Cup of Joe: The AFL’s First True Superstar: “Duke” Cappelletti

Cup of JoeGil Santos, the voice of the New England Patriots, said that Gino Cappelletti should be in the Hall of Fame and I couldn’t agree more. As I was doing my research on the Patriots of the 1960’s , I came across incredible stats and watched amazing video of the AFL’s first true superstar, Gino “The Duke” Cappelletti.

It is truly a crime that he is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His resume says it all. He played 11 years with the Boston Patriots from 1960-1970 after he served in the US Army and played a few years in Canada. He was the place kicker AND wide receiver for the fledgling franchise in Boston.  Gino also dabbled on defense and is only one of two players in AFL history to post 3 INT’s in a game.

Gino was a versatile player and a true competitor. He had to win his starting wide receiver position; perhaps he wasn’t content being an incredible kicker. Know the old saying, kickers aren’t football players? Well Gino was a football player who kicked.

Over his 11 year career with the Patriots, he kicked 176 FG’s and 342 PAT’s. He also contributed with 42 TD’s as a part of a lethal passing tandem with quarterback, Babe Parilli. The duo was dubbed the “Grand Opera”.  I bet it was a sight to see, I was just born 20 years too late.

The “Duke” as Cappelletti was nicknamed, was indeed the John Wayne of the AFL.

The “Duke” as Cappelletti was nicknamed, was indeed the John Wayne of the AFL.

Don’t bother getting your calculators (or IPhones); to tabulate Gino’s scoring tallies.  “The Duke” as he was nicknamed, scored 1,130 points (most in AFL history) all with the Boston Patriots. Gino also posted two of the top five scoring seasons in pro football history. Do you see a trend here folks?

There are more scoring records…….He averaged 9.5 points over a six year span. NO and I repeat NO AFL OR NFL player has done this before or since Gino. He also accounted for 34% of his team’s TOTAL points over eight years. Guess what, no one has done that either in the history of the game! Canton wake up, you left someone’s bust in the warehouse! I guess the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, knows a pioneer and superstar when they see one.

Enough about what Gino did as an individual and for a single team. Let’s look at what he did for the American Football League. A league competing for its mere existence year to year with the NFL. The NFL was so entrenched in some areas that the AFL had to play on Friday nights because they didn’t want to go head to head with the NFL on Sundays (Pats played on Fridays due to the local popularity of the NY Giants).

The “Duke” was indeed the John Wayne of the AFL. All-time leading scorer. League MVP in 1964. Five Time all star. Record setting kicker AND wide receiver. He played in every game of the AFL’s existence. He scored the first points in league history with a field goal against the Denver Broncos in the regular season opener.  He was Mr.AFL. Without players like Gino, would the NFL have ever merged with the AFL?  Gino helped bring a quality product to non-NFL markets.

He is in the aforementioned National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame and the New England Patriots Hall of Fame.  When will the “brain trust” in Canton order Gino’s blazer?  How many other players have had such an impact on the history of a sport?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the AFL. The teams will be sporting throwback uniforms to honor their AFL forefathers. When will the NFL and its Hall of Fame honor this forgotten forefather?

Gino Cappelletti will always be a Hall of Famer to Patriot Nation for his accomplishments on the field and his voice in the booth.  Commissioner Goodell and the Hall of Fame voters, it’s your turn.

Check back every Tuesday and Thursday for the next Cup Of Joe.  If you have a story idea or just want to talk sports, you can e-mail Joe directly at bostonsportsthenandnow@gmail.com

5 comments

  • Wow that was strange. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  • Nice work Joe.

    Gino Cappelletti was among those I picked as one of the top 10 special teams players not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame when I did my rundown of the best players not in the Hall of Fame earlier this summer: http://sportsthenandnow.com/?p=246

    What I discovered, and your piece illustrates, is that there are an awful lot of great players who are arguably deserving, but have yet to earn a place in the Hall of Fame.

    I scratch my head every time a player like Lynn Swann (most undeserving player in HOF), Roger Wehrli and Charlie Sanders gets in when greats like Jerry Kramer and many former AFL stars (Cappelletti, Otis Taylor, Johnny Robinson, Walt Sweeney) are still waiting for the call.

    Thanks for making the case for one of the first true superstars of the AFL.

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