Official website of the New England Patriots

The 1963 AFL Eastern Division Championship Banner

To win the AFL Eastern Division Championship for the first time and earn a berth in the AFL Championship game, the Boston Patriots had to play an extra game. After completing a 7-6-1 regular season, the Patriots found themselves tied with the Buffalo Bills for the AFL Eastern Division Championship. Boston traveled to Buffalo, a place it had lost earlier that year, to earn a berth in the AFL Championship game.

What ensued was a 26-8 drubbing of Buffalo before 33,044 fans at War Memorial Stadium. Gino Cappelletti started the Patriots scoring with a 28-yard field goal. The Patriots would jump out to a 16-0 lead and never look back. Cappelletti kicked four field goals and Babe Parilli threw two touchdown passes to Larry Garron in the victory.

This was a momentous occasion in the young history of the Boston Patriots. The following season, the team and owner Billy Sullivan unveiled a 1963 AFL Eastern Division Championship Banner at their home at Fenway Park. This banner would not fly for long.

On November 6, 1964, the Patriots hosted the Houston Oilers before 28,161 fans at Fenway Park. Boston was 5-2-1 on the season and needed a win to stay on the heels of undefeated Buffalo. It was a back and forth game between the two AFL rivals. Houston struck first with a touchdown in the first quarter, but Boston responded with a touchdown and two field goals to go into halftime leading 13-7. An 80-yard pass from George Blanda to Willie Frazier put Houston back in the lead at 14-13, but a Cappelletti field goal gave Boston the lead back at 16-14.

In the fourth quarter, Houston scored a touchdown to take a 21-16 lead. Parilli scored on a run from 5 yards out to put the Patriots back in the lead 22-21, but Houston would take the lead back with a field goal. With the Patriots trailing 24-22, Cappelletti drilled a game-winning 42-yard field goal as Boston defeated Houston 25-24. Fans stormed the field, and in the chaos that ensued, the 1963 AFL Eastern Division Championship Banner disappeared.

What happened to the banner was a mystery, and the banner was all but forgotten by the time The Hall at Patriot Place opened in September 2008.

Just after the Hall opened, three fans came forward, explaining how they were part of the group that stormed the field. They had climbed up the flagpole at Fenway and stole the banner. For 20 years, they flew it outside their house.

The three fans who stole the banner decided that it was time for the banner to be returned to its rightful owner. They asked for nothing in return, and now The Hall at Patriot Place proudly displays the banner in great condition.

"We're so happy to have it," said Bryan Morry, the Director of The Hall. "It's a piece of Patriots history, and its story is so unique. It's a great artifact to display at The Hall, where we feel it's finally in its rightful place."

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