Fifty years ago next week, the Redskins moved training camp to a new city, several hours from Washington, amid great fanfare. Players were heralded with “Welcome Redskins” signs. Columnists wrote how much sense the new home made. And one story after another mentioned the insane heat and humidity.
I mean, you might as well just cut and paste from a half-century ago. Hey, that’s not a bad idea!
So anyhow, after 17 straight years holding training camp at Occidental College in L.A., the Redskins moved to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., in July of 1963. The Post noted that this was “an easy 2 ½ hour drive,” and quoted Dickinson football coach Don Seibert saying “this area of Pennsylvania is football nuts, and I now all the people around here are going to be excited.”
Camp kicked off on July 25 – 50 years and a day before the Redskins will debut their Richmond practice facility – and, if you can believe this, it was hot out.
“This is hardly the weather for football,” read a photo caption in the July 26 Post.
“The Washington Redskins turned out for the first official practice today and found the heat was on,” the next day’s paper reported. “There’s no weather bureau in the placid down that spawned the famed Carlisle football Indians but local radio station WHYL said its thermometer registered 101.”
“Every training camp I’ve ever been to just happens to open when there’s a heat wave,” linebacker Gene Cronin observed, which would perhaps happen less frequently if training camp didn’t begin in late July.
Later in the week, rainfall caused the team’s first preseason practice postponement in 18 years; “the storm was a blessing,” The Post reported, noting that temperatures that were in the 90s “took a rapid dip to the 70s.”
But while much was the same – Richmond has already started putting up the same sort of “Welcome Redskins” signs once used by the Carlisle Chamber of Commerce – there were a few small differences. The team, for example, welcomed 55 players for the camp-opening “picture-taking session,” including Bobby Mitchell, who had recently signed a contract for a then-team-record $25,000.
Veterans who reported overweight were made to run a mile in under 7 minutes, facing the prospect of daily time trials until they passed. Five men had to run on the first day of practice, “and their run produced much hilarity and even a little bit of drama.”
“Sassy linebacker” Cronin announced the race, which ended with John Nisby – a 250-pound guard – passing by eight seconds. “I’m built for short bursts,” he later said.
“Mean John Paluck,” a defensive end, skipped the first day of practice, earning a telegrammed message from Coach Bill McPeak alerting him to his $100 fine.
The second day’s practice brought wind sprints; “what’s this, the Russian track team?” asked veteran Bob Pellegrini.
One rookie, Sam Sample, dealt with the heat by finding a fan-rental shop in Carlisle.
“This is going to cost me $1.50, and I have to get it back by noon Monday, but I got two nights sleep out of it,” he told The Post’s Jack Walsh.
There were plenty of cringe-worthy puns linking the Redskins nickname to the Carlisle Indians; Shirley Povich devoted an entire column to that team, arguing that Redskins ownership had gotten it right with its new summer home.
“It took them 27 years to think up the bright idea that the Redskins should train at Carlisle, Pa., where at last they have trekked,” he wrote. “Brighter bosses would not have been so unawares of the proper place for proper pursuits.”
Players reported for training camp at the team’s 9th Street office in the District, checking in with an assistant coach and then taking a bus north to Pennsylvania. They said goodbye to their wives and children there, and they reflected on the two-a-days to come.
“It’s tough to leave home and the work isn’t easy,” said defensive end Andy Stynchula, who called camp the worst three weeks of the season. “Of course, the only way to get any place is to work hard.”
See? Even the clichés are the same.