When serious fun was had by Redskins in Carlisle
Kids could get autographs. The players would hand out chin straps, used towels and wrist bands to those people gathered along the walkway leading to the cramped locker room at Biddle Field at Dickinson College in easy-going Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Carlisle was the home of the Washington Redskins training camp from 1963 through 1994 and then again for two short summers in 2001 and 2002.
Dickinson College was just a short skip and jump from Shepherdstown, and its easy accessibility meant Redskins fans from the area made an annual pilgrimage to see their boys train in the usual menacing sun and humidity of late July and early August.
The players of the 1960’s and 1970’s grew fond of Carlisle and its welcoming bars and grills as well as individuals who would bring them to backyard patios for tubs of beer and the like when practice was over for the day.
Players couldn’t bring their cars to camp, so Sonny Jurgensen, Maxie Baughan and Len Hauss would use bicycles to reach the town’s watering holes — places like the Gingerbread Man, Fireside Inn and the Molly Pitcher Hotel bar.
Sleeping in Dickinson dorms like Adams Hall and Drayer Hall was a despised necessity, but after curfew checks many scofflaws sneaked out behind coach George Allen’s back and quenched their thirst in town.
Carlisle was the summer home of the Washington Redskins for 34 straight years.
Jurgensen was with the Redskins from 1964 through 1974. It was in 1971 that Allen came in with his Older is Better policy and joined the red-haired quarterback with a red-faced passer named Billy Kilmer. Kilmer stayed with the team until he retired after the 1978 season.
Biddle Field was a small place that was ideal for NCAA Division III football and for fans to get up close and comfortable with the team that had their allegiance.
Practice sessions were often open to the public. Spirited pranks were always in evidence. Trainer Bubba Tyer was a ringleader of tricks and well-planned trouble for the unsuspecting, once placing a dead chicken in one of his assistant’s dorm rooms and also hoisting a bicycle into a tree and leaving it there.
Tyer was joined by lineman and then assistant coach Russ Grimm in leading many of the pranks.
The “Hogs” were the most notorious of those leaving their dorm rooms to stretch their legs. Joe Jacoby, Grimm and Hauss could be seen with defensive giant Dave Butz in the company of beer bottles at the Gingerbread Man.
The most sedate summer in Carlisle came in 1969 when coach Vince Lombardi left retirement to take control of the chronic losers. Lombardi had a 7-5-2 record in his one year before cancer brought him down.
Allen and his Over the Hill Gang made the team a winner and then Joe Gibbs came in in 1982 and brought three Super Bowl championships to Washington/Carlisle.
When Jack Kent Cooke bought the team, he moved training camp to Frostburg in the hills of western Maryland.
The training camp was returned to Carlisle in 2001 when Marty Schottenheimer was the coach and stayed while Steve Spurrier was in control in 2002.
The Gingerbread Man was still in existence in 2001 and was joined by Rillo’s as a favorite place of late-night relaxation for the players.
The Redskins of owner Daniel Snyder left Carlisle for Redskins Park near Ashburn, in Virginia. Since 2013, the team has held training camp in Richmond.
“The Turk” had long since been left behind in Carlisle. “The Turk” was a nickname for a team official whose responsibility it was to visit a player in his dorm room and inform him he had been cut by the team. He gathered the player’s play book and returned to his other duties. Hearing the footsteps of the “The Turk” coming your way was a dreaded moment for any player whose career could be ending if a knock came on the door of his dorm room.
Carlisle is a treasured part of the lore that is the Washington Redskins.
The town was a haven for veteran free spirits. And the town welcomed the team with wide-spread economic arms.