NFL Preseason Report: NY Giants At Fairfield U.

The New York Giants are deep into their training camp. They kick off their preseason on Sunday.

If you’re a hardcore fan, you know that.

But if you were even a casual NFL fan in the 1960s, you’d have been more aware of the team.

For one thing, they played at Yankee Stadium — far closer to Connecticut than New Jersey.

For another, they trained a couple of miles away — at Fairfield University.

And when they played — as in, went to restaurants and bars, not “played football” — it was often in Westport.

Bill Staby is a native Westporter. He remembers those days well. He sent a link to a 2015 Hour story by George Albano, to fill in the details.

From 1961 to ’69, Albano wrote, Fairfield U. was the Giants’ summer home. They knew Connecticut already, from playing an exhibition game every year at Yale Bowl.

When they looked to leave their traditional Catskills training camp, officials — including head coach Jim Lee Howell, line coach Harland Svare and owner Wellington Mara’s son nephew Tim — toured the Jesuit school. They liked what they saw.

College officials gave them the dorms for free. Then they worked out a plan to feed the football players — hungry eaters all — for $6 per player a day.

As in: $6 for all 3 meals. The Giants — astonished — offered to pay a bit more: $6.50.

The publicity for Fairfield University was worth the investment.

Workouts were closed to the public. But an intra-squad scrimmage on the last day of camp was open to fans. The place was packed.

Fans at a New York Giants intra-squad scrimmage.

Players like Frank Gifford and Y.A. Tittle trained at Fairfield. It was close to home for Stamford’s Andy Robustelli. Hungarian Pete Gogolak — pro football’s first soccer-style kicker — later made his home in Darien (and opened a soccer camp).

Dozens of other players trained at Fairfield too. When they wanted a break, they’d jump on the “Connecticut Turnpike” (now I-95) to places like the Arrow restaurant in Saugatuck (now Mystic Market). Owner Lou Nistico always treated them well.

(From left) New York Giants head coach Allie Sherman, with Earl Morrall and Fran Tarkenton, at Fairfield University in 1967.

They hit the bars up and down the Post Road too.

But those are stories for another day.

OVERTIME: Bill Staby has other Giants memories too.

When home game television broadcasts were “blacked out” — to encourage fans to buy tickets — his father took him to Birchwood Country Club. A high-tech aerial rotated via electric motor to pick up a Hartford station.

“I’m sure Birchwood’s investment in that equipment was more than made up for by increased sales of drinks and food,” Staby says.

He adds, “Even though I live smack in the middle of Patriots territory now, I grew up to become a rabid Jets fan.”

13 responses to “NFL Preseason Report: NY Giants At Fairfield U.

  1. Small correction. It was Wellington Maras nephew Tim Mara who was a 50% owner who toured the facility that day and made the ultimate decision about Fairfield University being used as the training camp and also was the architect of the Giants move to the Meadowlands.

  2. Kathleen Dehler

    WOW !!!! Loved seeing the picture of Earl Morrall.. My daughter Elizabeth married Earls son!

    • And 1988 Staples High School graduate Ty Jagerson married Y.A. Tittle’s granddaughter. Proving once again that “06880′ is “where Westport meets the world”!

  3. chip stephens SHS 73

    Great article! Any idea how George Albano is doing, he was a favorite who covered all Staples sports with class even though he was a true Norwalk fan.

  4. I saw Phil Simms once at Rawley’s hot dog stand in Fairfield, and I met Frank Gifford walking on to the field. I can’t remember the years, but I didn’t have my driver’s license when I met Gifford because I hitched a ride from a guy who worked at the golf range, Matt Bochniak. He was a huge Giants fan.

  5. Victoria Riley

    My father, a photographer, once had me tag along to a practice. I remember tossing a football back and forth to Mr. Tittle a few times until Alex Webster yelled at us to stop and said “Do you know how much his hands are worth?” Another player overhearing the comment said, “Yea, but she throws like a boy.”

    • Jack Y.A. Backiel

      Victoria, I got a laugh from your story. And you are the first person I’ve ever heard , in my entire life, that called him Mr. Tittle! I’m almost tempted to ask Dan to take down your comment. (Just kidding)

  6. Another small correction. The Giants also trained at Fairfield U during the summer of 1974. I know this because they stayed in my dorm😊.

  7. We used to say, ‘Keep your daughters home’. Also, I was part time employee at St. Vincents and you should see the nuns go crazy when the players would come in to visit there buds who got injured. The wore cut off shorts and sleeveless tee shirts. The nuns would tell that their dress was inappropriate and ask them to leave. You should see their end run around the nun and go see their friends.

  8. My Mom’s house was a second home for a lot of my friends, mostly guys, who would meet them at the bars and bring them home. Somehow everyone always ended up in the kitchen which felt very crowded!

  9. There was a third hospital in Bridgeport- the Park City Hospital (long since closed) that provided radiology and orthopedic coverage to the team during the summer. As young radiologist temporarily helping cover the radiology and emergency departments during the summer of 72-73 I got to see some of those NY Giant players.

    There were lots of injuries at those Fairfield U practices.
    Knee meniscal and ACL injuries topped the list. Shoulders separations were second on the list. Lots of deep muscle bruises and joint sprains.

    All diagnoses were made clinically and on x-ray arthrograms in the pre CT scan and MRI era.

    But I was amazed when I looked through the film jackets- for old comparison x-ray films- to see all the finger, hand and rib fractures every line backer and lineman had sustained. And as young men they already had post traumatic arthritis in their lumbar spines, knees and ankles.Those active players were walking wounded!

    More recently- there have been lots of medical articles detailing the post traumatic encephalopathy many of the players experience as they get older resulting in pre senile dementias.

    As a result of what I saw- my sons didn’t play football. They played lots of soccer, baseball and basketball growing up and two did wrestle varsity for Staples HS (a much safer sport than football- only two opposing gladiators with a referee doing both the scoring and preventing dangerous situations from arising).

  10. Jack Backiel

    Both my kids, age 41 and 39, were born in Park City Hospital. It was quaint. I know that’s an odd way to describe a hospital, but it was small and personal.