A Sam Gruneisen Photo Collection

autographed 1964 topps sam gruneisen

One of the benefits of running this site has been connecting with players and their families online, and exchanging stories and photos.

Through a couple of mutual friends, I have been able to connect with the late Sam Gruneisen’s son, Scott.  We exchanged a few Facebook messages on Sunday, the 50th anniversary of the Chargers 1963 AFL championship.  Scott told me that he still has one of his dad’s Chargers jerseys, and that he proudly wore it about town that day, not only to recognize the ’63 Chargers, but in an effort to cheer on the ’13 Chargers as well.  I told Scott that I had several photos of his father, and that I would try to post them soon.  So here are a handful of images of Sam Gruneisen from throughout his football career.

autographed 1966 topps sam gruneisen

#124 – Sam Gruneisen

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Todd Tobias (640 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.



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12 Responses to A Sam Gruneisen Photo Collection

  1. Buzz Ponce says:

    Great photos Todd, and a great tribute to a great guy. Man, those shots bring back some outstanding memories of the Chargers Escondido training camp. I think a couple may have been from the one summer at Rough Acres, too? I remember Sam as being a quiet, unassuming, all-around good guy. One of the few players who would always have time to say hello and chat — even to a lowly ball boy. Thanks for posting!

  2. Virgil Baldon, Jr. says:

    What a wonderful gallery of photos! Sam and I share the same hometown of Louisville…he was all-state at St. Xavier High in the late 1950′s, a standout at Villanova, and of course with the Chargers and Oilers. He was an example of the bigger (245 lbs.+) yet fast centers in the AFL who had to handle many more odd-man and head-up defensive fronts than NFL centers, many of whom wore down to as little as 225 lbs at the end of the season.

  3. I invite anybody to tell me more about this guy. I hadn’t heard of him before today. Was he the starting center on the ’63 team? I’d just like to hear more about him.

    Most of the pictures look like they’re from the late ’60′s/early ’70′s, based on the hairstyles, the fact that they’re playing the Vikings, and the fact that somebody other than Paul Lowe is wearing #23.

    And I’m wondering who the players are on the Chargers basketball team (Picture #6). I recognize Earl Faison wearing #48, and I see Gruneison next to Faison. Who else was on the team, and does anybody recall seeing them play?
    I’m curious as to whether they played any pickup games against some of the San Diego Rockets, like Elvin Hayes, Mike Newlin, Calvin Murphy, and Rudy T.

  4. stephen grooms says:

    Great job, and that is Paul Lowe wearing #23. I did see the basketball team play against the Rams in the late 60′s. The picture looks like Walt Sweeny to the left, Speedy Duncan and Jacque MacKinnon on the right of the top row. Ernie Wright is the middle of the first row.

  5. Al Avallone says:

    The basketball picture was Sweeney,Faison,Grueneisen, Mac Kinnon,looks like Carolan,Wright, looks like Mitinger.Kid unknown.I may be right on all but carolan and Mitinger.Met Sam when he owned Grueneisen’s Produce in La Mesa in the 70′s. Real good guy and had a nice conversation with him.

  6. 1967 says:

    I wasn’t a Chargers fan to the extent I could recognize all their players but I ‘think’ the guy in the bottom left/first row is Steve Tensi and not Reg Carolan, which would place the picture sometime in 1965 or 1966, as Tensi left SD for DEN in ’67 and Carolan went on to play for KC later, in 1964.

  7. Geoffrey Hollenbeck says:

    It’s DEFINITELY Steve Tensi (far L) and Bob Mitinger (far Rt) on the bottom, w/
    (as already ID’d) Wright (bott.), Sweeney, Faison, Gruneisen, Duncan, and MacKinnon (top). I had been (last) cut from my h.s. basketball team, so I played on my church’s men’s bball team…w/ MacKinnon as our center; he was a STUD, leading rebounder and 2nd-leading scorer in the league! ‘Twas a real shame the way he died a few yrs. later…but he WAS a hard-drinkin’, rambunctious (albeit VERY intelligent [Colgate]), FUN guy!

  8. billd says:

    Great photos of a true professional. Sam played pro ball for 12 years. While at college, Sam was the placekicker for Villanova and also a college teammate of Billy Joe, the 1963 AFL rookie of the year.
    Got a kick out of the one third quart Golden Arrow milk containers on the lunch/dinner table. Used to buy those for a nickle from my high school cafeteria back in the 1960′s.

  9. Virgil Baldon, Jr. says:

    Matt, I believe Don Rogers #52 was the starting C on the 1963 team. Grueneisen was the first reserve at C and G until he took over at C in 1964 or ’65…not sure which year Sam was promoted. I do know the ’63 line was: E. Wright, P. Shea, D. Rogers, W. Sweeney, R. Mix and D. Kocourek (or J. Mackinnon, or both in 2-TE sets, a Gillman innovation).

    • billd says:

      Sam took over center in 1965, but played a lot in 62 and 63. Also, Sam Deluca was the starting left guard and Pat Shea the starting right guard in 1963. Sweeney was learning a new position while causing havoc to opponents as a special teams player.

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