By: Joe Gill/Boston Sports Then and Now
July 22, 2010

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Fifty years of Patriots Football, damn, time flies when you are having fun! I have only been around since 1973, so I am writing about Patriots history gone by to help educate the masses who only remember back to the Bury the Bears days.

This is installment one of five, covering each decade of Patriots football. From the days playing at Fenway Park as the Boston Patriots to the perfect regular season of 2007 culminating with the return of Tom Brady. Happy Birthday to the Patriots, thanks for the fantastic memories!


William H. Sullivan, Jr. Founder and owner of the Patriots from 1959 thru 1992. (Photo: Icon/SMI)
The Boston Patriots were born kicking and screaming on November 22, 1959 to proud papa, Billy Sullivan Jr. Billy was a businessman with a great promotional prowess. He conducted a contest amongst local sports writers to name the fledgling American Football League franchise. The Patriots were selected as the team name (apologies to the folks who voted for the Lobstahs or Baked beans) and Boston Globe artist Phil Bissell developed the "Pat Patriot" logo, but now they needed to find a home and head coach.

The Patriots hired Lou Saban as the team's first head coach on February 8, 1960.  The "Pats" as they were nicknamed called Nickerson Field at Boston University home in the inaugural 1960 season.   The Patriots were AFL pioneers playing in the league's first preseason and regular season games. Boston lost to the Denver Broncos 13-10 in front of a home crowd of about 21,000 fans. That season was mediocre at best with Patriots posting a 5-9 record finishing last in the AFL eastern division.

The 1961 season started off slow with a 2-3 start. Saban was dismissed and newly hired coach, Mike Holovak rallied the team to a 9-4-1 record. Holovak posted an identical record in 1962 as the Patriots moved their home to Harvard University. However, the team's nomadic ways did not stop there.

In 1963, the Patriots shacked up with the Red Sox at historic Fenway Park.   The Patriots ended up winning the AFL Eastern Division while posting a modest 7-6-1. They made the franchise's first playoff appearance by defeating the Buffalo Bills 26-8. They went on to the next round but got throttled by the San Diego Chargers 51-10.

Holovak had proven himself as coach and was awarded the GM position in 1964. He led the team to 10-3-1 record and grabbed AFL Coach of the Year Honors. The Patriots were becoming a competitive player in the AFL.

After their 4-8-2 hiccup in 1965, the Boston Patriots fell one game short of the AFL title game in 1966.   Holovak won the Coach of the Year honors yet again, but the team dramatically fell out of contention for the remainder of the decade. The team stumbled along to a 7-20-1 record from 1967-68. Mike Holovak was fired in January 1969 and replaced by Clive Rush who posted a 4-10 record to round out the decade.

The 60's would draw to a close and so would the AFL. The AFL would finalize their merger with the NFL by acquiring the Patriots and 9 other clubs.   The Pats would then join the newly formed American Football Conference.

The decade could be considered a state of flux in franchise history. The club played in 3 different stadiums and had 3 coaches. The Pats had their share of losing seasons and winning seasons, but never had a lack of grit and heart on the field.

Patriots and NFL Hall of Famers such as Jim Nance (2-time AFL rushing leader), Gino Cappelletti (All time scoring leader in AFL history), Babe Parilli, and Nick Buoniconti were gridiron grinders that Boston blue collar workers could relate to. These men were the face of professional football in Boston during the 1960's.   They brought credibility to a team and league that needed to stay relative with the NFL.

The 1970's would bring even more change. New home...New name...New hope.

Joe Gill is a guest columnist for PatsFans.com, and a featured contributor to Boston Sports Then and Now where you can read his regular column: "Cup Of Joe" every Tuesday and Thursday.  If you have a story idea or just want to talk sports, you can also e-mail Joe directly at bostonsportsthenandnow@gmail.com


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