Growin’ Up in Maine in the 1950’s the nearest pro football team to home was the New York Giants. Long before the Patriots arrived many Mainers were Giants fans with heroes like #14 quarterback Y.A. Tittle. Playing football was especially popular during the fall in Derby, Maine, and in the early 1960’s my friends and I, mostly 12-14 years old, had some knock down drag out gridiron battles. Some games lasted 8 hours, or more, to the point of foolishness trying to play in the dark.
One of the favorite places to play tackle football was on Clark’s front lawn on Church Street at the corner of Railroad Street across from the Derby Post Office. At some point in the mid-1950’s, fields in Derby were being cut down and converted to lawns. Clark’s field had become Clark’s lawn and was about 50 feet wide by 150 feet long from Railroad Street up to their driveway. The only obstacle was a rock about 3 feet wide sticking 2 feet out of the ground sitting off center around mid field. As I recall, there was a street sign or stop sign on the corner, also, which was known to tackle unwary boys several times each season.
Back in 1962 Y.A. Tittle had one of his best years with 3,224 yards, 33 touchdowns, and an 89.5% pass completion record. Please don’t mention the earlier years when interceptions outnumbered touchdowns. As youngsters, playing quarterback and pretending to be Y.A. was as close as any of us got to a football career. Being tall and lanky, I was often quarterback (pretending to be Y.A. Tittle) with a reputation for a perfect spiral and better than average accuracy. My younger brother had sticky fingers and an uncanny knack for finding the ball, so together we were a deadly combo.
In 1971 the Patriots AFL team officially changed their name to the New England Patriots, and my long time loyalty to the Giants took second fiddle. Sadly, my Dad who was born in 1920 and passed away in 2000 never saw the Red Sox or the Patriots win a championship. I still root for the Giants in games involving the NFC, and was thrilled to see them make the Super Bowl versus the AFC champion Patriots. Y.A. Tittle (and Eli Manning), move over for Tom Brady.