The 1964 Season, Part 2

“Pop Ivy and Slingin’ Sammy Baugh”

By ED WETTERMAN

PREVIOUSLY – The 1964 Season, Part 1: “Whatcha Gonna Do When The Well Runs Dry?”

In May 1964, Sammy Baugh, an NFL legendary quarterback and recent coach of the Titans of New York, came to Houston for his son’s graduation from Rice University. 

Sammy Baugh on the cover of the 1964 Oilers media guide

He and Oilers owner Bud Adams spent a day talking cattle, and before it was over, Adams had hired Baugh to be an Oiler assistant coach.

Head Coach Pop Ivy’s staff needed to replace long-time Oiler assistant Walt Schlinkman, who had quit to join Wally Lemm’s St. Louis Cardinals staff in the NFL.  

Ivy wasn’t too concerned about Baugh, as the former TCU and Washington Redskins signal-caller said he wanted to be a part-time coach and spend most of his days on his expansive ranch.

Schlinkman never really liked Ivy as the head coach and had made his feelings known to Adams.  

Adams reportedly tried to keep Schlinkman and offered him Ivy’s job, but Schlinkman refused and bolted from Houston to St. Louis.  

Publicly, Adams had said he was “satisfied with the job done by Pop” in 1963, but he apparently wasn’t satisfied enough with what he saw while the Oilers racked up a 6-8 record, their first losing season in franchise history.

In early June 1964, Ivy arrived at the Adams Petroleum building and was met by a secretary who was carrying a box filled with the contents of his desk drawer and a message from Adams: Ivy’s time as the Oilers’ head coach was over, and Sammy Baugh would take his place.

To explain the sudden personnel switch, Adams stated he was simply listening to what the fans wanted by making Ivy the second Oiler head coach to be fired in four years, joining inaugural head coach Lou Rymkus (Lemm resigned of his own accord to take the St. Louis job).  

Ivy became a scout for the NFL’s New York Giants and would continue either as an NFL assistant coach or scout until his retirement in 1984.

To replace Ivy in his other role as general manager, Adams hired Carroll Martin, an oilfield pipe salesman.

Hugh “Bones” Taylor as a Redskins receiver

Like Don Suman (formerly the head men’s basketball coach at Rice University) before Ivy, he brought no professional sports experience to the Houston general manager job.

To complete his staff, Baugh imported some old coaching friends, including John Strebler (his main dominos partner) and Hugh “Bones” Taylor, who had been one of Baugh’s receivers with the Redskins.

Interestingly, during their playing days in Washington, Baugh and Taylor had also moonlighted together as assistant coaches for Catholic University’s football team

The 1964 Oiler training camp returned to Houston but at a new facility.  

One of the biggest immediately apparent weaknesses of the team was the offensive line, but this deficiency was not addressed during the draft.

To compound the weakness, new GM Martin traded all-star center Bob Schmidt to the Boston Patriots, then he traded Billy Cannon to the Oakland Raiders for guard Sonny Bishop and two other players, including fullback Bob Jackson (two seasons in Houston with a combined four starts, 96 rushing yards, and 31 receiving yards in 16 total game appearances) and end Dobie Craig (one season in Houston with three starts and 46 receiving yards in seven game appearances).  

In 1964, because of the season-long loss of tackle Rich Michael, Bishop was forced to play out of position but was considered to be a vital part of the Oiler offensive line, particularly on sweeps.

Sonny Bishop

Bishop did contribute solidly to the Oilers for six more seasons before retiring, making a name for himself as a steady, reliable player who, according to multiple Oiler media guides “seldom makes mistakes.”

Cannon, who’d made his desire to leave Houston clearly known one year earlier, reported to camp at a hefty 230 pounds and missed Baugh’s curfew twice, leading to a $3,000 fine (the largest assessed at that time).  

The Raiders moved tailback Cannon to tight end, and he would play in the silver and black for six more seasons before finishing his playing tenure for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1970.

However, the strangest trade Martin would make involved dealing second-string and frequently-utilized quarterback Jacky Lee who was “temporarily” to Denver, where Lee played for two seasons before returning to Houston for two of his final five seasons.

For Lee, the Oilers received 36-year-old defensive tackle Bud McFadin, who’d play in Houston for two seasons, and Denver’s first-round draft pick in 1965.  

These trades weren’t nearly enough to stop the roster-hemorrhaging, as the Oilers lost 18 players from the 1963 team.  

Adams provided few funds for Martin to replace them, claiming that the Oilers were still losing money and blaming it on bonuses for the few draft picks Houston had managed to sign.  

Tony Banfield’s 1964 Topps trading card

To compound the situation, Tony Banfield, who was the best Oiler cornerback at the time, hurt his knee and went on injured reserve.  

A mere eight original Oilers remained from the 1960 season: Banfield, George Blanda, Doug Cline, Don Floyd, Charlie Hennigan, Jim Norton, Bob Talamini, and Charley Tolar.  

The starting lineup for the 1964 Oilers and notable stats they would post for the season:

Offense

QB George Blanda – 3,287 yards, 17 TD, 27 INT

HB Sid Blanks – 145 rushes for 756 yards, 6 TD; 56 rec for 497 yards, 1 TD

FB Charley Tolar – 139 rushes for 515 yards, 4 TD; 35 rec for 244 yards

FL Charlie Hennigan – 101 rec for 1,546 yards, 8 TD

TE Willard Dewveall – 38 rec for 552 yards, 4 TD

LE Charley Frazier – 29 rec, 404 yards, 1 TD; 1 rush for -4 yards

LT Walt Suggs

LG Bob Talamini

C Tom Goode

RG John Wittenborn

RT  Sonny Bishop

Defense

LDE Scott Appleton – 2 INT

LDT Bud McFadin

RDT Ed Husmann

RDE Don Floyd

LLB Doug Cline

MLB Larry Onesti

RLB Johnny Baker – 1 INT

LCB Pete Jaquess – 8 INT

RCB W.K. Hicks – 5 INT

LS Benny Nelson – 1 INT

RS Fred Glick – 5 INT

Pro Bowl players included Sid Blanks, Charlie Hennigan, Bob Talamini, Pete Jaquess, and Fred Glick. Hennigan was also named as a First-Team All-Pro.

Most Houston sportswriters predicted a good season for the Oilers, and Wells Twombly even predicted a Houston-Oakland championship game.  

Jack Gallagher continued blaming Blanda for all of Houston’s problems and wanted to see the starting job be handed to backup quarterback Don Trull, now that his former favorite Jacky Lee was temporarily playing for the Broncos.  

As for Adams, he stated that he intended to “go along with Sammy no matter what happens….this is a long-term proposition.”

Unfortunately for the Oilers, the doldrums into which they’d begun to fall in 1963 were also about to become a long-term proposition.

UP NEXT – The 1964 Season, Part 3

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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