Steelers botched 1964 draft even after it was over
Befitting a franchise that drafted poorly during most of its first four decades of existence, the Steelers found a way to botch a draft even after it was over a half-century ago.
Still reeling from the heroin overdose death of star Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb seven months before, the Steelers badly wanted to take dominating Texas defensive lineman Scott Appleton in the 1964 draft, which was held even before the 1963 season ended.
But the Dallas Cowboys grabbed Appleton with the No. 4 overall pick, so the Steelers settled at No. 10 for Pitt halfback-defensive back Paul Martha. (A much better player, future Hall of Fame receiver Paul Warfield, went one pick later to Cleveland as the Steelers failed to get any of the future 10 Hall of Famers who were taken in that draft.)
Still coveting Appleton, coach Buddy Parker orchestrated a much-criticized trade two weeks later that sent the Steelers' best player — wide receiver Buddy Dial — to the Cowboys for Appleton's negotiating rights. The Steelers assigned scout Will Walls to babysit Appleton over the next six weeks as the lineman decided whether to sign with the Steelers or the Houston Oilers of the rival AFL.
Walls contacted him day and night but, finally, Appleton chose the Oilers, in part because they offered nearly 40 head of cattle, two gas stations and part ownership of a Texas livestock feed business in addition to money.
In the end, no one came out a winner in one of the worst trades in Steelers history.
Dial, only 26, was coming off a '63 season in which he made 60 catches for 1,295 yards — huge numbers for a 14-game season. But he was injured after joining the Cowboys, developed a drug addiction and ended up making only 42 catches the next three seasons. He was out of the league at age 29.
The 260-pound Appleton was fast and dominating at the college level, but it quickly became evident he could be pushed around by much bigger and stronger pro offensive linemen. After becoming involved with alcohol and drugs, he was traded by the Oilers after three seasons, lasted only two years with the Chargers and was out of the league before he turned 27. He died at age 50 of heart problems.
Steelers owner Art Rooney Sr. was so unhappy with the so-called “Dial for Nothing” trade, he told Parker all future deals had to be cleared with son Dan Rooney. After going 5-9 in 1964, the Steelers replaced Parker with coach Mike Nixon.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NFL coaches weigh in on Polamalu’s legacy
- Steelers notebook: Harrison return complicated by LeBeau, Titans
- Steelers notebook: Team seek ease on West Coast travel
- Steelers re-sign WR Heyward-Bey to 1-year deal
- Tomlin eyes Steelers’ return to defensive success this season
- Tomlin expects Steelers offense to grow
- Steelers notebook: Safety Mitchell could move to replace Polamalu
- Ex-Steeler Worilds makes ‘faith-based’ decision to move on from football
- Steelers’ Blake arrested in California
- Steelers re-sign LB Harrison to 2-year deal