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Opener Hearkens Back to Jets’ Very First Game

Posted by Randy Lange on September 4, 2012 – 2:15 pm

Opening day is ahead on Sunday, and if I may digress from the obvious importance of the game to the Green & White’s current fortunes for a short while, one interesting fact about this game is that it is only the second time that the Jets have opened a season at home against Buffalo. The first was 1960, when the Jets were the Titans and they played the very first game in franchise annals against the Bills.

Bill Ryczek knows all about that period of Jets history. He wrote the book. Many of you have read that book, “Crash of the Titans,” and the paperback and e-book versions are still available on amazon.com.

“I got into the Titans when I was in high school, and years later I went back to write a book about what really happened,” Ryczek said.

“Things were so small-time then. Harry Wismer, the owner, wouldn’t turn on the lights in the stadium to save $250 so the Titans would finish some games in the dark. Harry ran the team’s ticket operations out of his bedroom, laying the tickets out on his bed. In the ’62 training camp he told the defense to let Jim Tiller score so his wife would be happy. The players conspired to have Curley Johnson make the team by failing to tackle him and falling down. There were a lot of things you don’t see today.”

And more than a few characters.

“Don Maynard was such an eccentric individual, so self-assured, so unique, and incredibly frugal at a time when he didn’t have to be,” Ryczek said. “He had an idea for propane-powered cars. Everybody was worried about the Cuban missile crisis at that time, but he said, ‘There’s nothing I can do about it, so I don’t worry about it.’

“Lee Grosscup, the quarterback, was so articulate. He wrote a book about the ’62 season, ‘Fourth and One.’ He was genuinely liked. Alex Kroll was not. The players always thought of him as an intellectual outcast, kind of stuck-up. They intentionally broke his hand in a scrimmage. Dick Guesman said he felt badly about it because he meant to break his arm.”

Kroll, the center from Rutgers, got out of the game after that season. All he did with the rest of his life was to become the 10-year CEO of the Young & Rubicam advertising agency.

“The biggest name I’ve ever interviewed was Sammy Baugh,” Ryczek said of the former Redskins superstar and the Titans’ first head coach. “He was just so down-to-earth and he had that drawl. He’d say things like ‘The damn ball didn’t go over the damn wall.’ Every other word was a swear word, and yet for him it wasn’t profane.”

Ryczek even has an artifact or two from those days. He helped the Jets recently, supplying the organization with an elusive team photo of the 1960 Titans that will be used to help complete the collection of team photos gracing the first-floor walls of the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.

As we mentioned, he’s a fan of both baseball and football, and in fact the national pastime has consumed all of his writing time since he turned out “Crash.” But the Connecticut resident and financial adviser  told me he’s now at work on another football book with the perhaps esoteric working title of “It’s Hard to Give Up the Game: The Golden Age of Connecticut Minor League Football.”

Yet even in that small neighborhood, a Jets fan might find some historical nuggets, since players such as John Dockery and Earl Christy made the leap from the Bridgeport Jets to the big club in time for the Super Bowl season.

Ryczek’s love of his subject always comes through. As he explains about his Titans work, “John Thorn, the official historian of the major leagues, writes about the ‘golden age of baseball,’ which he defined as that time when we were all 12 years old. I can tell you more of the men who played for the Jets and Giants in 1964 than I can for them in 2004.”

From here we’ll move on to current events. And this is the time of year when hope springs eternal. May the 2012 Jets open the season with a victory along the lines of their 27-3 crumpling of the Bills 42 years earlier, and go on from their to forge a golden season of their own.

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Posted in Randy Lange | 37 Comments »

37 Responses to “Opener Hearkens Back to Jets’ Very First Game”

  1. By scjoe on Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

    I was there opening day 1960. The old Polo Grounds was in walking distance to where I grew up. There couldn’t have been more then 5000 people there. I do remember it was a win. Although I was still a kid, the dysfunction was visible, just not as much as it would become later on. If any of you remember those days of the Titans you would agree that Rich Kotite was not THEE most dysfunctional coach this franchise had ever seen. No, that honer goes to Sammy Baugh. Not sure if Randy is in a position to confirm that one way or another, but trust me!

  2. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

    Yes, it does, in that our offense now is about as sophisticated as it was then.

  3. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

    You tell me if this guy sounds like he has a firm enough grip on reality to build a great team: “I know I’m a great coach. What makes me a great coach is the guys that coach with me and the players that play for me, and everything else this organization has for me. It’s hard for me to look at myself not being successful. I don’t even see (getting fired) as a possibility. It might be 10 years from now, or 15 years from now, when Woody Johnson wants to go in a different direction.That’s fine. But I’m going to tell you one thing: I have complete confidence in myself. I’ll leave it to the experts to say my job is on the line. I know one thing: I’m going to give everything I have to this organization. We’ll add it up at the end of the season.”

  4. By Alex G on Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

    The reality is the Jets have become the circus everyone has said they were. It’s funny because just two seasons, we were fighting for the second shot at going to the Superbowl, now were fighting for 500?? It amazes me that they have not addressed the holes we had in positions and are relying on the ” WILD CAT ” The bottom line on the wildcat is it is a desperation move for teams with no real offense and no real QB’s. were in for a long laughing stock season of media and opposing fan abuse. get your thick skin suit ready.

  5. By Arte Olde School Section 327 on Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

    “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” –A. Einstein

    “There are only two ways to be a Jet Fan. One is as though they are going to lose(SOJ). The other is as though they are going to win.” –A. Einstein

    Come on Tom, let go of the negativity. It’s like Sanchise. We used to complain that Brunell was no comp as a back-up forty year old QB. True

    Now we have T-Bone. Mark “my words” Sanchize has his best season EVER!!
    The only thing Rex ever says that I relate to is his last line always, “We’ll see.”

    “We’ll add it ALL up at the end of the season.” Jets are the surprise team of the NFL this year! Why? Because they don’t sign ANY 30+ yo free agents. Yes

  6. By Arte Olde School Section 327 on Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

    PS McKinnie is a monster but at 32 yo.. we don’t need him. Ravens sign him.

  7. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

    Arte, I don’t think you have to be Einstein, of all people, to see that this team hasn’t addressed some of its most critical needs. Besides, you’re the guy who told me a few yrs ago that the problem is that Sanchez is a college QB and isn’t likely to ever be more than that. And the guy who thinks the Tebow trade is gonna be the best one in Jet history. As for any negativity, let’s see how negative some folks on this site are when Alex G’s prediction comes true. My position is that I’m ahead of the curve on the changes this org needs, which should be obvious to people by now — or as Van Morrison once put it, “Why Must I Always Explain?”

  8. By Tom Spicer on Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

    I am done being negative I am going to just root for my team & hope for the best. There is nothing we can do now but just hope it works out the season is less than a week away. Either you are in or you are out & I am in ALL IN! J E T S JETS

  9. By JR on Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

    OK…Here we go! Is it the same old Jets? We’ll see for sure! But Who Cares! Since the middle 1960’s I am a JET fan. Always will be a Jet fan no matter what! So, Thanks to the team for playing like you mean it and thanks to Mark and Tim for acting like the men they are in a team effort. Thanks for Santonio working it out to be back for a career year. I wish every Jet the best and remember we are all on your side no matter what happens….HAVE A GREAT SEASON AND BE SAFE


  10. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

    Spicer, you sound like the alcoholic at the bar at 1:30 AM who slams his glass of scotch down and says, “That’s it, I’m gonna quit drinking RIGHT NOW!,” then a minute later asks the bartender if he’s missed last call. (That’s the California version, where bars close at 2 AM.) You’d be better off dealing with the reality of team but I know that’s hard after decades of frustration. I have a different take on optimism, both with the Jets and everything else, and that is that no matter what happens, it’s gonna be real, I’m gonna learn from it, and I’m gonna move forward. Nothing would make me happier than to see Sanchez burst out against all odds and become the QB that we all know (and Revis keeps saying) we need. But I won’t hold breath…

  11. By Jersey Rich on Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

    Great Posts Arte!
    A few articles back someone said we fans should “Get In Touch With Reality” Well for all you HC & GM wannabees…
    Reality IS – this is Just a Sport, its just entertainment!!
    Just like I cheer for my grandchildren, no matter how bad their team is, I will continue to root for the Jets. GO JETS!!

  12. By kw65Fan on Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

    JR…all in with ya…I think you just made 64′ Tom puke up his dinner. You too Spicer…Can only hope for the best…no injuries…and everyone just giving 110% when that whistle blows. We can benegative all we want at the end of the season…or maybe some people on here will eat crow with their remarks. All I want see is an all out effort from the QB..WR…OL..RB…Defense…Waterboy and ball boy. Defense will not be the problem..probably see change in LB’s as season goes on to get youth and speed in there on certain situations. Will have those oxygen tanks in full force for Pace, Thomas and Scott. Just keep on hitting…hard…Iknow Landry will be in full force aiming at anyone that comes across the middle. Go Jets….

  13. By Chicago Bob on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    This team is better than last year’s team plus they got kicked in the gut last year and have had to sit around all this time listening to the negativity. “D” will be much better than last year, “O” will not be a juggernaut however it will not be as bad as people think. Whether you like Rex or not, he has established a pretty good staff around himself – this coaching staff is a lot better than most of the teams in the NFL – Dunbar is going to help this defense more than people think. Are we really going to have that bad a year when we have the Bills (twice), Dolphins (twice), Rams, Colts, Seahawks, Cardinals, Jaguars Titans and Chargers on the schedule? There is a lot of talent on this roster……….hopefully there is as much pride as well

  14. By Jet FAn Since '64 Tom on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    I’ll agree with you on this, Arte, we don’t need to be signing ANYONE who’s 32 yrs old, much less overpaying them, best case in point at the moment being Pouha. Nobody over 30 is gonna see any glory days on this team.

  15. By diamond1957 on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    I’ve been reading about commenters writing Rex’s job could or should be on the line, I disagree, Rex is a fine coach, but he is a defensive coach and we do have one of the best defenses in the league. I’m hoping this preseason offense is more a product of a vanilla playbook and that Sprano is busting to let loose, I also hope they arent putting too much stock in this wild-cat business, I can understand heavy use of the ground game if you have a really strong O line or mix things up well, but if wild-cat goes wrong its generally in the back field, and in the least that could mean holding penalties out the wazooo, to me its a gimmick play, but if done right, gimmick plays do work, I just wouldnt want to bank on it.

  16. By KEVIN ROONEY on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply



  17. By KEVIN ROONEY on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    i would love to chat with folks who remmber those days –drop me a line at kevinthebigk@aol.com

  18. By RON ALEXANDER on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    TSPICER,JERSEYRICH &KW65fan, Good stuff men. I have been one of the negative voices lately so I’m not pointing fingers at anyone else. But the season is upon us and we will all have plenty of time to complain about stuff if the season goes bad for us. For now, its time to do what we have all done for more years than most of us want to admit;get behind our team! GO JETS! Dont worry 64, I still want the same things you want, but I wanna root for the boys this week and not worry about a lot of crap we cant do anything about.

  19. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    How much are the PSL’s at your grandchildren’s games, Jersey Rich? Ever heard of a trifling reality called money? diamond 1957, I’m hoping the part of Sparano’s playbook that has to do with vertical strike passing, with Rex has no concept of, will bust out, too. Problem is an even bigger part of his playbook is the Wildcat, which you say you’re not putting “too much stock” in. Kudos to you for saying that on this site, even if nobody anywhere else in the league is putting any “stock” in the Wildcat at all. Gimmick plays only work here and there at best, which is why Brad Smith and the Wildcat couldn’t come close to saving us when the O shut down in the PIT playoff. I better stop talking now, Hunter’s delicate sensibilities might be bruised.

  20. By scjoe on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    diamond1957, you are dead on. A gimmick should be just that, and ONLY that, a gimmick, which should be used sparingly, not constantly. The only thing that makes sense about it is the fact that opposing defense’s will have to prepare for it and that takes time away from preparing for the base offense. Here’s the downside, so do the Jets. So, I will keep an open mind on it. I know this team will not get to where they need to be running a “wildcat” as a large part of their base offense.

  21. By Sarasota Sam on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    Gotta say..If you think the Jets have become the B&B Circus, just let it be….I have been a fan for 40 years. Can’t be anything else. Let the coaches coach and the players play. Don’t get so worked up over it. Relax and be entertained. It should be quite a show. I just hope they do their best…..Just sayin

  22. By Gua on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    Rex has been the most successful coach in the Woody era and one of only 2 or 3 Jets HCs with a winning record. His most dissapointing season wasnt even a losing one. Rex is a “great” defensive coach and a pretty good HC so far. I’m ashamed of all the so called fans who are ripping him left and right. He asks for it with all his talk but I like the fact that he doesnt have a problem putting a target on his own back with the intention to give it his all and back up his big talk. If his SB guarantees got him to 2 AFCC thats still better than 28 other teams did. Last year he said he wasnt going to guarantee anything and he only went 8-8. I’d rather have him aiming high and falling short than changing who he is to please disgruntled fans.

  23. By Gua on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    The worst are the fans that rip apart Rex and Tanny for the Tebow trade without seeing him even play yet. The fans that just expected the team to find a pro bowl right tackle in the offseason while not even giving any credit for what looks like assembling a monster D. Everyone stopped crying about Eric Smith and the holes at safety without giving any credit for Landry and Bell signings now everyone is talking about how bad this Sanchez/Tebow offense is and how awful Rex and Tanny are when they have yet to have a losing season and are going to continue that streak this year dispite what all these “fans” have to say. Other jets blogs have awful fans that just rip Tebow, Tanny and Rex every day. I ‘d rather agree w/ Spicer and JR.

  24. By scjoe on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    Sarasota Sam/Gua, let the fans speak their minds, after all, not only do they deserve to, but in many cases earned that right. Have you looked closely at the price of some of the PSLs AND the seating prices recently? Besides, I have NEVER seen or even heard of any outcome, of any game being affected by what the fans say or think on any given Sunday or Monday. Let them speak!!

  25. By scjoe on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    Kevin Rooney, I remember the rain in that opener against Buffalo, although I was just a kid, but I am almost sure it was a win. Maybe Randy can give us some input.

  26. By Randy Lange on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    scjoe, the Titans defeated the Bills, 27-3, in the first game in franchise history on Sept. 11, 1960 at the Polo Grounds. QB Al Dorow scored the first two TDs in Jets/Titans history on a pair of second-quarter runs.

  27. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    Gua, real HC’s don’t talk hardly at all, like the guy in NE, so it would never occur to them “put a target on their own backs.” And Rex hasn’t put it on just his own back but on the backs of this franchise, which now rivals the Raiders as the most hated in the NFL. Very undisciplined and counterproductive, which is why true champions like Revis won’t be around here much longer. Also, we’ve seen Tebow play, even more pitifully on DEN than our own QB often plays for us. Sure, if a couple yrs of coaching turned him into Ben R that would be great, but you’d have to hand him the starting job exclusively to try that. We didn’t even wanna hand Sanchez the starting job exclusively this yr, going out and causing this immense distraction with Tebow.

  28. By RON ALEXANDER on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    GUA, gotta give you props for stateing your case. I dont recall seeing your name her on this blog but I do respect your opinion dude. O.K, heres the thing, The Rex bashing is relatively recent and is born out of watching the last 4 games from last year and of course the 4 pre-season games this year.People are just frustrated with what they see. If the team comes out and goes 3-1 I think a lot of the negativity will abate itself. On the other hand, if they go 1-3 or 0-4 I have a funny feeling you will come over to the “dark-side” with the rest of us. I can see you defending Rex but there is NO defence for Tanney ! In addition to his terriable draft record his treatment of Matt Slauson & the kid from Miami that got hurt was an embarrasment.

  29. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

    Speaking for myself, RON A, I started to wonder about Rex after that ridiculous loss to MIA on 11/1/09 when Schotty blew the 1st and 6 or so that could’ve won the game by passing weirdly (a series that was eerily predictive of the one that lost us the PIT playoff game), because that was the first time I realized Rex wasn’t in charge of the O. The next yr showed me not only that he wasn’t in charge of the O but that his ideas on O were outdated and delusional. With his endless raves about Sanchez last yr and his never-ending love of the Wildcat, by this yr I’m sure that we’ll never go very far with a HC this clueless on O, especially in what’s become a pass-first league. I defy anyone to tell me the analysis above is anything but rational.

  30. By Jersey Rich on Sep 6, 2012 | Reply

    JFS64 – No PSL’s for any of my games… I can now better understand your views…

  31. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 6, 2012 | Reply

    Yeah, Jersey Rich, that’s the problem, your grandkids, adorable as I’m sure they are, are still kids, not highly-paid (most on this site seem to think grossly over-paid) professional football players. As both Ann Romney and Michelle Obama have told us (ad nauseum), children need unconditional love. But I didn’t hear either Romney or Obama themselves last week, while trading football metaphors, say the Wayne Hunters of the world need it, and neither does anyone else in the Jet org. What the org needs, in fact, is the kind of leadership that takes names, kicks butt, and focuses on winning big. After 43 years, I’m still wandering in the desert in search of that in Green and White…

  32. By Jersey Rich on Sep 6, 2012 | Reply

    New found respect for your views JFS64!
    i will however temper the realism with my optimism
    Looking forward to Sunday….

  33. By KEVIN ROONEY on Sep 7, 2012 | Reply

    u guys are right is was a win–my mom would not let me go because it was raining—let win this sunday for harry wismer lol

  34. By jdp1972 on Sep 8, 2012 | Reply

    I have coach’s reel footage of this game. I discovered the canisters in a thrift shop in Great Neck, LI about 25 years ago. I believe it to be the only such film in existence as NFL Films does not have it.

  35. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 8, 2012 | Reply

    The realism/optimism axis (notice I have no real room for pessimism) is a good one to keep an eye on in my opinion, Jersey Rich.

  36. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 8, 2012 | Reply

    jdp1972, are you saying you found film of that first Titans game in a thrift shop in Great Neck? Just a few minutes over from my hometown of Little Neck? Wow, small world…

  37. By Rich goldhaber on Sep 9, 2012 | Reply

    I was at that first game. It was played in a drizzle and I think the Titans won by something like 20-10. Lee Grosscup was NOT the quarterback – it was Al Dorow. The game was played in the old Polo Grounds and I could not find a vendor who sold scorecards/ programs.

    The crowd was about 15000 – so I guess a program from that game is worth a small fortune

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