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.
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.
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.”