Joe Bellino 1960
(Authentic Reproduction)



The question that arose about Erdelatz's loyalty after the 1957 season when he actively sought the Texas A&M opening was now being asked publicly. Rear Admiral Elton Grenfell was disgusted with Erdelatz's behavior and hired new AD Slade Cutter, a war hero and former Midshipman gridder, with the specific purpose of firing the football coach. It became known that Erdelatz, in violation of Academy procedures, had arranged for any players who saw time on the field during a game, to miss Monday classes and the team had been kept from mandatory study halls. With the coach's insistence that he needed the players for film study on Fridays, many team members were in need of remedial academic assistance. Combined with Erdelatz's growing arrogance, he was "standing on the edge of a cliff" although he felt he was untouchable. After Erdelatz made critical public comments about his so-called "lack of support" from the Academy in May of 1959, the deal was done despite the difficulty in finding a top-rated coach so late in the hiring year. Erdelatz was gone, would sit out the 1959 season and then return as the first head coach of the AFL Oakland Raiders. 


With spring ball ending and perhaps too late to look outside of the Academy for a new head coach in May of 1959, the administration promoted Wayne Hardin, the thirty-two year old assistant who had joined the staff in 1955. A former eleven-letter winner at The College Of Pacific with four of those letters in football as a quarterback and halfback for the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg, Hardin had been an assistant at COP and a head coach at the high school and junior college levels. He had a great staff of coaches that could truly teach in Steve Belichick (current Patriot head coach Bill Belichick's late father), J.D. Roberts (future New Orleans Saints head coach), Rick Forzano (future Navy and Detroit Lions head coach), Doug Scovil (future San Diego State head coach), and Dave Hart (future Pitt head coach) and the Navy players felt that they "were never surprised" by an opponent's on-field intentions or plays. The new coach was plagued by what was considered to be his own "sharp tongue", bad manners, and intentional or unintentional poor sportsmanship. He had a secretive nature and loved gimmick plays that made many feel he was scheming in nature. With limited practice time due to his late hire, Hardin moved away from the Wing-T of Erdelatz towards a more wide-open T-Formation. His first team was directed by QB Joe Tranchini and was blessed with the presence of junior HB Joe Bellino, augmented by the inside blasts of FB Joe Matalavage. Bellino was close to unstoppable despite a knee injury that limited him in some games. The 5-4-1 record with a big 43-12 win over Army was quite good under the circumstances. Despite a flair for the dramatic, Hardin maintained the plain gold helmets for the 1959 and '60 seasons.


Left HB Joe Bellino was the story for 1960 as he was for the '59 Navy team, and remained the story, as the Middies defeated Boston College in the opener 22-7 with Bellino scoring every point. Defeating Rose Bowl champ and number-three ranked Washington in the third game in a 15-14 tussle was big and two-way end Greg Mather showed his mettle, kicking the forty-two yard FG that iced the contest. The offense took off with Bellino rushing 168 times for 834 yards, catching 17 passes for 280 yards and 3 touchdowns, and he also threw 2 touchdown passes on the halfback option. They defeated Air Force in their first meeting ever, leaving them at 8-1 going into the Army game. As he did in 1958, Hardin surprised the crowd as Navy entered the field against Army with a distinctive three-and-one-half inch dark navy blue anchor logo on each side of the helmet. Navy defeated Army by a 17-12 margin behind the inspired play of Bellino. Scoring all of their points in the first half, the Midshipmen prevented a rejuvenated Army team from winning. Accepting a bid to play number five Missouri in the Orange Bowl, Hardin again had his players enter the fray with the anchor logo on their gold helmets. In a very hard-hitting game, Navy lost to the Missouri Tigers 21-14. All season long Bellino played Mr. Outside to FB Joe Matalavage's Mr. Inside and ran himself to the Heisman and Maxwell Trophies. The defense held seven opponents to seven points or less playing second-fiddle to Bellino and the more publicized offense. 


At 5'9" and 187 pounds, it appeared as if Winchester, Massachusetts' Joe Bellino carried most of the weight in his out-sized and muscular thighs and calves. Needing extra-roomy uniform and football pants, he churned his way into the record books with a toughness rarely seen. His cat-like quickness, honed on the high school basketball courts where he led his high school team to a fifty-five game winning streak and two state championships, and ability to change direction without losing any of his great speed, made him a force on the field. His career marks of 1664 yards rushing, punt returns of 833 yards for a 21.9 yard average, kickoff return yardage of 577 for a 25.1 per return average and 198 points scored were outstanding for his era, but this son of Sicilian parents who was the first in his family to attempt college was a humble team leader who insisted on sharing the glory with his teammates. He spurned a $50,000.00 signing bonus from the Cincinnati Reds to leave the Academy for Major League Baseball and despite knee injuries, continued to excel at both sports. At his best in the clutch, Bellino was elected to the College Football Hall Of Fame, served his country, and then played with the Boston Patriots from 1965 through '67 after acclimating himself to football again with a season played for Providence of the Atlantic Coast Football League. Bellino served in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserves for twenty-eight years. 

If interested in any of these Navy helmets please click on the photos below.