The 1962 Odyssey Season, Part 2

“Moving Past the Title Years”


PREVIOUSLY – The 1962 Odyssey Season, Part 1: “Drinking and Drafting”

The NFL signed three players for every one signed by the AFL, which gave the Oilers little in the way of fresh talent for the 1962 season.

Despite this, the Oilers still boasted the great nucleus of players that had carried them to the AFL’s first two championships and were heavy favorites to rack up a third.

Some even began to worry that an Oiler dynasty might break the new league for lack of competition, as had been done by the Cleveland Browns in the All-American Football Conference.

One person who apparently didn’t share that concern was Houston Post columnist Jack Gallagher.

George Blanda’s 1962 trading card

Gallagher seemed to hate the Oilers, particularly quarterback George Blanda, and suggested that the 36-year-old warhorse retire.

In his biography Blanda: Alive and Kicking, Blanda gives considerable mention to sportswriter Gallagher, a rarity for hall-of-fame quarterbacks in terms of extended spatial devotion.

“That Jack Gallagher hated the world, and he took it out on me…He tore me down. He tore down the league. He tore down the Oilers,” Blanda wrote.
Gallagher retorted, “Like many aging athletes and losing coaches, Blanda likes to blame writers for his own shortcomings.”

The Blanda/Gallagher feud seemed to typify the perpetually combative relationship between the Oilers and the Houston media throughout the franchise’s existence.

But team/media feuds turned out to be secondary concerns as the 1962 season approached.

Oilers owner Bud Adams was slow to offer a new contract to head coach Wally Lemm, despite the Oilers rising from the depths of a 1-3-1 record to reel off 10 straight wins and a championship after Lemm replaced Lou Rymkus.

The 1961 AFL’s Coach of the Year, Lemm resigned on February 22 to replace his mentor Pop Ivy as head coach of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NFL.

Pop Ivy, the third Oilers head coach in their three-year existence

Lemm cited the proximity of St. Louis to his home in Lake Bluff, Ill., as a prime motivator for taking the top spot with the Cardinals.

Ten days later, in a most ironic move, Adams hired Ivy to replace Lemm.
Ivy became the Oilers third head coach in three years.

Upon discovering who his new head coach would be, Blanda stated that he liked Ivy and was willing to overlook two things: one, that Ivy was a man with a delicate voice that falsely seemed to indicate weakness; and two, that Ivy was the same man who told him to get lost in 1959 when Blanda was looking to move on from the Chicago Bears and Ivy was head coach of the Cardinals.

In fact, Blanda called Ivy “an offensive genius whose time is probably a dozen years in the future.”

The Oilers’ 1962 training camp was held at Houston’s Ellington Air Force Base.

The base had no real football facility, so practices were held on a shrapnel field, resulting in lots of small injuries and rusty cuts to players.

Houston did manage to add to its roster by signing free agent wide receiver and track star Charley Frazier from Texas Southern, and two players who had quit under Rymkus the year before, Walt Suggs and Tom Goode.

The Oilers starting lineup for the 1962 season (with their 1962 statistics) would be:

  • QB: George Blanda (197 completions on 418 attempts, 2,819 yds, 27 TDs, 42 int)
  • HB: Billy Cannon (147 rushes, 474 yds, 7 TDs; 32 rec, 451 yds, 6 TDs)
  • FB: Charlie Tolar (244 rushes, 1,012 yds, 7 TDs; 30 rec, 251 yds, 1 TD)
  • WR: Charlie Hennigan (54 rec, 867 yds, 8 TDs)
  • WR: Bill Groman (21 rec, 328 yds, 3 TDs)
  • TE: Bob McLeod (33 rec, 578 yards, 6 TDs)
  • LT: Al Jamison
  • LG: Bob Talamini
  • C: Bob Schmidt
  • RG: Hogan Wharton
  • RT: Rich Michael
  • LDE: Gary Cutsinger, rookie (1 int)
  • LDT: Ed Culpepper
  • RDT: Ed Husmann
  • RDE: Don Floyd (4 int)
  • LLB: Doug Cline (2 int)
  • MLB: Gene Babb (2 int)
  • RLB: Mike Dukes (2 int)
  • LCB: Mark Johnston (4 int)
  • RCB: Tony Banfield (6 int)
  • FS: Fred Glick (3 int)
  • SS: Jim Norton (8 int)

Blanda, Tolar, Hennigan, Jamison, Talamini, Schmidt, Michael, Husmann, Floyd, Banfield, Glick, and Norton would all make the Pro Bowl, while Hennigan, Jamison, Husmann, Floyd, and Banfield would be First-Team AFL All-Pro.

Ivy would use much of the existing offensive playbook but add more sweeps to Cannon, and he often would employ an empty backfield in an early version of the spread offense.

Some loved it, some hated it.

Cannon hated it and was open with his contempt for his head coach.

In addition to the shrapnel cuts and the typical football injuries, Blanda developed a thyroid problem and needed surgery to remove three small growths.

He would be rushed back into service early in the season, but the operation would leave him weakened for most of the season.

Bud Adams’ ambassadorial Oilers blazer

Meanwhile, Adams continued to feud with the Houston Sports Authority, which was overseeing construction of the Astrodome, and especially Judge Roy Hofheinz.

The HSA wanted the Oilers to play in Colt Stadium until the Astrodome was built, but they couldn’t agree on a deal that would be fair to the Oilers (another problem that plagued the franchise throughout its existence in Houston and would eventually be a cause for their leaving).

Later, reports surfaced that Adams had considered selling the Oilers during this time to the HAS for $2.5 million, a move that could have changed everything about the future of pro football in Houston.

UP NEXT – The 1962 Season, Part 3: Working on a Three-Peat

Ed Wetterman is a native Houstonian and lifelong Oiler fan/historian. He is a teacher, genealogist, game creator, and writer who lived and died on Sundays with the Oilers. Ed has created many games such as “East Texas University: Degrees of Horror” and written short stories such as “HellFighter,” published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Football has always been one of his greatest passions. He experienced the highs and the lows of being an Oiler fan, and like many others, he was crushed when the Oilers left Houston. Writing for Miss Ya Blue! gives him an outlet for his Columbia Blue love.

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