Tag Archives: New York Giants

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.”

No Wonder They Call It “Super” Stop & Shop

On the eve of the Super Bowl, alert “06880” reader Kelly Crisp snapped this photo of a sign at Stop & Shop:

She notes: “Unfortunately, it seems the manager is a Giants fan — while at least some of his customers like the Pats.”

Enjoy the game. May the best team Patriots win!

Giants Of Westport

For Giants fans, this year’s Super Bowl is utopia. (Pats fans too. But this post is about the local New York New Jersey squad.)

Yet unless you’re a Tisch or a Mara, chances are your connection with your favorite team is a bit removed.

You’ll watch the big game on a big screen in your big, climate-controlled entertainment center.

You might wear NFL-branded logowear, bought at NFL-licensed retailers at NFL-mandated prices.

You may have gone to actual games at the new Xanadu-like stadium, where you paid usurious prices to sit in the stands, or enjoyed the expense account amenities of a corporate suite.

But the chances of actually getting near — let alone saying “Great game!” — to Eli Manning, Osi Umenyiora or even Prince Amukamara are about as good as Tim Tebow dissing God for favoring Tom Brady the other day.

It was not always that way.

Back in the mid-’60s, the Giants — like the rest of the NFL — were far less corporate. Sure, they were bigger than you and me (especially me), but they did actual human-being things.

Like pre-season training at Fairfield University.

That’s right. Every summer from 1961-69, the Giants ran their drills a mile or two up the road. Anyone could wander over and watch, standing almost on the sidelines. You’d mingle with the players and coaches as they walked back to campus, through the woods.

Occasionally you’d see them in town, at restaurants like the Arrow. And local watering holes — the less expensive, the better.

Y.A. Tittle, Frank Gifford, Del Shofner, Sam Huff, Stamford’s own Andy Robustelli — from September through June, they were the “New York Giants.”

But for a few weeks every mid-summer, they were our own.

That was super.