Bob Petrich – October 15, 1999

autographed 1967 topps bob petrich
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BOB PETRICH

Defensive End

San Diego Chargers – 1963-1966

Buffalo Bills – 1967

TT – What was your experience coming into the AFL?

BP – I was kind of, I was very impressed.  I wasn’t impressed with our surroundings, but of course I was used to Spartan facilities, coming from West Texas.  So the only place I saw was Boulevard.  The dude ranch out there.  So that was my first impression of professional football, wood shavings on a football field.  I got kind of in trouble when; I had a good practice.  A very good practice one day, I thought I did bad.  I had a half-line, I had to go head on with Pat Shea, and that’s a whole different story.  After that, I was interviewed.  The coach told me I did a good job.  I thought I’d gotten my butt beat.  It was after about 4 or 5 times.  I had beaten Pat, then he finally wore me down, and they made him do the drill over and over again ‘til he won.  So that evening, what happened our defensive coach said, “You did good out there today.”  It was the first time anybody acknowledged that I was in camp.  This was like 5 or 6 days into it.  So I made a comment to the reporter, Jerry Magee, at the time that, to me, this camp was a picnic compared to what I went through in college.  Of course, the way Magee had a license to alter what you said to his, I guess he was the first emptentious writer that I, he would make a story out of going to the bathroom.  He wrote in there that I said that that was an easy camp.  And misinterpreted it because what we had to go through in college, everybody played college, and everybody probably had it just as tough as I did.  I thought it was extremely rough West Texas.  This guy was competing with Frank Cush to try to run guys off.  And Bear Bryant.  My college coach was an assistant of Bear Bryant’s at Texas A & M when he was down there, so I thought it was easy.  I didn’t mean that the players were easy or anything like that.  I just, of course I got my foot in my mouth.  My impression when I came in, the morning after I got there, I looked out, and I saw this guy walking down the middle of these ponderosa little duplex rooms that we were staying in.  There was a hall about a 50, I think at that time, there was a row of them.  And then there was a big opening in the middle, and then there was another row on the other side.  I woke up and there was this Black Angus coming through.  I looked out the window, and here are these cattle coming right through the middle of this thing.  A little while later, here comes Earl Faison.  He had shorts on and thongs, I mean on his feet.  I looked out there, and my roommate was a guy that I went to West Texas with.  His name is Jim Cunningham.  I heard him on the other, they had a little separation.  His bed was on the other side.  He goes, “Goll dang, look at that!”  I turned around, and I saw these cattle, but he was talking about, it wasn’t the cattle, it was this Earl walking down.  Man, there’s muscles all over the place, the guy’s walking down with the meanest look on his face you’ve ever seen.  Jim just said, “Dude.”  And I said to myself, coming from West Texas, you just cull all the fear out of you.  I was very thankful that Earl was a defensive player.  At the time, I didn’t know if I was competing against him or not, which I figured I was.  Of course, I was a little, got a little fired up, so to speak.  But he was very impressive.  And then the next guy I saw was Ernie Ladd, a day later.  And all the rest of the guys.  It was a different circumstance, probably nobody else ever experienced that kind of a camp, because it was just so unique to professional football.  We had our own weight trainer.  We had a weight set-up.  Outdoor showers, everything was makeshift.  They didn’t even have freezers.  The food was brought up every day from San Diego.  Probably the most impressive thing that I can remember was getting help from Hank Schmidt, who stayed up to practice with me because I really wanted to learn.  But my first experience across the lines from a professional player was Ron Mix.  And they had me down as, and I remember to this day, one of the things defensive linemen are trained to do is cheat up on the ball, so that when that ball snaps, you’re across the line, because quickness is everything.  I remember lining up, and I didn’t know who this guy was, had no clue.  All I knew was he was lined up across from me, and there was a live action fast rush drill.  I put my hand down, and looked down the line, saw the ball, put my head right up on it, and as soon as I saw that center’s fingers squeeze on it, I was moving.  Trouble is, I didn’t even get my hand off the ground and Mix hit me with his helmet, straight on.  I mean, it was like a shock.  And nobody’s ever been that quick that I’ve played against.  And I’ve played against guys that played professional football.  When he hit me, it jarred me up.  And then backed off, set up, and I was standing there like a moron, I don’t know, it seemed like forever.  I tried to rush in and he whacked me again.  So I said to myself, “Well, this is a little different than I’m used to.  And I’ve got to do something and I’ve got to do it fast, or I’m gonna be gone this afternoon.”  With all they saw there just do it again.  I got down in my position, and I couldn’t, same situation happened.  He was there just as quick as before.  Except this time, I threw my left hand up, got up underneath the outside of his shoulder pad, and I squeezed as hard as I could, and when he jerked back, he pulled me with him, I went right by him and beat him.  And that was it.  From then on, I said things are a little different.  I have to turn it up a few notches.  But I never really felt confident until, well I’ll tell you that later.  Anyway, that was my impression.  It was great.

TT – What was your understanding of the AFL at that point?   The differences from the NFL, what you were going into.

BP – I remember watching in Texas the championship game.  I guess it was the Dallas Texans against Houston.  It was in ’61, it was the playoff game, it wasn’t the championship game.  I saw that.  We kind of, the guys that I was with, there wasn’t as much TV coverage.  But we felt it was just an upstart league, it wasn’t the NFL, it wasn’t the established situation.  Didn’t really have that much respect for it.  We thought at that time that the guys that played there were just has-beens from the NFL, guys that couldn’t make it in the NFL.  That’s why they went to the AFL.  Generally, that was my impression at that time.

TT – What are some of the more memorable times with the Chargers?  Some of the, this is kind of a question to ask you to kind of tell some stories about some of the good times you had, funny circumstances, things like that.

BP – Gosh, everything at that time kind of centered around Ernie Ladd, who is the most unique individual I’ve ever seen.  Here’s a guy that, you know, big and fast, could do anything he wanted to do.  Was smart, he could beat anybody at chess.  Don’t play him in checkers or ping-pong.  Any mind games, he was just it.  Of course, he was like my bodyguard.  He was the guy right next to me.  He really helped me.  There was a time we were playing the Raiders.  I just said, “Ernie, I want to go inside this time.”  I’d always set my guy up, run outside.  For an inside move, I’d just keep going outside, letting him beat me.  When I knew it was a real important situation, I’d say I’m going on the inside.  That’s the other thing a defensive end has to be careful, if he goes inside and gets hung up, you’re in deep trouble because the quarterback rolls off, yeah.  So, when I would tell Ernie I’m going to the inside, he would just take everybody.  He would take one arm, grab the guard, throw him to the inside, take the center, he’d be wrapping up all the people.  He was the guy that I always felt was the subject of the little saying where it said that he was so good that he went.  He just tackled everybody and started throwing guys out ‘til he found the one with the ball.  Boy, that was him.  A lot of other things you can’t really talk about, but in game time, it was, you’d always have something funny.  We were playing Houston, and it was just unbearably hot.  I don’t know if it was in the high 90’s, and the humidity was in the high 100’s.  It was just horrible.  The locker room they had down there didn’t have any air conditioning.  So when we went outside, after we got dressed, we were soaked.  Ladd’s going, “I don’t like these conditions.  This state is not right.”  He said, “We are goin’ to whip ‘em today.”  And he must have saw a movie, because he said, “We’re gonna show ‘em no quarter.  And I will put my sword out.”  And he said that.  Everybody jumped on that word, sword.  “Cause he saw it in print, so he pronounced the W.  It was, I mean, I guess memorably speaking, winning the championships the first year.  I remember the 2nd year we were there, in ’65, we were doing good, but we were losing some games.  Sid kept saying, it was exhibition season, I think.  Sid would always put up a schedule up on the board, for our meetings.  He showed the exhibition games at lunch stops.  And then the main meals were the league games.  We were going through exhibition seasons and we were getting beat up bad.  I remember he said something about, “We’re getting to this point,” and Don Norton piped up, he goes, “Yeah, it’ll be a good season Coach, because the lunch stops are killing us.  Can we get past that?”  Winning that championship game that first season was unbelievable.  In the playoff game, with Buffalo at the end of the season, that would send us to the championships.  I was trying my best.  I wasn’t really good with technique at that time, it was just persistence.  I’ll always remember, it was like 3rd and 12.  Or 3rd and 6 or something like that.  Jack Kemp was the quarterback.  I had been playing my guys a certain way most of the day.  I think I got his back or something.  It was a real critical time.  I said well, I’m not gonna put any moves, I’m just gonna run around.  I just took off.  The guy thought I was gonna make a move and he headed for second and went by him.  I threw Kemp for a 12-yard loss.  Talk about excitement.  Those are the things you remember.  I guess our rookie show was fun, too, but I can’t talk about that.

TT – I’ve heard a few stories about that.  What was it like the first time you played in Balboa Stadium?

BP – Well, it was kind of tense because it was our first game there was the last game before, no, take Denver before that.  But, the one I remember the most was the last game.  The first couple of games are hardly played.  They were working us in and trying to get positions and so forth, and move me around a little bit.  I think the last game prior to the final cut was against Kansas City.  The previous week I had a pretty good game.  But that week, I didn’t feel like I did that well.  My parents came down and watched the game.  I was kind of depressed afterwards.  It was like a blur out there.  When you got down in your stance and you’re used to scrimmages and stuff, all those exhibition games were at night.  Takes as a defensive end Earl that clued me in on it.  He said that the first year you hit and react, the second year you hit and react almost the same time, the third year, you just go.  It takes you that long to react to traps and all the other types of things.  I was learning which was the most important, in which I specialized in.  I guess the most impressive thing was the speed and skills of the guys I played against.  Hardly ever had the opportunity to play against a rookie offensive tackle.  They just didn’t let him play because you could beat him so easily.  No matter how good they were.  Just always felt like you never get free.  You’re in the safety and a linebacker had somebody pulled these guys out of the way, they can run right through and hit the quarterback.  I always had somebody holding onto me, or grabbing sheeting.  I don’t know if they ever kept records, but, and maybe it was all in my mind.  I got to Joe Namath in ’65 5 times in one game.  I didn’t necessarily sack him by myself, but I was, we threw him for losses for 5 and I was on all of them.  A couple of them by myself.  What we used to do then, our goal was not to necessarily sack the quarterback and get up and dance, we either hold them up.  We take him to the guy, we turn him around, and the rest of the guys come in and nail him.  Referee’s screaming at you, “Let him go!  Let him go!”  “Can’t hear you.  Can’t hear you.”  Pound that quarterback.  Today, you’d probably get fined for it.  But there’s so many things.  Take the last game in the polar ground, against the Jets, Dallas.  That was fun.  The hardest place to play was in Denver.  You couldn’t breathe up there.  I never could get used to it.  I guess my favorite team to play against was the Raiders.  I developed a truly instinctive hate for them.  There was an instance my rookie year, we were playing up there.  We played at a stadium called Frank Youell Field.  Somewhere similar to Fenway Park in Boston, except that was worse, because in Fenway Park, you sat down on the ground, and they had a dugout for your feet, because the fans behind you were just 12 feet away and they had a fence.  You could never take your helmet off.  I remember in Oakland, same situation.  Coach said, “Leave your helmets on.”  All the rookies grumbled.  This one guy, Ernie Barnes, took his helmet off for one second, somebody hit him in the head with a full beer can.  He couldn’t play.  Paul Maguire was a linebacker on my side.  Oakland’s ahead of us, 21 to 20.  They have the ball on our 3-yard line.  With about a minute to go.  And I looked behind me, real close, right on the goal line, I look behind me, and Maguire is leaning against the pole with his leg, you know how you lean against one leg crossed over the other, you know with your hand up on your head?  With your elbow against the goalpost.  Nonchalant.  Leaning there.  I turned around, and squeezed in, and I go, “Come on, Paul.  We could do it!  We could stop ‘em.”  And he looked at me, with all sincerity, and said, “Shut up, rookie.  We lost this game.”  I think he was kidding, but he hit me harder than the tackle.  I’ll never, ever, ever forget that.  The thing that I remember the most about the Chargers team, and having the opportunity to play with other teams, is, I left here, ended up in Cincinnati, Buffalo, traded to Miami, ended up in Buffalo.  Went to Cincinnati, and then went to Toronto.  So I saw other organizations and other teams, other players.  Besides that, I had played against.  The players are pretty much the same.  The thing I remember the most, our team really had a unity.  It was like a family.  We had our bickerings, and we had some guys who thought they were better than others, but for the most part, compared to other teams, the atmosphere was bad, really bad.  When I went to Miami, went down there with Earl Faison.  The night before we got there, almost got in a fight in a bar, because I walked in with him.  The bartender threw a napkin, and said, “What do you want?”  He said, “Woah, I’ll have a beer.”  And then they made a comment, “Why’d you bring a nigger in here, nigger lover?”  We almost got in a big fight.  There happened to be a reporter there.  We didn’t have a car, we took a cab, we didn’t know.  We were in Boca Raton Florida.  And I started yelling and hollering.  Earl said, let’s get out of here.  I won’t go into detail with all the things I said because I almost had the whole world…  The first morning, I went to sit down with Earl, to eat.  I didn’t pay attention, but I looked around the room, all the black guys were at their own tables, white guys were at theirs.  And Earl said, “I think we better not eat here.”  I go, “Oh, yeah?  If you don’t want me to I won’t, but, I’m eating here, I don’t care what they.” …  This was 1967.  But the problem is, the coach is getting at that made it, and I didn’t hear him say it specifically, but I had evidence of it.  Defensive line coach said he will not have a nigger on the defensive line.  And they probably have one of the best defensive ends ever there.  The morning we started our two-a-days, Earl Faison was a tight end.  And the problem was, I don’t know if they were trying to run him off, or what.  But he went out there, and ran patterns.  It was better than anybody they had.  They were so embarrassed.  They thought he was just a defensive lineman.  He went out and caught every pass they threw him.  Ran every route like it was nothing.  And was faster than all of them.  And he had a bad back at that time, his back was hurting.  And he was the most impressive guy I’ve ever seen, physically.  To see that just did my heart good.  So he went back to defensive line.  There was a time Earl and I would go, in the huddle, say, “I’ll meet you back at the quarterback.”  We’d break the huddle.  There’d be a little competition, we’d race.  We were playing to get to the heart of every hit that didn’t hit.  Playing Denver in San Diego, down in Balboa Stadium, and I was the right defensive end, Earl was the left.  Most of the teams were right-handed, so the biggest, strongest he could handle, he was on that side.  He was 6’5” feet, 275.  Here’s another thing about our team.  Earl was 6’5”, 275, had a 38-inch waist.  George Gross was 6’2”, 275, and had a 42-inch waist, but he had a 56-inch chest.  Then Ladd was 6’9”, weighed 325, and he had a 38-inch waist.  I was 6’4”, 255, and had a 38-inch waist.  You could take all of our weight sizes and that would probably equal the weight size of one offensive tackle today.  There was hardly and fat.  Ernie was just, when you saw him from a distance, and if you didn’t have anything to judge his size by, he would look like a normal human being, perfectly proportioned.  Anyway, this particular night we were playing Denver, and I said, “I’ll see you in the back field, Earl.”  He said all right, and called me Gino because I used to study film that was a highlight film with Gino Marchetti.  I just watched it by the hour up in our offices in the off season.  I would just study; every one of his moves I had down pat.  Anyway, I made a move on my guy on the outside.  My understanding was that Earl did the same.  We didn’t even get held up.  It was so quick, I was flying.  I had a full head of steam, and I had a high on that quarterback, I was up the field and even with him.  I turned and I started towards him.  And I left my feet, and he ducked, and on the other side was Earl.  And we hit face to face, going as hard as we could go, and we were just splattered all over the place.  Who was it last week at the Charger game, got his bell rung and he got up to walk and his legs went out from under him? Just like that guy.  I said, “Jesus Christ!”  I looked up and it was Earl.  He goes, “Bah, what did you do?”  Quarterback just went down, though.  We didn’t even hit him, but he went down and saved us.  Playing with all those guys was a thrill.  Watching Lance Alworth go down the field.  I’d be tired.  Drinking all that Gatorade and looking out there, I don’t think they had Gatorade then, whatever it was.  And I’d just say, “God, I can’t stand it.”  I’d look and I’d watch Lance going down the field and leap high in the air and catch the ball, and give me inspiration.  Forget all about that tiredness.  That’s about it.  It was fun.

TT – Who were some of the guys that you liked to hang out with on the team?

BP – At that time, the team usually had a little clique of guys that kind of stayed close to.  Mostly initially, it was between Walt Sweeney and George Gross.  Our wives would get together.  We’d be out on a trip when we were going out on road trips.  Chuck Noll would make sure all the Catholic guys went to church.  Chuck Allen, Emil Karas, and a lot of the guys, we’d be in it going together.  I’d say the guy I was closest to probably overall was George Gross.  We were roommates.  So we were kind of always together.  But the team as a whole was close.

TT – What was it like to play for Sid?

BP – Sid thought he knew everything.  And we knew that he did.  I don’t know if he was the pattern for coaches to come, great coaches.  The defensive linemen, you didn’t spend that much time, other than to study your opponent.  The overall strategy, it’s something you really didn’t make time for.  I always felt, when we went into a game, we do more than the other team.  We knew more them than they knew about them.  There was nothing that was left unturned.  I had so much confidence in them, as a matter of fact, even rubbed off on Walt Hackett.  They would look for such minute things that another team would give you as a clue to tip off certain tendencies that they had.  One for instance was Walt called us in one day and he says, “Okay, I got something for you.”  And he and Sid, with Chuck Noll, Chuck was a stickler for detail.  He knew everything about everything about that team.  And they’d watch these films into the night.  Sid had a cot there, sleep there, you know.  Walt said, “Come on in.”  So we came in, and figured we were going to go through our usual film-watching session with him, and try to play tricks on Ladd while he snored through the watching of the film.  And he said, “Watch this.”  And we were gonna play the Jets and we had the game films from the Jets playing somebody else.  Namath came up to the ball, and he snapped the ball, and bang, he ran about 4 or 5 places.  “Did you notice anything?”  We said no.  He ran the place.  “Now watch this.”  Matt Snell was the full back.  When they came to the line, and were gonna just audiblize, Matt Snell would come up to his full back position, and he’d put his elbows on his knees, and just lean over.  And then when they called their signals, then he would get down in a three-point stance.  No, he would take off from an up, semi-up stance, with his elbows or forearms on his knees.  Squatting down.  When the team came to line and Snell got to his position, if he put his hands down on the ground, in a three-point stance.  As soon as Namath got under the center, he’d snap the ball.  So we knew it was gonna be a quick count if Snell got into a three-point stance.  If Snell didn’t get into a three-point stance, he would stay up.  Well, my God, that’s like giving me the keys to a bank, or a candy store.  I mean, look out!  We kept watching it, just to see if it was just a freak.  We got films from previous games, our films, when we played them; we always had our own.  We got, I think, the previous 2 games from the other teams.  So when our game came up, I was in his face every play.  We knew on a quick down, basically there was a running play.  So that was easy.  I knew that was gonna be on our regular count on a pass.  So I was always just beat the tackle to death.  We just killed them.  Nobody ever said anything about it.  I don’t really remember, the next time we played them, whether that was the case or not.  I was in Vegas one time where I was on 3rd base, when you’re on the extreme left of the dealer.  No, extreme right of the dealer, 1st base.  And the blackjack dealer would look at his cards, he didn’t put his hand over.  So when he pulled up, I saw his hold card, every time.  To know that.  So to know what pass that ball was gonna go, especially on the quick count.  You didn’t know if they were gonna go hut 1 or hut 2, the other way, but on the quick count, you were beating the guy off the ball.  I mean, if you could do that, you’re a hero.  So anyway, Sid was the kind of guy, there were always things about Sid that you didn’t like.  I think he probably liked that, whatever it was at the time.  But when it came to football.  And you knew everything he did, even if it was rotten, and you didn’t like it, you knew that his ulterior motive was to do everything to win.  And he didn’t take shit from anybody.  He told a few stories one time about—he probably wouldn’t even remember—when he was with the Rams and we were having a tough time.  A reporter at the reporter’s luncheon asked him a question about did he see something in the paper that particular day.  Sid said, “I don’t read the newspaper.”  He said, “Well, what’s the first thing you do in the morning then?”  He said, “I take a shit.”  He didn’t ask him that anymore.  During that same meeting, they had won a game at the Mets Ring.  I forget who had related this to me.  He said, he was so happy, and they had women there.  This was back in the 50’s, these were the Rams.  He said, they asked him how he felt about winning that game the previous day.  So he said, “I’m so happy about that game, I feel like a man with two dicks.”  You know, and the women, they got all shook up and everything.  I’ve had 2 great coaches in my life.  My college coach and Sid.  And believe me, I was at Cincinnati, and Paul Brown was there when I was there.  I didn’t make the team, I ended up in Canada, but I went a whole training camp with Paul Brown.  And I saw the reverence that was afforded him, just with respect, walking around.  But to me, I mean, yeah, he was a great coach in his day.  I can’t say Sid was better than him, but I tell you what, Sid was an innovator.  When we beat Boston in that championship game in ’63, they had no clue.  He was running Keith Lincoln out on options, I mean, a man in motion, and they didn’t even cover him, they didn’t know what the hell was going on.  Man in motion.  There was a lot of things he did that I didn’t like but I’ll tell you what, it’s worth it to win.  Because like I said, he did what he had to do to win.  So, that part, that’s about I have to say about Sid.  I wish him well, I hope he’s feeling all right.  He does remember me when we have Alumni Day.  Hopefully, this year he’s gonna be there.  I know he had some illness here not too long ago, blood infection or something like that.  Some of the guys who’ve seen him, I was talking to Lance the other day, I think he had seen him a couple months ago.

TT – We went up and saw him about 3 weeks ago.  He’s doing all right.  The last thing I’d like to do is have you flip through this book and talk about everything that comes up.

BP – Rogers and Mix and MacKinnon all used to hang around together.  I didn’t hang around with offensive guys.  It’s funny when you see the coaching staff consisting of five coaches.  Today each coach has five assistants.  Wayne Frazier.  God, he had a knee operation that first year that I came there.  It was a whole year to recover.  Then he had a staff infection.  He was out a whole year.  Dave Kocourek.  I like Dave.  Is this LA?

TT – USD.

BP – Oh that’s right.  They had their training camp up there.  So there was a guy named Chief Patterson.  Hank Schmidt.  Chief Patterson.  Patterson was an Indian guy who used to play on the college circuit.  He even went to West Texas State the year before I was there.  He played about 10 years of college football.  Different names, you know.  Through the southwest, the south.  Then he tried out with the Chargers and he was a crazy guy.  They roomed him with Pat Shea.  Ernie Ladd was telling me this story.  Up at USD, every night,…They didn’t like each other.  Shea was just raw animal.  So every night, what they would do is they would move the beds against the wall, move the chairs out, and they’d fight.  They would go at it.  Bang each other up.  Then, after they were done, they’d move all the stuff back and go to bed.  They’d do this every day.  You could hear them hitting the walls, the doors, but they’d move the furniture so they’d have room to fight.  Sam DeLuca.  Sam was, when we were at Rough Acres, he was afraid of bats.  I roomed next door to Sam DeLuca and George Gross.  They had their little Ponderosa.  There was these bats at night.  Sam was from New York city.  He couldn’t stand bugs, he couldn’t stand bats, they’d have to spray the room.  George would be asphyxiated at night.  They’d spray all that Black Flag and stuff.  So one night the guys were out there and we had gone down to the beer bar and loosened up a little, and then came back.  The whole team was going to be out that night.  But Sam complained about the bats, so that day Sam complained to the coach and the coach told the maintenance people.  So what they did, they sealed it off.  They put some concrete up there where the bats went in.  Shut the bats were in there.  So that night the bats wanted to get out and they started squealing and squealing and Sam was going nuts.  He was completely afraid.  George didn’t want to get involved in it.  Anyway, the guys were milling around.  It was really hot up there.  So what we did, we were going to rescue the bats.  So we got a ladder and went up and started chipping away the concrete.  We had a flashlight and I went up and I looked in and there must have been 25-30 guys outside.  It was pitch dark.  I looked in and there’s this bat that looks up at me.  I ducked and one flew out, another one flew out and a guy hit it with a broom and killed one of them.  No reason.  So Sam could finally sleep again.  That was Sam DeLuca.  That doesn’t even look like Maguire.  It must have been when he was 10.  Ron Nery.  He was like 6’6”.  I didn’t know, but he was the guy I was supposed, the drafted Walt Sweeney #1 to be the defensive end.  So I could always say that, I always tell Walt that I’m the reason he was an all-pro.  Because if he was a defensive end, he would have been an average nothing.  But I beat him out.  So they moved him.  I was the 11th round draft choice.  They moved him to offense.  They tried to find a place for him, because he was first round, and he became one of the greatest guards ever.  So I take credit for that.  Ernie Wright is the one I played against in practice.  He was 6’5”, 280, somewhere in there.  He was first tried to use the hand, the fist, through the chest.  I learned more from him.  He made my life easy in the games, not in practice, just in the game.  He and I were roommates in Cincinnati.  I think we were one of the first mixed roommates.  Kind of upset some people, didn’t bother me.  Emil Karas was like an uncle.  Lincoln, that was a human specimen.  He had his own following of women, as far as just idolizing him.  Dick Harris, called him Psycho.  He’s from San Pedro.  I just talked to him a couple of weeks ago.  George Blair, good ol’ country southern boy.  Sam Gruneisen, no personality, very brilliant football mind.  I don’t know if there was a conflict or not, but he should be, he’s supposed to be back in Michigan somewhere.  Sam was a real smart guy.  A character.  Jacque MacKinnon, let me tell you, perfect body.  Sid used to say he lifted weights for the beach.  He had a narrow waist.  He wanted guys like Steve DeLong, who had a wide ass.  He said if you have a wide ass, you have a low center of gravity.  It’s hard to knock you off your feet.  Certainly was Steve DeLong.  He was the first guy we called the Wedge Buster.  He had that chin.  He was a boxer in the Marines, too.

TT – Did you see the Sports Illustrated football issue?  He made Sports Illustrated Top 100 ball players of all time.

BP – Did he really?

TT – The only Wedge Buster on the list.

BP – And that was with the 49ers, so he was great.  He really helped me.  Most veterans won’t even talk to a rookie, let alone help them because they just don’t want to build an attachment.  It’s hard on you.  Lance would stay with me after practice and work past rushing moves.  It was hot and nasty out there and he didn’t have to do it.  He’d made the team.  He was a swing man and he played both positions.  I had a kid once in New York ask me for that trophy that and have me sign it, and I said, “Oh, I think I’ll just keep it.”  New York kids could talk.  That one didn’t even look like Rick Redman.  My God.  John Farris, always had problems keeping his weight up.  When we’d go to weigh, Joe Madro would check his head.  Farris was embarrased, he only weighed 235.  And he was a offensive guard.  So he used to strap 2 ten-pound weights in his jock strap with his shorts on.  He’d get up on the thing, and Joe’d go—and we were standing around watching—“255?  254?  Farris, you don’t look that big.”  Skinny little calves Farris you just don’t look that big.”  “Well, I …”  And he’d get off, and everybody’d just roar.  Had him on the roster at 255, the guy weighs 230.  Kenny Graham, unbelievable.  Used to laugh because Kenny was part Indian.  He had this scar on his leg and his skin was white, so he’d always pull his shorts up and show you he was a white man.  “I’m white like you.”  We were playing Kansas City one time in San Diego, Kenny was our safety.  He was like Rodney Harrison, you know, that type of guy.  Fearless, antagonistic.  We were just controlling these guys, they wouldn’t run on our side.  We stopped them everywhere.  They stopped running.  Kenny would get up to the line and start yelling, “Why don’t you run over here, you chicken shit!”  “Come on, just shut up, Kenny.  We got it made, man.  Leave well enough alone.”  Frank Buncom was the most gentlest person you would ever met.  And I was with him in Cincinnati when he died.  Frank was just like, the little kids loved him.  He was just the happiest, nicest man, and he hit like a mule, on the field.  That was a guy that I’d lay down my life for, in a heartbeat.  I really would.  He was just, there wasn’t anybody like him.  He was almost to the point of, if you didn’t know him real well, and you knew he went to SC, that you’d think he was too nice.  Frank was an angel.  He’s up in heaven somewhere.  Shea, such a bull.  He used to practice, when we were training in the off-season, he was from the beach.  His brother’s a lifeguard and he was a lifeguard, too.  He would get a 2-man sled, and stick the harness to it, and take his wife and 2, I think he had 2 boys at the time, 2 little boys.  He’d put on a pair of Army combat boots, and we’d get in the soft sand at the beach and run the beach, pulling them.  You know, they talk about Hank Bauer pulling a car.  He would pull the car without wheels.  That’s how tough he was.  That guy could hit.  Tom Day, when he was playing for Buffalo, he was an awesome guard when he first started, and then they moved him to defense.  My rookie year, I had misread a trap, I stepped outside, and as I turned around he just blasted me.  I mean, just tore me up.  As he was walking back to the huddle, he said, “What’d you think of that, rookie?”  I got up, and I never got mad.  I was furious, but I didn’t show it.  I had a feeling, because that play was so successful that they were gonna do it again.  They did.  It was a big mistake.  Because I took his ass.  I hit him so hard, I lifted him up, ran him into the ball carrier, knocked him down in the ball carrier, too.  And said, “How’s the rookie doing now?”  Looked at him.  But I knew him when I was, I ended up in Buffalo.  Howard Kindig, oh my God.  He’d come over to our house.  He ended up being traded into Buffalo, and he came there when I was there.  Howard’d come in the house, all 6 foot 6, he kept me up a case of beer on his shoulder, come over and visit and play cards.  He never shared.  He’d drink the whole case.  I’ll never forget that.  Speedy was just a jack rabbit.  Now that looks like Rick Redman, nose all smashed up.  Jim Allison.  He was the wildest guy, just crazy.  I don’t know if you’ve talked to him.  He could get more done, and he had more fun doing it.  And he was just a hell of a guy.  Can’t stand to see him twice.  Tom Bass.  He really had a good career.  Bass, I really liked him.  Don Breaux, tease him all the time, and then he ends up being a long time coach with Joe Gibbs.  I wonder what he’s doing now.  Ron Carpenter, he was a nice, quiet guy, everyone got along with him.  And Degen, I just saw him at last year’s Alumni Day.  He was a small guy.  I mean he was small.  I don’t have his stats here.  He was a little guy.  But he was as hard as that post right there.  He would just knock people’s jocks off.  He wrote books, he was an author.  Very intelligent guy.  Spent some time over in England, writing short stories.  Gene Foster had one little saying, “Don’t you be no boy.”  He was great at Arizona.  Garrison, he was probably more like Coryell than anybody.  He was off raise his sheep up in Idaho.  Kenny Graham.  I understand he was in New York City, got shot or something.  He was just a wild guy.  He’s the 13th draft choice and he’s the most underrated guy.  He was the concrete that held the team together.  He could stuff a basketball.  Lance couldn’t dunk.  They measured Lance’s jump when he went for a football–his head would have hit the rim.  Graham could, he was 6 foot tall.  George Gross.  He’s coming around. He had his hip replaced.  One time in New York, we had beat the Jets, we had a great game.  And I had a good game.  Walt was so excited.  He took his ring and hit me on the head with it.  I almost passed out.  “Walt, what the hell is wrong with you?”  He came in one night, he used to bring up a bottle of bourbon.  One time I was up there, somebody gave me a bottle of bourbon.  So I put it on the dresser.  We were playing Kansas City, in Kansas City, and I bought it to share after the game, the next day.  So Walt’s coming around doing a bed check.  And he comes in and goes, “Oh, you got a bottle.”  It was a bottle of Wild Turkey.  He said, “Oh, do you mind if I have a drink?”  I go, “No, we’re in bed already.”  Watching TV.  George is in one bed and I’m in the other.  “No, not at all.”  So he starts talking about football, and he starts drinking.  He drank ¾ of the bottle.  I said, “Walt, what the hell are you doing?”  That was for the next day.  “Oh, I’m awful sorry.”  He was just shithouse.  He was a good ball player.  He never really had a shot.  Harry, he and Bass were buddies.  Gary Kirner jumped out of a 2nd story window at USC, just to do it.  That was an insane man.  One time, we had a half line drill, and MacKinnen was running the ball, they had him running a full back.  And Gary was blocking for him.  And I rushed in, and he was supposed to block me, everybody was watching.  And I rushed in, and he held me, “Hey, rookie.”  He was a rookie then.  “Get your hands off me.”  I turned to walk away, and he punched me in the back of the head.  And he looked at me like this, and I said, “Mistake.”  I didn’t get in a fight, they thought I was gonna fight, but I never did that.  I didn’t see the point.  My hands were more important to me. So I waited until the next play they ran it again.  I took him and I lifted him up, and I drove him back and tackled both he and Jacque.  I looked at him, “Don’t ever hit me again.”  One time, he was having a run-in with Bob Zeman.  He was a defensive back.  And this guy’s an offensive tackle.  Zeman called me up in my apartment one night, and said that Kirner called him and wanted to meet him down at the stadium that night and he was gonna kick his ass.  I said, “What?”  He was a teammate.  Kirner’s threatening you, called him at home, told him he had to come out.  I said, “Don’t worry about it.”  I called Kirner and said, “Gary, I don’t give a shit what problems you have with him; he’s our teammate.  He’s honored.  If you want to kick somebody’s ass, and you want to take somebody down, you call me, and I’ll go down there and beat you.  But you’re not beating up anybody on this team.  You want to kick somebody else’s ass on another team, I’ll be there, right there alongside you.  But you’re not messing with anybody, especially a guy like that, who’s taller than you, probably kick your ass anyway.  If you want to fight, I’ll beat you down there.  I’m taking his place.” “Oh, forget about it.”  Nobody liked Paul Lowe.  I headed over La Jolla.  Joe.  I sold his house for him when I was in real estate.  And somebody messed up on moving or something, and I had to move him.  I had to take my tie off.  Bob Mitinger, we were real close.  Still are, actually.  He tried to pass the bar here, he went to USD Law School, like Mix did.  And couldn’t pass the bar.  Gave up, went back to Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh, very prominent attorney.  Mix got a lot of balls putting that there.  There’s Fred Moore.  Deputy Dog.  Funny guy.  One time we had a field goal attempt against us, and I kind of beat the guy in front of me, and got through, and I reached up and I blocked the ball.  And the ball, I didn’t know what happened, all I know is that everybody was said Fred blocked the punt, the field goal.  And he came off, “Yeah, right here.”  Everybody was cheering up in the stands, going nuts.  And I’m going, “Dammit, I thought I blocked it.”  So at the end of the week, they always show the special teams films from the previous week.  Saturday before the game, special teams day.  So they, everybody, when it got to that point, they go, “Oh, here comes Deputy’s block, here he goes.”  Deputy suck his teeth in his mouth, he’d suck his teeth all the time.  They ran the film, and it showed that I had gotten in and blocked it, and Fred was standing behind the lines, didn’t even penetrate.  And we’re standing with hands up, and I blocked  it, the ball just went horizontal.  And it just reflected it, and it hit his hand.  So, oh, poor guy.  He was all red.  “You didn’t block that fucking ball.  What is wrong with you?”  Sid turned around and goes, “Deputy, you took credit for that.  Petrich blocked it”  Oh, God they just were unmerciful.  I didn’t say a word, because he was so embarrassed.  But he got a week of glory anyway.  Chuck Noll, a serious man.  He was the one that made us go to church.  Ernie Parks was the one who got hit on the head with a beer can. This is Tobin Rote.  When he came to camp, up at Rough Acres, there were 2 bars in that town, in Boulevard.  One was the Oak Knoll, and the other was the Gopher Hole.  You had to go downstairs to go to it.  The first night he came into camp, Dick Harris, when they got there, said “You’re gonna go with us tonight, we’re gonna have a few beers.”  And I said, “No, I wanna make this team.  I’m not drinking.  I don’t want a beer, I don’t want anything.  I’ve been here for a week.  I wanna make the team.”  He said, “Well, you’re gonna have to make friends with the veterans if you want to make this team, because they have a lot of influence.”  I go, “Well, all right.”  So they take me down there, mind you, I’m in complete condition.  I never had a beer or anything.  And they start playing these beer games.  Bizz Buzz, and Cardinal Puff.  “Here to Cardinal Puff for the first time.”  And every time you’d mess up, you got to chug a beer.  So the end of the night, they’re almost carrying me out of there.  And then I get in for bed check, and I’m laying in the bed, and my head’s swimming around.  The coach comes by and I can’t wait for him, because you gotta be in bed.  And they have your window, it was open.  The coach looks in your window, you’re in your bed. And he goes, “You in there, Petrich?”  And I go, “Yes, sir.”  As soon as he walked by, I ran to the bathroom and hugged the bowl for the rest of the night.  I told Harris I said, “ I may not live to make the team.  No more Bizz Buzz.”  Don Rogers.  Ladd used to call him Bernie Hog.  Hank, I just talked to Hank not too long ago.  He came to one of our NFL Players Association.  Sweeney, oh.  Mr. Self-Destruction.  That guy, I’ll tell you.  We had more fun and we were just.  We got on that field, he would do anything to win.  He had Sid’s mentality about winning.  And didn’t care how he did it.  But he would spit up puke, had to have a beer.  Oh God, Sammy Taylor.  I haven’t even thought of him in all these years.  He was a good receiver.  Tensi, never really had a shot.  Herb Travenio, he was awesome.  Still to this day.  He’s all banged up.  He was on that train wreck that was bombed in Arizona.  He was on that train that went off the bridge.  He fell, I think he was gonna get a pretty good settlement out of it.  It really hurt him.  He and his wife were in it.  Train fell 30 feet.  He was in his bed!  And bombed the track.  Jimmy Warren.  He was, that’s typical Jimmy.  He looked, that’s how he is, just like that picture.  Dick Westmoreland, we’re like brothers.  See him at all the Alumni Days and he comes to our meetings now.  We were real close together, real close.  And Bud Whitehead, too, used to live in the same apartment complex.  Reuben Angus Whitehead.  Cheapest guy in the world.  You know what he would do?  They would send contracts out for the next season.  They’d give you your offer.  It would be right on your contract.  And you had a choice of signing it or going into negotiation.  No agent.  Bud would get his, and he’d race over.  He said, “You gotta get over there right away.  Get them before they run out of money.”  He still has his first check.  One time we took this picture and we turned it this way and put a girl’s body around, hung it up in the locker room.  Zemen was a great guy.  Keith Kinderman, he was a wild man.  Played Florida State as a full back.  I bet he’s a senator or congressman.  Alvin Roy, they used to make fun of him all the time.  Keith was a specimen.  Alvin Roy, he had these regular pants on.  We used to make fun because he always had piss stains on his pants.  The guy would never change his pants.  You always thought he had piss stains.  Make fun of him.  Good action shot.  There was a time last 18.  We were playing Boston and this picture always reminds me of that.  We were playing Boston, it was with San Diego, and Jim Nance was their running back.  He had huge legs.  Thirty-two inch thighs he had.  He’d always jar your fillings when you tackled him.  I got my blocker pretty good, and I was open and I just went right into him.  I had a perfect spring and everything.  My coil, I uncoiled into him, and I went down so fast and so hard.  I was just crunched.  And I was down, he was on top of me.  I’d hit guys before, and I’d gotten jarred, but never been totally eliminated like that.  You feel like you hit a running back and knock him back.  I went down like a feather.  I’m laying there, trying to get up.  So I played the game, and we’re watching the film, on Tuesday we started watching the films.  I look at it, and I’m thinking to myself, “Oh my God. You were…”  Well, what had happened, when he took the ball, and I shed my block, and I went to make the tackle, and he had nowhere to go, he had to go through me.  And I hit, and I hit perfectly.  It was a perfect tackle.  Immediately at the same time, Ernie Ladd had beaten his guy and came around behind.  He hit him from the back at the same time.  So I had a 260-pound man and a 325 pound Ladd coming up with full speed.  So I didn’t feel so bad afterwards. They both crunched me, though.  See the number of coaches?  That was even our publicity man, Bob Burdick.  So we had 1,2,3, Bones Taylor.  Denman was our equipment guy.  So we had 1,2, 3,4,5 coaches.  Ernie Reed was our trainer.  Oh my God, this must be in L.A.  Or ’62.  If this was here in ’62.  It’s a rotten area, I should tell you.  After I found out I made the team, I went in to talk, see, I thought I was cut.  And he starts talking.  I felt like in the movie The Godfather, when Michael was gonna shoot those two guys.  And they were talking to him and he wasn’t listening.  He was just thinking about what he had to do.  And I was sitting there, and Sid’s talking to me, and I’m going, “How am I gonna explain this to everybody?”  He looked up and he was going, “Now you’re gonna have to really keep working,” and this and that.  He goes, “Yeah, we’re counting on you.”  I go, “Whoa!  I can’t believe it!”  The guy went in just before me came out without his playbook.  He had to turn it in.  That was the signal.  When he told me I made the team, I couldn’t believe it.  I rushed outside, they had a pay phone.  I called my dad and told him, and my mom was there or somebody.  It was the biggest thrill.  A guy from San Pedro making the team for the Chargers.  Walked down to, oh I was floating.  I saw Ron Nery.  I came up to them and I guess they had just told him he was cut.  And I said I’m really sorry.  I felt bad for the guy.  He was a good player.  He just looked at me and said, cussed me out a little bit and said, “I’ll be back for a few; you’re not gonna make it.”  Well thank you very much.  I needed that incentive.  I love it when people tell me I can’t do stuff.  It made it easier on me to take his position.  I didn’t think they were gonna cut him.  I thought they were gonna keep him.  I thought I was cut.  Yeah, this was, we had a different uniform, an ugly uniform.  Bobby Jackson, man he was good.  One year he lost weight, Ladd came in at 295.  And they thought he had cancer.  Told him he had to gain weight.  Sid saw him and said, “You have to gain weight.”  He said, “Well, why?”  Sid said, “Man, you’re too small.”  He said, “Well how much do you think I weigh?”  He said, “I don’t know, how much do you weigh?”  “295.”  “You do?”  Couldn’t believe it.  He was like a scarecrow.  Hadl with hair.  There was a story once.  Remember Billy Cannon?  Well we were playing Houston.  Charlie McNeil was, pound for pound, probably the hardest-hitting football player ever.  We were down in Houston.  Billy Cannon had just gotten all the biggest bonuses and everything and just really got a lot of money.  We were in the game.  Every time Cannon came out to catch a pass, Charlie would hit him.  He would pot it or drop it or he would just hit him.  Just hurt him.  Just killing him.  And Cannon was starting to feel it, and you could see it.  What happened was, when I was rushing in and missed the quarterback, you’d turn around and go to follow the play, see who’s got the ball or whatever.  It was like a boxer.  Every time you hit him, he made a sound.  Charlie would literally go, “Augh.”  And you’d hit him.  Cannon got to hearing that, and I think he’d just about had enough.  Near the end of the game, he went up for a pass, and Charlie went, “Urgh!”  Cannon came down, let the ball go, and Charlie didn’t hit it.  From the stands.  Talk about people booing really bad.  They had just ragged on him pretty good.  As John Madden would say, these were the days when football players got dirty.  We had a, who is that?

TT – Don Hutson.

BP – Oh, Hutson.  Yeah, when he broke it, I remember.  We saw that movie Cat Baloo.  We were down in Ohio the night before a game.  I remember Kid Chaleen, and Lee Marvin was drunk all the time in that movie.  Remember that?  The one where Alex Karras punched a horse.  Like in Blazing Saddles.  He did it in this one too.  Cat Baloo it was called.  Drunk, Lee Marvin plays this drunk guy called Kid Chaleen.  Sweeney’s name from then on was Kid Chaleen.  Ladd coined it.  We had a fight once in Houston.  Ernie and the guard.  And Ernie kept trying to hold him off.  And the guy kept coming at him, and the teams are out there.  It was hot that day.  It was that day we said no quarters.  I don’t know what he did to him, but that guard from Houston was mad.  And they kept pulling on each other.  Finally Ladd said, “You better stop.”  And Earl was there.  This was the first time they had this direct, they didn’t have a time lag in the sound.  They had those discs they started using those on the field.  I guess those people back in San Diego said that Ladd finally told the guy to stop and he wouldn’t, he kept coming.  The referees couldn’t get in because both teams were just huddled around this thing.  And trying to stop everything.  Ladd took the guy’s helmet off and cracked him over the head with it.  His head started bleeding, I forget who it was.  I was right, like this close.  I knew it was gonna be a war now.  Earl jumped in the middle and said, “C’mon, Ernie!  Stop that shit.  We’ll get that motherfucker later.”  And it went over TV.  It was great.  I gotta tell you, we had primitive surroundings and everything else, but.  Even the guys today, they don’t know any different.  I have those good memories, too.  It’s a great book.

 

Todd Tobias (762 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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