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Patriots’ birth in 1960 came with many unanswerable questions

Boston Patriots coach Lou Saban (left) works with quarterback Dick Soergel and center Walt Cudzik at the team's first training camp at UMass-Amherst in July 1960.
Boston Patriots coach Lou Saban (left) works with quarterback Dick Soergel and center Walt Cudzik at the team's first training camp at UMass-Amherst in July 1960.Handout/The Boston Globe - The Boston Gl

Editor’s note: The Globe is reaching into its archives to bring you “Replay,” articles from the past that highlight something interesting, timely, or revealing. This story by Harold Kaese on the Boston Patriots’ inaugural season appeared on Sunday, July 24, 1960, under the headline “No line on Patriots.”

AMHERST — How good are the Boston Patriots? Nobody knows.

A Detroit baseball writer on a recent visit to Boston was walking through Kenmore Square on his way to Fenway Park. He spotted the new Patriots’ office one flight down, and exclaimed:

“Look! They are in the cellar already.”

The Patriots are as much in first place as they are in the cellar. There is no line on them or their opposition in the new American Football League. No betting odds have come out of Las Vegas or other gambling centers.

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The men who make selections and are sometimes called experts, for want of a better term, have made no selections. But don’t worry. They will. One with enough gall undoubtedly will pick a pre-season all-league team — before the league has even played a game.

Compared to the Boston Redskins and Boston Yanks, the Patriots are lucky. They do not have to break into the National Football League against established clubs.

George Marshall’s Redskins, born in 1932, used Lynn for their crib. On Coach Lud Wray’s first team were such outstanding players as Cliff Battles, Ernie Pinckert, Turk Edwards, and Jim Musick.

Ted Collins’ Yanks, born in 1944, were cradled at Dean Academy in Franklin. Coach Herb Kopf’s early standouts were Bob Davis, Keith Ranspot, George Cafego, Augie Lio, and John Martin.

Strangers to Saban

Playing in the Patriots’ pen at the University of Massachusetts, Lou Saban has a collection of players most of whom are strangers to him. Who will become the team’s stars? Butch Songin, Ron Burton, Wray Carlton, Larry Garron, Bill Brown, Bob Dee, Gerhard Schwedes, Jimmy Colclough?

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It’s a mystery to everyone, including Lou Saban, the team’s 38-year-old coach, who still has 25 men more to cut from his big squad.

“We have some pretty good material, but I think we’re a little thin. Especially in interior defensive linemen,” he says.

But Saban, for several years an all-star linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, admittedly looks at his squad through the eyes of a man accustomed to National Football League standards — the best in football history.

Neither he nor anyone else knows what the American League standard will be this season — good, bad, or indifferent.

Capabilities mystery

Anyone sending back extravagant reports on the Patriots is not being realistic. There just is no good evidence of their capabilities, as yet.

This is the fascinating part of the picture. Here are eight teams starting from scratch. Each has had the same opportunities. They have drawn from the same deck.

But one thing is sure: they haven’t all drawn the same hands. Some will be better than others, for sure. But which?

The mystery will soon start unraveling. Exhibition games will give the first hint. The Patriots have five of these — July 30, at Buffalo; Aug. 5, Denver at Providence; Aug. 14, Dallas at Harvard Stadium; Aug. 21, Buffalo at Holy Cross; Aug. 28, Oakland at UMass.

Exhibitions, because coaches use them for trials and experiments, can be deceptive. The Chicago Bears were exhibition wonders last fall, but were not so hot when the chips were down.

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AFL teams are likely to take exhibitions more seriously. All will be trying to sell tickets by impressing potential fans through winning.

To learn his players, Saban has been having more scrimmages than NFL teams like. Only three new players make an NFL club each season, on the average.

“The only way I can test these players is by scrimmaging them,” said Saban. “I’ve got to put them under fire. Then we’ll study the movies and pick our men.”

Since scrimmages can lead to injuries, it will pay the Patriots to be lucky.

Comparisons useless

Rumor says that Houston has superb material, that the New York Titans sorely need a quarterback and may trade for one of the Patriots, that Buffalo has tremendous linemen . . . but the facts of the American Football League remain unknown, which is why this promises to be a bewitching season.

Comparisons with the National League will be useless. Like the Ivy League in college football, the American League is an entity unto itself, to be judged by the closeness of its competition and the excitement of its games.

For a while, at least, the two leagues will not play each other, which may be just as well, as Charlie Flowers indicated when the legality of his switch from the New York Giants to the Los Angeles Chargers was upheld.

Said Flowers: “I am proud to say that we do not play the Giants this season. They would kill me.”

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