Buffalo in the 60s: Van Miller calls first sports contest at ‘War Memorial’

By Steve Cichon

The Bills’ first and second home games were played in the same stadium — the Rockpile — but that stadium changed names in between.

It was 55 years ago tonight– Aug. 24, 1960– as the brand-new Buffalo Bills played in their second-ever preseason game, that the athletic field known by most as “The Rockpile” was rededicated in “tribute to living veterans and the dead of all U.S. wars” as War Memorial Stadium. Previously, the Rockpile had officially been known as Civic Stadium.

A Congressional Medal of Honor winner from World War I was on hand to speak on behalf of all veterans.

Van Miller was behind the mic as the Bills and Oakland Raiders became the first team to play on the newly christened field. Both teams were only a few preseason contests into existence in the new American Football League.

As appeared in the Buffalo Evening News, Elbert Dubenion, Rob Barrett, Richie Lucas, and Tommy O’Connell standing on the Bulls sideline at the newly named War Memorial Stadium– forever known as The Rock Pile. (Buffalo Stories archives)

As seen in this photo, the Bills’ uniforms during the team’s first two seasons are nothing like future Bills uniforms. Among the Bills’ early equipment were cast aways from the Detroit Lions– blue and silver with jersey numbers– but no Buffalo insignia– on the helmets.

Van Miller died July 17, 2015, at age 87.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.