Eddie Abramoski

“Jack was one of the first players to lift weights, and in them days it was taboo for a pitcher or a quarterback or anybody to lift weights, and Jack, as the guys attested, he could throw the ball through a brick wall. He could throw it eighty yards. He was fantastic.”

JACK KEMP ORAL HISTORY PROJECT SYMPOSIUM Jack Kemp, the Bills and Buffalo Ralph Wilson Stadium Complex Buffalo, New York March 4, 2011 PANEL 1 QUARTERBACK JACK KEMP AND THE BUFFALO BILLS Sponsored by The Buffalo Bills and The Jack Kemp Foundation Washington, DC 1 Morton Kondracke: I’m Morton Kondracke. We’re here at the Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo to do a day of oral history interviews on the career of Jack Kemp, the Bills’ star quarterback for eight years and Buffalo area congressman for eighteen years. This event is sponsored by the Bills organization and the Jack Kemp Foundation as part of the Jack Kemp Legacy Project. Thank you all for being here. We really appreciate it. Would you please introduce yourselves briefly, say who you are and what your role with the team was and what years you were there, starting with Ed Abramoski. [Edward] Ed Abramoski: I’m Ed Abramoski. I was the trainer from 1960 to 1997, so I’ve known Jack quite well. Kondracke: Larry. Larry Felser: I’m Larry Felser. I covered the Bills from the start, from their start from 1960 up till the present for Buffalo newspapers. Kondracke: Al. [Albert D.] Al Bemiller: I’m Al Bemiller. I came here in 1961, played till ’69. I was the center and also played guard and tackle for the Bills. Kondracke: Charley. [Charles E.] Charley Ferguson: Charley Ferguson. I was a wide receive from 1963 to 1969. 2 Kondracke: Paul. Paul [L.] Maguire: Paul Maguire. I was Jack Kemp’s favorite punter and the only guy that on the Buffalo Bills football team that he really liked. [laughter] [Ernest] Ernie Warlick: I’m Ernie Warlick. I was the tight end for the Bills beginning in 1962 to 1965, and was Jack’s favorite tight end. [laughter] Kondracke: Booker. Booker [T.] Edgerson: I’m Booker Edgerson, cornerback 1962 through 1969, and just a great fan of Jack Kemp. Kondracke: Ed. [Edward J. A.] Ed Rutkowski: Ed Rutkowski. I played from ’63 to ’68. I was a wide receiver, a quarterback, and it was my fumble against Oakland that got us the number-one draft choice in 1969, O.J. Simpson. And if Ralph Wilson’s watching this, Ralph, you owe me a finder’s fee. [laughter] Kondracke: I’m going to ask all of you this question, and we’ll just go in reverse order starting with Ed Rutkowski. When you think about Jack Kemp, what favorite thoughts come to mind, and does one particular experience stand out to you on or off the field? This gives you an opportunity to tell your favorite story. Ed. 3 Rutkowski: I’ve got a lot of favorite stories about Jack Kemp. In fact, the year that I played quarterback, Jack had injured his knee, tore it up in a preseason practice, and I ended up the last part of the season as starting quarterback. Jack would be on the sidelines or up in the press box. When I came off the field, he would tell me what I was doing wrong and maybe some potential plays I should call. The first time that I ever went in as quarterback, I think it was against the Houston Oilers, Jack was on the sidelines, sitting on the bench with his leg propped up in a cast. I think I threw like five passes and three were incomplete and two were intercepted. As I came off the field, I came off the field to almost like a standing ovation. I walked over to the bench to sit next to Jack, and he was shaking his head and he said, “Eddie, if only I was Polish and Catholic and went to Notre Dame. It’s unbelievable, a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant from California.” He just couldn’t believe it. Kondracke: Booker. Edgerson: Well, one of my favorite conversations with Jack is when he first came here. He came here injured in his finger, and there was so much fuss what to do about getting Jack Kemp off the waiver wires, and Buffalo had one of the greatest quarterbacks in American Football League at that particular time, and how [Louis H.] Lou Saban manipulated the system and got Jack in here. I remember talking to Jack, not knowing Jack at any point. To me, at that time, he started talking with his proper talk and everything, that he came from California, went to Occidental and all those things. And I’m saying, “What is this guy coming from?” Because he was so proper and 4 pompous, and I said, “How can he quarterback us to any kind of wins? And why did Lou Saban pick this guy off the waiver wire?” Later on, as the season went on, the proof was in the pudding, that Jack did prove to be the quarterback that we needed to put us on the map here in Buffalo. Kondracke: Ernie. Warlick: One thing I remember distinctly is Jack used to love to throw the hook pattern to the tight end. That means, for those that don’t know, you go down, you run your pattern about eight to ten yards and then you make a turn and face the quarterback. Well, my fingers—it took a long time for my fingers to get any feeling back, and also my chest, because he threw a ball that was so hard that it must have been about twenty or thirty miles an hour. He said, “Ernie, hook up!” I said, “Do I have to?” [laughter] Because he could really fire the ball. Maguire: I’m just listening to Booker and it just reminded me of Jack. I met him in 1960 with the Los Angeles Chargers. Jack went to Occidental. I don’t know if anybody had ever learned anything going to Occidental, but Jack—people didn’t really realize it, this guy is really self-taught. Every day that I knew him in California in the couple years, he’d practice a new word and he’d use it in a sentence. When he got here, everybody thought he was so damn smart. So one day he came up to me, and I never really knew how to take him because he didn’t go out with the guys and he didn’t drink and all these things, and I used to go out once in a while. [laughter] He said to me at practice one day—I said, “Jack, how’s it going?” He 5 said, “You know, Paul, I really like your perspicacity.” Now, I didn’t know whether to punch him or thank him. [laughter] But he smiled, so I figured it was good. I was going to look it up to see what it meant, and fifty years later I still haven’t looked it up because I can’t spell it. [laughter] But this guy really was self-taught, and I tell you something. You talk about a leader. Look at what he did after football, not only what he did in football. He was a great leader. Ferguson: My first experience with Jack coming here and I was on the bench, I’d just played coming into my first game with Jack, and about the last twenty seconds of the game we were playing the Patriots and we were behind. Coach Saban and John [E.] Mazur said, “Ferg, we want to put you in and run a post and run like hell.” So Jack looked at me and Jack said, “You ready?” I said, “Yeah.” So I go out and ran like hell, and Jack threw the ball, and it was there, and I caught the pass and it was an eighty-yard touchdown pass. We won the game. Jack had been catching hell throughout that game. He did not have a good night. So Jack came over to me and he said, “Fergie, Fergie, if you hadn’t caught that pass, both of us would have been run out of here.” Both of us. They would have ran his butt out of here. [laughter] So that was my first experience with Jack, and I really enjoyed working with Jack. Kondracke: Al. Bemiller: Well, my experience with Jack Kemp, in those years most of the time or all the time the center’s position was that the quarterback 6 was always up underneath of you, with his hands up underneath of you, and I found out through the years that of all the people that were up underneath of me, he had two things there. One, he had very soft hands. [laughter] And second of all, his hands were always warm. [laughter] So that’s what I enjoyed about him. [laughter] Then I found out later that he was going to be a politician and everything, and I always told all my friends, “You know, I think he’ll make a good one, one of the honest ones, because he never did anything wrong to me, and I think he’s a man that you can trust.” [laughter] So that’s what I remember of Jack Kemp. Kondracke: Larry. Felser: My lasting memory of Jack as a football player was his first game in Buffalo after he came off the injured list in that 1962 season. The Bills had lost their first seven games of the season that year, and it looked like a terrible disaster. But Kemp had started the week before in Oakland. He was rusty because he had just recovered from a very serious hand injury. The Bills won that game 10-6. Now, they get into Buffalo, his showcase game, against a team that had beaten them really badly in Dallas, the Dallas Texans, which are now the Kansas City Chiefs now. Kemp had a fantastic day that day, threw for a tremendous amount of yardage, the Bills won and against a team that would end up winning the AFL championship. The crowd that day was a record crowd, over 35,000 people, record crowd for the AFL team, and when it was over, the fans swarmed the field, hundreds, maybe a couple thousand, and they were going wild. They picked him up on their shoulders and they carried him into the dressing room. They were probably mostly Democrats, but once and 7 for all, he was their hero and their leader, and it was a remarkable thing he did for Buffalo at the time. Kondracke: Paul Maguire, you were with him in San Diego and Los Angeles before he came to Buffalo. Was there any difference in the Kemp style under [Sidney “Sid”] Gillman with the Chargers and Lou Saban with the Bills? Maguire: I think Jack learned all of his football from Sid Gillman, he really did. Sid Gillman, you did what he told you to do. When he came here, he taught Lou Saban all of his football. [laughter] I have to tell you that in 1968, I’m just out of college, I’m twenty-one years old, and I was scared to death. We went out on the practice field and Jack is there and I didn’t know who he was, and we didn’t know each other. So I walked out, and I’m walking on the field and I’m listening to this guy call the signals, and I’m hearing, “Down, seven.” I said, “Who is that?” The guy said, “That’s Jack Kemp. He’s our quarterback.” I said, “Then someone ought to check him for testicles.” [laughter] Kondracke: Eddie Abramoski, I forgot to let you give us your favorite Kemp story. Abramoski: I knew Jack when he was with the Lions. He got drafted by the Detroit Lions, and I was a trainer at the University of Detroit, and I was a game day trainer for the Lions because the trainer for the Lions was a Purdue grad, as I was, and we did things together, so I 8 worked there. But, anyway, I remember Jack playing with the thing, and although the Lions player used to say the only reason [Raymond] Buddy Parker, who was the coach of the Lions, kept Jack was because Buddy was from Kemp, Texas. [laughter] So he had a soft spot for Jack. But, anyway, there’s two other things about Jack from my standpoint. Number one, when he had this serious finger injury, he made sure the ball would fit—it was fused and make sure the ball would fit on the football so he could throw it. And the second thing was Jack was one of the first players to lift weights, and in them days it was taboo for a pitcher or a quarterback or anybody to lift weights, and Jack, as the guys attested, he could throw the ball through a brick wall. He could throw it eighty yards. He was fantastic. So now you see what goes on about the weight training with the players and stuff. Kondracke: Ernie Warlick, you were here as well before Jack arrived, so when you heard that Jack Kemp had been obtained on waivers for $100 and was coming from the Chargers, what did you think that this was going to do to the team? What was his reputation as a quarterback? Warlick: Well, first of all, I had run into Jack in Canada. I came here from the Canadian Football League, and Jack was there. He threw the ball too hard in Canada because most of the quarterbacks in the Canadian League were running as well as passing. So when I got to Buffalo in 1962, shortly after one or two practices, there was Jack Kemp, and I thought it would be good that Jack would do something for our team. Of course, I was just trying to make it myself. I’d just switched from the Canadian League to the Buffalo Bills. 9 I forgot your question. What was your question? Kondracke: Did everybody think that this guy was a great quarterback for the Chargers and he’s going to make our team, or what was everybody’s attitude? Warlick: Well, you’re probably asking the wrong guy, because I was new also. I was just coming into the States, having played in Canada, so I was trying to feel my way around as well. But I can say this, that I’m very pleased that Jack came to the Bills, because he could really fire that ball, and, fortunately, I had a big hand, so I could catch it. I think playing with him helped me stabilize my career with the Bills. Kondracke: Anybody else want to comment on what the town expected when he arrived? Booker? Edgerson: I don’t know what the town expected, but like I said earlier, Jack, to me, his name wasn’t a great name, but I knew where he came from based on a lot of the press that he got coming in here, because I was a defensive back and I really could care less about what the offense did, because, you know, I was always defending against the offense. So when Jack came in, the impression was is that he was the savior for the Buffalo Bills. What I learned later on is, is that not only that he was a savior, notwithstanding saying that [Charlton Chester] Cookie Gilchrist was basically the savior as well, but Jack lent a lot of credibility to the offensive football team, because the defense was the catalyst of the team at that point. We had some great guys at defense. But Jack’s quarterback leadership skills, as Paul Maguire 10 pointed out, he talked to people, he encouraged individuals to do things, he kept you on the right track, a great leader, and I think that that put us on the map bringing us from a 500 team to a championship team two years in a row. Maguire: Mort, I was with the Chargers in ’62 when Jack got cut, and Sid Gillman got rid of him because he had broken his finger and he just couldn’t play. In those days, there were only thirty-two guys on the team. You either played or you got the hell out of town. It was that simple. But Eddie was alluding to it, when he had the operation for his finger, he went into the operating room with Dr. [Joseph] Godfrey. Is that right, Eddie? And he took the football in, so what they did is they put his hand on the ball and then fused the finger so that he could grip the ball and throw it. You talk about somebody that knows for the rest of his life he’s going to walk around. I mean, it’s a great finger to have straight. [laughter] But for the rest of your life, you’ve got that baby. But here’s a guy, he wanted to play. That’s the character of Jack Kemp. Kondracke: Al. Bemiller: I know one thing about Jack Kemp, he inspired me with his warm hands. I wasn’t used to that. Rutkowski: Excuse me. I played quarterback the last half. I mean, how were my hands? Bemiller: Yours wasn’t as good. [laughter] 11 Ferguson: I’d just like to add one before you go. I noticed when I first came here, and I was not used to Jack, Jack was not used to me, and we had some tremendous wide receivers here: Elbert Dubenion, Glenn Bass, Ed was there, and then myself. The one thing that I gained a lot of confidence with Jack is that he was willing to work after practice. Jack worked, spent a lot of time with us, put time in, and I thought that was extremely important. I thought that with the slant pattern, I thought I was just invisible. Nobody could cover me, and also on the post pattern. Jack would love to throw those patterns, and his timing became so great in working with the receivers. Of course, I just gained so much confidence in experiencing that with Jack. Kondracke: So I take it the answer is that he had a great work ethic. Ferguson: He did, extremely good. Kondracke: Ed Abramoski, was he tough? Did he want to play when he was hurt? Abramoski: Oh, yes. I mean, just like Paul said, he would play with all the little bruises. He’d get sacked or smashed by a player, and he’d always take his time, pretend he was tying his shoelace or something, to catch his breath in there so they wouldn’t know he was hurt. He exemplified the toughness. Kondracke: Did he have a lot of shots? Did you give him a lot of shots? 12 Abramoski: No, no, no, no. [laughter] Maguire: Yes, you did. [laughter] You didn’t, but I’ll tell you what, it was in Houston, Texas, and I went in the training to room to get—I don’t know what to get, some bennies or something. I went in the training room and opened the door, and Dr. Godfrey is sticking a needle in Jack’s shoulder so that he can get his arm up to throw. Kondracke: His throwing shoulder? Maguire: Yes. I almost got sick. Is it that good? [laughter] No. But it was the first time. I walked in and I said, “What the hell are you doing?” He had to do that almost for every practice, just to go out and practice. The guy was tough. Rutkowski: In today’s game they tell the quarterback your two best friends are the turf and the sidelines. You don’t ever want to get hit, but when Jack would roll out after a play action fake, he would turn up field and take on a linebacker, put his head down and how many times we saw him get knocked out and carried off the field. After one game, the next day in the paper—and Jack always had a cute story about it— the Buffalo News headlines, “Kemp suffers concussion.” And the sub headline was “X-rays of Head Reveal Nothing.” [laughter] He always used that as a cute story. Warlick: One other thing that I remember is on some occasions Kemp would call quarterback sneak when we only needed maybe a half yard to gain the first down. The quarterback sneak, that means the quarterback would keep the ball and run. Well, there were a couple of 13 occasions I remember that Cookie, weighing 240, would hit Kemp from the rear to knock him forward to get that half yard or whatever. I remember a couple of times after the play, Jack got up from the ground and said, “Nice play, Cookie. Nice going, Cookie.” [laughter] He almost broke his back. Bemiller: Well, you know who was in front of him, Ernie? I got a few of those too. Maguire: You know, Mort, there was a thing about Jack and he was into politics and all these things, but the one thing we had a team party on Tuesday nights at downtown, this place called Mr. Anthony’s. Upstairs we had a meeting room, and it was kind of neat. In those years we were winning, we’d look at the film and that night all the guys got together and then we’d kind of separate and they’d go over it. “You didn’t do this. You didn’t do that.” Jack never missed coming to one of those parties. He didn’t drink, but he was there to represent the team and be with us. Jack, above all the things, political career and all this, Jack was a team player, really and truly a team player, and the one thing in his mind that you remembered, that every one of these guys will remember forever, the guys that play with him, there’s nobody who wanted to win more than Jack Kemp did. Edgerson: One of the things was, what Paul said about Jack coming to those meetings, as he said how smart Jack was, you know, Jack was laying the foundation for his political career to make sure that we voted for him and supported him. That’s what he was doing. [laughter] 14 Kondracke: So was he the kind of quarterback who would rally you? I mean, if you were down and losing or something, did he encourage everybody? Did he make speeches? Or what did he say? Rutkowski: He did it on the field. I recall the one game we were playing, I think it was against Houston Oilers. We were three and out in the first three series, and the fourth time we went on the field, the fans started booing us, and Jack got in the huddle and he said, “Hey, let’s shut ‘em up,” and he threw a ninety-three-yard touchdown pass to Elbert Dubenion and came off the field to a nice standing ovation. So he did it on the field. He didn’t have to do it in the huddle. Maguire: Jack was also the second guy since [Samuel A.] Sammy Baugh, that picture behind Eddie, the jump pass. People don’t understand that. I mean, you’ve always seen them in film and speakers behind tables. Jack was only five-four. [laughter] So he had to really jump and throw the ball over. Abramoski: Tell them about his famous figure-eights where he’d lose thirty yards when he’d go back. [laughter] Kondracke: He was a scrambler? Abramoski: He’d do these big figure-eights. He’d go back and he’d be back thirty yards from the line of scrimmage, and he’d complete the pass and it would be a two-yard gain. 15 Maguire: He was a scrambling quarterback with absolutely no speed whatsoever. [laughter] Ferguson: One thing I’d just like to say, add on, and Booker, we were getting ready for the championship game ’65 in San Diego, and we had the two buses. The first bus, most of the guys, they liked to get there early, always try to get on the first bus, and Jack was on the first bus. Booker, myself, I’m not sure if Paul— Maguire: No. Ferguson: But anyway, going to the stadium, I mean, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, and everybody was just really getting ready mentally for the game. I guess about halfway to the stadium, the old Balboa Stadium, it was just so quiet in there, and Booker said, “Jack Kemp, you SOB, you better have a hot hand out there today.” [laughter] And when that happened, everybody just started laughing, it broke the tension, and I think that really had a strong impact on Jack, how he played that game that Sunday, because it was just unbelievable. Jack could do no wrong, the defense, like Paul alluded to, played an exceptional game, and we just shut them out. They couldn’t do anything. Kondracke: So, Paul, was he fun to be around? Maguire: Oh, no. Hell, no. [laughter] Kondracke: You’re one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. 16 Maguire: No, I never like being around him. [laughter] Joanne, his wife, wonderful woman, I mean, really good friends with everybody, but, no. He was the kind of guy that you would talk to, but then he would always revert to politics or something that’s going on. You know, I don’t care, man. You know, he didn’t sit with us and drink a beer, but he sat with us. No, he was very boring as far as that goes. Bemiller: When we’d go on these trips for any distance, an hour, two hours, three hours, most of us had our playbooks with us and we were studying our plays, you know, so we knew what we were doing. He would start reading a political book or something. He never, never got into the [unclear]. Kondracke: So when did he read his playbook? Bemiller: I have no idea. He was a smart individual. I guess he must have looked through it and that was it. Maguire: The question is, when did you read your playbook? [laughter] Bemiller: I didn’t have to. I just fell down. [laughter] Give me the ball and fall down. Rutkowski: That’s true, because we had training camp up at Niagara University, and after our evening meal, a lot of the guys went out and whatever they did up there, Paul, had a couple beers. But Jack said, “Let’s go out and do something,” so I’d go with him. He’d take me down to the B & B Bookstore in downtown Niagara Falls and get the 17 Wall Street Journal, U.S. News and World Report and start doing all this stuff. You talk about on the road. I lived in Hamburg and Jack lived in Hamburg, and we would drive to and from practice. I would always be talking about the game plan and Jack would start talking about politics, “Where were you born? Are you a Republican or a Democrat?” I said, “I’m a Democrat.” He said, “How can you be a Democrat?” And he started indoctrinating me about Republicanism. We used to go on the West Coast trip. We didn’t fly out to the West Coast and then come back. We would do three weeks. We’d fly out and play the Denver Broncos first, then go from the Broncos to the Chargers, Chargers to Oakland—or Oakland to the Chargers. We were out in California. This is my rookie year with Jack, and after the Saturday practice, he comes in the room and says, “Eddie, I got tickets for this big rivalry game.” And I’m thinking Southern Cal-Cal or Southern Cal-UCLA. He says, “You want to go?” I said, “Who is it?” He says, “Oxy-Claremont-Mudd.” I said, “Who?” He said, “Oxy-Claremont-Mudd.” I said, “That sounds like a dirt bike place. No, I don’t want to go there.” Warlick: I recall Saban telling Kemp on one occasion in the dressing room getting ready for practice, Kemp would be, as the guys alluded to, he’d be talking politics, political aspirations of so-and-so. So one day Saban said, “Jack, get your mind off that politics and start thinking 18 about those plays. We got a game Saturday,” or Sunday. I recall that very vividly. Maguire: The thing about it is, too, that you’ve got to realize what Jack meant to the Buffalo Bills, because we only had four coaches in those days, and the head coach was one of them. Lou Saban coached the defensive line, basically. [Joel D.] Joe Collier had the defense, the secondary linebackers. Johnny Mazur was the offense, everything in the offense. Then [Jerome A.] Jerry Smith was the offensive line coach. So that’s all we really had. I think that, honest to god, Lou Saban really depended on Jack for part of the game plan, the things that were going on, because Jack was that smart. Jack knew everything he was going to do when they got on the field, and that’s what made him so valuable. Kondracke: What was his relationship with Saban like? Maguire: He didn’t like him either. [laughter] Kondracke: But, I mean, the quarterback’s calling the plays in those days, right? So they must have worked out the game plan together ahead of time, so they were— Maguire: These guys, the offensive guys, but I think Jack used to just stand there and nod his head at Saban and say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” and then go in and do what he wanted to do. Jack did what he wanted to do. 19 Rutkowski: I learned one thing. If you were on the offensive unit and Jack threw an interception, you did not want to walk off the field next to Jack, because Lou Saban would be coming out on the field and he’d say, “Jack, you’re killing me. What are you doing? You’re killing my family.” And Jack would say, “Jeez, Lou, I didn’t do it on purpose.” So you would just stay away and let Lou do his thing. He was unbelievable. Ferguson: One thing I recall regarding that is that Saban would send the play in. Remember, Saban would send the play in, “Run so and so and so, twenty-two trap on four.” And Jack would say, “The hell with that. We’re not running that. We’re going to run this play.” If it worked, it was great. But if it didn’t work, when he came out, we came off the field, that’s when Saban would say, “You’re killing me. What are you doing out there?” Kondracke: Booker, you were close to Saban because you played for him in college, so what’s your view of the Kemp-Saban relationship? Edgerson: Like I said, being on defense, back in those days the offense and defense really didn’t mingle together. They kept them separate and everything, because we was a lot smarter than the offense. We knew what our assignment was. One thing about Lou, Lou understood the game of football. I mean, he was a great coach. He was a person that knew talent and he knew how to treat people. He did it individually. He didn’t treat everybody the same. But he would see a play develop and he would 20 say, “No.” He’d stop it, and he’d say, “No, that’s not the play.” Now, he didn’t know what the play was, but he knew it wasn’t ran properly. So he told them to do it again. That was one of the things I used to see all the time, not only here at Buffalo but when I was at Western Illinois University, is that he knew what play should be called and how it should be run. He didn’t necessarily know what the play itself was. I used to hear him stop the play a lot of times with Jack and Cookie and Wray Carlton. They was running the plays wrong, and I know they always took time out to analyze what they was doing. But like I said, the biggest thing was is that the defense and offense was totally separate, and so we never really got into what was going on. But I would just like to say that everybody else alluded to Jack being in this politics, is that I used to listen to him and Cookie and [Arthur L.] Art Powell and anybody else would listen to Jack, because he really believed in a lot of social issues and he was very concerned about society and where it was going, but he also tried to advise the ballplayers about the social issues that they need to be taking a look at. So I always admired him for that, that he was always on the lookout for his teammates, you know, even in business situations. When business opportunities came up, he let us know, you know, so we could take advantage of it. However, we wasn’t making any money back in those days, so we couldn’t take advantage of anything. We were barely able to buy groceries. Maguire: He used to loan me a lot of money, I know that. [laughter] Abramoski: Tell about the part that Jack played with the Houston-New Orleans All-Star Game. 21 Kondracke: Yes, we will get to that. We will get to the All-Star Game in detail. Go ahead. Rutkowski: This is alluding to what Booker said about social issues. Jack and I would be driving to and from a practice together, and we were coming back home, and we had the itinerary for the upcoming trip, and it was an away game. Jack is looking at the thing, and he said, “Eddie, you got all the white guys rooming together and all the black guys rooming together. Why don’t we intermingle the rooming arrangement.” I said, “I don’t know, Jack. You’re the captain. Find out.” So he called Jack Corrigan [phonetic] and he asked him, he said, “Why do you have all the blacks rooming together and all the whites?” Kondracke: Jack Corrigan is who? Rutkowski: He was the Vice President of Public Relations for the Buffalo Bills. And Jack said, “I don’t know. We thought that was what you guys wanted.” Jack said, “No, no, no, we want to start rooming together.” So Jack roomed with Art Powell. On the Kansas City trip, I roomed with Booker, and he taught me about black-eyed peas and I taught him about Polish kielbasa. We really had a significant part to play in the Civil Rights Movement, not knowing that we actually did play a pretty good part. Kondracke: Well, let’s go to the ’65 All-Star Game, then. Eddie, you ended up being the spokesman for the black players down in New 22 Orleans about leaving. Why don’t you just describe the whole scene about what went on in New Orleans. Warlick: Oh, boy, oh, boy. Well, we went to New Orleans to play this All-Star Game. I think it was ’65, I believe. Of course, we were told that everything was fine. We would not be subjected to any segregation or anything like that. So, okay, we go to New Orleans. So, the night before the game, Jack said that, “Hey, Ernie, why don’t we let’s go and hit a couple of spots on—.” Is that Bourbon Street? “Let’s go down. Let’s go down.” I said, “You guys go ahead,” because just realizing in my own mind where I was and what the history was, I said, “Maybe I shouldn’t go.” But Jack insisted that I go. So we go down on Bourbon Street, and we all go to walk into the place, and there was this attendant outside the place that would say, “Everybody, come on in!” When the bodyguard started, “Not you guys. We don’t serve your kind. Nope, we don’t serve you.” And Jack would be inside, and he’d look around and say, “Ernie, come on.” I said, “They won’t let me in.” So I didn’t fight it, make a scene. So after a couple of times, I said, “Uh, Jack, why don’t you guys go ahead.” I think Dubenion was along with us, and I forget who else. I said, “Why don’t you go. We’re going back to the hotel.” He said, “No. We’re going to find a place. We’re going to find a place.” Well, we didn’t find anyplace. So the next morning— Kondracke: But Jack would leave with you guys? 23 Warlick: You know, I don’t recall whether he left with us or not. I don’t know. I can’t say at this point whether we all came back together. I don’t think we did. I think it was just a couple of my guys that got a cab. Kondracke: Did you have to stay at separate hotels? Warlick: No, we were in the same hotel. But we got a cab and came back to the hotel. On the matter of the cabs, I’ve got to add Cookie Gilchrist to this. We were outside and we said, “Taxi!” And the driver said, “Uh, we don’t serve y’all. You got to call a black cab.” And Cookie said, “We don’t care what color the cab is. We just want a cab.” [laughter] So we came back to the hotel. Then the next morning, Cookie Gilchrist called a meeting of all the black players, the west squad and the east squad, and we started comparing notes on what we had encountered, all the black guys that had encountered segregation the night before on both sides, the east squad and the west squad. So it was determined at that point are we going to play the game or are we not going to play the game. Of course, Cookie was the one that spearheaded, “I’m not going to play. That’s the way it’s going to be, I’m not going to play.” Abner Haynes, for those of you who don’t know, is black, said, “Well, what are we going to do?” And we said, “Well, we’re not going to play. We’re going home. We’re going to leave.” 24 So Abner Haynes said, “Now, look. Don’t let me get back in Houston and turn on the TV and all you black guys are playing. I’ll be mad.” So we decided that we wouldn’t play. In this meeting we made that decision, and all the guys got up and started walking out. They said, “Oh, we need somebody.” By that time the press was outside the door. I don’t know how they found out about this, but they were outside the door. We said, “Cookie, since you spearheaded this whole thing, why don’t you talk to the press?” And of course he said, “No, I’m not talking to the press, because they’ll think I’m the one that started all this, so I’m not talking. So we need somebody else. So let’s get one of the older guys to talk. Ernie, you be the spokesman.” And everybody walked out and left me there, so I had to hurriedly try to put something together to make it sound a little professional anyway. So I explained why we had decided, all the black guys had made a decision not to play because of the discrimination that we had encountered the night before. But Cookie Gilchrist was really the one that spearheaded the whole thing. Kondracke: Who else was there at the time? Were you there? ?: No. Kondracke: Anybody else was there? Maguire: I’ll tell you, in 1961 we were going to Dallas to play with the Chargers. Jack was our quarterback then. Baron Hilton owned the team, so when we went to Dallas, we only had, I think, maybe eight or 25 nine black guys on the team, and we weren’t allowed in the Hilton in Dallas, and the owner of the team owned the hotel. So they said, “Okay, the white guys can stay at the Hilton, but the black guys have to go to Grand Prairie, Texas,” which is right outside. And Jack Kemp went to Sid Gillman and said, “This is not acceptable. Either we stay as a team or we don’t play.” And Jack Kemp was the guy that actually did it. We all ended up in the crappiest hotel in Grand Prairie, Texas, because of Kemp. [laughter] I want it in the ledger. No, it was absolutely the right thing to do. We had no problem. Kondracke: In the New Orleans case, he was the president of the AFL Players Association. Did he have a role in getting the game moved to Houston? Warlick: I don’t know whether he had a role in that or not, but I did not say that he was the one that told the black players, the group, “Look, I’m with you guys 100 percent. That’s your decision not to play. I’m with you 100 percent.” Kondracke: Larry, were you down there? Felser: I was down there, yes. Kondracke: Tell us what you saw. Felser: Just about what Ernie talked about. We would start talking with these guys, and black players from the other team, the north squad, “What was it like when you tried to go to dinner or you tried to 26 go to any black club or anything like that?” Same story. It was a shutout all the way, and they had been promised ahead of time. The guy who sponsored the game was a well-to-do, well-known jeweler in New Orleans [David Frank Dixon], and he meant well. He was not a racist at all, but he assumed so many things, like the color line was going to topple because of him, and there was no such agreement whatsoever, and it was a total mess. It would have been an even blacker—pardon the expression—eye if they had gone to Houston and the black players hadn’t agreed to go. I mean, these guys and the other black players on other teams saved an enormous amount of face for the league. Kondracke: Did Jack have any role in the switch, do you remember? Felser: I don’t remember that, no. I’d like to say he did, but one way or the other, I can’t remember. Kondracke: This is the midst of the Civil Rights Movement time. What was race relations like in the AFL and how was Buffalo different from other teams? Edgerson: One thing, I don’t know how Buffalo is different from any other team, but we had a lot of guys that played that came from southern colleges and everything, but they was the early ones that came in, so they sort of like got indoctrinated to what was going on. I know when I got here in ’62, there was still a few guys on the team that really didn’t want to have anything to do with black ballplayers, you know, and so it made it very difficult to have some kind of conversation with them. Fortunately, they was offensive linemen, 27 didn’t have no problem, so I didn’t have to deal with them anyway. [laughter] Maguire: You never really did like the offense, did you? Edgerson: I didn’t like the offense at all. But the thing was, is that that whole racial situation, it just would not go away when we played exhibition game in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Back to what Paul said, Hilton, he owned the hotels and we was at a Hilton Hotel. When we got there, Saban brought me into the meeting, said, “Booker, I want you to have a meeting with all the black ballplayers,” because they didn’t want to go. Cookie, [Thomas F.] Tom Day, Jim Sorey, Willie [T.] West, all the guys said, “No, we don’t want to go down South. We don’t want no parts of it.” So we had experience when I was in college, and Saban said, “Well, look, why don’t you go and talk to them.” I said, “Why me? I’m just a rookie. They don’t listen to me.” “Talk to them.” So I went in and I talked to the guys, and I said, “Let me put it this way. If we don’t get treated properly, we don’t have to play. That’s just the way it is. We don’t have to play.” So they all agreed to go. So we got down there, and when we got there, just as sure as the day was day and night was night, they told us we could not stay there, and so now we got to go to the hotel across town and the white players stay in the Hilton. So Saban says, “Look, you guys do not have to play if you don’t want to play, but what I need from you is unity. If all do not want to play, you don’t have to play. If one decides to play, you play, or vice versa.” 28 There was a couple guys that said that they would play because their livelihood depended on it and they was trying to make the team and everything, and so they said, “Well, we’re going to play.” So we ended up playing. But we went to the restaurant that morning to eat breakfast— Kondracke: This is what town? Edgerson: This is in Tulsa. Kondracke: This is the Bills? Edgerson: Yes, we played exhibition game, New York Jets. We went to this restaurant to get something to eat that morning, and I’ll tell you, people was ordering food and everything, and I’m getting ready to order and I’m looking. I’m looking at the cooks, and the sweat was falling off their heads into the food, and I said, “Hmm. I don’t think so.” Maguire: Give me a bowl of that. [laughter] Edgerson: So when the waitress asked me what I wanted, I just told her, I said, “Give me a bowl of ice cream and a piece of pie.” No sweat is going to fall off of that, you know. And that’s what I had for breakfast that morning. But from that point on, everything else was good. The ballplayers here in Buffalo, they finally got on the same page with everybody else, and we really didn’t have any problems here in Buffalo in terms of the racial situation and everything. I mean, obviously 29 there was a few guys, as I said, that we had some problems with, but they finally came over and did all right. Rutkowski: But all the team parties, you know, when we’d go after a game on Monday, we never segregated ourselves. We didn’t go all as a bunch of white guys and a bunch of black guys. Then we always had the great Halloween party. [Crosstalk] Rutkowski: Absolutely. We’ve got some pictures that we can’t show today, to this day, but some of the costumes were kind of unique. Jack Kemp had a shirt on that said “Burn, Baby, Burn. Stokely Carmichael for President.” We had some good times, and we made some friendships during those times that today, you know, last a lifetime, Booker, Charlie, and Ernie. Maguire: You know, the surrounding things that were there, Mort, we could control in our locker room and the word always was, what happens in our locker room stays in our locker room. It was about us. It wasn’t about the people in Buffalo or the people in San Diego. It was about the Buffalo Bills. With Jack—and this is about Jack—Jack was a hell of a leader for us. He really was. I mean, he took charge. I remember that we had a strike in ’67, whatever it was. We were on strike and we were working out. Jack was the head of the Players Association, I guess, at that time. He said, “We’re going to strike.” 30 Then all the wives said, “Well, if you strike, you ain’t getting’ any.” So the strike only lasted a day. [laughter] It’s true. Come on. The wives broke the strike. The players didn’t. [laughter] Kondracke: Charley, you haven’t weighed in on the subject of racial. We’ll get back to the strike. Ferguson: Well, I would just like to say that between Jack, Paul was very instrumental in making a lot of things helping the team stay together. I mean, his humor was really so important to the guys, and I think that you may not realize that, but, Paul, you really made a lot of things happen to the team together, along with Jack with his leadership, and I think that’s what really had us to work extremely close together as a team. We just worked together. We did a lot of things together, and it was not a problem. I know Paul and Jack, they heard Tom Day call me “Newpy” [phonetic], so they fell in line and they had no idea what Newpy meant. They never asked. Maguire: I don’t know what perspicacity means either. [laughter] Ferguson: But that was a fraternity call. Tom and I were frat brothers. So they started calling me Newpy, because that was the way Tom addressed me, is by Newpy. So Paul and Jack used to always do that themselves. Then it picked up. I think Ed used to call me that. Maguire: I still do. 31 Ferguson: That’s right. Kondracke: So I think we’re done with the civil rights issue. Let me ask you, Ed, how did Jack handle booing? Because he got a fair amount of it. And they threw stuff, right? Is that true? Rutkowski: His favorite joke was, after he got through with football, when he was going to run for Congress, he said, “You know, these guys today, they get criticized. They’re too sensitive. People criticize them and everything. When we played, if I threw an interception or we had a bad play, he said, the people would throw garbage at us and beer cans and rotten tomatoes, and that’s when we were coming out of our house.” [laughter] His famous line was, “If you could take the boos of 47,000 people in War Memorial Stadium, you could take the political heat in politics.” Maguire: Isn’t it true, though, one thing at War Memorial Stadium, which we all had to, they said when you come down the steps, and you’re heading onto the field, because we had to go out a tunnel, always keep your helmet on. Always. I’m not talking about after a game when you won or not. Always keep your helmet on. I was with the Chargers, we came in here in 1960, and we used to play these guys on Friday night. Sid Gillman said—because we beat them—“When we leave this game, keep your helmets on.” And I’m thinking, “What the hell?” Right behind us on our bench are guard dogs in Buffalo. And I went, “Oh, my god.” I put my helmet on. The guy throws a full can of beer at me. I say, “Hey, thanks, man.” [laughter] Can’t wait to get to the locker room. 32 But they were very friendly. I mean, they didn’t just throw stuff at those guys; they threw stuff at the Chargers, too, when we were there. They did not segregate anybody. Kondracke: What happened when he threw an interception or a receiver missed a catch? Did he get mad? Bemiller: Well, in those days, as the offensive line, as Booker would say, we never had too much to say. Kondracke: Well, what did you hear? Bemiller: Well, we just heard a lot of bitching, which he already said, “Why didn’t you catch it?” Or, “What’s wrong with you?” Or this and that. Kondracke: Did you hear it from Jack? Did Jack criticize? Bemiller: Jack was fairly quiet person, as far as I’m concerned. He was a very smart individual, and he knew that he wouldn’t let a screwed-up pass bother him, and that’s what kept him—he just kept going. He wouldn’t quit. Jack was a tough—the thing I remember about Jack the most is his toughness. He was very strong, tough. Although he wasn’t a very big person, he was very tough. No, we didn’t get into—the offensive line, we didn’t say too much. Kondracke: How about you receivers? What happened if he— 33 Maguire: They’re the talkers. Rutkowski: Yes. When we were playing the Miami Dolphins and I was playing split end at that time, when we got down to the fifteen yard line— Maguire: You lost that one too. [laughter] Rutkowski: It was in December. It was cold. You know, your feet are cold. We didn’t have the hand warmers and all this stuff that these guys have today, and my hands were like ice. Maguire: Jack had a hand warmer. [laughter] Rutkowski: Anyway, he called a quick post pattern, where you go down about seven yards and slant to the inside, and I was wide open. I had two steps on the cornerback. He threw a pass, and it hit me right in the hands, and my hands were so cold, it bounced out of my hands. I came back to the huddle, he chewed me out. He said, “You know, you got to hold onto those things. There aren’t that many times when you’re going to get open like that.” I said, “Jack, I can’t feel a thing. Next time don’t lead me. Hit me in the numbers so I can try to trap it against my shoulder.” But that was the only time in my career and relationship with Jack that he really ever had nasty words about me. Maguire: And he never threw a pass to you again. [laughter] Rutkowski: That’s right. 34 Warlick: Well, I remember in the huddle sometimes when Jack would ask Dubenion, “What you got, Dooby?” Meaning what is open, what can you get open? And Dooby said, “I don’t have a damn thing. They’re beating me up soon as I line up.” [laughter] He’d say, “[Glenn Alden] Bass, what you got, Bass?” And Bass would say, “Uh, Jack, well, I don’t have anything. They won’t let me off the line.” I used to crack up with that. I made a joke of that. I said, “Well, Jack, throw an incomplete pass like you always do.” [laughter] It was a joke, though. Kondracke: So, Charley? Ferguson: Well, I can go back and remember an incident where Jack and I used to communicate a lot, and one day Jack said, “Fergie, let’s keep this to ourselves, and let’s work on the alley-oop pass.” [Raleigh C.] R.C. Owens with the Forty-Niners developed that pass. They used to call it the alley-oop. So we were right on about the ten yar