicked until 1953, when he moved up to starting QB just around the time America started seeing these professional games televised out of Chicago each Sunday with Red Grange calling same for both the Bears and then local Cardinals.

 On TV, the name and form of George Blanda became a redundant visual memory and Red Grange sound of what we all thought of as a professional football quarterback. What we didn’t see was the ongoing cheapskate struggling that went on between player Blanda and coach Halas. Blanda was scoring points at a record pace as a straight-on style placekicker, but he still complained that Halas was too tight to even buy him a decent kicking shoe.

Blanda retired after the 1958 season, but came out of retirement to sign with the Houston Oilers of the new American Football League in 1960. Dismissed as n over-the-hill NFL reject, Blanda showed his metal big time as starting QB and kicker for the Oilers. In 1960-61, George Blanda led the Oilers to the first two AFL championships  and in 1961 he was named as both the AFL QB and Player of the Year.

In 1961, Blanda of the Oilers threw for 3,330 yards and 36 touchdowns, the most TD passes ever thrown in a single AFL/NFL season through that time. Y.A. Title of the New York Giants tied Blanda’s 36-season TD mark in 1963 and these two men remained as joint record-holders until 1984, when Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins blew the record open as 48 TD pass completions for the season.

In 1962, Blanda also hit the ignominy scale by throwing a record 42 pass interceptions. It is a record that still stands and it was just the downside of Blanda’s all-out production drive that season. He also netted two 400 plus yard games in 1962 and almost led the Oilers to a third straight AFL title before the Boys in Columbia Blue fell in a double overtime title game loss at Jeppesen Stadium to the Dallas Texans.

The Oilers gave up on Blanda in March 1967, releasing him, they thought, into retirement, but in so doing, they simply became the second professional team to underestimate the talent and staying power of the coal miner’s son. George signed with the Oakland Raiders in the summer of 1967 as a kicker and played another nine seasons (1967-75). All he did was lead the AFL in scoring (116 points) in his first season (1967) as a kicker.

Blanda helped the Raiders reach the Super Bowl and he even took them to the brink of nearly derailing the 1975 version of Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain. The Raiders didn’t win, but their loss to the Steelers on January 4, 1976, the 48-year old Blanda kicked a 41-yard field goal and an extra point in the Raiders’ 16-10 loss. What a man, this guy George Blanda was.

 Crowning his many achievements. George Blanda was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

George Blanda died on September 27, 2010 in Alameda, California at the age of 83.

During his lifetime, his major playing records include these:

Blanda holds the following professional football records:

  • Passing TDs in a game: 7 (Tied with 4 others) November 19, 1961 vs. New York Titans
  • Most seasons played: 26 (1949–58, 1960–75)
  • Most seasons scoring a point: 26
  • One of three players to play in 4 different decades: (40s, 50s, 60s, 70s)
  • Most PATs made (943) and attempted (959)
  • Most interceptions thrown, single season: 42 (1962)
  • Held record of most pass attempts in a single game: 68 (37 completions, vs. New York Titans on 11/1/1961) until 1994 when Drew Bledsoe had 70
  • Oldest person to play in an NFL game: 48 years, 109 days
  • First player ever to score over 2,000 points
  • Oldest quarterback to start a title game
  • Most total points accounted for (including TD passes) in a career: 3,418 (not an official stat)