By Will Martin
Like the commercial once cooed for fans of Virginia Slims, ‘We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!’ the same can be said for the meteoric rise that is now the brand known as the Dallas Cowboys.
It was sometime in 1980 when NFL Films producer Ed Sabol coined the term, ‘America’s Team’. That argument can be made for the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
As we get ready for the start of the 94th NFL season in Denver Thursday night I thought it might be fun to go back in time. Back to to when it all began.
Back to when there were TWO pro football franchises in Dallas Texas. You will have a rematch of sorts in Week 2 after a Sunday Night opener with the Giants.
Aside from an election on the horizon between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy was there anything out of the ordinary that stood out in the year 1960? Not exactly. Not yet anyway. The AFL vs. the NFL was just beginning to grow seeds before a merger was reached ten years later. Television had yet to be the financial juggernaut it is today.
Tex Schramm, Tom Landry, and a host of names you might not remember (but Dad and Grandpa might) would go through a painfully disappointing rookie campaign that fall in the Western Conference of the NFL. Fans of this generation obviously thank that year one with Jerry Jones was the worst at 1-15 in 1989. Guess what? In 1960 it was worse. A winless season with only a tie to Tom Landry’s old ballclub.
These days everything is so wonderfully organized out in Oxnard for training camp and games have precise locations. Let’s just say things were a little more unsure back in 1960. Six exhibition games played in which one game with the 49ers was played in Seattle, Wa. There was also an exhibition with the St. Louis Cardinals played in San Antonio. Attendance for those two games were 22,000 and 14,000.
On August 19th of that year over 40,000 of the Texas faithful would come to the Cotton Bowl to watch the Cowboys and Baltimore Colts play. A game the Colts won 14-10. One week later Dallas would travel to Louisville, Ky. to play the Giants and a crowd of only 10, 663 before flying out to Camp Pendleton Ca. for a meeting with the L.A. Rams. A game L.A. won handily 49-14 witnessed by some 13,500 fans.
September 11th was the final exhibition game in Minnesota to play…the Green Bay Packers. 20,121 fans watched the Pack defeat the Cowboys 28-23. Little did they know this would become a heated rivalry before the decade was done! As you can tell, word of mouth then for football not quite as good as it is today. Can you imagine if only 13,000 showed up at AT&T Stadium in 2013? Alas I digress…
The Dallas Cowboys of 1960 fielded a starting lineup of Eddie LeBaron at Quarterback, Don McIlhenny and L.G. Durpe split the duties at Running Back. Walt Kowalczyk and Gene Babb did the same at Fullback. At Center there was John Houser, Duane Putnam at Left Guard, Bob Fry at Left Tackle, Fred Dugan in the Left Wideout.
Right Guard was split between Paul Dickson and Dick Klein. Jim Doran anchored the Right Tackle, spelled on occasion by Dick Bielsski. The Right Wideout was divvied up between Bill Howton and Frank Clarke.
Jim Doran had the distinction of the being the 1st (and only) Dallas Cowboy to make the Pro Bowl in 1960. Have fun with that!
Fred Cone was your kickoff guy while Dave Sherer punted. Defensively you had Nate Borden at Left End, Don Healy and Left Tackle, Ed Husmann at Right Tackle, John Gonzaga at Right Tackle, Wayne Hansen, Gene Cronin, and Jerry Tubbs comprised your Linebacking core with Tubbs manning the middle.
Tom Franckhauser and Don Bishop handled the Corners, Bob Bercich, Fred Doelling, and Gary Wisener platooned at Strong Safety while Bill Butler manned the Free Safety position. And that was who the 1960 Dallas Cowboys were comprised of!
As for the 12 game season, well…the good news is they were competitive in four of the 12 games as Tom Landry would begin to work his magic defensively with schemes better known as the 3-4 defense. Having played in New York with Vince Lombardi in the 50’s Coach Landry was also privy to something coined ‘The Umbrella Defense’.
Two Pennsylvania teams would christen the Cotton Bol in back to back games September 24th and September 30th with the Steelers and Eagles. 30,000 attended the home opener and saw a 35-28 defeat to a future Super Bowl rival. Only 18,500 were in attendance when the Cowboys lost a heartbreaker to the Eagles 27-25. Philadelphia would be your subsequent champion in 1960 over the Packers.
Perhaps there was a silver lining in the manner that the schedule makers wrote out the 1960 schedule for the Dallas Cowboys. Winless in 12 games with 1 tie, the 1960 season would end with four games out of five played on the road. That lone tie happened December 4th at Yankee Stadium where the Cowboys and Giants would play to a 31-31 tie.
Slowly but surely, this newness of product would gain steam, acceptance and of course the mantle of the team you love, hate, but can never ignore. This was proven on October 16th when 28,500 came to the Cotton Bowl to watch the Cleveland Browns. 25,500 would fill the Cotton Bowl on October 30th when the defending champion Baltimore Colts came to town.
Two games the Cowboys lost by a combined 93-14. That didn’t stop another 16,000 fans from making the trek to Dallas on November 6th to get a glimpse of the Los Angeles Rams and watch a 38-13 defeat happen.
Statistically the expansion Cowpokes were outscored in 1960 369 to 177. Eddie LeBaron completed 49% of his passes with 12 Touchdown passes and 25 Interceptions, throwing for 1,736 yards. A meager 53.5 QB rating. Don Meredith and a kid named Heinrich combined for 2,388 yards. 258 more than what the opposition got against Dallas (145-293 2,130 49%).
Jim Doran caught 31 passes for 554 yards, including one for a 75 yard touchdown. L.G. Dupre would touch the ball 104 times for 362 yards on the ground while Don McIlhenny would amass 321 yards on 96 carries. The 1960 Cowboys were outrushed by a 2 to 1 count 2,242 to 1,049. The Dallas defense allowed rushers an average of five yards a carry. Ouch!
Dave Shere averaged about 42 yards per kick. Tom Franckhauser and Don Bishop were your interception leaders with three apiece.
As one can surmise the attendance figures put forth from 1960 were an approximate estimation. Little did anyone realize that pro football would become the #1 spectator sport over time by virtue of creativity, innovation, rules changes, Television contracts, competition with an upstart league, constant upkeep on it’s product, a merger in 1970 and yes, the many ideas put forth by people like Tom and Tex over the years.
There were may things America didn’t see coming in 1960. That includes what would one day become ‘America’s Team’. 1960 it was birthed and born. Check back another day when I look back on another year of the Dallas Cowboys.