Vito “Babe” Parilli, a member of the Patriots’ Hall of Fame and one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the American Football League, has died. He was 87.
“The New England Patriots are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of former Boston Patriots quarterback Vito ‘Babe’ Parilli, who passed away,” the team said in a press release Saturday.
Parilli’s professional football career spanned two leagues, five teams, 15 years and 189 games played.
Parilli played in 94 games for the Patriots from 1961-67 and threw for over 20,000 yards during his pro football career. He was voted to three AFL All-Star games (1963-64 and 1966) and earned the AFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1966.
Parilli was named to the All-AFL 10 Year Anniversary Team in 1971 and his 31 touchdown passes in 1964 were a team record until Tom Brady broke it in 2007.
Parilli currently sits fourth on the Patriots’ all-time career passing list with 16,747 yards and fourth with 132 touchdown passes on 2,413 attempts over seven seasons. He was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1993.
In addition to his skills as a quarterback, Parilli became known as an excellent holder on kicks and earned the nickname “gold finger” while with the Patriots. The combination of holder/quarterback Parilli and kicker/wide receiver Gino Cappelletti came to be known as the “Grand Opera.”
Parilli’s NFL/AFL career also included stints with the Green Bay Packers (1952-53, 1957-58), Cleveland Browns (1956), Oakland Raiders (1960) and New York Jets (1968-69).
As a member of the Jets in 1968, Parilli backed up Joe Namath during their Super Bowl III run.
In 1982, Parilli was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame for his collegiate career under Bear Bryant at the University of Kentucky. Parilli was an All-American and two-time Heisman Trophy finalist in 1950-51.