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          The 2014 season was the FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY of the Buffalo Bills' first American Football League Championship.  For unexplained reasons, the Bills organization chose not to make any public mention or acknowledgement of that accomplishment, the first of only two major league championships ever won by a Buffalo major professional sports team.  This is a travesty.  Below is my homage to that team, as my thanks for the pride they brought to Buffalo.  Near the bottom of this page are some photos of these heroes as they are today.  The photos are from the 2014 Bills Alumni weekend, which owes its success to the efforts of many of those very men who played in that championship.

and the

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Photo by Robert Smith, colorized by John Turney


December 26, 1964: Bills win first AFL Championsip

(Excerpted from Buffalo Rumblings:
Ticket image from
Bob Stoczynski 

On December 26, 1964, the Buffalo Bills won their first league championship in team history, securing the AFL Championship over the San Diego Chargers in Buffalo, 20-7.

The 1964 Bills were led by former Chargers quarterback Jack Kemp and bruising runner Cookie Gilchrist. The team won their first nine games of the year, but had to win in their final regular season game to clinch the AFL East division title. The offense was a juggernaut, leading the league in points, yards, and yards per play, as Gilchrist pounded the defense while Kemp and receiver Elbert Dubenion lit up opposing secondaries. The defense was also stout, pacing the league in points and yards allowed, as well as rushing defense.

The Chargers ran away with the AFL West division title with just an 8-5-1 record, clinching the spot in the title game with two full weeks left in the year. Lance Alworth was the Chargers' primary threat, gaining over 1,200 receiving yards during the season. Two passers, Tobin Rote and John Hadl, combined for over 3,300 passing yards and threw 27 touchdown passes during the regular season.

When these two teams got together, people were expecting an exciting game. The Chargers raced out to an early 7-0 lead thanks to a Rote scoring pass following a 38-yard run from Keith Lincoln. Just over two minutes into the championship game, Buffalo was already in a hole.

On San Diego's next possession, however, the Bills' defense changed the complexion of the game. When his downfield receivers were covered, Rote looked to the left flat to find Lincoln to get rid of the ball. As the ball arrived, Bills linebacker Mike Stratton hit Lincoln so hard, it knocked the fullback from the game and came to be known as the "hit heard 'round the world." Lincoln's hands were up to catch the pass, and Stratton's shoulder landed directly in his rib cage.

San Diego's offense never recovered after the hit, and it sent a jolt of electricity through the Bills' bench and the Rockpile. With Alworth already unable to suit up for the game, the Chargers wouldn't score another point with Lincoln out.

Buffalo netted a pair of Pete Gogolak field goals sandwiched around a Wray Carlton scoring run. Kemp added an insurance touchdown in the fourth quarter, and Buffalo won 20-7. Fans stormed the field and tore down the goalposts before the final gun had even sounded.


The "Hit Heard Around the World":  In the 1964 American Football League Championship game, early in the first quarter, the Chargers' Keith Lincoln, who had gained 206 yards on 13 carries in the previous year's title game,  had gained 47 yards on three carries, scored a touchdown, and kicked the extra point.  Leading 7 - 0, on the next possession, the Chargers were driving again.  On this play Tobin Rote (18) is pressured by Tom Sestak (70), Jim Dunaway (78) and Ron Mcdole (72).  He gets the pass away to Lincoln (22), who is levelled by Mike Stratton (58).  Lincoln suffered broken ribs and could not return to the game.  The Bills went on to win 20 - 7.

Footage courtesy of NFL Films and SHOWTIME.
See 'Full Color Football:The History of the American Football League' on SHOWTIME starting 8 PM 9/16/09.



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       Nineteen sixty-three was the first of a string of four consecutive years in which the Buffalo Bills participated in post-season play.  They were the only American Football League team to accomplish that feat.  They lost the 1963 AFL Eastern Division playoff to their arch-rivals, the Boston Patriots.  But that taste of post-season action served them well, and they came back to make 1964 their first championship year.
     This page is a tribute to that team. 
Click on images and articles for more.

Note: The football cards reproduced below are from the TOPPS 1964 set, but the uniform shown on these cards is the 1963 version.  Before the 1964 championship season, the Bills changed their uniforms, replacing the shoulder stripes with sleeve stripes (see 1964 uniforms worn by Carlton or Kemp, or in other action photos, below).  At the bottom of this page, the TOPPS 1965 set of Bills cards is reproduced.  That set shows the 1964 uniforms.  Get it?





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         ". . . the Bills defensive unit blunted KC's attack twice on 3rd and 4th down 'inches to go' plays."  Wray Carlton runs behind pulling guard Billy Shaw and a block by Cookie Gilchrist on KC linebacker E.J. Holub.  In a 1963 game, Sestak draws a bead on Dawson.


        "Kemp found Bass for the score on the very next play from scrimmage at 12:26.  Ten seconds later, the Bills got still another, with Tom Sestak intercepting Len Dawson's attempted screen pass on the 15 and charging in umolested

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    Image courtesy of Todd Tobias     

         "Daryle Lamonica started his first game at quarterback and promptly bombed the Broncos with a 46 yard scoring pass to Eddie Rutkowski."


         "The Bills won their 3rd in a row, 30-13 over the defending champion San Diego Chargers before 40,167 wildly enthusiastic sellout fans."

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         "Daryle Lamonica completed 7 of 10 2nd half passes, including a 44 yard touchdowner to Elbert Dubenion, and scored once himself as the Bills made it four in a row with a tough 23-20 come fom behind win over Oakland."


            "Kemp and Dubenion established records.  Kemp's 378 net yards passing broke John Greene's old mark of 334.  Duby's 187 reception yards fractured Wray Carlton's mark by 10. The Bills total yardage, 565, was also a new record."

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         ". . . with Daryle Lamonica at the throttle, the Bills drove 80 yards in 6 plays.  A 27-yard pass to Duby was followed by a 30-yard rollout heave to Ernie Warlick.  Bob Smith crushed in from the 13 on the final play of the period."


         "The largest crowd in the history of the American Football League -- 61,929 (60,300 paid) jammed beautiful, new Shea Stadium to see the Buffalo Bills, pro football's only unbeaten team, tangle with the New York Jets."

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         "Kemp and Bass combined on a 42-yard pass play and when Jack found Bill Groman at the flag from the Patriots' 22, the Bills jumped back into the lead at 3:07."

         "Shonta left the game but returned five minutes later in time to be victimized by a 43-yard Jack Kemp to Elbert Dubenion scoring pass."

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1964 League Leaders
Passing: Jack Kemp 8.49 yds/attempt
Rushing: Cookie Gilchrist 981 yards
Receiving Avg: Elbert Dubenion 27.1 yds/catch 
Punt Returns: Hagoode Clarke 33
Team Offense: Bills 400 pts, 5206 yds
Team Defense: Bills 242 pts, 3878 yds



       Bills great Paul Maguire was asked about coach Lou Saban’s legendary motivational tactics.   He recalled an offbeat moment in the locker room before the ‘64 AFL Championship Game.
Chargers were in the tunnel, and the official comes in and tells us we’ve got five minutes. We’re waiting for Lou, and Lou never came. Finally Lou runs down the ramp and jumps up on the middle of the table and says, ‘Everything that’s been said has been said . . . So the only thing I can tell you guys now is heads down and toes up.’ Cookie Gilchrist opened the door and turned around and said, ’What the heck does that mean?’ And Saban said, ’How do I know? I’m as nervous as you are.’ And we started laughing. So we went down the steps into the tunnel. We were lined up alongside the Chargers. And I had just played four years with those guys, and our whole team was laughing . . . . John Hadl looked at me and said, ‘Gonna be that easy?’ And I said, ‘I can’t explain it to you, you’d never understand.’
       “Lou didn’t have any idea what he was saying but he loosened the team up and we went out and beat the hell out of them.”

Excerpted from Mark Gaughan, Buffalo News, June 12, 2005


         Early in the first quarter, the Bills' Ron McDole (72) closes in as teammate George "Butch Byrd" (42) prepares to tackle the Chargers' Keith Lincoln (22).


         "Wray Carlton slammed 4 yards off right tackle to complete a 56 yard sortie after Kemp had hit Gilchrist with a sensational "falling-down" pass from the 19."

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       Cookie Gilchrist caught two passes from Kemp for 22 yards and rushed 16 times for 122 yards - a 7.63 yards-per-carry average.  It would be his last game as a Buffalo Bill.

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Photo Courtesy of Denny Lynch, Buffalo Bills Archivist


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          The 1964 Buffalo Bills squad was one of the great teams in professional football history.  The 1964 Bills allowed their opponents only 300 rushing attempts and held them to 913 yards rushing during the regular season; a pro football record, just over 65 yards per game!   They were the first American Football League team to win 13 games in a seasonThey scored 400 points, the most in the league, while their defense gave up only 242, the fewest in the league.
          In 1964, the Bills defense allowed only four touchdowns rushing all season, and started a string that would extend into the 1965 season: seventeen straight games without allowing an opponent to score a rushing touchdown.   The same defense registered fifty quarterback sacks, a team record that stands today, even though it was established in a 14-game season. Eight members of the 1964 squad were on that year's AFL Eastern Division All-Star Team.  Three were eventually named to the American Football League's All-Time Team, six to the second team, and sixteen are in the American Football League Hall of Fame.  The only player ever inducted to the "pro football" hall of fame, without ever playing in the NFL, was a member of the 1964 Bills; guard Billy Shaw.
          The images below are from the 1965 Topps AFL football card set, showing 1964 images of the palyers.





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     "San Diego had taken the opening kickoff and marched down past where Saban was holding forth and into the Bills' end zone for a score.
     When the shock of it wore off a few seconds later, Saban shook his head and said:
     'That didn't take long, did it?'
     It had taken exactly 2 minutes 11 seconds.  It now was time for the Bills to regroup.  They did."  ~ Bob Powell


     "Wire services and NFL stubbornites will call it merely the American Football League championship.
     But, regardless of what happens around Lake Erie's bend this afternoon, the Bills, until Baltimore or Cleveland chooses to prove otherwise, are World Champions.
     And the Chargers would be the first to advise the Colts and Browns, individually or collectively, not to attempt to disprove it." ~ Jim Peters


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1964 Buffalo Bills Statistics

Passing Comp Att Comp %Yds Y/Att TD Int Rating
Daryle Lamonica 55 128 43.0 1137 8.88 6 8 64.5
Jack Kemp 119 269 44.2 2285 8.49 13 26 50.9
Rushing Rush Yds Avg TD
Cookie Gilchrist 230 981 4.3 6
Bobby Smith 62 306 4.9 4
Daryle Lamonica 55 289 5.3 6
Joe Auer 63 191 3.0 2
Jack Kemp 37 124 3.4 5
Wray Carlton 39 114 2.9 1
Willie Ross 4 14 3.5 1
Dick Hudson 1 1 1.0 0
Receiving Rec Yds Avg TD
Glenn Bass 43 897 20.9 7
Cookie Gilchrist 30 345 11.5 0
Ernie Warlick 23 478 20.8 0
Elbert Dubenion 18 281 15.6 1
Ed Rutkowski 13 234 18.0 1
Joe Auer 11 166 15.1 0
Bobby Smith 6 72 12.0 0
Bill Groman 4 68 17.0 1
Wray Carlton 2 23 11.5 0
Kick Returns Ret Yds Avg TD
Charley Warner 5 121 24.2 0
Ed Rutkowski 21 498 23.7 0
Bobby Smith 3 68 22.7 0
Hagood Clarke 16 330 20.6 0
Joe Auer 0 1 0.0 0
Punt Returns Ret Yds Avg TD
Charley Warner 3 55 18.3 0
Hagood Clarke 33 317 9.6 1
Ed Rutkowski 8 45 5.6 0
Butch Byrd 2 4 2.0 0
Punting Punts Yds Avg Blocked
Paul Maguire 65 2777 42.7 0
Kicking PAT
Pete Gogolak 45 46 98 19 29 65.5 102
Interceptions Int Yds Avg TD
Butch Byrd 7 178 25.4 1
George Saimes 6 56 9.3 0
Booker Edgerson 4 130 32.5 0
John (Jack) Tracey 3 12 4.0 0
Gene Sykes 2 36 18.0 0
Harry Jacobs 2 13 6.5 0
Charley Warner 1 30 30.0 0
Tom Sestak 1 15 15.0 1
Ron McDole 1 0 0.0 0
Mike Stratton 1 0 0.0 0

Generated: 12/01/2002
Source for this information: John Troan



Alumni photos courtesy of Tammy McDole


Mike Stratton

Ron McDole and daughter Tammy

Mike & Ron at the game


Butch Byrd and Ange Coniglio


Duby is helped by
Ed Abramoski

Long-time trainer Ed Abramoski and wife Pat
~ 2014 ~




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Guest Book
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1965 AFL
Players who
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2003  American Football League Hall of Fame  All rights reserved. Duplicate in any form you like, if you're an AFL fan.
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Last revision: 17 June 2016 ~ Angelo F. Coniglio,




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