Gino “The Duke” Cappelletti, one of the original members of the Boston Patriots in 1960 and a Patriots Hall of Fame wide receiver and placekicker, died on Thursday morning at his home with his family, the team confirmed. He was 88 years old.
Cappelletti spent his entire 11-year career with the Patriots from 1960 to 1970 and finished as the AFL’s all-time leading scorer. He was named AFL MVP in 1964 and was just one of three players to play every game in the league’s history. In 1992, Cappelletti was the second Patriots player to be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame, following fellow legend John Hannah. To this day, Cappelletti still ranks third on the team’s all-time scoring list. He is 10th in team history with 292 receptions and 12th in receiving yards with 4,589.
Along with his prowess as a player, Cappelletti’s mark on the franchise stretched beyond the field. He initially spent seven seasons (1972-78) as a team broadcaster before jumping into coaching and serving as the special teams coach with the Patriots from 1979 through the 1981 season. Cappelletti then returned to the booth in 1988 as the color commentator and worked primarily alongside the late play-by-play legend Gil Santos. The Santos-Cappelletti duo worked 28 seasons together through the 2011 campaign. They called 585 games (regular season and playoffs) together, including the franchise’s first Super Bowl title in 2001.
“My heart aches after learning of Gino Cappelletti’s passing this morning,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. “For the first 51 years of this franchise’s history, Gino contributed as an all-star player, assistant coach and broadcaster. You couldn’t be a Patriots fan during that era and not be a fan of Gino’s. The Patriots have had many iconic, fan-favorite players over the years. Gino was the first.
“I remember watching him play in 1960 and throughout his career. He was one of the AFL’s biggest stars, becoming the first Patriots player to earn league MVP honors and retiring as the league’s all-time leading scorer. He became the second player in franchise history to earn Patriots Hall of Fame induction and I will always believe he deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As great of a player as he was, he was an even better person and storyteller. On behalf of my family and the entire Patriots organization, we extend our heartfelt condolences to Gino’s wife, Sandy, their three daughters, Gina, Cara and Christina, and their 10 grandchildren, as well as the many others who will be mourning his loss.”
Cappelletti’s No. 20 is retired by the New England Patriots.