Raymond "Buddy" Parker
Steelers head coach 1957-1964
Buddy Parker's arrival in 1957 signalled the start of an upswing in the Steeler fortunes. The new coach brought in veterans such as Bobby Layne (his old Detroit quarterback), John Henry Johnson, and Eugene (Big Daddy) Lipscomb, and made the team a contender.
But Parker was noted for his rash moves and impulsive trades – most notably the 1964 trade of wide receiver Buddy Dial to Dallas for the rights to defensive tackle Scott Appleton of Texas, whom the Steelers couldn't sign. It became known as the Buddy Dial-for-Nothing trade, another chapter of the Same Old Steelers.
After the Dial trade, there was a changing of the guard. Art Rooney told Buddy Parker to get approval for future trades from his eldest son, Dan.
Born the year the team was founded, Dan was 31 and taking administrative control of the team. Rooney's second son, Art, Jr., two years younger than Dan, was moving into the scouting department. A younger generation of Rooneys was coming of age.
Art, Jr., known as Artie, says, "A friend of mine told me it wasn't for us. It was more like a quest in the days of the Knights, King Arthur and all that stuff. It was exciting to work in that climate. The family name was at stake."
Parker departed during training camp in 1965. He blew up after Dan
Rooney told him to call back in the morning when he proposed one of his midnight trades. Parker resigned, and Dan Rooney accepted it.
"I felt this business couldn't be run without structure," Dan Rooney says. The younger Rooneys finally were building an organisation. What they needed was the right coach.
After Mike Nixon finished out the 1965 season, they tried an assistant to Vince Lombardi, Bill Austin. He made no progress, and they were searching again in 1969. After Penn State coach Joe Paterno turned them down, they settled for Chuck Noll, an obscure assistant to Don Shula at Baltimore.
Parker’s background: Started as a player-coach with Chicago Cardinals in 1943. He remained as Jimmy Conzelmon's assistant and became head coach midway during 1949 season. Following year, became an assistant to Alvin (Bo) McMillin at Detroit. Succeeded the late head coach in 1951. Between then and 1957 when he resigned, he won three divisional titles and two world's championships with the Lions.
1943 - Player-Coach, Chicago Cardinals
1946-48 - Backfield Coach, Chicago Cardinals
1949 - Head Coach, Chicago Cardinals
1950 - Assistant Coach, Detroit Lions
1951-56 - Head Coach, Detroit Lions
Buddy Parker's record with the Steelers:
THE SCOTT APPLETON AFFAIR
Buddy Dial was drafted by the New York Giants in 1959, but entered their training camp late due to playing with the College All-Stars.
After suffering with a pulled groin muscle, Dial was then struck with an intestinal virus. The Giants' attempt to sneak him through waivers failed as the Steelers picked him up to form a partnership with their quarterback Bobby Layne.
Dial put in his best figures for the Steelers during the 1963, 14 game season. Having become a popular player with his 60 pass completions for 1,295 yards and 9 touchdowns, a trade would be a bitter disappointment with the fans unless the reward became evident.
In 1964, the National Football League and the American Football League were still very much rivals and both leagues competed for their draft choices.
Scott Appleton, an All-American tackle from the University of Texas was the first pick of the Cowboys at number 4 overall, before being traded to the Steelers. He was then wooed by the Steelers in the hope of obtaining his signature on a contract.
For six weeks, the Steelers pursued their prize, but 38 head of Brangus cattle, two gasoline stations, and the West Texas dealership in a fodder-making process plus $104,000 stole the trophy from the Steelers for the Houston Oilers. That was the sum of Appleton’s contract with the Oilers.
At the time, Parker explained away the trade of a successful player as bolstering the Steelers defense. “We just have to improve defensively, and I figure Appleton will be a mighty big part in the right direction. I realise that giving up Dial is giving up a good player, but we are loaded with receivers.” The previous season, the Steelers gave up 295 points, trailing seven other NFL teams.
Life is certainly full of surprises and with all the expectancy, Dial failed to become part of the Dallas offense, Appleton flopped with the Oilers.
BUDDY PARKER FROM THE POST-GAZETTE ARCHIVES
Buddy Parker posted four winning seasons out of trails only Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher on the all-time win list. His teams posted winning records four times in eight years, matching the number of winning seasons compiled by all of his predecessors combined. Yet he left the Steelers with a clouded legacy.
Preferring veterans to rookies, Mr. Parker mortgaged the future for the present. In 1961, for example, he traded five of the first seven picks, including the No. 1, but still got Myron Pottios and Dick Hoak. Two years later, the Steelers didn't pick until the eighth round because all their early picks had been packaged in trades.
A moody, brooding man with a volatile temper, Parker often cut or traded players after a galling loss.
"He was an excellent offensive coach. And he was great when you won, but you never knew what would happen when you lost," Hoak said.
"On a plane ride home, he would walk back in the aisle of the plane and ask a player to get up so he could sit next to a guy who may have fumbled or dropped a pass. He'd sit there and call him every name in the book," he added. "One time, we lost a preseason game, and he put the whole team on waivers. The commissioner's office called the next day and said he couldn't do that. He told them 'Why not? They all stink.' He would just lose it."
Fans never forgave Parker for a trade he made three days after their 1963 loss to the Giants. To shore up his defense, he traded receiver Gilbert (Buddy) Dial - a fan favourite - to the Cowboys for the rights to negotiate with defensive lineman Scott Appleton. Mr. Appleton then signed with the AFL's Houston Oilers, and the Steelers were left empty-handed.
The typical sentiment of irate callers who reached Parker's home was: "You must be crazy."
In other fits of rage, Parker often threatened to quit only to be talked into coming back. But midway through a winless exhibition season in 1965, he resigned. This time, it was accepted, and the Steelers started over.
"When this team gets lucky, it'll be lucky for 10 years," Parker once said.
Editor’s note: luck didn’t play a part for the Steelers for a decade. Chuck Noll’s coaching did.
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