Bob Mitinger – August 28, 2000
San Diego Chargers – 1962-1966, 1968
TT – Tell me about who scouted you and how you came to the Chargers.
BM – To the best of my recollection, I had been a known property by Al Davis. Al Davis, at the time, was working on Sid’s staff. He had recruited me in high school, to go to the University of Southern California, which I didn’t do. I went to Penn State. But periodically, probably my junior year at Penn State, when I was named as an All-American for whatever reason, Al Davis had gone through to see what Penn State was doing and we exchanged pleasantries again at that time. And then when I graduated I was contacted, again by Al Davis. Would I be interested in coming to San Diego? Certainly I would be. And we talked that they were going to try to draft me. And then there was an original draft, and I was drafted by the Washington Redskins and by the Buffalo Bills. The American League, the first draft for whatever reason was negated and the second time around I was drafted by San Diego. I guess that’s how they made that determination. I know that when we played in Boston, that senior year, that I had met Sid Gillman and Al Davis for the first time. They made known that they were going to be in the stands and watch the game.
TT – Were you concerned at all, signing with the AFL?
BM – No, I wasn’t. My first contract was guaranteed, personally by Barron Hilton. My father and my brother were attorneys and at the time when there was some concern whether or not the AFL would survive, my original contract actually I believe, was with the Hilton Hotel chain and was executed as an employee of Hilton Hotels. On the side there was a second agreement between the San Diego Chargers and me, and there was a second agreement between me and the Hilton Hotel chain.
TT – Tell me about Sid Gillman.
BM – Sid was a unique individual. If you don’t think he’s unique, let me ask you if you’ve ever seen another coach to this day, who appears in bow tie and sports jacket on the sideline. He had great vision. We all are here to confirm that, because he hired us to play for the San Diego Chargers. And so we would like to say that he always had good judgment. He early on recognized that you have to have speed and quickness and courage. And even today, when they say that the current teams are better than the other teams, 4.5 or 4.6 in the 40 is still the same, quickness is still the same and courage is still the same. That doesn’t change.
TT – Tell me about playing in Balboa Stadium.
BM – Well, it never bothered me what stadium you played on. Every stadium was 100 yards long and 53 1/3 yards wide. At Penn State, with Rip Engel and Joe Paterno, we were always taught, if you are playing at another field, just pretend that the opposing crowd is cheering for you. And if they’re not cheering for you, don’t bother about them and don’t be concerned. When you’re playing at home, enjoy it. But every place you play is still 100 yards. So I wasn’t really much concerned about where we played, other than whether it was raining, whether it was snowing, whether it was windy. That’s the only concern I had. It was very hot sometimes when the Santa Ana conditions were around, playing in that. There was no wind.
TT – How were the fans for you guys?
BM – They were ferociously loyal. Those early fans were terrific. We were their team. They’d never had another team and they had undying loyalty for us. The same people my rookie year, I think we were 2-14 and we had just as many people there as the following year when we were 14-2.
TT – Who were some of your buddies on the team?
BM – The first day I came in I was introduced to Chuck Allen and to Bud Whitehead, to George Blair. And I’ve always been very friendly with them ever since. Lance Alworth was my roommate for a couple years. Ron Mix was my roommate for a couple years. We’ve always been friendly before and even now they’re still very close friends. Bob Petrich also. I’m probably closer with those fellows than anybody I played with in college because you just played with them longer and the stakes were higher and the going was tougher.
TT – What is a favorite road trip memory?
BM – I’m not sure that I have a favorite memory of a road trip. They all had some distinguishing characteristics. I can remember more not by my favorite, but by how awful they were. Sid took us one time, we made our Eastern road swing through Buffalo, Boston and New York, and he parked us in the hotel in Niagara Falls, New York, which is about 20 or 25 miles North of Buffalo. The only movie theater in the town had movies that were six months old, and they were only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. So it was a long three weeks. It was OK for me because I was a law student at the time at the University of San Diego and I had my books to read. But otherwise, time hung heavy with you.
TT – Tell me about Rough Acres.
BM – We were laughing till the wee hours of the morning last night about all the various tricks and things that happened at Rough Acres. We were just trying to imagine and speculate what it would be like if any management organization tried to take a team to Rough Acres today. That was just really an experience. It was just hotter than the Hades of Hell. The facilities were something unusual. We were talking about we’d kill rattlesnakes and leave them in people’s rooms and the tarantulas were crawling around. Various tricks we would play on people. Sam DeLuca, for instance, was terribly afraid of spiders and snakes and we were forever playing tricks on Sam DeLuca, until he eventually just went to Sid and said, “Either you trade me or I quit. I’m not staying here another day.” Jesse Murdoch and Ernie Ladd were playing ping-pong one night and Ernie Ladd hit the ball to him, he turned around to pick it up and the ball was laying on top of a coiled rattlesnake. That was a unique experience, but when we came down out of the mountains there, we were really in shape. There wasn’t any place that you could get into trouble. It was hot, we worked hard, and the Rough Acres Ranch was the beginning of the ’63 season.
TT – What did you dislike about being a professional football player?
BM – Oh I can’t say that I disliked anything about it because when you’re 21 and 22, you think you’re indestructible, immortal and invincible. And the romance and being part of it and having the pride and the love of competition, there’s just nothing that you dislike about it. The worst and most awful day is when the realization comes home that you’re one step slow, your quickness is gone, you’re getting old. And 30, 40 years later you need your knees replaced or your hip replaced and you find out that you are destructible, you are mortal. It’s depressing.
TT – What would you like people to remember you about as a football player?
BM – Oh, that I’m a great lawyer. I got my law degree from the University of San Diego and I told the story last night about how Sid impressed upon me when our first child was born that there is life outside of football. It was a wonderful experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I made tremendous friendships, but there is life after football.