The Saw it All: Babe Parilli


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
BABE PARILLI (May 7, 1930 – July 15, 2017) 6-1 196 quarterback
Long before he became the iconic head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Bear Bryant had stops at Maryland, Kentucky and Texas A&M. His greatest success at those stops was at Kentucky where he schools two quarterbacks who became members of the AFL’s “10 Year Club”: George Blanda and Babe Parilli. They, in turn, became rivals as quarterbacks of the Houston Oilers and the Boston Patriots. Both had already had lengthy careers before they joined the new league.

Parilli was the more famous player in college, becoming one of the first famous quarterbacks in college ball after the T formation became dominant. “He was a consensus All-American in 1950 and 1951 and was fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1950 and third in 1951. He led the Wildcats to victories in consecutive New Year's Day bowl games in the 1951 Sugar Bowl and 1952 Cotton Bowl.” That 1951 Sugar Bowl game was the first time a #1 ranked team, (which at that time meant a national championship team, since there were no polls after the bowls), had lost a bowl game. It’s possible that if here had been a post bowl poll, Babe’s Kentucky team might have been #1.

He spent the rest of the 1950’s bouncing back and forth between the NFL and the CFL, playing two years with the Packers, then two with the Ottawa Rough Riders, then tried to replace Otto Graham at the helm of the Cleveland Browns, then went back to the Packers, were he was beaten out by Bart Starr, who’d been an also-ran for Alabama when Babe was dominating the SEC at Kentucky, the back to Ottawa. His first stop in the AFL was in Oakland, where he lost out to Tom Flores and was traded to the Patriots, where, at age 31, his career finally blossomed.

In seven years in Boston, he threw for 16,747 yards and 131 touchdowns, many of them to fellow 10 year club member Gino Cappeletti. The Parilli to Cappeletti combination must have thrilled the Italian section of Boston, even though they were from Kentucky and Minnesota. The Combination had a nickname: Grand Opera”. The Pats went 51-40-9 in that stretch, having at least one tie each season and finishing second in the east 4 times. The one time they won it was with a 7-6-1 team that tied the Bills for first in 1963. They then won a playoff, 26-8 only to play the San Diego Charger son their greatest day, losing 10-51. The Patriots best team of that era was actually their 1964 team that went 10-3-1 and finished second to the 12-2-0 Bills, who then beat the Chargers for the title. They had split with the Bill, winning 36-28 in Buffalo and losing in Boston in the last game of the season, 14-24. Going into that game, the Pats were 10-2-1 and the Bills 11-2 so if the Patriots had won that game, they would have had a re-match with the Chargers. Babe had his greatest year that season passing for 3,465 yards and 31 TDs.

The sand was pretty much out of the hour glass when the Patriots traded the old man to the jets in 1968- just in time for babe to get a Super Bowl ring! He backed up Joe Namath, who was almost a neighbor in Beaver County, Pennsylvania and Held for every one of Jim Turner’s 145 kicking points that year: “He was one of the best holders in the history of football and was nicknamed "gold-finger" as a result of kicker Jim Turner's then-record 145 points kicked in 1968 (plus another 19 points in the play-offs and in Super Bowl III).” He finally retired after the 1969 season and 18 years as a pro quarterback. He’s not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but he is in the College Football Hall of fame.


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