August 5, 1969
It was a horse of a different logo that practiced at Mustang Stadium in the summer 1969. Still smarting from a upset loss in Super Bowl III, the then Baltimore Colts practiced in San Luis Obispo.
The brash Joe Namath and the New York Jets were Super Bowl champions and the Colts were trying to get back.
They would return to the big game and win Super Bowl V over Dallas in 1971.
Johnny Unitas is remembered as a hall of fame quarterback but a 1968 injury hampered his abilities and he alternated playing time in both Super Bowl games with Earl Morrall who was the NFL Most Valuable Player in ’68.
The first day of 1969 practice was brutal, a record 104 degree temperature was recorded that day and the players practiced without pads. Coach Don Shula and 58 players for the NFL champions ran drills and later signed autographs.
About 500 fans turned out to watch drills that included rookies Ted Hendricks, linebacker, Eddie Hinton, wide receiver, and Tom Maxwell defensive back. Preston Pearson had a broken left foot and was out. Practices were twice a day at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The Colts had just come from an exhibition game against San Diego and had another planned in Oakland next weekend. After two weeks on the Central Coast, including watching the second annual California State Women’s Physical Education Teachers Pool Tournament at Mustang Tavern, they headed into the season. The season began in Houston against the Oilers, where the Baltimore Colts won 32-29 scoring on an Earl Morrell touchdown pass to Willie Richardson with three seconds left on the clock.
On August 8 the paper published comments from a Lions Club lunch.
How often does a major league general manager do this today?
Colts’ general manager:
team underrated Namath
By Dave Verbon
T-T Sports Writer
Wherever he goes, he waits for the bomb. It is inevitable, so Baltimore Colts general manager Harry Holmes took the offensive at the Day Lions luncheon Thursday and gave his impressions of the Super Bowl before anyone had a chance to ask.
“After last January it (the game, which the Colts lost to the underdog Jets 16-7) was topic number one,” he said. “Everybody wanted to know what happened. Well, I’ll tell you what happened — I don’t know what happened.”
“When you’re down, you’ll get outplayed, but I felt we were ready for this game. We played an underrated team and an underrated quarterback.”
“Namath showed us something. He’s got the quickest reaction of any quarterback in the game. His mind and his hands react at the same time to the defense.”
And speaking of defense, Holmes admitted the Jets had “out-defensed” the Colts. He said the defense simply didn’t play the game it was capable of, and “who’s to tell why?”
One thing that surprised the Colts in the game, he said, was the Jets’ ability to run against the right side of the Colts.
“Our right side turned out to be a weak spot,” he said. Other teams tried all year to run there and couldn’t, but the Jets did.”
He said the team would naturally like to have another crack at Namath and the Jets next January, particularly considering the Colts heart-breaking record the past two years. Two years ago, they lost to the Los Angeles Rams in a play-off game after the Colts had compiled a far-superior season record.
What does the team think of San Luis Obispo?
“We couldn’t ask for more cooperation,” he said, “and the weather has been great.”
“When we left Baltimore, we had 10 straight days of intermittent rain, and the humidity was always up around 90 percent. I really feel sorry for the guys when they have to work out with their pads in weather like that. You sit around hoping for cloudy days.”
“Normally at this time of the season we wouldn’t be pressing the veterans into two-a-day sessions, but with this weather we’re able to teach them things they wouldn’t normally get until later.”
The practice sessions at Cal Poly are also giving the coaches their first opportunity to see the team’s rookies that played in the all-star game last week.
“We’re trying to mix in the new blood with the veterans,” he said. “The nucleus of the team right now is formed around the 1963 draft — that was the big one.”
“The older guys are dropping by the wayside now. Unitas is the only guy left from that 1958 overtime win over the New York Giants. We’re playing with two ancient quarterbacks. Unitas is 36 and Morrall is 37.”
Rookies have been a bit of a problem this year, he said.
“Three of them were out before the physicals were over, and you can’t hardly get out much sooner than that,” he said.
“They are just not convinced they have got to be in shape. Some of them think they’ve got to put on as much weight as possible and showed up 20 to 25 pounds over. They’re always the ones that protest they’ve been mistreated when they’re let go.”
Holmes then told about some of the “super Colts” past and present.
On Johnny Unitas:
“He is valuable not only to the Colts, but to all of pro football. This game was just on the rise in the early fifties, but his performance in the 1958 sudden death overtime game really aided the whole game. It was the first great game played on television.”
On Jim Parker:
“He was in a constant battle with the scales. Players get fined $10 for every pound they’re overweight, and there’s no better place to hurt a player than the pocketbook. Once when the weighed 282 and wanted to get down to 275, he dressed in a rubber suit, got in his car, closed all the windows, turned on the heater and drove for 20 miles. He might have made it, but just before weigh-in, he ate dinner and still came in three pounds over. He was a fantastic tackle, though.”
On Alex Hawkins:
“He was a player who went a long way with what he had. He retired from the game this year while he was a free agent. He refused to sign a contract and had played out his option. When he did he didn’t get a postcard from any other teams. He was already as retired as he could get, but held a two-day press conference to announce it anyway. He was one of the game’s great characters. We miss Hawkins, he kept things loose.”
On John Mackey:
“His switch to fullback lasted about two days. It didn’t work for three reasons. He didn’t like it, Terry Cole came back and he got hurt. We decided we’ve got to keep him up on the line where he won’t be so vulnerable and can stay in one piece.
The photos were by Michael Raphael. If anyone recognizes the players post a comment, these were uncaptioned when they ran in the then Telegram-Tribune.