The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Oakland Raiders: Heart-Pounding, Jaw-Dropping, and Gut-Wrenching Moments from Oakland Raiders His
$19.95 Hardcover See Book Details » #### BOOK DETAILS • Hardcover • Sep.01.2008 • 9781572439276 ## Steven gives an overview of the book: Are you ready for the real story of the Oakland Raiders? As one of the NFL's greatest franchises, the Raiders have a long history of legends and goats, great comebacks and colossal failures, NFL championships and heartbreaking losses. The memories will come flooding back as fans read about the hard-hitting, hard-partying teams coached by John Madden; renegade owner Al Davis, who fought numerous legal battles, moved the franchise twice, and still managed to keep the team on top; the three Super Bowl championships--and the two blowout Super Bowl losses; and some of the most colorful personalities from NFL history--Stabler, Blanda, Biletnikoff, Tatum, Allen, Upshaw, Rice, and many more. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Oakland Raiders is a must for every fan who wants an unflinching look at the greatest--and worst--players, coaches, and moments in Raiders history. ... Read full overview » Are you ready for the real story of the Oakland Raiders? As one of the NFL's greatest franchises, the Raiders have a long history of legends and goats, great comebacks and colossal failures, NFL championships and heartbreaking losses. The memories will come flooding back as fans read about the hard-hitting, hard-partying teams coached by John Madden; renegade owner Al Davis, who fought numerous legal battles, moved the franchise twice, and still managed to keep the team on top; the three Super Bowl championships--and the two blowout Super Bowl losses; and some of the most colorful personalities from NFL history--Stabler, Blanda, Biletnikoff, Tatum, Allen, Upshaw, Rice, and many more. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Oakland Raiders is a must for every fan who wants an unflinching look at the greatest--and worst--players, coaches, and moments in Raiders history. "Wherever you go, you are the Oakland Raiders.... I don't care who you are or what you've done. You're here now and you're going to win, win, win." --Al Davis "A successful professional football club must, by its very nature, be an absolute dictatorship.... I'm the general on the field. Al is the leader. That's how things are. Things aren't bad." --John Madden The Oakland Raiders are one of the most colorful franchises in pro football history. They started in the AFL and represented the upstart league in the second Super Bowl, then joined the NFL and eventually won three championships. Their controversial president, Al Davis, and their bad-boy image only added to their appeal. But along with success came a lot that fans would like to forget--including the team abandoning Oakland for Los Angeles for more than a decade. And in recent years the Raiders have been on what seems to be a perpetual losing streak. Raiders fans have endured a lot of ups and downs, but they still have a reputation for being among the most enthusiastic and loyal in the NFL. True fans understand that they have to stick with their team no matter what. They also relish all their memories of cheering for the Raiders, even memories that hurt a little--or a lot--to recall. After all, the disappointing games, seasons, and plays that come to mind make the good times feel even better. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Oakland Raiders presents all the best moments and personalities in team history. It also unmasks the bad, the regrettably awful, and the unflinchingly ugly. This book sparkles with Raiders highlights and lowlights, wonderful and wacky memories, legends and goats, the famous and infamous--no one is safe, and no moment is spared. The pages recall the hard-hitting--and hard-partying--Raiders of the 1970s, coached by the unforgettable John Madden; the championship teams of the early 1980s, led to the pinnacle of football by quarterback-turned-coach Tom Flores; and the Bill Callahan-coached team of 2002 that made a surprise run to Super Bowl XXXVII, only to get blown out by the Buccaneers and former Raiders head man John Gruden. There are the Raiders you loved for all the right reasons and those you couldn't stand--the team's all-time roster is loaded with some of the NFL's most famous and infamous personalities, including Ken Stabler, Fred Biletnikoff, Bo Jackson, Jack Tatum, Marcus Allen, Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice, and many more. Let's not forget the brawls, controversies, and all the rivalries over the years. This title is loaded with compelling photographs, amazing accounts, and so much more. If you're a through-thick-and-thin Raiders fan, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Oakland Raiders is especially for you. It will remind you of the good--and great--times and bring a knowing smile about the other times, when you proved to yourself just how loyal you are. About the Author Steven Travers is a USC graduate, former professional baseball player in the A's and Cardinals organizations, and a sports historian. He is the author of a number of books and has also written for StreetZebra magazine, The San Francisco Examiner, and the Los Angeles Times. Travers served in the U.S. Army during the Persian Gulf War and coached baseball at USC and Cal-Berkeley. A fifth-generation Californian, Travers still resides in the Golden State. He has one daughter, Elizabeth Travers. 2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:5.0 out of 5 stars Must Have for all Raider Nation!!, January 9, 2009By Matthew James Barnes (Ft. Worth, TX) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME) This book was bought as a christmas gift for my brother and once I got it, I could not stop reading it! I consider myself a decent Oakland fan (I admit I do not own any spiked silver and black shoulder pads) and I loved the writer's point of view and all the rankings and just biased opinion that affirms the whole world is out to confront us. GO RAIDERS!!! Comment Comment | Permalink | Was this review helpful to you? Yes No (Report this 2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book, December 25, 2008By John Losea - See all my reviewsThis is a comprehensive overview of the RAIDER organization and highlights from their history. You also get the "back story" that many never knew which is very interesting.If you like the Raiders at all you will love reading this book. John LoseaComment Comment | Permalink | Was this review helpful to you? Yes No (Report this 1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT GIFT FOR RAIDER NATION, December 8, 2008By Michael E. Woodson "Woody" (California) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME) I bought several copies of this book for hardcore Raider friends of mine. It is a fabulous Christmas present. This is very well written, with short, fun chapters and many amusing anecdotes, stories, trivia and great lists, such as which Raider coaches are among the "Top 10 Best Pro Football Coaches" (John Madden, Tom Flores), or that Bill KIng is author Steve Travers's choice as the second best sports announcer in history (trailing only Vin Scully). The chapter about Hunter Thompson, the Hells Angels and his Rolling Stone article on Al Davis (1973) is priceless. Travers is a writer of rare gifts and a true historian par excellence. Bravo!!Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Was this review helpful to you? Yes No (Report this Read an excerpt » FRONT AND BACK DUSTCOVER BACK COVER The Raiders are truly one of the most unique sports franchises of all time. This fact is directly attributable to their colorful owner, Al Davis, who studied how Adolf Hitler conquered Europe and somehow gleaned improbable lessons used to conquer pro football! Davis never played the game, but knew he had a mind for it. While attending college he was the student manager, but finagled his place into the team photo next to the coaches, fudged his resume, and allegedly bribed the school yearbook staff into creating the false impression that he was a coachHe used that to talk his way into actual coaching jobs, in the Army and at the collegiate level, but his genius for the game – the ability to “copy” other coaching styles, particularly blocking schemes, then add his own individual genius to it - was made apparent every stop of the way. Reportedly he claimed to have either played or coached at Notre Dame, but eventually he found himself on the staff of their greatest rival, under Don Clark at USC. When Clark resigned, Davis lobbied hard for the head coaching position, which creates a fascinating “if only” scenario for fans of both the Trojans and Raiders. John McKay got the job. Seeing a rival in the brash New Yorker, he chose not to retain him on the staff. Davis then talked his way into Sid Gillman’s inner circle at San Diego. His contributions to the revolution of offensive football made it plain that he was worthy. Davis quickly drew the attention of the Oakland Raiders, the doormats of the brand new American Football League. By the mid-1960s, through dint of hard work, passion and a creative football mind, he had established himself as one of the brightest coaches in the game. His charisma and leadership qualities transcended the pure act of coaching, however. He was tapped to become the AFL’s Czar. In his short time as Commissioner Davis played an instrumental role in one of the most monumental events in American professional sports: the 1966 AFL-NFL merger, which created the Super Bowl. In so doing, he established himself as a controversial figure and career rival of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Davis’s controversial reputation became his team’s reputation when he returned to the Raiders, eventually maneuvering and talking his way into taking over the ownership group, becoming the managing general partner with final veto power! Given unmitigated powers, Davis orchestrated changes on the field, in the marketing and business operations of a franchise, and in the politics of pro sports, rivaling Walter O’Malley, Branch Rickey and Paul Brown. The result: the greatness that is the Raiders, one of the most successful football dynasties that has ever strode upon the American scene. This is a story that cannot be repeated, because nobody else could pull it off, and the times have changed too much to allow anybody to do it even if they had the chutzpah. The story of Al Davis and the Raiders is not believable, except that it actually happened. This is a true urban myth. BACK COVER ABOUT STEVEN TRAVERS (with photo) Steven Travers is a USC graduate and ex-professional baseball player. He is the author of the best-selling Barry Bonds: Baseball’s Superman, nominated for a Casey Award (best baseball book of 2002). He is also the author of The USC Trojans: College Football’s All-Time Greatest Dynasty (a National Book Network “top 100 seller”); One Night, Two Teams: Alabama vs. USC and the Game That Changed a Nation (the subject of a documentary and feature motion picture); five books in the Triumph/Random House Essential series (A’sDodgers, Angels, D’backs, Trojans), as well asThe Good, the Bad & the Ugly Los Angeles Lakers and The Good, the Bad & the Ugly San Francisco 49ers. He is also the author of College Football’s All-Time Top 25 Traditions. Steve was a columnist for StreetZebra magazine in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Examiner. He also penned the screenplay, The Lost Battalion. Travers coached baseball at USC, Cal-Berkeley and in Europe; attended law school, served in the Army, and is a guest lecturer at the University of Southern California. Steve has a daughter, Elizabeth Travers and resides in California. FRONT INSIDE COVER Praise for Steven Travers Steve Travers is the next great USC historian, in the tradition of Jim Murray, John Hall, and Mal Florence! . . . the Trojan Family needs your work. Fight On! —USC Head Football Coach Pete Carroll . . . Steve Travers tells us all about the exciting and remarkable football . . . . that not only changed the way the game is played; it . . . changed the world. —Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump Steve Travers combines wit, humor, social pathos and historical knowledge with the kind of sports expertise that only an ex-jock is privy to; it is reminiscent of the work of Jim Bouton, Pat Jordan and Dan Jenkins, combined with Jim Murray’ turn of phrase, Hunter Thompson’s hard-scrabble Truths, and David Halberstam’s unique take on our nation’s place in history. His writing is great storytelling, and the result is pure genius every time. —Westwood One radio personality Mike McDowd Steve Travers is a great writer, an educated athlete who knows how to get inside the player’s heads, and when that happens, greatness occurs. He’s gonna be a superstar. —Dave Burgin/Ex-editor, San Francisco Examiner Steve Travers is a phenomenal writer, an artist who labors over every word to get it just right, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of sports and history. —StreetZebra magazine Steve Travers is a Renaissance man. —Jim Rome Show He is very qualified to continue to write books such as this one. Good job. —Marty Lurie/”Right Off the Bat” Oakland A’s Pregame Host Steve’s a literate ex-athlete, an ex-Trojan, and a veteran of Hollywood, too. —Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton/XTRA Radio, San Diego You’ve done some good writin’, dude. —KFOG Radio, San Francisco [Travers is] one of the great sportswriters on the current American scene. —Joe Shea/Radio Talk Host and Editor Travers appears to have the right credentials for the task. —USA Today Baseball Weekly A very interesting read which is not your average . . . book. . . . Steve has achieved his bona fideswhen it comes to having the credentials to write a book like this. —Geoff Metcalfe/KSFO Radio, San Francisco This is a fascinating book written by a man who knows his subject matter inside and out. —Irv Kaze/KRLA Radio, Los Angeles Travers . . . established himself as a writer of many dimensions . . . a natural. —John Jackson/Ross Valley Reporter Steve Travers is a true USC historian and a loyal Trojan! —Former USC football player John Papadakis Pete Carroll calls you “the next great USC historian,” high praise indeed. - Rob Fukuzaki/ABC7, Los Angeles You’re a great writer and I always enjoy your musings . . . particularly on SC football - huge fan! - Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane Also written by Steven Travers One Night, Two Teams: Alabama vs. USC and the Game That Changed a Nation A’s Essential: Everything You Need to Know to Be A Real Fan! Trojans Essential: Everything You Need to Know to Be A Real Fan! Dodgers Essential: Everything You Need to Know to Be A Real Fan! Angels Essential: Everything You Need to Know to Be A Real Fan! D’Backs Essential: Everything You Need to Know to Be A Real The USC Trojans: College Football's All-Time Greatest Dynasty The Good, the Bad & the Ugly San Francisco 49ers The Good, the Bad & the Ugly Los Angeles Lakers College Football’s All-Time Top 25 Traditions Barry Bonds: Baseball’s Superman God's Country: A Conservative, Christian Worldview of How History Formed the United States Empire and America's Manifest Destiny for the 21st Century Angry White Male The Writer’s Life To Mom Who raised a sports fanatic but balanced that with culture, Thus creating a well-rounded man/ Thanks for puttin’ up with me. CONTENTS Acknowledgments Foreword by Bruce Macgowan THE GOOD Football’s Napoleon “The Mad Bomber” “Double Zero” “Home of Champions” The Promised Land “Guys do stuff.” “The greatness that is the Raiders.” THE BAD “The Immaculate Reception” The Baret Robins fiasco THE UGLY The Assassin The Year Al and Georgia Stole Christmas IN THE CLUTCH The miracle worker “The sea of hands.” Snake NUMBERS DON’T LIE (OR DO THEY?) So close, and yet so far The best slow, white, Hall of Fame receiver money can buy 1 IT AIN’T OVER TIL IT’S OVER Commitment to excellence The Heidi game WINNERS AND WHINERS Golden boy Ronnie Lott Moss never grew in Oakland CAN’T ANYBODY HERE PLAY THIS GAME? Disaster TRADING PLACES Merger Kings of “Tinsel Town” SOCIAL PROGRESS The real Willie Brown Upshaw DADDY DEAREST 1963-65: Al saves the Oaklaned franchise Flores and Shell CELEBRITY CORNER Hunter Thompson, the <ED; HELLS, NO APOSTROPHE> Hells Angels, and the criminal element Howie, Stork, Raiderettes, and the “Five-Oh” RIVALRIES 1973: payback with Pittsburgh, defeat of then dominance by the Dolphins Role reversals Birth of the Denver wars The Raiders plundered the Niners STADIUM STORIES The San Francisco Raiders IN THE BEGINNING Al Davis and the ownership group RAIDER CULTURE Football’s CIA “Pride and poise” The King of them all WHEN THE FAT LADY SINGS “Just win, baby!” Super Bowl preview: Plunkett vs. Theismann COMEBACK Amazing grace ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Thanks to Tom Bast, Jess Paumier, Amy Regan, Kelley White, Linc Wonham, Adam Motin and all the great folks at Triumph Books and Random House Publishing, for having faith in me. Thanks also to Craig Wiley, and to my agent Peter Miller of PMA Literary and Film Management in New York City. I want to thank the Raiders, a class organization all the way. Thanks also to longtimeOakland Tribune photographer Ron Reisterer. Alex Jacobs and Kevin McCormack, friends and longtime Raider fans: thanks for your help, insight and opinions. Bruce Macgowan, when it comes to Bay Area sports, I defer to you my friend. Thank you. Of course, my thanks as always go out to my daughter, Elizabeth Travers; my parents, Don and Inge Travers; and to my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, who has shed his grace on thee, and to whom all glory is due! Left page title: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly Oakland Raiders Right page title: Steven Travers FOREWORD By BRUCE MACGOWAN Bruce, a longtime KNBR 680 sports personality, is a friend of the author’s. The two of them regaled San Francisco and Oakland press box denizens with their dead-on movie imitations fromSpartacusThree days In May, and other classics. Bruce is a graduate – as is Steve Travers – of Redwood High School in Marin County, where he was a classmate of USC football coach Pete Carroll. One of the most respected sportstalk hosts and reporters on either side of the Bay Area, Magowan has covered “the greatness that is the Raiders” for more than two decades. I was one lucky kid. Growing up in Northern California in the 1960s was never boring. San Francisco was a magical place. I could see the lights of the city glittering off the waters of the bay at night, and foghorns played a sad and haunting lullaby as the hours wore deep into the late evening hours. Part of the routine in our family was to do what many people liked to do from time to time, and that was to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to the magical city of San Francisco. My parents would put on their best clothes, and my brother and I would don blazers and ties, and we would go to dinner in North Beach, or perhaps attend a play downtown. Occasionally my dad would take us out for a special afternoon of fun at the old Playland by the Beach (which has long since disappeared), or perhaps a ballgame. Going to Candlestick Park to see Willie Mays and the Giants, or to dowdy old Kezar Stadium to watch Y.A. Title and the 49ers was always a special treat. By the latter part of the decade, things had changed radically. The "beatniks” were starting to disappear in North Beach, and the "hippies" were showing up in the Haight Ashbury for wild and uninhibited times that included plenty of rock and roll, drugs, and sex. It was an exciting period! There were also plenty of protests against a divisive and escalating war in Southeast Asia, as college students at Berkeley and San Francisco State tried to shut down the campuses to bring attention to the matter. The only time I ever seemed to venture across the bridge to the East Bay was when I went with my friend and his dad (a Cal alum) to see the Golden Bears and their All-American quarterback Craig Morton play powerhouse rivals from UCLA or USC. One time I remember going to a concert performed by the Oakland Symphony, as my junior high music teacher, who played the oboe, was a featured performer. Until the Raiders moved into small and rickety Frank Youell Field, just south of downtown Oakland, the poor city across the bay was considered a non-entity. The late great sportswriter Wells Twombly once described Oakland as a town with, "beer on its breath, a stubble on its chin and a hard hat on its head." Although the Raiders struggled early, things changed dramatically with the arrival of a brash 33-year old head coach named Al Davis, and the rest as they say "is history." My first experience watching the Raiders came in the mid-1960s when my dad and I took in a game between the Raiders and the Buffalo Bills. Quarterback’s Tom Flores of Oakland, and the Bills' Jack Kemp (later a key political figure in the 1980s) put on quite a show that day, and the Raiders won a typically high scoring, free wheeling battle. For someone who had only passing interest in the then-mediocre 49ers, I found myself rooting hard for the Raiders and thoroughly enjoying the old American Football League. I also remember going to the local 5 and Dime store in my hometown in southern Marin, and buying those distinctive, onetime-only rectangular shaped AFL bubble gum cards of 1965, and I'm proud to say I still have the entire collection. Besides Flores, I was able to find the cards of such young stars as center Jim Otto, running back Clem Daniels, and wide receivers Art Powell and Bo Roberson in the packs that I'd buy with a quarter. From their distinctive silver-and-black uniforms, to their gradual rise to the top of the pro game, the Raiders entranced younger and older fans alike throughout the region. By the time the Raiders moved into the new Oakland Coliseum in 1966, a love affair between the team and the fans was blooming, and the working class folks in the East bay could finally puff out their chest proudly as if to say to the folks across the bridge, "Hey look at us!" While the media then, as today, loved to paint a caricature of Raiders fans as "part Hell' Angels, part Black Panthers,” in truth, they might have been only a small part of the scene in those perennial sellout crowds at the Oakland Coliseum. Two of my favorite memories from that era involve two games I attended in person. In November of 1968, the Raiders matchup with the up and coming New York Jets and their flamboyant quarterback Joe Namath turned out to be a cult classic, later known as the "Heidi Game." The only seats my dad and I were able to get the week before the game were in the north end zone, and I still have the stubs, which show a$3.50 admission charge. What a game we saw that day! The score ping-ponged back and forth before the Jets appeared to put themselves in good shape on a Jim Turner field goal with just under two minutes to play.  We later learned that NBC Television, because the game was running over its allotted time, unwisely decided to cut away from the action to show the television special Heidi. In those days, the games were blacked out locally, but most of the rest of the country, including the East, South, and Midwestern regions missed the incredible finish.

With Oakland driving for what they hoped to be a game-winning touchdown or a perhaps a tying field goal, quarterback Daryle Lamonica, who was better known as the "Mad Bomber," instead fired a short pass in the right flat to a little known rookie running back named Charlie Smith.  Smith shed one tackle, got behind a couple of defenders and then outdistanced a Jets' cornerback to race in for a go ahead touchdown. Pandemonium erupted, but the excitement wasn't over. On the ensuing kickoff, Jets' return man Dick Christy was bumped into by one of his own teammates who jarred the ball loose, and an obscure special teams player named Preston Ridlehuber enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame by recovering the football in the end zone. Incredible! In 28 seconds of time, the Raiders had scored twice and turned a 32-29 deficit into a 43-32 victory.

This was the first of just many such amazing comebacks performed by what announcer Bill King later called, "the Miracle Team."

Now fast forward to 1974 for an even more amazing finish. Considered one of the game's powerhouse teams for the better part of 10 years, Oakland was hosting the two-time defending champion Miami Dolphins in a first round play-off game on a cool, overcast December afternoon. Again my dad and I were lucky enough to buy tickets well in advance (I remember standing in line for four hours at the Raiders old offices across the street from the Coliseum on Oakland Street in an effort to purchase them).

By 1974, many of the faces on the Oakland roster had changed, including the head coach (now John Madden) and the quarterback (now Kenny Stabler). While they had frustrated their fans with a lot of near misses in the post-seasons of the late ‘60s and early 70s, Oakland fans may have been heart broken at times, but they never had to suffer through the tedium of a lost season. The Raiders won nearly 90 percent of their games in those years, and by then they had also developed a penchant for routinely pulling out last-second victories.

When 43-year old George Blanda delivered game winning field goals and touchdown passes during an incredible five game streak in 1970, fans all over the country began to take notice. You might remember that 1970 was also the year when the old American Football League and the established NFL merged into one mighty league.  That was also the first year of ABC Television's Monday Night Football, and the weekly game became an instant prime time classic to millions of viewers, turning broadcasters such as Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford, and "Dandy Don" Meredith into pop culture icons.

The merger between the two leagues, and the appearance of the national game of the week on prime time television was a perfect marriage that brought the game to a level of excitement and interest never before experienced in this country.

By 1974, the Dolphins were one of the league's great stories, as they had won back to back Super Bowls, taking the title in 1972 with the only perfect season in league history, and then crushing the Raiders in the 1973 AFC Title game 27-10 on their way to a second straight crown. Miami head coach Don Shula, however, realized that the matchup with the Raiders might be the end of a great run for his team, as star running backs Jim Kiick and Larry Csonka, and wide receiver Paul Warfield would be leaving the next season to join the fledgling World Football League.

Dolphin fans in those years of the early ‘70s developed a unique habit that became quite popular in south Florida. Exhorted over the radio by play-by-play announcer Rick Weaver to "wave your hankies!" Miami fans celebrated touchdowns and subsequent wins by displaying a wave of fluttering handkerchiefs throughout the Orange Bowl.

When the Dolphins jogged onto the field for the first round playoff game against the Raiders, the Oakland fans were ready to respond in kind. Not only were Miami players rudely greeted with thunderous boos and catcalls, but the stands at the Oakland Coliseum erupted as fans waved thousands of black handkerchiefs, shirts, team jerseys, and other assorted black colored items from the stands. I even saw a fellow a few rows over waving what looked to be a woman's black nightie, while his buddy in the seat nearby proudly circled over his head what appeared to be a pair of black panties.

John Madden later described the scene and the noise as the "most incredible and loudest I've ever seen in our place." For a full half an hour before kickoff, the noise and demonstration continued unabated. Then came the kickoff, and as Madden later described it:  ". . . you've got this crescendo of noise . . . and bap! we kick off.  What happens next?  Some guy named Nat Moore runs it back 96 yards for a score and they take the lead right there in our place! In front of our fans!"

But that stunning kick return by the rookie Moore was only a prelude to an even more incredible series of spectacular plays in a game that I'll never forget. I've been lucky enough to have attended 10 Super Bowls, and seen other classics in person such as the game where the 49ers clinched their first ever Super Bowl berth on that remarkable last minute catch by Dwight Clark.  However unlike that 49ers-Cowboys title game of 1981 that coincidentally featured something like nine turnovers, I remember very few such mistakes in that first round Raider-Dolphin clash. This was football at it's finest. It was Stabler throwing what legendary NFL Films announcer John Facenda would later describe as "butterflies" in tight coverage over the middle to sticky fingered Fred Biletnikoff, or arching a long TD bomb to speedy wide out Cliff Branch. It was bruising running back Benny Malone of Miami fighting 21 yards for a go ahead touchdown in the

final two and a half minutes, as in the words of Raider announcer Bill King " he just bulled,  smashed and shoved defensive back Skip Thomas out of the way!”

But with the clock moving in short, tense bursts, Stabler coolly drove his team downfield against the Dolphins' vaunted "no name" defense, in what would be the classic Raider comeback drive of the decade. Using the two-minute drill to perfection, Stabler found Biletnikoff several times on key second and third down plays, as the Raiders moved inexorably goalward toward what King described as "The Promised Land."

Veteran backup Frank Pitts, a former standout with the old AFL rival Kansas City Chiefs also came up big, as he made a crucial "heart stopping, juggling catch” that Bill King breathlessly described, to keep the drive going.

With the ball just nine yards away from the Promised Land,  (isn't that an apt description by King?), Stabler faded, looked, looked, and then was suddenly hit around the ankles from behind by charging Dolphins' defensive lineman Vern Den Herder. As he was falling forward, Stabler looped the ball toward a knot of players in the end zone, trying to zero his pass in toward running back Clarence Davis. Years later Paul Warfield told me that Davis was the Raiders "worst pass catcher," but not in this instance. With defensive back Mike Kolen as well as two of his Dolphin teammates vying for the airborne football, Davis somehow reached through this "sea of hands" and came down with the ball, tumbling into the end zone in a pile with the other Dolphins. An incredible score that put the Raiders ahead 28-26!

Yet the Dolphins and their great quarterback Bob Griese did not become two-time champs by giving up. Miami still only needed a last second field goal to win and there were still 26 seconds to go. But Griese's first pass attempt was picked off by gritty linebacker Phil Villapiano, and a playoff victory was secured. In the locker room afterward, Miami coach Don Shula, normally the picture of stoicism, broke down and cried, he was so disappointed. It was the end of an era for the short-lived Dolphin dynasty, but for the Raiders, it was only their eighth year in a 20-year run of contending teams from the mid-60s through the mid-1980s.

I remember sitting in traffic with my dad on the way home, elated and still a bit out of breath as we listened to radio color analyst Scotty Sterling review Bill King's memorable highlight calls of that unforgettable game. To me, that's what the Raiders were all about!

I trust then, that you'll enjoy reading about more of the stories of this legendary team in Steve Travers's fine book!

INTRODUCTION

Sportswriters are assigned stories and books all the time. It can be a mercenary process, diving into the glories and colorful history of a team, or a player, the writer may not particularly care about or root for, much less grew up with. Not so with this book.

This is a personal story. It starts in January of 1968. I was a young child, but in that past year for the first time I had started to follow sports. I rooted for a superstar tailback at the University of Southern California named O.J. Simpson. Then I heard about this thing called the “Super Bowl.” I knew it was a very, very big deal.

Growing up in Marin County, California, I knew where Oakland was. I knew they had a football team called the Raiders, and they were playing in the Super Bowl. It was amazing to me that a team so close to where I lived was involved in something the whole world paid attention to.

The Raiders were playing the Greenbrae Packers, and I wondered, Where is the stadium at the Bon Air Shopping Center? Greenbrae, you see, is an unincorporated section of Marin. They had recently built a nice shopping plaza there. It was, and still is, called Bon Air. But my father informed me the Raiders were not playing the Greenbrae Packers, but rather the Green Bay Packers, and that the Pack was very good!

The Raiders lost, but I was hooked. The 49ers? I could care less about them. The Raiders were my team. I rooted for East Bay clubs. In the baseball season, I was an A’s fan. If you followed Bay Area sports in those days, you listened to Bill King. He broadcast the Raiders and the Warriors.

Home games were never televised. In 1970, the Raiders had a memorable season. The ancient George Blanda came off the bench to save a remarkable number of games with miracle comebacks and field goals. The most memorable was a kick with the clock winding down to beat Cleveland, 23-20. As the ball sailed through the uprights, Bill King declared that, “George Blanda is King of the World!” I’ll never forget that as long I live.

Blanda and his story play into that very unique chapter known as the “Raider way.” The Raiders of the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, were the winningest teams in pro football. They were not the best team. The Pittsburgh Steelers won more Super Bowls. Over time, Dallas and Green Bay claim an equal claim on football greatness. But the Raiders, in large part because of Blanda, were perhaps the most exciting, truly fantastic football team . . . ever.

The Raiders form the nucleus of a “Golden Age” of sports. New Yorkers often speak wistfully of their Golden Age, the 1950s when each team had a superstar center fielder: Mickey Mantle of the Yankees, Willie Mays of the Giants and Duke Snider of the Dodgers. Additionally, Frank Gifford led the New York (football) Giants to glory. But New York never sniffed the great joy of being a California sports fan from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. These were my formative years.

I rooted for the Raiders (three Super Bowl titles), the A’s (three World Series championships), the Warriors (one NBA title), the USC Trojans (four national championships), and John Wooden’s UCLA basketball team (10 national championships). Almost every California team was good: the 49ers, the Rams, Stanford, the Dodgers, and the Lakers.

Baseball was the sport I was good at playing. In my senior year at Redwood High School, we traveled to San Diego to play Pt. Loma, Hoover and Lincoln. We were told Lincoln’s third baseman was “a boss football player.” His name was Marcus Allen, and he could hit, too.

The Raider move to Los Angeles hurt a lot of folks in the East Bay, but not me. I was a student at the University of Southern California, and attended a number of big Raider games at the nearby L.A. Memorial Coliseum. They seemed like the same old Raiders I knew and loved.

I had a personal connection to the L.A. Raiders. One of my best friends, Bruno Caravalho, bought the California Pizza and Pasta Company (also known as the “502 Club”), a longtime Trojan hangout located across the street from USC. As a young man, I managed the “Five-Oh.” On Sunday afternoons after Raider home games at the nearby Coliseum, there was no spot in Beverly Hills or the Westside that was trendier to be at than the “Five-Oh.”

All the Raider players would come in after the games, but what made it so hot was that all theRaiderettes came in, too. All I can say is that if the NFL had a non-fraternization rule barring cheerleaders from hanging out with the players, it was ignored much the way Al Davis ignored most of Pete Rozelle’s edicts.

Word spread, and most of USC’s football players would come in, too, which caused a lot of angst with the SC coaching staff. Things got pretty wild in that place. Use your imagination, and it probably happened.

After a few hours at the “Five-Oh,” the Raiders and the Raiderettes would caravan down to the Red Onion in Redondo Beach, or some other South Bay dance spot. I lived down there at the time, and would get invited by Bruno to come along. I remember hanging out with Rodney Peete, Steve Beurlein, Marcus Allen, and all those guys. Good times, man.

I knew Todd Marinovioch very well, when he was at USC and later with the Raiders. He would invite everybody to parties at his place on the Manhattan Beach Strand. I liked Todd, but it did not take a genius to see the guy lacked the dedication to be a big-time pro quarterback.

But if off-field partying did in Marinovich, he could hardly be blamed. That was Raider tradition. In his mind, it was the way Kenny Stabler had done it; the way Tooz and Alzado had done it.

This is what makes the Raiders so unique. Eventually, Art Shell put an end to the Raiders “traveling cocktail parties.” Stacey Toran was killed in a drunk driving auto accident, and society became less tolerant of aberrant behavior. Some have said this curtailing of the Raider style explains why no Super Bowl victories have followed in the succeeding years.

The truth is, the Raiders won because they had some of the greatest players in the history of that most unique of all American games: pro football. This book tells those stories. It was a wild ride in the doing, and in the words of the late, great Bill King, you are “two yards from the Promised Land!”

STEVEN R. TRAVERS

USCSTEVE1@aol.com

(415) 455-5971

The Autumn Wind is a Pirate,

Blustering in from the sea,

With a rollicking song,

He sweeps along,

Swaggering boisterously.

His face is weather-beaten,

He wears a hooded sash,

And a bristling black mustache.

He growls as he storms the country,

A villain, big and bold,

And the trees all shake

and quiver and quake,

As he robs them of their gold.

The Autumn Wind is a Raider,

Pillaging just for fun,

he'll knock you around,

and upside down,

and laugh when he's conquered and won.

Voiceover for the Oakland Raiders by Steve Sabol, CEO of NFL Films, immortalized in recitation by the legendary John Facenda.

THE GOOD

Football’s Napoleon

The period from 1963-65 is pivotal in the history of the Raiders’ franchise. The team was set up for failure from the beginning. They called themselves the Oakland Raiders, but had played their games at Kezar Stadium and Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Then they moved into Youell Field - named appropriately after an undertaker - which was little more than portable stands. They were in debt, went through a succession of coaches, and could not attract any big names to take over. They missed the first draft and had little talent.

Then, along came Al Davis! Davis played his cards just right, indicating that he liked his job with Sid Gillman in San Diego, did not need the money, did not respect the Raiders, did not feel the owners would commit themselves to building a champion . . .

Davis, the man who used military history and politics as his guideposts, certainly did just that in 1963. Julius Caesar portrayed himself as the only man who could unify a divided Roman Empire, but only if the Senate would grant him dictatorial powers. Napoleon had done the same thing after the French Revolution.

In many ways, Wayne Valley played the role of the interim French government after “The Terrors,” ceding control of the “Republic” to Davis’s Napoleonic “New Order.” However, when all is said and done, none of these grandiose comparisons with history would amount to a hill of beans had Davis not succeeded in a big way. In this respect, he lives up to the “genius” label that has been accorded him. His way was different. His way was successful. There is little if any luck involved. Davis had the vision, implemented it, willed it to victory.

Had Davis failed, and had the team continued on their downward slide, sports history would have been much different. The Raiders’ franchise would have failed and they probably would have folded or moved to another city. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum would not have been built. The AFL may not have survived, merged with the NFL, and become the model of sports success that it became. The A’s never would have moved to Oakland, and neither would the Golden State Warriors. The “Home of Champions” would simply have gone on as Gertrude Stein described it (“There is no there there.”). The West Coast would look different.

The Raiders were invented for little purpose other than to serve as a natural opponent (“rival” being too strong a word) for Baron Hilton’s Los Angeles Chargers. The hotel magnate bought the Chargers, originally an L.A. franchise, to give the AFL some Hollywood glitz. Paris Hilton’s grandfather knew little about football, but the name “Chargers” was good advertising for his new venture, the credit card, which he called the “charge card.” When the Minnesota group opted out, the Oakland franchise was awarded in order to give the Chargers a West Coast opponent, cutting down on travel expenses. Lack of attendance at the cavernous Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum led to the move to San Diego, where the “Charger” moniker was morphed into the lightning bolt image. They were the class of the league, but when Davis left Gillman’s staff to take over at Oakland, much of the reason for their success went with him.

Davis knew he needed to develop interest in the Oakland franchise. The 49ers were the toast of the Bay Area, but to Davis’s delight, the 1960s were down years in their franchise history. Davis was able to distinguish the look and image of his team from his cross-bay rivals. If Davis could win, he knew that he could get Oakland to build a first class modern stadium. With that would come the fan base, the money and the success of a great sports franchise.

His first target was the Oakland Tribune newspaper. The Trib had a small circulation of about 200,000 and was considered an East Bay paper, paling in comparison to the larger San Francisco Chronicle and Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner. The Tribune was published by William Knowland, a conservative Republican U.S. Senator, representing California in the 1950s. Knowland wanted to make his newspaper the West Coast version of the Washington Post

But Davis knew that sports could propel a newspaper’s circulation. He arranged a deal whereby the Tribune became the de facto arm of Raider publicity. Davis promised that all Raider stories would be filtered not to the Chronicle or Examiner, but to the Trib. It was a pure “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” arrangement, in many ways a first for the East Bay, who had always groveled for attention in an effort to get San Francisco to recognize them. No more. Davis represented the East Bay’s new identity.

The Trib printed every possible Raider angle, and their readership lapped up all of it. In retrospect, however, this is a symptom more than a cause of the Raider success. Had the team been a loser on the field, nobody would have cared to read about the doings of their “stars.” But in making the arrangement that he did, Davis saw to it that when the team did win on the field, it would not be a “shout in the wilderness.”

Davis was in Oakland first, which partially explains why his team was so much more financially successful than Charlie O. Finley’s A’s of the 1970s. But Davis tapped into the Oakland psyche in ways Finley chose to ignore. Finley was an absentee owner who marketed his team as a circus act; something from the South with a touch of the old Negro Leagues, a bit of a clown act. Davis went for fear and intimidation, in confluence with the growing Hell’s Angels and Black Panther movements that grew up side by side with the Oakland Raiders of the 1960s. They were blue collar, outsiders, rebels.

Again, however, none of that would have mattered had the team not won on the field. In this respect, Davis’s skills in identity marketing or Napoleonic power grabbing would not have mattered had he not backed it up with battlefield success!

If the Green Bay Packers did not already have Jim Ringo at center, Jim Otto probably would have become a Packer instead of a Raider. A Wisconsin native, Otto was drafted by the Pack as well as by Oakland in the AFL Draft. He chose Oakland because he wanted to start right away.

What did Al Davis do after Arizona State running back Tony Lorick, drafted by Oakland in 1964, signed instead with the NFL’s Baltimore Colts? Two things. First he vowed that “I’ll never again lose a number one pick.” He never did. Then, the next year, he went after and signed another Arizona State running back, Larry Todd - who still had a year of eligibility - for the sole purpose of getting revenge on Sun Devil coach Frank Kush, who had talked Lorick out of signing with the AFL. Todd never developed, but Davis made his point.

Daryle Lamonica is well known in Raider lore as “The Mad Bomber,” because of his style of throwing the long ball. Lamonica and his team helped to revolutionize the game. What Knute Rockne and Sammy Baugh had done before him, the Raiders improved on.

The aerial game marked the difference between the AFL and the NFL. The older league had its share of great passers, of course; namely Johnny Unitas and Sonny Jurgensen, but even those talented quarterbacks played within more restricted offensive schemes.

The Green Bay Packers dominated the NFL. Bart Starr was certainly a good passer, but the Pack played a conservative style, emphasizing the run to set up the pass. Many coaches believed passing was too risky. An incomplete pass netted zero yards, and of course an interception was disaster.

The AFL teams, however, went to the air with regularity. Sid Gillman started it. Al Davis instituted it. Daryle Lamonica perfected it.

Lamonica, interestingly enough, played at Clovis High School in Fresno. He grew up watching the Clovis Cougars do yearly battle with the Sanger Apaches. Sanger had a talented quarterback named Tom Flores. Flores went on to star at UOP, then helmed the Raider offense in the early 1960s.

“Tom started it all with the Raiders at quarterback,” recalled Lamonica. “He went through some real tough years in Oakland, but when I got there, everything was in place.”

Flores ranks fourth in Raider history with 92 touchdown passes, and set a single-game mark that still stands, with six vs. Houston in 1963. In 1966, Flores passed for 2,638 yards and 24 touchdowns, but in the offseason, he was “shuffled off to Buffalo” in exchange for the younger man from the San Joaquin Valley, Lamonica.

For Flores, it was a bitter pill. The Bills, one of the stronger AFL teams of the early years, were on the descent. The Raiders, a joke in the beginning, were on the rise. Davis had seen Lamonica rally his team in relief of Jack Kemp and knew that he was the man to lead them in 1967. Despite returning to his native California, Lamonica did not at first realize what a break it was for him, but upon his arrival Davis enthusiastically painted a portrait of what the Oakland offense could do under his leadership. Lamonica “got excited pretty quickly.” Having his family able to see him play also was a plus.

Lamonica led the team to a 13-1 record in 1967. He was the best player in the American Football League. Whereby Kansas City had won the championship in 1966 and was Oakland’s “Chief” rival, when Lamonica arrived he was the margin of advantage for Davis’s team. His greatest season was in 1969, when he passed for 34 touchdowns, tied Flores’s record with a six-TD game against the Bills, while throwing at least one touchdown pass in 25 straight games between 1968 and 1970.

“It was an exceptional offense because we could throw deep to not only the wide receivers, but <also to> the tight ends and the running backs,” Lamonica said. “Clem Daniels could come out of the backfield and outrun most defensive backs, and Al Davis turned Billy Cannon into a tight end who could do the same thing.”

Lamonica went deep on either side of the field. If he was in enemy territory, he eschewed ball control, going for the end zone. His passing percentage was usually below 50 percent, which was immaterial to Davis.

“Our philosophy was attack, attack, attack,” Lamonica said. He went early and often for Fred Biletnikoff, Warren Wells and later Cliff Branch. After Cannon, Raymond Chester from Morgan State was brought in to great effect. Despite the seemingly “mad” approach, the Raider mindset was mathematical. The idea was to create 24 points out of seven or eight plays, which would be difficult to beat. Lamonica had a cannon arm, but the Davis scheme was the difference. Lamonica was not fast nor a good scrambler, but the tight ends and running backs available for outlet passes meant that even if blitzed, Oakland could pull off a big play. However, the key to the Raiders’ passing attack was born of necessity: the strong front line.

“The Raiders were the forerunners in stressing physical strength up front, and that emphasis has proved out,” observed Dallas Cowboy coach Tom Landry.

Jim Otto had been with the club since 1960. His emergence as a star was not a sure thing. Otto was a workaholic who developed great strength in the weight room. Combined with intelligence and experience, he became one of the greatest centers in the game’s history. But it was the emergence of Kansas City’s 6’, 7”, 280-pound defensive right tackle Buck Buchanan that created the urgency to stop him.

Davis realized his team would have to face Buchanan twice a year for 10 years, “then we wanted to make damned sure we had somebody to line up against him,” he said. “So in the first round of the 1967 draft we selected Eugene Upshaw from Texas A&I and made him our left guard. He was 6’, 5”, 255 pounds.

“Everybody said we were crazy because in those days they were using short, squatty guards. I wanted big men up front to protect the quarterback.”

It was the presence of protectors like Otto and Upshaw that gave Lamonica the extra split second to find an open man, but it was his own “poise” in the pocket that allowed him to make maximum use of speed – in the case of Wells – or moves, as in the case of Biletnikoff.

Lamonica was not an extraordinarily big man, but he was tough, willing to take a hit after he released the ball. It paid off, time after time. He took some criticism, however, mainly because he never won the ultimate “big game,” a Super Bowl. Lamonica led his team to many great victories by large margins, but lost clutch games, too. The 1968 Super Bowl was one, although, at least on that day, the Raiders were outmanned. His “fumbled lateral” against the Jets in the 1968 AFL title game ruffled feathers. Lamonica was seen as having lost in a head-to-head confrontation with Joe Namath, even though he passed for 401 yards on a blustery afternoon at Shea Stadium.

His hand injury against Kansas City in the 1969 AFL championship game is less remembered than his failure to move the team in a low-scoring loss. In 1970, when the AFC and NFC merged into inter-conference play, Lamonica and his team fell, prompting many to say the game, now dominated by fancy defensive schemes designed to prevent his long ball style, had passed them by.

Indeed, the great Raider comebacks and ultimate Super Bowl victory came with Ken Stabler – less physically gifted but considered a “gamer” – at the controls. Nevertheless, Lamonica remains a Raider great. He was exciting and extraordinarily successful.

TRIVIA

How many times has a Raider been voted league Player of the Year or MVP?

A: Five. Quarterback Daryle Lamonica was named AFL Player of the Year in 1967 and 1969. Quarterback Ken Stabler (1974), running back Marcus Allen (1985) and quarterback Rich Gannon (2002) were named NFL MVPs.

MEDIA MONSTERS

It was Howard Cosell who gave Daryle Lamonica the nickname, “The Mad Bomber”?

“Double Zero”

Jim Otto is the Oakland Raiders. Others are more famous or glamorous. None is more respected. No less a source than Al Davis considers him the ultimate Raider. He played his college ball at the University of Miami, long before the Hurricanes were a power. He was no hot prospect at 6’, 2”, 205 pounds. The NFL gave him no look (Green Bay drafted the Wisconsin native but gave him zero encouragement), but the Raiders let him compete. He made the team and hit the weight room, building his strength until he weighed 255 pounds.

On a bad team in 1960, Otto worked his way into the starting line-up, earning AFL All-Star recognition. Later, when the National Football League called to inquire of his services, Otto remained faithful to the team that gave him a chance. He made All-AFL every year and, in 1969, was named to the All-Time AFL team. He made All-Pro three years in a row after the Raiders joined the NFL in 1969. He started in 210 straight games. Including pre-season, post-season and all-star games, he played 308 games as a Raider. He was the last of the original Raiders with his distinctive “double zero” uniform number, representing his chances of success when he first broke in. He twice won the Gorman Award (1968, 1971) as the “Player Who Best Exemplifies the Pride and Spirit of the Oakland Raiders.” He was selected to the 25-Year AFL-NFL All-Star Team, and was the third AFL player selected to the Hall of Fame, in his first year of eligibility.

Otto is to the Raiders what Ernie Banks was to the Cubs, Jerry West to the Lakers. He was an indispensable part of the great offensive juggernauts, which relied on his stalwart blocking in order to give Daryle Lamonica, George Blanda and Ken Stabler time to throw deep. Otto was the face of the team in good times and bad. He embodies the deep love between club and city.

Otto took to Davis, inspired by his slogans posted around the Raider offices: “Pride and Poise,” “Commitment to Excellence,” and “Pro Football’s Dynamic Organization.” After his first year in Oakland, Davis sent players like Otto out into the community, as far east as Sacramento, and they furthered the team’s fan mystique.

“That first winter, he had us out meeting people and promoting the team,” Otto recalled. “We hadn’t done too much of that in the first three years. I thought it was just to sell tickets, but it was more than that. We were creating a relationship with the fans. It was great for us and for them.”

In 1963, Otto was shaken up, taking himself out of a game. Davis, the first-year coach, approached him and used psychology.

“When I was with the Chargers, we felt if we could get you out of the game, the rest of the team would quit because you are the leader of the team,” Davis told him. Otto never again left the field under his own power when Oakland had the ball.

“What Al said to me became etched indelibly in my mind,” Otto said. “I took a beating sometimes, but I stayed in the game. I didn’t want to disappoint him, the fans, my family, or my teammates. I was the captain for 12 or 13 years and I guess I was a leader.

“It was hard sometimes, especially because I had a chronic problem with my neck. I would get a stinger and it would just about knock me out. But there was no way I was going to come out of the game. What he said that one time was enough.”

Otto had nine surgeries on his knees but never missed a start. After an exhibition game injury against Buffalo in 1972, team doctor Robert Rosenfeld examined Otto and declared his only option to be surgery, which this time would require missing games. Otto declined, offering to play in pain because, “If I’m not playing, they’ll stop thinking of me as the Raiders’ indestructible center and somebody else will get the job.”

Otto played through the pain, even though the medial ligaments on the inside of his knees had tears. He had more damage up front. He just played in heavy tapes and bandages.

Otto paid for his dedication after retirement following the 1974 season. He was virtually crippled, unable to walk normally. He gave everything he had to the game, to his team, and to Al Davis. Davis sat with Otto at almost every home game, treating him with the greatest respect of all Raiders. Davis admired his loyalty above all things. In 1995, Otto was named to the front office for special projects.

Otto did enjoy success as an entrepreneur. He bought a Burger King franchise in Auburn, California. Motorists on their way to and from Lake Tahoe for years saw the landmark billboard of old “Double Zero” in his Raider uniform advertising his Burger King. The town of Auburn was also perfect for Otto; a rural paradise set in the low mountains of the California gold country, surrounded by plenty of huntin’ and fishin’. Simple, just like Jim Otto.

Most experts agree that the greatest center of all time is either Otto or Dwight Stephenson of the Miami Dolphins. Dave Dalby followed in Otto’s huge shadow, and did very well. He was the center when they won the Super Bowl in 1977, an elusive achievement that, sadly, neither Otto nor George Blanda ever won.

Otto also became a new kind of lineman, an intelligent big man, a thinker. He was the typical John Madden player, too. Madden calls them “big uglies.” He was not pretty. He played in pain. He gave no quarter. Otto played in some of the greatest games of all time. The “genius” Davis or the coaching legend Madden never would have achieved half of their glory without players like Otto. The blue-collar mentality of Oakland suited him perfectly, and he became one of the truly beloved figures in Oakland sports history.

The Raiders are still waiting to retire their first number.

Stadiums the Raiders called home include Kezar Stadium, San Francisco (1960); Candlestick Park, San Francisco (1961); Frank Youell Field, Oakland (1962-1965); Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (1966-1981, *1995-present); L.A. Memorial Coliseum (1982-1994).

*Known as Network Associates Coliseum (1999-2004), McAfee Coliseum (2005-present)

“Home of champions”

The 1967 Raiders were not quite ready, their flaws exposed by Green Bay. The 1968-69 teams may have been the best in football, but upsets at the hands of the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs denied them their “rightful” place. The 1970-71 teams were competent but down by Raider standards, and in 1972 Oakland was Super Bowl-worthy, but nobody would rate them higher than that year’s unbeaten Dolphins.

By 1973-74, however, the frustration level for Davis, Madden and the fans was at an all-time high. Oakland was as good as anybody in pro football, but they failed when the pressure was on, in the AFC title game.

The 1973 Raiders were a solid club that suffered their share of ups and downs. In the end the Dolphin team that knocked them out in the play-offs successfully defended their world championship. In 1974 Oakland had all cylinders clickin’, only to lose to Pittsburgh in a disappointing championship match. In 1975 they fell in freezing weather at Three Rivers Stadium.

Davis had to sit idly by while the pro football gods anointed the title of all-time greatness on a new rival, the Steelers. Kansas City, the Jets, Miami, now Pittsburgh; when would it be their turn? When would Ken Stabler lead them to the Promised Land?

The Raiders’ “wilderness years” ended in 1976. Everything fell into place. The stars were aligned just right. Ted Hendricks had been acquired from Baltimore. Charles Philyaw was drafted. Clarence Davis was still in his prime at running back. George Blanda finally retired at age 49. Jim Otto called it quits

John “The Tooz” Matuszak came over to Oakland. The first pick in the 1973 draft by Houston out of the University of Tampa, he had not settled in yet, but found a home in wild and woolly Oakland.

Stabler and Biletnikoff were in their prime. Normally lackluster in the pre-season, in 1976 Oakland was too strong to be beaten whether it was an exhibition game or not. They opened at the Oakland Coliseum against the hated Steelers, and at first it looked ugly. But Stabler put on a patented fourth quarter effort, directing the Raiders on two impressive drives draped around a blocked Steeler punt.

Heated feelings fomented on the field, with accusations about “criminality” flung around. In the end, Snake delivered an improbable 31-28 victory, setting the tone for the entire season. From 1970-75, Oakland had lost its season opener every year, an unlikely scenario considering they were constant contenders. But the first-game defeats proved to be a psychological barrier. A sense of inevitability had settled in; lose the opener, lose the last (play-off) game. Not in ’76. With the two-time defending Super Bowl champions dispatched, Oakland got off to a 3-0 start. Still feeling their way, the Raiders were tested, 24-21 by Kansas City and 14-13 at Houston, when USC’s Mike Rae had to sub for the injured Snake. Rae tossed two touchdown passes, including the game-winner to Cliff Branch.

Week four was terribly disappointing; a resounding 48-17 loss at New England, but after that the team settled in and won 10 straight to close out the regular campaign 13-1. Stabler hit 68 percent of his passes to Branch, Biletnikoff and Dave Casper. Davis and Mark van Eeghen gave the team just enough of a running attack to balance things out, allowing them to play ball control when necessary. Pete Banaszak provided both blocking and short-yardage running.

The 1976 Raiders featured one of the greatest offensive lines in history. Old clips of Stabler show him sitting in the pocket virtually unharried while picking and choosing his targets.  Against San Diego, Stabler threw three scoring strikes in the 28-17 win. Denver fell both times. In a 19-6 home victory, the Oakland defense stifled Bronco quarterback Steve Ramsey, sacking him 10 times to the delight of a packed Coliseum.  Green Bay fought hard but was not able to match the Raiders on either side of the ball.

On November 7 the Raiders traveled to Soldier Field. The Bears were average in 1976, but the crowd was out for blood on a chilly Windy City day. They almost got it but in the end the magic of 1976 could not be denied. Stabler and Company prevailed by the thinnest of margins, 28-27. Branch was the hero, streaking through the Chicago secondary to catch two big passes.

In a 21-10 win over Kansas City, Casper and Biletnikoff were the dominant stars. Philadelphia was outgunned, 26-7. Eagle quarterback Roman Gabriel, a one-time NFL Most Valuable Player with the Rams, looked over the hill as he was flattened repeatedly. Van Eeghen spurred a ball control offense in the division-clinching win.

Poor John McKay, who had dominated college football at Southern California for years, was in over his head as coach of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who fell 49-16. Stabler connected on a touchdown pass, as did the man who led McKay’s Trojans to the 1972 national championship, Raider backup Mike Rae. Asked what he “thought of his team’s execution,” McKay said wryly that he thought it was “a good idea.”

Week 13 featured Oakland vs. the tough Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football. The Bengals were battling Pittsburgh for the AFC Central Division crown. A Cincinnati victory could possibly knock the Steelers out of the post-season. Grumbling from Pittsburgh held that Oakland would give up in a meaningless game to them, in order to assure they not have to face the Steel Curtain later.

Instead, Stabler hit on all cylinders, mostly to Branch and Biletnikoff. Oakland cruised to a 35-20 win. Casper also made it to the end zone, while Bengal quarterback Ken Anderson was intercepted three times.

Stabler rested on the last week of the regular season, but Rae continued to look capable of leading them if necessary in a resounding 24-0 whitewashing of the Chargers. Van Eeghen passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark with a 95-yard performance against San Diego. When it was all said and done, Pittsburgh came all the way back from a bad start to win the Central. Oakland’s defeat of Cincinnati ultimately had the effect of knocking the Bengals out and propelling their archrivals into a likely confrontation with the Silver and Black, for the ultimate prize.

The 1976 regular season completed an amazing 10-year run in which Oakland won 108 games against only 25 defeats with seven ties, an .812 winning percentage representing the best decade in pro football history. They had accomplished all there was to accomplish, with one exception.

The Coliseum was also home to the three-time world champion Oakland A’s (1972-74). The A’s did not have the Raider fan base and, despite their success, were made fun of because of their colorful uniforms and long hair. Next door was the Coliseum Arena, home of the 1975 NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

The Raiders, despite not having won the ultimate championships the Warriors and A’s won, were still the “face” of Oakland and the East Bay. The Coliseum put up a sign declaring itself to be the “Home of Champions.” If the Raiders wanted to include themselves with the A’s and Warriors under that title, then they needed to win . . . the championship.

TOP 10 GREATEST PRO FOOTBALL TEAMS SINCE THE AFL-NFL MERGER

1. 1972 Miami Dolphins

2. 1985 Chicago Bears

3. 1984 San Francisco 49ers

4. 1976 Oakland Raiders

5, 1966 Green Bay Packers

6. 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers

7. 1989 San Francisco 49ers

8. 1986 New York Giants

9. 1977 Dallas Cowboys

10. 1998 St. Louis Rams

GOING CAMPING

When “Large Charles” Philyaw first saw Mark van Eeghen in training camp, he asked why he was the only player to have his first name on the back of his jersey. He thought his first name was Van, not Mark. Philyaw was replaced by 6’, 8”, 280-pound John Matuszak at left end in 1976.

The Promised Land

The New England Patriots, led by coach Chuck Fairbanks, were their opponents in the first play-off game. Oakland had home-field advantage in both games, a huge factor considering the prospect of playing in freezing conditions back east. Fairbanks, who revitalized Oklahoma’s program after the departure of Bud Wilkinson, led the Patriots from a 3-11 mark in 1975 to an 11-3 record in 1976.

The Pats were traditional AFL, and then AFC, patsies. There was little enthusiasm in Boston, a baseball town that was crazy for the Red Sox. But Fairbanks quietly built a contender, centering his team around two old collegiate rivals. In 1970, USC’s great black fullback, Sam “Bam” Cunningham led Troy to a resounding win over Alabama in Birmingham, a game credited with ending segregation in Southern collegiate football programs. Cunningham’s opponent at Legion Field that day was now his teammate. Offensive lineman John Hannah, an All-Pro, was now blocking for him; a fact that says much about the power of sports in the pantheon of social progress. Echoes of that 1970 night in Birmingham rang louder also in the form of Raider stars Clarence Davis and John Vella, Cunningham’s teammates at USC.

New England quarterback Steve Grogan, who replaced the failed Jim Plunkett, was bound and determined to disrupt any “old home week” festivities. He had his team winning 21-10. Oakland had all the “bells and whistles” of a championship club, but the game seemed to be a replay of so many post-season disappointments of previous seasons; a critical letdown, a team overlooking an underdog opponent in anticipation of a hated foe.

But just as everything else fell into place in 1976, so too did the Raiders in crunch time, courtesy of the great Kenny Stabler and a little bit of luck. Snake engineered a drive with two key tosses to Biletnikoff. When Van Eeghen scored from a yard out it was 21-17, Patriots.

Oakland held New England and got the ball back for one final desperation drive, the Coliseum crowd begging, imploring, praying for Snake to work his magic one more time. Stabler drove his team down the field but stalled at the Patriot 27. Needing a touchdown, the former signal-caller for Bear Bryant – the Alabama-USC connections were everywhere – faced a third-and-18 situation with 57 clicks left on the clock. Should he try to get all 18 yards on one pass, or split the difference, facing a do-or-die fourth down play with time running out?

Stabler dropped back, facing a heavy rush from defensive end “Sugar Ray” Hamilton, who forced an incomplete, but hit him hard. The flag fell and the crowd went crazy when a roughing the passer penalty was assessed on New England. It is a play that disputed to this day. Upon review it appears to be legitimate, albeit less-than-obvious.

Regardless, Stabler and his team were given new life. Snake was not to be denied this time, running it in from 10 yards out to win it, 24-21. His bootleg run was reminiscent of his scamper to “beat” Pittsburgh in 1972 before “The Immaculate Reception” ruined his day.

Pittsburgh loomed large over the landscape, like Hannibal occupying the Italian countryside. Coach Chuck Noll’s team, led by superstar quarterback Terry Bradshaw, had come fully into their own after “The Immaculate Reception.” Decisive winners of two straight Super Bowls, they were well established as one of the great teams in the game’s history, their star-studded line-up dotted with players in their Hall of Fame prime. They were the great challenge of Al Davis’s team. Few rivalries have been as heated.

Their early-season losses and untimely injuries had been overcome. The Steeler squad that beat Baltimore, 40-14, the same weekend Oakland looked vulnerable against New England was apparently as good as any of the Pittsburgh title teams of the 1970s.

But their two great running backs, Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, were injured when Pittsburgh entered the Coliseum. In all the succeeding years, Pittsburgh fans and many players have felt that the healthy presence of Harris and Bleier – or at the least Harris – would have been the difference, but that difference was substantial. The final score does not lend much credence to the argument, as Oakland stomped them by 17 points before a wild Coliseum throng, 24-7.

Without the ground attack to balance the offense, Bradshaw’s aerial game, featuring talented receivers Lynn Swann (still another Trojan) and John Stallworth, stalled. Raider linebacker Willie Hall (USC) intercepted Bradshaw. Stabler hit Biletnikoff for 31 yards, spurring a 10-7 Raider halftime lead.

In the second half, Madden’s team realized that they had the physical edge over Pittsburgh. They decided to go conservative. Warren Bankston and Banaszak caught short touchdown tosses, the defense bottled up Bradshaw, and Oakland was headed to the Super Bowl after their 24-7 win.

The Super Bowl was just more serendipity in this perfect season: the home-opening comeback over Pittsburgh; every close regular season game going their way in a 13-1 year; coming back against New England; and a demonstration of Al Davis-style dominance over Pittsburgh.

Oakland, with a roster filled with USC Trojans, faced a team with a fair number of ex-USC players of their own, the Minnesota Vikings, at a location often called SC’s “winter residence” – the famed Rose Bowl in Pasadena, for the championship of the world.

It was as if John McKay’s 1972 national champs were “all grown up,” taking their natural next, big football step. For Davis, the former USC assistant who always admired that school and the pro quality of its football products, it was natural that his greatest team be populated by so many former SC stars.

On a sun-kissed Southern California Sunday, the huge throng was heavy with silver-and-black in a game played only six and a half hours by car from Oakland. The Vikings were overmatched. The AFC had firmly established itself as the superior conference one decade after Pete Rozelle’s merger. First, the Jets and Chiefs had trampled the NFL’s finest. When the leagues consolidated in 1970, the Super Bowl continued to favor the AFC. The only NFC team to win a Super Bowl was Dallas in 1971.

The AFC featured three teams in the 1970s that were legitimate dynasties – the Dolphins, the Steelers and the emerging Raiders. The NFC was defense-heavy. Dallas, led by quarterback Roger Staubach, probably had what it took to go all the way, and in truth are judged by history as a power matching the AFC’s best, but the conference seemed to come down to conservative teams with little personality; the Rams and Vikings.

Los Angeles was a defensive juggernaut during the regular season, but seemed to fall apart in the play-offs. The Vikings had dominated with different quarterbacks in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, but now featured a legitimate star, Fran Tarkenton. In the 1976 NFC championship game, the Ram defense thought they could stifle Tarkenton, giving (another USC) quarterback Pat Haden enough to give them a low-scoring win.

The football gods seemed to have it in for the Rams, however. A rare rainstorm pelted the L.A. Coliseum. Haden could not move his team in the mud. Minnesota prevailed to earn the trip to a Super Bowl game played just half an hour away from the site of their Coliseum victory.

The rains were gone when the 11-2-1 Vikings showed up at the Rose Bowl, replaced by the typical warm weather that make Southern California a paradise of sorts. It was Minnesota’s fourth Super Bowl appearance in eight years. They had never come close in their first three tries. This time the blowout would overshadow previous bitter losses.

When Minnesota blocked a Ray Guy punt and had the football within spitting distance of the end zone, they thought this might be their year, but the theme of the day was established shortly thereafter when halfback Brent McClanahan fumbled. Willie Hall recovered it.

Stabler, who liked to go deep on occasion, also went to the short game when appropriate, such as when his team’s match-up superiority resulted in an old-fashioned butt-whuppin’. Like that day. He drove Oakland down the field using the run in sync with short, crisp passes. Banaszak scored from the one and they were on their way. Oakland just pounded on the so-called “Purple People Eaters,” forging a commanding 19-0 lead. When the Vikes made their bid to get back in the game, scoring in the third quarter to trim it to 19-7, Oakland had a ready answer, driving for another Banaszak score, 26-7.

When Willie Brown picked Tarkenton and ran it back three-quarters the length of the field for a touchdown, it was all over but the shouting (the main duties of which were handled by Madden on the field and Bill King in the booth). Davis rushed for 141 yards. Art Shell and Gene Upshaw were at their all-time best. Stabler had as much time as a Christian waiting for the Second Coming. Biletnikoff, the recipient of Stabler's pinpoint passes and the “we can hold ‘em as long as you need us to” blocking of Upshaw and Shell, earned MVP honors.

Final score: Raiders 32, Vikings 14.

The Raiders have always had a strong USC connection, going back to Trojan assistant coach Al Davis, then Raider assistant John Robinson. But in the 1977 Super Bowl no less than nine ex-Southern California players participated. They included Clarence Davis, Willie Hall, Manfred Moore, Charles Phillips, Mike Rae, Alonzo Thomas, John Vella (Oakland), Steve Riley and Ron Yary (Minnesota).

The 1977 Oakland-Minnesota Super Bowl was played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the first time it was ever held at that location. Two Super Bowls were played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Super Bowl I in 1967, and Super Bowl VII in 1973). In succeeding years, the game has never returned to the Coliseum. It has been played in California again; at the Rose Bowl, San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, and Stanford Stadium.

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

5 – The number of Super Bowls won by the American Football Conference from 1973-77.

“Guys do stuff.”

John Madden, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, coached the Oakland Raiders from 1969 to 1978. He never coached another pro football team, which makes him a rarity of sorts in the mercenary world of professional sports. He is and always will be associated with the Raiders, although nationally he is better known for his many years as a TV analyst. In all those years, Madden has remained a Bay Area guy, living in the exclusive Blackhawk section of Danville.

In keeping with his Bay Area persona, Madden has often been a guest, sometimes even a regular one, on various radio programs. In 1988 he was talking with Frank Dill, one of the morning show hosts at KNBR.

A pitcher for the New York Mets had recently sliced off part of his finger trimming the hedges at his house. Madden was asked if pro athletes should be prohibited from any kind of dangerous activities; not just motorcycle riding, but gardening, woodwork, basketball, or a million other “hazardous” things.

“Hey,” Madden said, “guys do stuff. You can’t prevent guys from doin’ stuff like that.”

If somebody else said it, it might not have sounded funny. When Madden says something, even if he is serious – which he actually is most of the time – it still sounds funny. He is like the late, great comic actor John Candy. He can just stand there and make you laugh without trying.

Madden is a Bay Area guy today because he has always been one. He grew up in the San Francisco suburb of Daly City, where he was a catcher on the Jefferson High School baseball team as well as a lineman on the football squad. He loved baseball and continues to be a big fan to this day.

His boyhood friend was John Robinson. Robinson went to Serra High, the Catholic school in nearby San Mateo (which also produced Barry Bonds, Lynn Swann and Tom Brady, as well as numerous other sports heroes).

In 1975, an arrangement was made between the Raiders and USC. Robinson was an assistant coach under John McKay at USC. McKay planned to retire. USC wanted Robinson to replace him, but felt he needed head coaching experience. John Madden hired Robinson to be an “assistant head coach” with the Raiders for one year, after which he was hired as SC’s head man, where he won a national title and three Rose Bowls.

Madden played with another future Trojan coach, Ted Tollner, at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. They both survived a plane crash that killed about half the people on board. This traumatic event eventually had the profound effect on Madden’s life of cutting his coaching career short, making him a bus traveler for the next 30 years.

Madden got into coaching and found himself on the “fast track” at just the right time. The growth of the American Football League not only created opportunities for new coaches but also for new ideas. Madden had new ideas. He was hired as a Raider assistant and was on John Rauch’s staff when Oakland lost Super Bowl II in 1968, but at the age of 33 was hired to replace Rauch in 1969. Rauch had gone 13-1 and 12-2, but Madden’s 12-2-1 record in ’69 was par for the course.

While some suggested Madden was a “puppet” whose strings were pulled by Al Davis, Wells Twombly more accurately described in Oakland’s Raiders: Fireworks and Fury, that “Madden is not a great egotist . . . He does not hold his job by trying to spread his shadow over everyone he touches. Al Davis is the chief executive and John Madden is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The two men cooperate perfectly, regardless of rumors to the contrary.”

Madden saw Oakland through the transition from Daryle Lamonica to Ken Stabler, which had its share of bumps in the road but ultimately proved to be the team’s greatest glory years. Madden was a workaholic, which explains why he went into broadcasting, a much less stressful occupation.

“I work 18 hours a day during the football season,” he said in 1973. “I don’t own a mountain cabin. I believe that a successful coach must be totally dedicated. I don’t even play golf. If I don’t give this job 99 percent I’m a dead coach.”

“There never was a name in my mind,” Davis said of hiring Madden. “I wanted John. He has the same temperament as Walter Alston of the Dodgers. As I’ve said the Dodgers find Dodger-types and keep Alston for 20 years. We look for Raider-types and we have an Alston-type to lead them. It’s as simple as that and people try to make it sound so complicated.”

“A successful professional football club must, by its very nature, be an absolute dictatorship,” Madden stated. “It can’t be a popular Democracy. We strive for harmony and a meeting of the minds of athletes, executives and coaches who all think alike. There is no place for a person who can’t stand constructive criticism. There isn’t any room for anyone whose feelings are going to be hurt. I’m the general on the field. Al is the leader. That’s how things are. Things aren’t bad.”

Madden was the perfect Raider coach. Very few others would have tolerated the shenanigans of those teams. Imagine Vince Lombardi or Tom Landry putting up with the Raiders’ training camp hi-jinks in Santa Rosa! Davis installed a practice field next to the El Tropicana Motel, which was little more than a glorified Motel 6. Nearby were various seedy bars. The guys in those places tended to be cowboys or <ED: HELLS, NOT HELL’S, IS THEIR UNIQUE MONIKER> Hells Angels types. The women were rural party girls lookin’ for a good time, or motorcycle mamas lookin’ for a better time. It was perfect for the Raiders.

How the Raiders got ready for the season year in and year out amid all the drinking and revelry is a true mystery. It is also odd that a win-at-all-costs man like Davis tolerated it, but he and Madden sensed that amid the partying, bonds of togetherness and camaraderie were formed. It was also an era of strained relations between whites and blacks. The nightly forays were an inter-racial affair, and in Santa Rosa friendships and trusts were developed that somehow paid dividends on the football field.

It was as if the loose, relaxed party atmosphere carried over into the huddle, where Stabler never seemed to bat an eye no matter the situation. John Matuszak, Lyle Alzado, Fred Biletnikoff, Marv Hubbard and many others partied in Santa Rosa, at the airport bar in Oakland, on the road . . . but they performed like champions on Sundays.

When the Raiders were in Santa Rosa, of course, “camp followers” would travel there to “party” with the team. While this of course meant “football groupies,” it also included a fair share of male fans, biker types and otherwise. In this respect, the Raiders represented the last of a dying breed, something the Dodgers had in Brooklyn. They partied with their fans, and their “everyman” image was embodied by Madden. He never gave the appearance of a Martinet general or pious taskmaster, like so many coaches.

Today, this is virtually unheard-of. Pro teams live in a velvet-rope world of agents, celebrities, and party girls making themselves available to them. Average fans just watch with lustful jealousy, from well beyond an arc of bouncers.

But once upon a time, the Raiders were Oakland’s team, and Santa Rosa’s as well. John Madden, the kind of guy who would stop and have a beer or five with those average fans, was the rush chairman of an egalitarian brotherhood formingone of the great football operations of all times.

Today, Madden is a cult figure for fans who see in him that last vestige of normalcy in a game of multi-millionaire drugged behemoths. He is still sought after to comment on his bus travels to NFL cities.

“Never eat at a Mexican restaurant near the highway,” he states. “It’s a bluff. It looks good on the outside but the food’s no good inside. Always find a greasy spoon in the town, after askin’ around.”

HALL OF FAMERS

John Madden’s lifetime pro football coaching record, all with the Oakland Raiders, was 112-39-7.

DID YOU KNOW . . .

That Bill Walsh, when asked to name his biggest influences replied, “Al Davis, who I consider a true football genius”?

TOP 20 ALL-TIME GREATEST PRO FOOTBALL COACHES

1. Vince Lombardi

2. Bill Walsh

3. Paul Brown

4. Tom Landry

5. Chuck Noll

5. Don Shula

6. Bill Parcells

7. Bill Belichick

8. Curley Lambeau

9. Joe Gibbs

10. George Halas

12. Hank Stram

13. Mike Shanahan

14. Mike Holmgren

15. George Seifert

16. Jimmy Johnson

17. Bud Grant

18. Marv Levy

19. Tom Flores

20. George Allen

“The Immaculate Reception”

Only true historians know about the infamous “Merkle Boner,” in which Fred Merkle’s failure to touch second base led to an improbable replay of a 1908 game between the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs, costing New York the National League pennant.

Brooklyn Dodger fans of course live with the memory of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” in 1951. The Boston Red Sox can choose from a buffet of failure, highlighted by Johnny Pesky holding the ball (1946) and Bill Buckner’s bent frame while an easy grounder skipped underneath his glove (1986).

In the entire history of sports, however, there are two losses bitterer to swallow than any others. Both occurred within a few months of each other in 1972. In September, the U.S. Olympic basketball team had the gold medal literally, absolutely and beyond all question, stolen from them by corrupt Communist officials in the star-crossed Munich Games.

In December, the Oakland Raiders lost “The Immaculate Reception” AFC play-off game to Pittsburgh. The two abominable defeats – the American hoopsters and the Raider gridders – were different in character. The Olympic debacle, of course, was a national disaster, cheered in this country by nobody except the unimpressives.

The Raider loss to Pittsburgh was a “horse of a different color.” Gloom in Oakland was matched by joy in Pittsburgh. The Raiders, even though they had not yet won any Super Bowls, were already considered an “Evil Empire” of sorts five years before Star Wars came out. Their pain was met with a certain amount of glee, and while Raider die-hards take the time-honored stance that the call against them was a bad one, it is not nearly as cut and dried as the Munich heist.

For Raider fans of a certain age, they all remember where they were when Franco Harris ran to glory, amidst great confusion, joy and despair. The play resembled “The Play,” when Cal ran through the Stanford band to win the 1982 Big Game. “The Play” involved a certain amount of skill, mixed with luck. The “Immaculate Reception” was so fluky as to almost discount the skill of Harris in being where he was, alertly reacting to what was happening, catching the ball and running like the wind.

An examination of the rules and circumstances of “The Immaculate Reception,” murky or not, leave the Raiders swallowing the same bitter “we’ve been robbed” pill to swallow as the 1972 Olympic basketball team. Both of the disastrous events are replayed regularly on ESPN Classic. The fact that the Olympic call was illegally upheld is made apparent every time, but the Raider-Steeler vantagepoint more resembles Republicans and Democrats squabbling. What never changes is that queasy feeling, like watching JFK’s motorcade turn down Dealey Plaza. Uneasiness somehow pervades the senses. This time it won’t happen, but it inevitably bears the same unbearable result.

After the crazy 1970 season, in which Oakland was tied, 17-17 late in the AFC title game at Baltimore before falling short by 10, the team experienced a disappointing 1971 campaign. Kansas City regained the Western Division before losing in an extraordinary overtime game to the ascending Miami Dolphins. Dallas finally won their “big one” when Roger Staubach directed the Cowboys to a resounding victory over Miami, but Don Shula’s team was loaded in 1972. They went undefeated in the regular season, the only club to this date that has done that in the merged era.

Coach John Madden began to separate himself from Al Davis, calling more and more of his own plays. Early on, he gave Ken Stabler his opportunity to play, but the experiment did not take. Lamonica was re-instated, putting together another fine season in leading the Raiders to a 10-3-1 regular season record.

Pittsburgh finally made the post-season for the first time in their history. Owner Art Rooney’s team moved into Three Rivers Stadium, a shiny all-purpose facility with artificial turf. Terry Bradshaw, the first pick of the 1970 draft, came into his own. They were loaded with young talent and were evenly matched with Oakland.

Entering the play-offs, Miami’s unbeaten year would have to survive that hobgoblin of greatness, the law of averages. The feeling was that if the Dolphins could be beaten, Oakland was just the team to do it, but they had to get past the upstart Steelers, who just a few years earlier under coach Chuck Noll were 1-13.

The Steel City is football-crazy. Western Pennsylvania is renowned for producing great quarterbacks: Johnny Unitas, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, just to highlight a few. Finally, the Steelers were giving them something to cheer about, but there was none of the sunny optimism of the California sports aficionado. Steeler fans had the same dread in their hearts as longsuffering Red Sox and Cub supporters.

It was December, a sunny, hard day on the unforgiving plastic turf. Lamonica was given the start, but it was another big game disappointment for Daryle. Bradshaw, despite all the offensive weapons at his disposal, was not much better, but two Roy Gerela field goals gave Pittsburgh a perilous 6-0 lead. Steeler fans could see disaster hovering over Three Rivers Stadium like the Hindenburg.

“When you get into these things with the Oakland Raiders, you start to worry,” said Noll. “They’ve been involved in these wild finishes so often that they almost take them for granted. These sorts of things would tear the nervous systems right out of most athletes.”

Blood dotted the turf, much of it Lamonica’s. Four of his passes were smashed back in his face, the ultimate form of bad feedback, by L.C. Greenwood, “Mean Joe” Greene, Ben McGee and Dwight White.

Marv Hubbard got the call out of the Oakland backfield, taking great punishment. Steeler fans, bundled in the late afternoon shadows, their breath filling the air like the nearby smoke stacks, knew too well the Raider penchant for late-game heroics. George Blanda was still very much in play. They had hope, but girded themselves for disappointment, too. Their desperate shouts filled the winter air, more pleas than encouragement.

It was not Blanda, however, who Madden went to in a pinch. Off the bench came a longhaired southpaw, Ken Stabler. Stabler had delivered victory out of the jaws of defeat for Bear Bryant at Alabama before Davis selected him. However, he was not a sure thing. Whereby Lamonica was the proto-typical strong-armed NFL quarterback, Stabler did not have that kind of strength. He was a renegade, a problem child, a wild partier, but maybe that “devil may care” attitude was what was needed in replacing Lamonica, who seemingly was wound so tight a pin could not be pulled from his rear with a tractor.

Stabler had three minutes left to work magic. He proved to be Houdini in that gloaming. It took a dozen plays, but Stabler had Oakland down to the Pittsburgh 30 when he rolled out, was flushed from the pocket, and did what Lamonica could never do. He scrambled, found the sideline, and ran untouched into the end zone. After Blanda’s extra point, Pittsburghers just stared at each other, mocked by the scoreboard, their own knowledge of fate, and inevitable defeat.

On the Oakland sideline, Madden’s men rejoiced, beginning to think about Miami. With 1:13 to go, however, Bradshaw had life. He made some gains, but then the great Jack Tatum took over. He knocked down two passes, then barely missed an interception. 22 seconds left. Fourth-and-10. Bradshaw had no time for anything except a desperate bomb to Frenchy Fuqua, running a curl pattern.

Tatum and Fuqua collided like two freight trains. The ball hit them, bouncing violently off their shoulder pads. Whether the ball hit Tatum or Fuqua – thus determining whether the call was bad or not – is still hard to determine. If it hit off Fuqua, it was dead to the Steelers, since no offensive players could catch a ball that hit a teammate first.

Tatum was receiving slaps and congratulations on the game-winning play when everybody noticed, to their horror, that running back Franco Harris – an All-American out of Penn State and a star who had been totally bottled up all day – alertly caught the deflected pass inches before it hit the turf. He was off and running. There was no time left. All the Raiders needed to do was stop him.

It was not to be. Harris raced into the end zone. Delirium ensued. Howls of protests erupted on the Raider sideline. Confusion reigned, and Pittsburgh fans knew full well that any number of scenarios or technicalities could erase the play, which in the scheme of their sorry history seemed almost to be written by the hand of God.

Madden argued that the ball hit Fuqua first, making it a dead play. There was no instant replay, but even if there it was inconclusive. Referee Fred Swearingen tentatively signaled that Tatum, not Fuqua, had touched the ball, which meant the play would stand, but he was simply guessing!

He left the field and ran into the baseball dugout to find a phone, where he placed a call to Art McNally, the supervisor of AFC officials. Did Swearingen want to know what the replay showed?

“He asked one question,” recalled Madden. “He asked how many cops there were at Three Rivers Stadium to protect him if he reversed the call.”

Apparently, not enough.

Swearingen emerged and raised his hands: “Touchdown!”

The newspaper photos apparently showed what the film did not, that Tatum had swatted it, making it a dead ball, but it did not matter. 13-7, Pittsburgh.

“That’s the way it will have to go into the record books, because that’s what the officials said happened,” philosophized Davis. “We’ll just have to find our pride and poise again in 1973. What else is there to do? One of the worst things that can happen to a football team is to make excuses then sit around believing them. The Oakland Raiders will not let that happen.”

THE ARBITERS HAVE IT

1. U.S.-U.S.S.R. Olympic basketball game, 1972; extra time gives Soviets victory

2. Cardinals-Royals, 1985 World Series; Don Denkinger’s missed called denies Card

win.

3. Colorado-Missouri, 1990: Fifth down elevates Buffaloes to “national championship.”

4. Raiders-Steelers, 1972; “Immaculate Reception” called when officials learn of

lack of security.

5. Yankees-Orioles, 1996 play-offs: Fan interference not called on Jeter homer.

6. Raiders-Broncos, 1979; Rob Lytle’s fumble not called in Denver win.

7. Argentina-England, 1986 World Cup: Maradona’s “hand of God” goal.

8. Raiders-Patriots, 2002 play-offs; Tom Brady’s fumble not called in Pats’ win.

9. Steelers-Lions, 1999; Jerome Bettis’s “tails” call is heard as “heads” and Lions win

Stars-Sabres, 1999 Stanley Cup; Brett Hull's skate in the crease gives the Stars won.

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

The average weight of the Raider offensive lineman in the early-to-mid 1970s was 270 pounds.

In his autobiography, Snake, Ken Stabler wrote of “The Immaculate Reception” . . .“I decided that for me to run 30 yards for a touchdown against the Steeler defense was a miracle, so I guessed Pittsburgh deserved one too.”

The Baret Robins fiasco

Al Davis is not a man who wears emotions on his sleeve. He assiduously avoids excuses, as he demonstrated after “The Immaculate Reception.” But after his best laid plans had finally restored his beloved Raiders to greatness in the form of a trip to the 2003 Super Bowl, one man seemingly ripped it all away from him.

Baret Robins, a key member of Oakland’s offensive line, went “crazy” the night before the game. In an atmosphere as tense as the Super Bowl, it is almost impossible to conceive that it did not effect his teammates in a major way. The Raiders collapsed in defeat. Davis remained his usual stoic self, but there must be little doubt that in private the Baret Robins incident eats at him like few others.

So close, and yet so far.

The previous season (2001), the Raiders signed wide receiver Jerry Rice, who holds every major career receiving record. He joined forces with all-time Raider great Tim Brown in the 1,000-yard club as the Raiders got off to a terrific start, winning eight of their first 10 games in 2001. The Raiders quickly overcame a stunning home loss to the Arizona Cardinals to clinch the division early with a 10-3 record. However, with home field advantage up in the air, the Raiders coasted through their last three games, losing each. They were forced to play in the wild card round after a 10-6 season.

In the wild card game Jerry Rice showed he was not done yet, collecting almost 200 receiving yards in an exciting 38-24 win over the New York Jets in Oakland. A week later the Raiders appeared to be heading for the AFC championship game with a 13-10 win over the Patriots in the New England snow, as they scooped up a Tom Brady fumble with less then two minutes lefts. However, the play was reversed by instant replay thanks to the obscure and controversial “tuck” rule. The Pats would go on to tie the game, and take the opening drive in overtime deep into Raider territory, where they nailed a game winning field goal to pull out a controversial 16-13 win. Following the season coach Jon Gruden was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for draft picks after the team was unable to sign him to a contract extension. The reason no contract extension was reached was that Al Davis felt Gruden was “stealing” his spotlight. He wanted to reclaim some of the control Gruden had taken away from him in recent years. The Raiders would go on to name Bill Callahan to replace him.

The man who really led the new Raiders to the edge of the Promised Land, however, was Rich Gannon. He grew up in Philadelphia in the 1960s and '70s, where he attended St. Joseph's Prep School, excelling in athletics. He attended the University of Delaware on a football scholarship and was selected in the fourth round (98th overall) of the 1987 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. He was soon traded to the Minnesota Vikings, where he played sparingly for two seasons before breaking out in 1990.

That year, he became the Vikings' starting quarterback, displacing incumbent Wade Wilson. In 1993, he was traded to the Washington Redskins. Two years later he was traded again, to the Kansas City Chiefs. For two years he was a backup to Steve Bono. In 1997, Gannon excelled as a starter, but split duties with Elvis Grbac. In that year's play-offs, the team lost a close 14-10 contest.

In February 1999 the Raiders signed Gannon as a free agent, where he thrived under Gruden's "West Coast offense.” He was voted to the Pro Bowl four consecutive years. 2002 was his greatest year, as he led Oakland to Super Bowl XXXVII. He led the league in pass attempts (with 618) and completions (418, a record).

He has two passions: “athletics and automobiles,” according to writer Ken Hall. He was able to parlay football into a career that included one NFL MVP award (in 2002) and consecutive Pro Bowl MVP awards (in 2000 and 2001). Through the money he made in football, he was able to purchase a vintage car collection and, later, a petroliana collection.

Petroliana, according to Hall, means “gas station collectibles, and it's a rapidly burgeoning genre.” Gannon owns examples of authentic gas station memorabilia from a bygone era.

"After my rookie year <with the Minnesota Vikings in 1987>, I went back to Philadelphia and bought a 1960 Buick Elektra 225 convertible for 4,400," Gannon recalled. "My brother and I spent two years restoring it, doing the paint, interior, the motor, new top, new tires - the works. I still have that car today," along with about a half-dozen others, although he's owned as many as 13 at a time. The new coach, Callahan let Gannon take \in 2002. The Raiders came flying out of the gate, winning behind a high-powered offense that scored 162 points in their first four games. However, the Raiders suddenly went into a tailspin, losing four straight games. Just as suddenly they rebounded when Jerry Rice collected his 200th career touchdown in a 34-10 Monday Night Football road win over the Denver Broncos. The Monday night victory started a five-game winning streak, including another Raiders receiver having a “Monday night milestone.” Tim Brown became just the third wide receiver in NFL history to collect 1,000 career receptions, joining Rice and Cris Carter as the Raiders beat the New York Jets at home 26-20. After a loss to the Miami Dolphins on the road, the Raiders won the AFC West with a solid 11-5 record. Rich Gannon was named MVP, passing for 4,689 yards, while throwing 26 TD passes to just 10 interceptions. The Raiders earned home field advantage in the AFC, facing the Jets again in the division round. Tied at the half 10-10, the Raiders pulled away in the final quarter. Wide receiver Jerry Porter outshined his two future Hall of Fame teammates with 123 receiving yards, including a 50-yard reception that set up the game breaking TD. Hosting the Tennessee Titans in the AFC championship game, the veteran Raiders trailed 17-14 entering the final minutes of the first half. Suddenly they caught a break, recovering a fumbled punt on the Titan 16 to set up Rich Gannon’s scoring strike. On the ensuing kickoff the Raiders recovered another fumble to set up Sebastian Janikowski’s field goal, giving them a 24-17 halftime lead. In the second half the Raiders dominated the Titans to win 41-24, sending them to their first Super Bowl in 19 years. Super Bowl week was described as the "Chucky Circus." The Raiders faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coached by ex-Raider coach Jon Gruden. His visage had been described as resembling the “Chucky” character from a series of comic horror movies featuring an evil doll named Chucky. Gruden, who coached the Raiders from 1998-2001, built Oakland into a scoring machine that his replacement, Callahan helped form into the top offense in the NFL. They were matched up against Gruden's Buccaneers with the top defense in the NFL. Enter Baret Robins. The circus atmosphere overwhelmed the Raider center, who went AWOL the day before the big game in San Diego. Robbins reappeared the morning of the game after a night of drinking in Tijuana. He was suspended from the team, eventually determined to have a severe bi-polar disorder that has negatively affected every aspect of his life in the succeeding years. At the start of the game it appeared as if the Robbins distraction would not hurt. The Raiders took advantage of an interception on the first possession of the game to take an early 3-0 lead. However, the Bucs’ defense seemed to know what was coming. They read Rich Gannon perfectly, intercepting two passes to shut down the Raider offense completely, taking a 20-3 lead at the half. Things would not get better for the Raiders in the second half. Tampa Bay extended their lead to 27-3 on a long drive, eating up time in the third quarter. Gannon desperately attempted to get the Raiders back into he game, but was picked off by Dwight Smith, who returned it all the way make the score 34-3. The Raiders made a furious attempt at a comeback, scoring three consecutive touchdowns to cut it to 34-21. However, in the final two minutes Gannon had another two interceptions run back for touchdowns. The Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, 48-21. The score of the 2003 Super Bowl might indicate the Robins fiasco was not the reason Oakland lost to a superior Tampa Bay team, but the fine line between winning and losing; between maintaining that key “edge” at just the right moment, is too important to discount. The team’s looked even entering the game. There was no overwhelming sentiment favoring Tampa Bay, certainly not by a large margin. The Raiders have never recovered that edge. Al Davis must sit around in a darkened room, his mind imagining Robins in that infernal Tijuana bar. Picture Napoleon at St. Helena thinking about Waterloo. SCANDAL If Todd Marinovich, who the Raiders chose with their first pick of the 1991 draft, had not been such a bust, Al Davis probably would have chosen USC Heisman winner Matt Leinart in 2006. Speculation was that he was unwilling to be disappointed by two left-handed QBs from the same school. Leinart had a good rookie year in Arizona while the Raiders floundered. Davis turned around and blamed coach Art Schell for not choosing Leinart. He fired Schell and in 2007 did go for a QB, LSU talent JaMarcus Russell. COMEBACK (Quarterbacks given up on by other teams that led new clubs to Super Bowls) 1. Jim Plunkett, Raiders (1980, 1983) 2. Earl Morrall, Colts (1968), Dolphins (1972) 3. Doug Harris, Redskins (1987) 4. Craig Morton, Broncos (1977) 5. Rich Gannon, Raiders (2002) 6. Joe Kapp, Vikings (1969) 7. Billy Kilmer, Redskins (1972) 8. Vince Ferragamo, Rams (1979) 9. Trent Dilfer, Ravens (2000) Len Dawson, Chiefs (1966, 1969) CELEBRITY CORNER Raider linebacker Carl Weathers (1970-71), out of San Diego State, played the famed character “Apollo Creed” in three Rocky movies. THE UGLY The Assassin There is a scene towards the end of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now in which Marlon Brando, playing Colonel Walter Kurtz, addresses Martin Sheen, the be-deviled Special Forces hit man assigned to kill him. “Are you an assassin?” Kurtz mocks Willard. “I’m a soldier,” says Willard. The Raiders’ “assassin,” Jack Tatum, thought of himself as a “soldier” as well. A “sniper.” Many “enemies” were felled by his “bullets.” Unfortunately, Tatum’s reputation is tarnished by a wicked hit he laid on New England’s Daryl Stingley, which paralyzed Stingley for life. Tatum reportedly never visited Stingley or expressed any real remorse. In 2007 Stingley passed away. Tatum was not a lovable character. There is little evidence of anything to admire about him, with the exception of his considerable football skills. Not everybody can be Ronnie Lott, a “monster” on the field but a gentleman off it. Tatum was dangerous, a man who “looks out at the world through narrow slits,” wrote Wells Twombly of the San Francisco Examiner. It is interesting that Tatum is viewed as he is, in part because of the way he hit. Lott did the same thing, but through God’s grace nobody was ever sent to life in a wheelchair by virtue of it. Had Tatum had a more engaging personality, he might have received a little bit of leeway from his critics, but like Barry Bonds he had no reserves of goodwill with which to draw from. He was just piled on, as happened with Bonds after it was discovered that he was juiced to the gills. Perhaps it can be said Tatum had a “little man’s complex.” Memory somehow paints the portrait of a big hulk, a power force laying thunder sticks on unsuspecting ball carriers, but in reality he was only 5’, 10” tall, weighing in at a paltry 205 pounds. Somehow, Tatum’s demeanor, his stare, his Afro; something about the man made him look bigger than he was. Many who do not know pro football very well assume he was a linebacker, or even a lineman, not a defensive back, whose main job is more speed-related than tackle-related. After all, “Neon Deion” Sanders was an All-Pro playing in the secondary, where he broke up passes but avoided tackling people as if they had Bubonic plague. Tatum came out of Woody Hayes’s program at Ohio State. Hayes was a progressive who built the Buckeyes into greatness recruiting terrific black players like Tatum. Tatum was a prep fullback. Hayes loved his aggressiveness, seeing him as a blitzing safety who could stop the run and the pass. In 1968, the sophomore-laden Buckeyes went unbeaten, defeating the star-laden USC Trojans and O.J. Simpson in the Rose Bowl for the national championship. In 1969, Sports Illustratedboldly stated that the Bucks were the greatest collegiate football team of all time, but they were upset by Michigan, 24-12. In 1970, Tatum, Rex Kern and the rest of Hayes’s Buckeyes were seniors. Again, they smashed through the Big 10 unbeaten and untied. Effete Stanford was their last obstacle in the Rose Bowl, but Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jim Plunkett led the Indians to one of the greatest upsets ever recorded, 27-17 (the biggest victory in Stanford sports history). Hayes had a conniption fit every time he brought his teams to the West Coast. He told his charges that “people out here aren’t rooting for you,” directing them to just be polite. Woody failed to heed his own words, going so far as to throw a punch at an L.A. Times photographer. Tatum seemed to inherit Hayes’s “chip on the shoulder” attitude. A few years after Tatum, Ohio State featured a superstar defensive back named Neal Colzie, who tended to mouth off and create histrionics on the field. He, too, was burned by a Pac-8 team, USC in the 1975 Rose Bowl, before he joined Tatum on the Raiders. “This is the meanest tackler I ever coached,” Hayes once said of Tatum. “I understand that once Jack has hit you, you never forget him.” Al Davis liked that kind of attitude. He wanted to be feared more than respected, and certainly not loved. That was Tatum’s style all the way. After being drafted in the first round by Oakland – in his case, there was no hiding him, the Silver and Black were fortunate he was still around – he walked into training camp and assumed dominance. There was no deferring to the veterans, the coach, the team’s history. In his mind, he was the new starting safety, and he was. Self-confidence oozed from his every pore. “I always knew I could play in the pros,” he stated. “I’m not stupid, though. I know I can learn a lot. I knew from the beginning that I would be a starter for the Raiders. This is my kind of football team; no nonsense, all business. I like that. When I was in high school you had to be tough or you got killed playing football. There’s nothing funny about this game.” As a rookie, Tatum told one veteran player, “I know you guys aren’t interested in rookies who have big names and don’t deliver. Well, I’m one rookie who can help you now.” Tatum teamed with Phil Villapiano. It proved to be one of the keys to pushing the team into uncharted territory. Tatum’s success coincided with the creation of a more complete unit. It was all part of the Raiders’ ability to keep up with growing trends in the game. The Raiders of the pre-Tatum era were a “bombs away” offensive juggernaut, definitely placing more emphasis on scoring than defense. But as the merger was completed in 1970, defensive coordinators and rules changes regarding the old AFL “bump ‘n’ run” were modified. The wide-open passing schemes of the Sid Gillman era were replaced by the defensive genius of coaches like Tom Landry and Chuck Noll. The size of the players increased. The “hybrid” linebacker would come into existence, just as the pass-catching tight end made that skill necessary. Blitz packages required great speed and athleticism, which was Tatum’s forte. Tatum is regarded as an all-time great Raider and certainly an NFL legend. The Stingley episode hurt him, and he is not in the Hall of Fame, but those who competed against Jack would state he was as nasty and difficult to play against as any safety in history. It may take awhile, but Tatum will someday accept induction to the Hall of Fame in his native Ohio. TOP 10 ALL-TIME GREATEST DEFENSIVE BACKS 1. Ronnie Lott 2. Rod Woodson 3. Herb Adderley 4. Night Train Lane 5. Mel Blount 6. Deion Sanders 7. Willie Brown 8. Mel Renfro 9. Mike Haynes 10. (tie) Willie Wood Jimmy Johnson ? Jack Tatum TRIVIA When did Al Davis assume sole control of the Raider franchise? A: Prior to the start of the 1976 season Al Davis gained sole control of the franchise when Wayne Valley sold all of his shares. The Year Al and Georgia Stole Christmas Greater Los Angeles is the Football Capital of the World! USC has the greatest college tradition in the country. Two major gridiron powers (UCLA and USC) vie for the best high school talent in America, which is in its backyard. They play in the two most famous stadiums in the land. Some of the most mammoth crowds in the sport’s history have showed up in these venues. The Rams and Raiders are part of the hallowed lore of the pro game. More NFL players hail from the Southland’s high schools, junior colleges and universities than any other section of the United States. So, this is the Football Capital of the World, right? Yeah, right! It all turned out be a cruel joke: the Christmas Eve Crime of 1994. On Saturday, December 24, 1994, the Rams and Raiders played the last pro football games in L.A., within a few hours of each other. At Anaheim Stadium, the Rams fell to Washington, 24-21, and at the Coliseum the Raiders bowed to Kansas City, 19-9. A miserable 25,705 knew the Rams (4-12) were headed to St. Louis. Georgia Frontiere had taken over as owner of the club in the 1970s when . . . when her husband, Carroll Rosenbloom, died in amysterious swimming accident. The worst owner in pro sports history, Frontiere ran football’s model organization into the ground. Tight-lipped Al Davis had not shown his hand yet. The Raiders (9-7) played an exhibition game at their old home, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. After an erratic year, the Silver and Black just missed the play-offs. 64,130 showed up for the Chiefs rivalry and post-season hope. On Christmas Day, Mike Downey’s L.A. Times column was titled, “Coliseum Becomes a Wasteland.” The reference was to the uninspired play of Art Schell’s squad, but also inferred that the team might not be there in 1995. In June, Davis announced that the franchise was returning to Oakland. Since that time, the Raiders – with the exception of a few good years under Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan - have been mostly also-rans, playing before empty seats and the Bay Area’s version of “gangbangers.” 1994 started with a bang, in the form of the Northridge earthquake, but ended in a whimper for both teams. 30 miles south of the L.A. Coliseum, down Interstate 5, the smallest crowd ever to watch a Ram game during their wretched stay in Orange County observed a team in total disarray. Mike Reilly’s next-day analysis speculated that change would do them good. Over the next four years, it was commonly assumed that until Frontiere took her place in the Old Showgirl’s Rest Home, this franchise was doomed to repeat the past. Sort of like a Twi-Light Zone episode. The chanting went like this: “L.A. Rams. L.A. Rams.” Then: “Georgia (expletive)! Georgia (expletive)!” Then: (General manager) “John Shaw (expletive)!” “St. Louis (expletive)!” 19-year veteran offensive tackle Jackie Slater put some historical spin on things. “Some of the greatest football ever played was played by the men who sat here in this locker room.” Slater certainly was one of the all-time greats, and the Rams had some fine performers in Anaheim, but the fact is that the life was sucked out of the club when they left the Coliseum. Bob Waterfield, Norm Van Brocklin, Tom Fears, Jon Arnett, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier, Roman Gabriel, Hacksaw Reynolds, Jack Youngblood, and Deacon Jones were among the legends. For countless Southland kids, the memories of sitting with their dads, watching the Los Angeles Rams play on sunsplashed Sundays in the heart of this incredible city; these memories did not deserved to be discarded by Frontiere. Boston lost the Braves. So did Milwaukee. L.A. even lost the Chargers. City hopping was not new in 1995, just as it had not been when the Rams did that but pretended not to in 1980. Having Frontiere, of all people, be the one to trample on their traditions was just too distasteful to take, however. At least when Walter O’Malley left Brooklyn, the benefits of such a move for baseball were obvious. In 1999 Georgia’s St. Louis Rams won the world championship, so she got the last laugh, right? “Georgia will meet her Maker and be judged for what she did,” said Ram legend Fred Dryer. “That’s all I have to say about it.” Then there is Al Davis. Unlike Georgia, Al deserves plenty of admiration. He was the guiding force of the American Football League. His vision was one of aerial offenses, bump-and-run “intimidation” defense, combined with an amazing way of determining whether veteran players could still contribute. All this led football people to conclude that the Man in Black was a genius. Genius is a tough word to apply to anybody, especially in sports and politics. To say that time passed Al by was too simple an explanation. He had great players in L.A.: Jim Plunkett, Marcus Allen and Howie Long formed the core of talented mid-‘80s squads. By 1994 he was still just as committed, worked just as hard, and put in as much time as ever. For whatever reason, the Raiders had not fielded a truly quality team since Plunkett’s 1985 squad. Yes, they made it to the AFC championship game in 1990, but they also lost at Buffalo, 51-3. Davis’s decision six months after the 1994 season to move back to Oakland was based more on an intrinsic feeling that Oakland crowds would spur the players to greater achievements. What he found out is that East Bay fans are almost as front running as their west-of-the-bridge counterparts. Los Angelenos yawned through the ensuing seasons. Eventually, they took to Pete Carroll’s Southern Cal Trojans with a fervor never seen for any previous Los Angeles sports team. Troy simply became L.A.’s “pro football” franchise. Los Angeles is not Nashville or Charlotte. People there are laid back. They take a lot of heat because of their attitude. However, anybody who ever sat in the Los Angeles Coliseum when 90,000 fans are really into it can tell you that the L.A. football fan may have seen it all, but they also recognize real quality. Re-build the Coliseum into a state-of-the-art stadium, occupy it with a modern, committed champion and . . . . . . hey, if they build it, they will come! BEHIND THE SCENES Mr. Ed Bercovich ran a furniture store (and maybe a few other things). He is a close, personal friend of Raiders’ owner Al Davis. Whenever talk would break out about new stadium financing, or a re-shuffling of the ownership group, this guy Bercovich’s name would pop up. You never saw his picture. He was not a media dude, but he was a mover and a shaker. Maybe he owned some land, or had some parking lots that could be converted into the Raiders new football palace. He had money, he loved sports, and he was connected to the powers-that-be. He also sponsored the greatest high school summer baseball program in Bay Area history, one that produced superstars like Livermore’s Randy Johnson. CHEATERS SOMETIMES PROPER The Rams’ Georgia Frontiere – an aging Vegas showgirl and “trophy wife” of Rams’ owner Carroll Roenbloom - is considered by some to be the worst sports owner in history. Rumors over how her husband died in a swimming accident never went away. She won a vicious power struggle with Rosenbloom’s son from a prior marriage over the team’s ownership and has been caricatured in several Hollywood movies, most notably the Cameron Diaz role from Any Given Sunday. Frontiere played a key role in Raider history when she moved the Rams out of the L.A. Coliseum in 1980. Al Davis saw the opportunity to occupy the famed vacant stadium. Davis competed with Frontiere’s Rams for L.A. attention, but in the end attrition cost both of them the losing “battle of L.A.” To the consternation of virtually everybody, her St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl in 2000. IN THE CLUTCH The miracle worker Chapter one (“FIRST PERIOD: The Wolf in Winter”) of Wells Twombly’s biography of George Blanda begins, “Being a description in minute detail of how George Blanda, after only 20 years in professional football, became an overnight sensation.” Indeed, Blanda toiled in the trenches of the pro game since the Truman Administration. He was a successful quarterback in the AFL after a less-than-stirring run in the NFL. He was not in the same class as Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Joe Namath or even Daryle Lamonica, but he was a creditable ol’ pro. Blanda is today in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is difficult to say, but likely had he not accomplished what he did in 1970, he would not be there. For sure, Blanda was spectacular in 1970, but there was a sense of mysticism about his achievements that season, too. A little bit of luck. Perhaps even miraculous! Plus, George Blanda owes much of his notoriety to the singular vocal qualities of Mr. Bill King. Those two will be forever, inextricably linked by that season. Like Cosell and Ali, King made Blanda. Blanda made King. In 1970, road games were televised and home games were not. The Raiders sold out every game, but it did not matter. If you did not have a ticket, and if you did not drive 90 miles from Oakland to see the game in a bar or a hotel, then you listened to King on the radio. There does not seem to be a single adult male who was living in the Bay Area in 1970 who does not vividly recall King announcing, with official succinctness, that “George Blanda is King of the world!” after Blanda’s field goal beat Cleveland, 23-20. Blanda is something, literally, out of our past. They do not make ‘em like that anymore. He is of an era that has come and gone – thankfully – in America: the Great Depression. Mike Blanda worked deep in the mines. He came home filthy every night, but somehow kept his 11 kids from ever knowing they were poor. He taught his children how to compete. 13 days after retiring, he passed away, but George was well equipped for whatever life threw his way. World War II was still going on when Blanda played at Youngwood High School in Pennsylvania. The 6’, 2”, 215-pound quarterback went to the University of Kentucky where he played for a fairly famous man: Paul “Bear” Bryant, who is the greatest coach in the history of Kentucky and the greatest coach in the history of Texas A&M, as well as the greatest coach in the history Alabama . . . and probably all of collegiate football. Blanda started his professional career with the Chicago Bears in 1949. He became one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL, but fell out of favor with George “Papa Bear” Halas, who “fired” him in 1959. “I was considered a troublemaker,” Blanda recalled. He went to Wrigley Field to “root against the Bears” in 1959, a 31-year old “washed up” quarterback, but his career was saved by formation of the AFL in 1960. The Houston Oilers were one of the league’s dominant teams in the early years, and Blanda a marquee signal caller. When Pete Beathard of USC came of age, the Oilers decided to go with youth. Blanda’s departure marked the franchise’s downfall. He was traded to Oakland in 1967, where he lost a tough quarterback battle with Daryle Lamonica. But Blanda could always punt and kick. With Oakland he became an integral part of the offense as a place-kicker, knocking ‘em in with the old-fashioned straight-foot style. In 1967, ’68 and ’69, Blanda kicked field goals and extra points, but he was not entirely happy. He still considered himself a quarterback. But Lamonica’s great success was impossible to argue against, so Blanda relegated himself to the back-up role. Controversy swirled around Blanda after the 1969 AFL title game loss to Kansas City. Lamonica injured his hand, but was kept in the 17-7 loss despite an inability to move the team in the fourth quarter. Afterwards, Blanda was asked if Lamonica should have been removed in favor of him. Blanda did not come right out and say yes, but he did make note of the fact that the injury obviously effected Lamonica, and that he would have welcomed the chance to try and pull out a victory. Blanda, a confident man, said that he felt had he played he could have won, which was really just faith in himself, but the press used his quotes, some of which were surreptitiously taped by a reporter hanging out with Blanda and his friends after the game. Al Davis called him on the carpet. He broached no trouble within his ranks, but the owner recognized that it was Blanda’s competitive nature, not criticism. Blanda and Lamonica competed for the coveted QB job, but they respected each other immensely, and helped each other. Despite Lamonica’s injury, the truth is that had he been healthy, it may not have mattered. In the second regular season game between the two teams, Oakland won, 10-6, to sweep the season series from K.C. But the score indicated that the two teams were so familiar with each other that the games resembled stalemate, like the Brits and Germans locked in trench struggle during the Great War. In 1970, Oakland found themselves in the new American Football Conference. The new alignment took some getting used to. Both the AFC and NFC were part of an overall National Football League, and they played an inter-conference schedule. Oakland got off to a bad start when Paul Brown’s Cincinnati Bengals, just a few years removed from expansion, upset them in the opener. Lamonica was inconsistent. It seemed that defensive coordinators had caught up to “The Mad Bomber.” Blanda missed a chip field goal against San Diego in a tie game. After three contests, the Raiders were a disastrous 0-2-1. Davis openly second-guessed coach John Madden. But Oakland came back to go unbeaten over the next seven games. In one of those contests, Blanda replaced an injured Lamonica, throwing three touchdowns in a 31-14 win but, as Ronald Reagan famously said, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” For the Raiders, playing at Kansas City’s Memorial Stadium was like entering the Roman Colloseum to do battle with uncaged lions. The 1970 grudge match was just such a gladiatorial death struggle! The two teams got into a furious brawl, described in vivid detail by Bill King. King tried to describe who was hitting whom. Mainly Chiefs’ wide receiver Otis Taylor and Raider behemoth Ben Davidson had dagger eyes for each other (a match-up Taylor had no business engaging in). But as the free-for-all grew King just threw up his hands, telling his listeners he could no longer identify all the culprits. With the score 17-14 Kansas City, the fight worked to Oakland’s advantage. Davidson had hit Chief quarterback Len Dawson late and out of bounds. Davidson was flagged with an unsportsmanlike penalty. Taylor was tossed out of the game. Madden and Dan Conners argued that Taylor’s ejection was not enough; that Kansas City should be penalized on the ground, too. The argument worked, causing Kansas City to re-try a third down play after negating Dawson’s first down run. They failed the second time. The Raiders got the ball back with just enough time for Blanda to try a desperation 48-yarder, which was true, salvaging a 17-17 tie. Then Cleveland came to the Coliseum. Lamonica was ineffective, so Blanda was brought in to play quarterback. Trailing 20-13 late in the fourth quarter, Blanda passed to Warren Wells for a game-tying touchdown. It looked to be another tie, but a desperate interception gave Oakland the ball again. Blanda hit Hewritt Dixon for a short gain, giving him a shot at a 52-yard field goal with seven seconds left. King judged his chances “76 million to one-half,” but when Blanda came through he indeed was“King of the world!” Blanda’s “relief pitcher” heroics proved decisive in Oakland’s late, close wins over Denver, 24-19 and San Diego, 20-17. At Shea Stadium on a cold December day, it was Lamonica’s “Hail Mary” to Wells that tied the game, 13-13, but George’s extra point won it, 14-13. Oakland was 8-4-2, good for the 1970 Western Division title. They lost to Baltimore in the conference championship game. It was not one of their great seasons, yet it remains one of their most truly memorable. It was the autumn of George Blanda, who made every man over the age of 40 proud. People who had no interest in the Raiders when they were 13-1 found a vulnerable 8-4-2 club irresistible. Blanda stuck around into his mid-40s, finally retiring after the 1975 season. His relief appearances were never as frequent after 1970. Eventually Ken Stabler took over the position, removing any question over who the quarterback should be. Sadly, Blanda was not a member of the 1976 Super Bowl championship team, but he goes down in history as one of the all-time great Raiders. HALL OF FAMERS 19 Raiders have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Canton, Ohio They include (including assistant coaches): Center Jim Jim Otto (1960-1974), elected in 1980. Quarterback/kicker George Blanda (1967-1975), elected in 1981. Cornerback Willie Brown (1967-1978), elected in 1984. Guard Gene Upshaw (1967-1982), elected in 1987. Wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff (1965-1978), elected in 1988. Tackle Art Shell (1968-1982), elected in 1989. Linebacker Ted Hendricks (1975-1983), elected in 1990. Owner-coach Al Davis (1963-present), elected in 1992. Assistant coach Bill Walsh (1966), elected in 1993. Assistant coach Joe Gibbs (1969-70), elected in 1996. Cornerback Mike Haynes (1983-1989), elected in 1997. Running back Eric Dickerson (1992), elected in 1999. Defensive end Howie Long (1981-1993), elected in 2000. Safety Ronnie Lott (1991-1992), elected in 2000. Tight end Dave Casper (1974-1980, 1984), elected in 2002. Running back Marcus Allen (1982-1992), elected in 2003. Wide receiver James Lofton (1987-1988), elected in 2003. Offensive tackle Bob Brown (1971-1973), elected in 2004. Head coach John Madden (1969-78), elected in 2006. TRIVIA How many years did George Blanda play pro football? A: 26 (1949-1975). COMEBACK George Blanda was named American Football Conference Player of the Year in 1970 even though he was not the team’s starting quarterback. He came off the bench to lead the team on a string of improbable comebacks. “The sea of hands.” When Raider fans discuss their all-time great teams, there are many to choose from. Certainly the 1967-69 squads were juggernauts. The 1976 champions and two Super Bowl winners of the 1980s come to mind. But the 1974 Raiders were as good as any of them, which demonstrates that their failure to bring home the “brass ring” was the source of great frustration. Ken Stabler entered the campaign in his prime. He had performed magnificently – albeit with some inconsistency - in 1973 and had the job all the way, having completed a stupendous 62.7 percent of his passes in his first full year. Coach Madden and the fans also had confidence that he was a gutsy performer who could be counted on in the fourth quarter of close games. First round draft pick Henry Lawrence came to Oakland after having played at tiny Florida A&M. Davis and his scouts were unafraid of choosing lesser-known players from traditional black colleges, and they usually chose right. In Lawrence’s case, most definitely. But the key pick came in the form of the number two choice. This one was hardly hidden in a low-profile program. Tight end Dave Casper helped lead Notre Dame to the 1973 national title. Casper’s role represented a paradigm shift in Raider – and pro football – mentality. The old AFL “Mad Bomber” days were long gone. While nobody was yet calling it the “West Coast offense,” that is what it was. Tight ends had traditionally been blockers, but in recent years more athletic performers were playing the position. John Mackey revolutionized the position with Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall at Baltimore. Casper could block, he could catch, and he could run after the catch. No longer was the option confined to the long pass or the run. The “tight end option,” or indeed planned pass plays to tight ends and running backs, was now fully implemented into NFL playbooks. Casper made up for Ray Chester’s departure. Mark van Eeghen became Oakland’s second running back from Colgate, which was an unlikely scenario. If Davis and his scouts were to be believed, the little liberal arts college was the “Fullback U.” of the East Coast. Davis supposedly “discovered” Van Eeghen working out in a gym and noticed his leg strength. Hopes were high, but O.J. Simpson and Buffalo upended Oakland in the Monday Night Footballopener at Rich Stadium. Stabler and Madden sensed that the Bills could not keep up with their club, but possessed in Simpson enough firepower to scare them into changing the game plan. Oakland maintained a conservative approach, which seemed to be working in the fourth quarter, but in retrospect had they let the “dogs out” they may have been winning by enough to off-set the late-game heroics of Joe Ferguson and Ahmad Rashad in the Bills’ surprise 21-20 win. After that, however, with all the pistons greased, Oakland stepped up with nine straight victories. With each successive win the Stabler-to-Casper connection became more important. Kansas City, an also-ran by now, fell 27-7. Oakland’s 17-0 shutout of Pittsburgh at Three Rivers Stadium was felt by many to identify a huge shift in pro football fortunes. Terry Bradshaw had shown brilliance and inconsistency throughout his career. Joe Gilliam replaced him. Oakland’s stifling defeat of the Steelers in their home stadium signaled that Davis’s team had arrived, and the Steelers seemingly had passed their chance. Clarence Davis dominated with 114 yards rushing in a 40-24 pasting of the Browns. Both Cliff Branch and Rob Moore caught TD passes in a 14-10 win over San Diego. Davis again led the team in a stirring 30-27 victory over Cincinnati. Oakland crossed the bridge, knocking the 49ers off at Candlestick Park. In so doing, they assumed the Alpha Male position of Bay Area grid supremacy (in confluence with the baseball A’s, who won their third straight World Series that fall while the Giants bumbled along). San Francisco fell, 35-24. Stabler’s 64-yarder to Branch keyed the win. Denver lost, 28-17 when Stabler connected for four TD passes, including an 81-yard longball to Branch, who added two more the following week in a 35-13 destruction of Detroit. Branch added to his bid for superstardom with no less than seven catches, one for a score, in a victory over San Diego to clinch the division championship. With the title under wraps, Madden rested his starters in a 20-17 loss to the Broncos, but the Raiders notched it back up down the stretch, not wanting to get stale for the play-offs. Stabler threw four TD passes in a 41-26 victory over Jim Plunkett and New England, with Skip Thomas picking one errant Plunkett toss and taking it all the way back for a score. Otis Sistrunk keyed a 7-6 win over Kansas City, sacking Lenny Dawson and recovering his fumble. Old man Blanda played QB, tossing a touchdown pass in addition to kicking two field goals and three conversions in the first-ever meeting between legendary franchises; Oakland coming out on top of Dallas, 27-23. The game was played on a Saturday night, but covered by the regular Monday Night Football crew of Howard Cosell, “Dandy Don” Meredith and Frank Gifford. Oakland had a big league but relaxed while the desperate Cowboys, who needed a win in order to make the play-offs, fought to avoid their first early exit since1965. When Dallas made it close towards the end, the camera focused on Raider players and coaches enjoying themselves on the bench, leading Cosell to remark at their “cavalier” attitude, but in the end they prevailed. The play-offs offered the prospect of old dragons lined up for slaying; with it, all the doubts and insecurities in one big bowl of revenge and dominance asserted. It would not be easy, for sure. Enter Miami, 11-3, fully loaded with the cast of stars who propelled Don Shula’s team to the previous three Super Bowls. The media made it clear that this was the “real” Super Bowl. The game matched expectations. Nat Moore returned the opening kick 89 yards for a touchdown, shutting the Raider faithful right up. Stabler was up to the reply, driving Oakland 89 yards, capped by a 31-yard TD pass to Charlie Smith, tying it at 7-7. The two teams fought each other like Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, the lead see-sawing back and forth until the fourth quarter, when the Dolphins forged ahead by 26-21. It was vintage Stabler, methodically driving his desperate team upfield. Announcer Bill King was going crazy describing how close the Raiders were to the veritable “Promised Land,” just yards away. But the two teams fought for every inch of real estate all afternoon. Miami defended these last inches with the same tenacity as Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine holding Little Round Top at Gettysburg. This time, God – or somebody – was with the rebels. With 35 seconds remaining, Oakland had no time-outs. Stabler dropped back and was rushed fiercely, with Vern Den Herder hitting him hard. Falling, his knee inches from the ground, Snake got a desperate pass off. His target: Clarence Davis, surrounded by what King called a “sea of hands” in the form of Dolphin defenders. They needed to knock the ball away without committing pass interference. Linebacker Mike Kolen had hold of Davis’s jersey, but somehow amid all those hands and aqua defenders, Davis held the ball for the miracle 28-26 victory, thus ensuring his place in the happy hearts of the Raider Nation for time immemorial. HALL OF FAMERS Hall of Fame tackle Bob Brown was selected for six Pro Bowls. OVERTIME Hall of Fame tight end Dave Casper’s nickname was “Ghost” because he could “disappear,” and also because of the comic character, “Casper the Friendly Ghost.” In the 1977 AFC play-off game between the Raiders and Baltimore Colts, it was Casper's 10-yard touchdown reception that ended the double-overtime affair, 37-31, in favor of the Raiders. "Ghost to the Post" refers to Casper's 42-yard reception route, setting up the tying field goal at the end of regulation. PAIN AND SUFFERING The Raiders faltered to arch-rival Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game in 1974, perhaps their most galling defeat. Had they won, they most surely would have beaten Minnesota in the Super Bowl, giving the city of Oakland that rarest of pro trifectas: three world championships in a one-year period. The A’s won the World Series in October and in the spring of ’75 the Warriors won the NBA title. Between January 1969 and March 1970, the New York Jets, Mets and Knicks won three titles. In 1972 the Los Angeles Lakers, UCLA basketball and USC football won titles. Snake In the 1960s, Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant made a speech to a group of California high school football coaches. “Send you’re ‘A’ students to Cal and Stanford,” he told them. “They’ll get a fine education. Send your ‘B’ students to USC or UCLA. Hell, I’d send my own kin there. Send you’re ‘C’ students to one of your fine state universities. But send yer whiskey-drinkin’, skirt-chasin’ ‘D’ students to ol’ Bear, and I’ll turn ‘em into football players.” The coaches looked at each other and laughed, because they knew that Bear had already taken a couple of those “whiskey-drinkin’, skirt-chasin’ ‘D’ students,” turning Joe Willie Namath and Kenny Stabler into great football players. The Alabama that Stabler played at was segregated, mired in the controversy of the 1960s. But times they “were a-changin’.” Namath came to ‘Bama from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Sylvester Croom, who later played for Bryant and became the first black coach in the SEC at Mississippi State, was a teenager when Namath arrived at Alabama. “Namath would show up unannounced, by himself, in the black neighborhoods of Tuscaloosa,” recalled Croom in One Night, Two Teams” Alabama vs. USC and the Game That Changed A Nation. “He would glad-hand black folks. It was surreal. He was like a cool jazz singer.” Indeed, Namath was the “new breed” of 1960s athlete in America. His successor, Stabler was cut out of the same cloth. Kenny came from humble rural beginnings on the Alabama Gulf Coast, which Snake dubbed the “Redneck Riviera.” His father liked to take the family to a local honky-tonk on Saturday nights, where he would drink and play guitar. Stabler was recruited to play at ‘Bama, but quickly ran afoul of Bryant. He was not a good student, partied heavily, and ran a swath through the campus female population, eventually earning a suspension from Bear. “I drove back to Tuscaloosa drinking beer and throwing the empties out the side of the window,” Stabler said of his return to school after serving the suspension. “The more I drank and thought, the more I decided to toe the line.” Perhaps this was not perfect penitence, but it was enough. Stabler and Bryant managed to come to a truce. “Coach Bryant respected Kenny,” said former Alabama assistant coach Clem Gryska in One Night, Two Teams, “because he was always ready to play on game day, and never backed down from a challenge. He was his kind of player.” In 1966, Snake led the Crimson Tide to an undefeated, untied season and an Orange Bowl victory. In the controversial “Catholic vote,” the national championship was awarded not to Alabama, but to Notre Dame, despite their having tied Michigan State. L.A. Times columnist Jim Murray led the “boycott” of all-white Alabama because they did not play integrated teams north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and did not deserve national accolades so long as they were segregated. “The players, however, were ready for integration,” said Scott Hunter, who succeeded Stabler as Alabama’s quarterback. Clarence Davis, who was born in Birmingham but not able to play for the Tide, later said that he never had problems with Snake. Stabler had an easygoing mentality. When he got to the pro game, which of course was totally integrated – especially Al Davis’s teams – there was never any hint of racial problems between him and his teammates. They all just headed to the local saloon and partied together as “equal opportunity enjoyers.” Today, the best bar scene in the Bay Area can be found in the Walnut Creek area. Many A’s and Raiders players live in the comfortable neighborhoods of Walnut Creek, Danville, Pleasanton and thereabouts. But in the 1970s, this area was much less developed than it is today. Stabler and his pals made use of the seedier joints that occupied the old Oakland downtown and waterfront; the Airport Hyatt Hotel lounge, blue-collar dives in Hayward and San Leandro. In Santa Rosa, they cooled off from the 100-degree training camp heat with frosty cold ones in the country and biker establishments that make up that unique corner of America. Everywhere they went attractive, semi-attractive and unattractive women found them. Women who followed the Raiders tended to be a different “breed” from most pro sports “groupies.” In New York and L.A., Joe Namath and Fred Dryer were hanging out with high-class models and Playmates at Hugh Hefner’s mansion. The Raider girls tended to be more Easy Riderthan Playboy. It was the middle of the Sexual Revolution, years before anybody ever heard of AIDS. Kenny and his pals just took one big scoop of life’s bowl of ice cream – in all flavors. One blonde Raiderette cheertleader posed in the nude, bragging about her experiences with Stabler and other players. Then Stabler did an outrageous, soft-porn pictorial for a gentlemen’s magazine with famed San Francisco stripper Carol Doda. Had he been on any other team (Lombardi’s Packers, Landry’s Cowboys), he might have been shipped off the farm. With the Raiders it just made for a few laughs. Madden did not care. Davis did not care. If he threw for touchdowns on Sunday, they did not care how much he scored on Saturday. Stabler’s off-field exploits in Oakland and the road were nothing compared to his lifestyle in lower Alabama, which is a coastal region sitting on the Gulf of Mexico. It is a stretch of waterfront bars, honky tonks, strip clubs, tattoo parlors, fishing trawlers, off-shore gambling casinos, house boats, and all other shady endeavors. It is Kenny Stabler’s world and he is welcome to it. In high school, Stabler was also a baseball star who squared off against another diamond stud of the region, Don Sutton (later of the Dodgers). Stabler returned to L.A. (lower Alabama) every spring. The steaming hot summers were not devoted to weight training, long passing and windsprint sessions at the local high school, or much of anything else. By and large Kenny spent 90 percent of his time on wine, women and song, wasting the other 10 percent of it. With drunk driving apparently more a sport than a crime in those days, Snake and his nefarious pals hit haunt after haunt, shooting pool, drinkin’ beer, downing shots, and wooing the half-dressed cowgirls of the Alabama summer. This is a state that sits in the Bible Belt. Apparently the denizens of the lower ‘Bama were making an in-depth study of sin. Stabler was married several times, “but my wives never took kindly to my not comin’ home for several days at a time.” His most memorable squeeze was a local gal, reportedly a stripper – or something like a stripper – known by the moniker “Wickedly Wonderful” Wanda. Stabler said that when he failed to appear for days at a time she was likely to greet his homecoming with buckshot or some other violent means. But all of that was a moot point. Stabler goes down in history as one of the all-time great “in the clutch” performers. He practically invented the “two-minute drill.” His comeback efforts in a losing effort to Pittsburgh (1972 play-offs), the “sea of hands” miracle victory over Miami (1974 play-offs) and save-the-day last-minute win over New England (1976 play-offs) etch his name in Raider Nation lore for evermore. Many are amazed to discover that Snake is not in the Hall of Fame. He will be. THINGS TO SAVOR After the Raiders won the Super Bowl, a sign started to appear in Oakland, at the Oakland Airport, and at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. It read “Oakland: Home of Champions.” In the 1970s, the city was host to three baseball World Champions (A’s, 1973-73-74), one in football (Raiders, 1976) and one in basketball (Warriors, 1975). LIGHTS! CAMERA! “ACTION!” Dave Casper would visit Ken Stabler in lower Alabama for summer time “fishing trips.” One hot day they departed a roadhouse on Highway 182, but mishandled a Styrofoam cooler containing a pound of live shrimp, which fell on the sizzling asphalt and started to cook! Stabler said the flock of seagulls and blackbirds that descended on the shrimp – and them – was “like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.” NUMBERS DON’T LIE (OR DO THEY?) So close, and yet so far There are very few teams in professional sports that have risen as quickly, and to such heights, as the Oakland Raiders of the 1960s. They started out as a “minor league,” almost a semi-pro outfit; a laughing stock in a nothing town in a “wing and a prayer” venture. Then they hired Al Davis. Then he became league Commissioner. Then he became the team’s owner, and almost overnight they found themselves on the very biggest stage of them all: Super Bowl II vs. Vince Lombardi’s Packers at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The Raiders were a 13-1 team in 1967. They devastated their play-off competition and looked unbeatable. The Pack was 9-4-1 and, frankly, needed every possible bit of home field advantage that the Wisconsin winter could provide in earning their trip. They looked old, over the hill. Statistically, Oakland looked to be better. The Raiders may have been the better team, but that is just speculation. They were psyched out and beaten soundly. At the time, it was considered common belief that the AFL was not, to coin a phrase, “in the NFL’s league.” It is only in retrospect, when one studies the subsequent Super Bowl victories by the AFL’s Jets and Chiefs; the Hall of Famers who came out of the young league; and the seamless integration of the AFL into the AFC; that one can judge the 1967 Raiders – and the AFL - fairly. At the very least, they can console themselves with the knowledge that it took one of the most hallowed dynasties in sporting annals to beat them. The January 1968 loss to Green Bay, however, was the beginning of a long, frustrating ride in which the Oakland Raiders were one of the greatest, most exciting teams ever assembled, but for a decade played bridesmaid to brides from New York, Kansas City, Miami and Pittsburgh. As a regular season team, the numbers don’t lie; or do they? Pro football’s “dynamic organization,” as Davis called them, always lost “the big one.” Year in and year out, it was “so close, and yet so far.” The Raiders rapid ascension had a surreal quality to it. Champions came from major cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston. In Green Bay’s case, they were a small town but their pro football imprimatur was so long established that the Packer stars of that era were like the ghosts of a hallowed shrine. Oakland? This was before the A’s, before the Warriors. The team played more or less at Laney College, for God’s sake. The building of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, which was filled to capacity immediately in 1966, when the team went 8-5-1, at least gave the team a big league stadium. Had they played Green Bay at the venerable Sugar Bowl after toiling all year in front of the portable seats of Youell Field, that would have been too much. Al Davis and his Raiders have had an up and down relationship with the city of Oakland over the years, but anybody who wants to say Davis did the town wrong needs to study this history. He absolutely put Oakland on the map. It is not inconceivable to believe that before the Raiders played Green Bay in Super Bowl II, a fairly sizable number of average American citizens had never heard of Oakland, California. The 1960s were a golden age of quarterbacks. Bart Starr of Green Bay, Sonny Jurgensen of Washington; Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall of Baltimore; Y.A. Tittle of San Francisco, Roman Gabriel of Los Angeles; Don Meredith, Roger Staubach and Craig Morton of Dallas; and Fran Tarkenton of Minnesota; all played in the NFL in that decade. AFL rosters featured the likes of Joe Namath of New York, Len Dawson of Kansas City, John Hadl of San Diego; Jack Kemp of San Diego and Buffalo; George Blanda and Pete Beathard of Houston. The 1964-67 college classes offered more of the same: John Huarte of Notre Dame, Bob Griese of Purdue, Steve Spurrier of Florida, and Ken Stabler of Alabama. In 1967, the very best of them, at least until the Super Bowl, was Daryle Lamonica of the Raiders, the AFL’s Most Valuable Player. Lamonica replaced Tom Flores when Davis traded Flores and Powell to Buffalo for him. Warren Wells of Texas Southern was signed up to take Powell’s job. Two Hall of Famers found their way to Oakland. Cornerback Willie Brown was obtained via trade. George Blanda was deemed to be an old man in Houston. The Raiders figured he could kick field goals and be Lamonica’s backup for a year or two. Rod Sherman was a wide receiver. Gene Upshaw was the number one draft choice out of Texas A&I. Davis was ahead of his time when it came to drafting players from traditional black colleges. He knew that Southern segregation meant that those schools were hotbeds of talent. The “head coach” was John Rauch, but he would be the first of many to discover that this title has an entirely different meaning under Al Davis than it does anyplace else. Bill Walsh left after one year as a Raider assistant. A new man was brought in: linebackers coach John Madden. Dan Birdwell, Roger Bird, Dan Conners, Bill Miller, Carleton Oates, Hewritt Dixon . . . these were just a few of the 1967 stars. This was a team that rates with the early 1980s Dan Fouts Chargers as one of the most explosive offensive juggernauts ever assembled. They played in a league in which almost every team could light it up, and in the words of Ira Simmons in Black Knight: Al Davis and His Raiders, were “gods . . . on the green fields of the brand new Coliseum.” The game has never seen anything quite like it since. The 51-0 opening win over Denver typified Raider dominance. They won their last 10 straight to finish a gaudy 13-1. In the AFL title game, Oakland destroyed Houston, 40-7, triggering a big New Year’s Eve celebration at Jack London Square. In the Super Bowl, Raider mistakes combined with Bart Starr hook-ups with Boyd Dowler and Max McGee combined to derail the Silver and Black. They trailed only by 16-7 at the half, but when Packer great Herb Adderley intercepted Lamonica and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown, the route was on, 33-14. SCANDAL Oakland defensive lineman Ben Davidson made a brief foray into acting after his retirement from pro football. He appeared in Behind the Green Door, an adult film produced by the infamous Mitchell Brothers. Davidson does not shed his clothes, however. He plays the bouncer at an exclusive Sausalito orgy club, admitting Marilyn Chambers into the party for her big “debut.” TOP 10 GREATEST AFL QUARTERBACKS 1. Joe Namath, Jets 2. Len Dawson, Chiefs 3. Daryle Lamonica, Raiders 4. John Hadl, Chargers 5. Jack Kemp, Chargers 6. George Blanda, Oilers-Raiders 7. Tom Flores, Raiders-Bills 8. Bob Griese, Dolphins 9. Pete Beathard, Oilers Mike Taliaferro, Patriots The best slow, white, Hall of Fame receiver money can buy Football is a game of big, fast, super-athletes. Many of them are black. Every once in a while a comparatively slow, white wide receiver comes along. The receiver position is one in which a shifty, smart guy with moves can succeed even if he is not particularly fast or big. Raymond Berry of the Baltimore Colts fit this profile perfectly. Fred Biletnikoff followed in that tradition. “Fred Biletnikoff plays football the way the Cossacks used to fight wars,” wrote sportswriter Wells Twombly. It was a hard slog at first. Biletnikoff came out of Florida State in the second round of the 1965 draft, at a time in which the Raiders were not yet a dynasty, although they had established themselves as a passing offense to be reckoned with. In his first year, Fred dropped pass after pass. It got so bad that he contacted the New York Yankees, who previously offered him a contract to play baseball, but in the end he decided to “stick” with football. Biletnikoff was a hardnose, one of Stabler’s drinking buddies off the field and a man inextricably linked to Snake by their on-field offensive heroics. Biletnikoff was not intimidated by anybody. He got in John Madden's face and openly questioned, “why is that Jew on the field?" in regard to Davis. The owner never let it bother him. He liked Biletnikoff’s combative attitude, so long as it was harnessed on the field, which it was. Biletnikoff has been called a “self-taught pass catcher” who surpassed speedsters of his era, like Dallas’s Bob Hayes and Miami’s Paul Warfield. Lance Alworth of the San Diego Chargers and Gene Washington of the San Francisco 49ers had great leaping ability, which Biletnikoff lacked, but the Raider receiver was better than those two stalwarts. Don Maynard of the New York Jets and Otis Taylor of the Kansas City Chiefs had better hands, at least until Biletnikoff discovered “stickum.” In the beginning, Biletnikoff got off to a bad start, suffering knee surgery that cost him the starting job to the heralded USC star, Rod Sherman. “That’s when I decided to go to work,” said Biletnikoff. “If I didn’t have great speed, I’d just have to figure out some other way to run deep. I’ve always been quick. My moves are faster than my feet. So I have to take advantage of what God gave me.” Biletnikoff was a quirky personality who would chew his fingernails. Prior to games, he would always go to the training room and throw up. Before Stabler came along, Biletnikoff and Daryle Lamonica made up one of, if not the best, pass-receiver combinations in the game. Whatever Biletnikoff’s 40-yard dash numbers may have been, they did not reflect his “football speed.” “Frankly, I don’t think he’s that slow,” said Lamonica. “I’ve been hearing that ever since I started throwing to Fred. I saw him tie Warren Wells in a 40-yard dash once and Warren could fly. He always knows where the ball is and he can get to it. Maybe Fred’s fast and the ground just moves underneath him.” Biletnikoff, despite his devil-may-care attitude, was always a hard worker who spent many extra hours on the practice field, then worked out with a punching bag in the off-seasons. His hand-eye coordination was second to none, which he credited to the punching bag routine. One of his great traits was to slow up under a pass, thus juking the defender away from him, giving him open space to make the catch. Biletnikoff became the all-time leading receiver in Raider history with 598 career receptions, fourth among all professional receivers, at the time of his retirement. He caught 76 career touchdowns in addition to 70 passes for 1,167 yards in post-season games (second in NFL history). Biletnikoff was the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XI in 1977, when he nabbed four Stabler passes for 79 yards. He caught 40 or more passes for a record 10 straight years (1967-76). Biletnikoff in many ways symbolized the Raiders. He never played on a losing team after having set records at Florida State, helping to build the Seminoles into the collegiate power they eventually became. Biletnikoff was named to the Walter Camp All-Century Team, and returned to the Raiders in 1989, holding several positions over the years. The annual award that goes to the best college wide receiver in the nation is named after him. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988. Biletnikoff, along with several other Raiders, was notorious for using “stickum” on his hands to help catch the football. The substance would get all over the ball, plus everything he picked up stuck to his hands, sometimes even after the game. He was of course a favorite of Davis. Being from Florida, which is next to Alabama, Biletnikoff and Stabler seemed to bond; easy-going, cantankerous at times, fun loving, and absolutely competitive. In the pantheon of all-time great receivers, Biletnikoff would get plenty of supporters arguing that he is the best of them all. Generally, San Francisco 49er superstar Jerry Rice is thought to be the best. Tim Brown, who came to the Raiders a decade after Biletnikoff, is worthy of mention. Biletnikoff undoubtedly is on the shortest, most elite of the lists. RIVALRIES In the 1960s, the Raiders and Jets had it in for each other. Joe Namath and New York beat Oakland, 27-23 in the 1968 AFL championship game. Daryle Lamonica threw for 401 yards,190 gained receiving by Fred Biletnikoff. TOP 10 GREATEST PASS-RECEIVER COMBINATIONS 1. Joe Montana to Jerry Rice 2. Terry Bradshaw to Lynn Swann 3. Johnny Unitas to Raymond Berry 4. Troy Aikman to Michael Irvin 5. Kenny Stabler to Fred Biletnikoff 6. Sammy Baugh to Don Hutson 7. Joe Namath to Don Maynard 8. Len Dawson to Otis Taylor 9. Dan Fouts to John Jefferson 10.Bob Griese to Paul Warfield IT AIN’T OVER TIL IT’S OVER Commitment to excellence By the year 2007, many myths and urban legends have been spread about the aging Al Davis and his Raider empire. Many of these stories are told by younger fans whose memories of the team extend no further than the Jim Plunkett Super Bowl team of 1980, or maybe even the later Los Angeles years. The truth is, the “commitment to excellence,” the “pride and poise,” and the “greatness that is the Raiders,” as Davis likes to call it, stem as much from a period (1967-69) in which the team did notwin one of their three Super Bowls, yet remains a golden age in Raider lore. These were years in which the team was so good during the regular season that ultimate victory almost appeared to be a fait accompli. However, as Yogi Berra once (supposedly) said, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” This term certainly applied to the Raiders more often than not; never more so than in this three-year period. The 1967 Raiders, indeed, put Oakland on the map. Among history’s great pro teams, the ’67 team is not mentioned, although they could have beaten many subsequent Super Bowl winners. The same can be said of the 1968-69 Raiders, yet they suffer the same, increasingly frustrating malady which, at the time, varied between “choking” and an inability to “win the big one.” This is not an uncommon malfunction in the sports world. The Brooklyn Dodgers always had to “wait ‘til next year” until 1955. Then, in the 1960s they took up a comfortable residence in The Promised Land, California 90012. Consequently, their rival, the New York Giants, captured the “brass ring” five times in the Big Apple, but found themselves playing defeated Philistines to L.A.’s Chosen People for over 50 years in the Golden State. The Los Angeles Rams came into existence, and found winning to be just as easy as existing. The NFL opened its doors to them and in 1951 they won the title, but then endured almost 50 “wilderness years” and half a continent’s journey until their most unlikely showgirl-Moses, Georgia Frontiere, stumbled upon Super Bowl success in St. Louis. The team that replaced the Rams as the “next big thing,” the Cleveland Browns, won numerous titles with Paul and Jim Brown before putting their fans through agonizing years of near-misses until, indignity of indignities, they won for the greater glory of . . . Baltimore. The Los Angeles Lakers seemingly played the Washington Generals to the Boston Celtics’ Harlem Globetrotters in the 1960s until 1972. The Dallas Cowboys were the NFL version of the AFL Raiders: fireworks, fury and play-off losses, until the 1971 season. The Raiders’ archenemies, the Denver Broncos, lost four Super Bowls before John Elway transformed himself from disappointment to football god. The Boston Red Sox (1918-2004) and Chicago White Sox (1917-2005) appeared to have been under some kind of 20th Century curse. Everybody, or so it sometimes seems, eventually wins. The Anaheim Angels’ 2002 championship would appear to be evidence of that, but there are exceptions. The San Diego Chargers have never won a Super Bowl. At least Buffalo went to four in a row from 1991-94, albeit never returning to a victory parade, which leaves us with the kings of sports failure: the Chicago Cubs (last World Championship, 1908). In retrospect, the Raiders’ wilderness period, which actually did not end until they conquered Minnesota in the 1997 Super Bowl in the manner of Patton taking Palermo, seems fairly short when compared to some of the longer sports draughts. But the California fan is a hybrid. Fans in Boston and Chicago are the sports versions of Chinese political leaders, who think in terms of centuries, not years or decades (leading Chou En-Lai, asked in 1972 about the effects of the 1789 French Revolution to say, “It’s still too early to tell”). Raider defeats at the hands of the Packers, Jets, Chiefs, Colts, Steelers, and Dolphins between 1968 and 1976 added up to what seemed at the time an eternity. It was not just losing. It was the way they lost on the heels of so much success, for among those fall-short teams are some of the greatest also-rans in the history of the game. The 1968-69 Raiders, in particular, represent so much sheer talent and potential that their season-ending defeats are still galling in memory. From 1967-69, Oakland was 37-4-1 in regular season play. They won play-off games the way the Werhmacht took France in 1940, but then played Napoleon at Waterloo, Hitler at Stalingrad and Hannibal outside Rome, each in successive years. Under John Rauch, the Raiders were 12-2 in 1968. This was the pinnacle year for the American Football League. Baltimore won the NFL title with a 13-1 record, but they probably were no better than the fourth best team in the AFL. Coach Hank Stram’s Kansas City Chiefs, led by quarterback Len Dawson, were also 12-2. Then there were the New York Jets, seemingly a “close but no cigar” 11-3. The Raiders owned the Bay Area. Every game was sold out. Getting tickets was harder than Chinese math. Home games could not be televised, not even play-offs. The awesome descriptions of the great Bill King emanated from seemingly every radio in every home, office and car. To those who came of age anywhere in the old 415 or the 408, this was the most lasting memory. The 49ers were a joke, their stadium a wreck. More people showed up to hear free concerts (complete with acid-induced “Summer of Love” nudity) in Golden Gate Park than ventured into rickety Kezar Stadium. The Oakland Tribune, of course, continued to be the Raider mouthpiece, but the San Francisco Chronicle, the Examiner and the San Jose Mercury News jumped on their bandwagon feet first, led by the likes of Glenn Dickey, Art Spander, and Wells Twombly. They were a force to be reckoned with, the ultimate Al Davis concoction of fear, intimidation and trickery. Davis continued to play the draft, to quote King, “like Heifetz.” Ken Stabler of Alabama improbably was still available in the second round. Another player from a black college, Art Shell of Maryland State, came on board. Charlie Smith from Utah was chosen. George Atkinson was discovered out of little Morris Brown College. Colgate’s Marv Hubbard became a Raider. Players from black colleges, small schools and renegades from Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts were among the people Davis found. Oakland lost to San Diego and Kansas City in 1968, but avenged the Chiefs in an easy home win, won a memorable game at New York, and then destroyed Kansas City in a special play-off. Lamonica fired five touchdown passes, three to Fred Biletnikoff, to fuel a 41-6 win. They looked to be the favorites to make a repeat Super Bowl trip, this time to Miami. There was no automatic home field advantage to be gained by having the better regular season record, so on a cold, blustery December day Oakland had to venture into Shea Stadium. Lamonica threw for 401 yards, but Atkinson met his match in the form of the Jets’ deadly combination of Joe Namath-to-Don Maynard. Maynard caught two TD passes, but Lamonica drove Oakland to a score, making it 23-20, Raiders. Namath went to work, leading his team on a touchdown drive, but Daryle had time to work his magic. His place in Raider history was tarnished on a play that symbolized the long years of frustration when he lost his poise and made some kind of errant “throw” that fell somewhere between a fumble and a non-forward pass. Ralph Baker recovered the errant . . . lateral (?), the Jets prevailed 27-23, and when they beat Baltimore they and “Broadway Joe” entered the pantheon of all-time New York greatness, which is as big as it gets. Rauch could not figure out the funny little man from Brooklyn. Davis’s control of head coaches was something never quite seen before. Rauch left and was replaced by an amiable 33-year old from Daly City’s Jefferson High School and the great collegiate football power that is Cal Poly San Luis Obispo: John Madden. The beat, as Sonny and Cher were so musically informing the nation in 1969, went on: 12-1-1. Kansas City fell twice in the regular season. Defensive tackle Art Thom of Syracuse and offensive guard George Buehler of Stanford joined the hit parade. Lamonica passed all season to Biletnikoff, Wells, and Charlie Smith. It was probably his best season, better even than ’67. He earned MVP honors again, and in the play-offs hit Rod Sherman for two scores in a devastating 56-7 rout of Houston. But against the Chiefs in the AFL title game at the Coliseum, Lamonica injured his passing hand against the helmet of Kansas City’s Aaron Brown. After striking first to lead, 7-0, Oakland became impotent, unable to pick up on the defensive or offensive schemes of Hank Stram, one of the truly worthy combatants in Al Davis’s career. Len Dawson teamed with Otis Taylor, and Mike Garrett made runs when he needed to in Kansas City’s 17-7 win. It was a bitter pill for Oakland to swallow. They had to watch Kansas City dismantle Minnesota, 23-7, in Super Bowl IV. By 1970, the NFL was embarrassed. The AFL superiority, so much of which had Al Davis’s fingerprints all over it, was obvious. The merger benefited the senior league much more, giving them a chance to compete with the “big boys,” instead of vice versa. TRIVIA What was the Raiders scoring totals over opponents in 1967? A: Raiders 468, opponents 233. DID YOU KNOW . . . That assistant coach Bill Walsh took over the semi-pro San Jose Apaches in 1967? That left a staff opening. John Madden, the linebackers coach under Don Coryell at San Diego State, was brought in. The team’s future and character might have taken on a different complexion. PAIN AND SUFFERING Warren Wells was convicted of rape in 1969. The Heidi Game On November 17, 1968, the New York Jets visited the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum to play the Oakland Raiders. It was certainly a very important game for both teams, especially the Raiders. They were locked in a vicious battle for Western Division supremacy with the Kansas City Chiefs. The game was nationally televised by NBC. Naturally, since it involved a New York team – a great, very popular New York team with a quarterback as popular as any rock star of the era – it promised huge TV ratings. The game has been re-played countless times, on NFL Films and ESPN Classic. It will forever be remembered as “The Heidi Game.” It was a classic AFL shootout, with the lead changing hands eight times. A full house swayed with the emotions of victory and defeat hovering in the air; desperately possible one minute, seemingly snatched away the next. Two Utah State graduates played a major role in that game. Both were from the East Bay. Charlie Smith of the Raiders, while running track for Castlemont High of Oakland, defeated future Olympic gold medal champion Jim Hines of McClymonds. Smith, a 6’, 1” running back at Utah State, had been drafted by Oakland and was used in a fairly new manner. In the Raider scheme under Al Davis, a running back did not simply carry the ball and block; he was also a receiver. Smith was often the target of Lamonica’s outlet passes. The Jets had a place-kicker known as the “Crockett Rocket” because he hailed from nearby Crockett. Jim Turner had also played at Utah State. His 26-yard field goal put New York ahead, 32-29, late in the game. Turner kicked off to Smith, who returned it to the Raider 23. NBC cut to a commercial. It was four P.M. on the West Coast, seven P.M. back East. Fans at the Coliseum were of course glued to their seats. All the Raiders needed to do was sustain a drive, setting up a game-tying field goal, or maybe even a game-winning touchdown. With Lamonica at the controls and dangerous weapons at their disposal, such a possibility was not remote. Blackout rules for home games meant Bay Area fans within 90 miles of Oakland did not view the game on their TVs, but around America fans were watching in the Central, Rocky Mountain and Pacific time zones; in L.A. and Sacramento. In New York and throughout the East Coast, where the game held fever interest, fans watched the commercial figuring it would end and the game would resume. Alas, NBC had a dilemma on their hands. That Sunday night at seven P.M. the family classic Heidiwas scheduled. This is the well-known story of a little Swiss girl who lives with her grandfather in the Alpine Mountains, a staple of wholesome entertainment. In the days before cable, pay-per-view, VHS, DVD, TiVo, record, rewind and 700 channels; when the choices came down to what NBC, ABC, CBS and maybe a handful of local stations wanted to show the public, TV viewers scheduled their days around events like Heidi. It was on once a year. If one missed it, they missed it until the next year. At the NBC offices in New York City, program executives judged their alternatives. Most pro football games lasted three hours or less up until then. A game scheduled at one P.M. in Oakland would be over by four, but the AFL was a new deal. All those passes, incompletions, first downs, chains moving, time outs, guys going out of bounds . . . the game now lasted more than three hours, and this one surely did. With the ball on the Oakland 23 with only 1:05 remaining, a quick decision had to be made based on what they knew. The Raiders really needed a win, not a tie, since they were deadlocked with Kansas City. 73 yards in a minute seemed to be a tall order. Lamonica and his teammates could not get it done. Could they? Switch to Heidi. The commercial ended on the East Coast. Football fans at home and in bars suddenly saw an adorable little curly-haired girl (Shirley Temple) hiking in the Swiss Alps. The reaction to her visage was less than adorable. The more adept fans found the radio to hear the closing minute, but this was not an option for many. Some returned from the bathroom, sawHeidi, and figured the clock had run out (a Jet victory). That was that. Many had dinner waiting, parties to go to. Many, of course, went ballistic. Calls flooded NBC’s offices immediately. Savvy Jets’ fans knewwhat Lamonica and the Raiders could do with one minute on the clock, and this filled their heart with dread. Back in Oakland, Lamonica split the Jet seam with a pass to Smith. He raced to glory, giving Oakland the win . . . Except that a flag nullified the play. The crowd groaned. In New York, Heidi’s smile dared football fans to throw their shoes through the sets. “I will always remember Johnny Sample, who played cornerback for the Jets, coming up to me and saying, ‘Nice try, Lamonica. Better luck next year,’ ” the Raider QB is quoted saying in The Oakland Raiders: Stadium Stories by Tom LaMarre. Not so fast. Lamonica hit Smith for 20. Jet safety Mike D’Amato (who replaced starter Jim Hudson, tossed out earlier for unsportsmanlike conduct) committed a face mask penalty, putting the ball on the New York 43. The emotions were raw and edgy. It was that way whenever the Raiders played. The AFL in those days resembled trench warfare. With the clock stopped, Lamonica composed himself, called Smith’s number knowing D’Amato could not catch him, and completed a sideline touchdown pass to give Oakland the 36-32 lead. “I would have outrun Hudson, too,” Smith said. “The play that was called back was a circle pattern, but teams were getting wise to that. So on the touchdown, I ran to the hash mark on the right side and then broke to the sideline. “That play was open all day, but Daryle told me to be patient, that we would get to it. Our wide receivers ran deep patterns to clear out the secondary and then I just cut underneath.” In New York, Heidi was getting scolded by her grandfather. The NBC switchboard literally blew a fuse. Fans screamed epithets at Shirley Temple. But many figured the Jets won, which was the reason the game was not on anymore. They went off into the Manhattan night, confident of this. It was still not over. Oakland kicked off. New York’s Earl Christy fumbled the ball. Preston Ridlehuber recovered in the end zone. Oakland scored 14 points in nine seconds to win the game, 43-32. Jet coach Weeb Ewbank’s wife, like many, assumed her man’s team had won. She called the coach in the visitor’s locker room, offering a hearty, “Congratulations.” “What do you mean?” retorted Ewbanks, thinking it a cruel joke. “We lost.” He slammed the phone down. For those who went to the movies, attended dinner parties, and did other things assuming the Jets won, the 11 o’clock news, the next day’s newspapers and the water cooler chatter provided a shocking reversal of fortunes. Others, watching Heidi, were astounded when an NBC crawl ran across their screens with the words: “RAIDERS 43, JETS 32.” “<Prior to the game> it was determined that Heidi would air at seven o’clock,” said NBC broadcast operation supervisor Dick Cline, a man whose name lives in TV infamy. “If football wasn’t over, we would still go to Heidi at seven o’clock. So I waited and I waited and I heard nothing. We came up to that magic hour and I thought, ‘Well, I haven’t been given any counterorder, so I’ve got to do what we agreed to do.” Cline, however, was the victim of poor communications. With seven minutes remaining in what was obviously the game of the year, NBC officials (most of whom were Jets’ frontrunners in 1968) watching at home called each other, agreeing to air the game to its completion. They called Cline to tell him to delay Heidi. The problem was that thousands of fans were also calling NBC to find out whether the game or the girl would be on the air at seven. The switchboard was so full, none of the NBC execs could get through. Cline never got the counterorder. There were no cell phones, no fax machines, no emails to override the busy signals. “People began calling before seven o’clock saying one of two things,” said former NBC executive Chet Simmons. “ ‘What are you going to do about Heidi?’ Or, ‘Don’t let the game go on.’ What it did was, it literally blew out the switchboard.” The game’s aftermath created future TV contracts ensuring that visiting team’s viewers would always see a game to its conclusion no matter what. An hour and a half after the game, amid great uproar, NBC president Julian Goodman released a statement: “It was a forgivable error committed by humans who were concerned about children expecting to see Heidi at seven P.M. I missed the end of the game as much as anyone else.” Unable to call NBC, many fans called the New York Police Department, causing havoc and leading to front-page headlines in the New York Times. “The Heidi Game” was later voted the most memorable regular season game in history and one of the 10 most memorable ever in a 1997 poll. MADE TO BE BROKEN 117 – The single-season scoring record set by George Blanda in 1968. FIGHTING MAD When the Raiders and Jets played each other in 1968, feelings of rivalry bordering on hatred between the two teams existed. They were made worse when Oakland’s Ben Davidson broke “Broadway Joe” Namath’s cheekbone. RIVALRIES The Raiders and Chiefs were both 12-2 in the 1968 regular season, forcing a play-off for the right to play the Jets in the AFL title game? The Raiders dismantled K.C., 41-6 at the Coliseum. WINNERS AND WHINERS Golden boy For the most part, the Raiders have been a team of renegades. Ken Stabler with his hair, his beer and his broads did not fit the All-American style preferred by Vince Lombardi or Tom Landry. Fred Biletnikoff was often recalcitrant, bending the rules, speaking his mind. Jim Plunkett was the poor Mexican-American kid with blind parents, discarded by football until Al Davis picked him off the scrap heap. As far as some were concerned, Jack Tatum and George Atkinson should have been playing in The Longest Yard, not the Coliseum. Even the great Howie Long, despite his “pretty boy” looks, was a tough street kid from Boston who was unheralded coming out of little Villanova. Marcus Allen was an exception to the Raider rule. He was a “golden boy,” like Frank Gifford before him a handsome, charismatic superstar from the University of Southern California. He was the toast of Hollywood who never fit the image of a has-been, overlooked by all who had seen him perform. Marcus prepped at Lincoln High School in San Diego, where he was the team’s star quarterback and county Player of the Year, leading his team to the CIF-San Diego title. "I think they made me quarterback because they felt I was the team leader," said Allen, who also played baseball. "I was no passer of distinction." The USC coaches switched him to running back when they saw him up close. In his freshman year he replaced an injured Charles White vs. Michigan State, almost breaking a touchdown run. "I'd broken for about 15 yards and there was one man between me and the goal line," he said. "Then I cut back on the wrong foot, slipped, and I was the loneliest man on that football field." He played fullback as a sophomore and tailback as a junior. "He made the switch without a murmur," said John Jackson, an assistant coach of the running game. He broke his nose in a scrimmage, but rushed for 649 yards. "I don't think I ever recovered from that introduction," he said. "My nose has been put back together like a puzzle. But, playing fullback made me more aggressive. However, I was just looking forward to getting back to tailback." "We recruited Marcus Allen as a defensive back out of San Diego," said coach John Robinson in 1980. "He's six-foot three, 195 pounds and he's terrific. He came to me and said, 'Coach, I want to play tailback. I think I'm the type for the job.' He is, too." Nicknamed "Young Juice" for his physical resemblance to O.J. Simpson, he employed a similar style in the open field. He was the second leading rusher in the nation as a junior through 10 games, but missed the 20-3 win over Notre Dame with an eye injury. "Marcus has a wide range of skills," said Robinson. "He's an excellent pass receiver along with his running ability. I think he could make it in the NFL as a wide receiver. He's also a fine blocker who picks up blitzes. And he's so durable. When he played fullback we rarely had to substitute for him." When Allen broke all the national rushing records, earning the 1981 Heisman, combined with his natural charm, he became an iconic figure at Troy. "That particular time when I won the award I was very happy because I'd achieved something I wanted to achieve, but I was really happy for my family," said Marcus in The History of USC Football DVD. "It was more important for my parents than it was for me, because it was a reflection of all the hard work they'd put in, years ago, all the Pop Warner experiences, my mom being the team mother and my dad being the coach running back and forth and really giving up their lives for their kids' lives, so for me it was like the first time I had an opportunity to pay back my parents. I remember, my dad is a very loquacious guy, talks non-stop, but for the first time in my lifetime, he was just quiet, and he was speechless, and I know he was nothing but proud, it was his son. He could say, 'My son,' and my mom could say, 'My son' is known as the best college player in the country. That's for them, what it's all about, and for me that's what it was all about." The captain of the 1981 team, Allen set 16 NCAA records and was the first collegian to break 2,000 regular season yards. He won the Walter Camp and Maxwell trophies, averaging 212.9 yards a game in his senior year. In 1982 the Raiders, in the process of moving from Oakland to L.A., made him their first pick. Able to continue his football career in the same Coliseum where he starred in college, Marcus was an instant hit on and off the field. He was the Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowl running back in 1982. In 1983 he was the best player in the NFL. The Raiders finished with a 12-4 record behind Marcus's heroics, then beat Joe Theismann and Washington in the Super Bowl. Allen had a spectacular game in the Raiders' 38-9 victory, breaking a long run to put the game away, earning Most Valuable Player honors. Off the field, Marcus became a Hollywood figure, taken under his wing by the movie star O.J. Simpson. He dated starlets and became a bon vivant, a man about town. It never effected his performance, however. He continued to star for the Raiders year in and year out. The team was upset by the New England Patriots in the 1985 AFC play-offs, however, and took a turn for the worse. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Raider attendance was down. A dangerous "gang element" permeated the Coliseum, which was a notable contrast to the polished alumni crowds at USC games. Allen maintained his star status, but had a falling out with the irascible Al Davis, who showed no class in dumping Marcus to the Kansas City Chiefs. Now teamed with Joe Montana, who had lost his job in San Francisco to Steve Young and then gone to Kansas City, the two veterans led the Chiefs to their best years since the Mike Garrett Super Bowl teams of the 1960s. Allen retired after the 1997 season. He is an inductee in the USC, College and Pro Football Hall of Fames. Like many other Trojans, Marcus was media savvy and put it to good use as a TV commentator. In 1994, when O.J.'s wife was murdered, Marcus found himself caught in the vortex of publicity and tabloid "journalism" surrounding the case. A persistent rumor made its way to the papers, that Marcus had been seeing Nicole Simpson, thus enraging O.J. Allen was able to distance himself from the rumor and O.J. while holding on to his status as a class act. TRADING PLACES There were two main reasons why the Raiders eventually dealt Marcus Allen. First, the drafting of Bo Jackson, who took significant playing time and spotlight from Allen. Then, in 1987 when the players struck, Davis insisted that Allen join a group of veteran stars who crossed the line. Allen refused. After Jackson hurt himself in the 1990 AFC title game loss at Buffalo, Allen signed free agent Roger Craig. Eventually Allen joined Joe Montana in Kansas City. IN THE CLUTCH The Raiders all-time record in play-off games is 24-18. Ronnie Lott No, Ronnie Lott is not remembered as a Raider. He was only an L.A. Raider for two years (1990-91), and not part of any glorious Super Bowl teams. But Lott is considered one of the greatest football players of all times. He cast such a giant shadow over the game that his short Raider tenure is one that is looked upon with great pride. Lott was the captain of the USC Trojans, where he earned All-American honors. Lott may well be the noblest Trojan of them all. The son of a military officer, raised with discipline, respect for authority and poise, he starred at the appropriately named Eisenhower High School in Rialto, east of Los Angeles. At that time the community, which revolved around oil derricks, produced extraordinarily tough kids and great prep teams, giving the town enormous pride. He played on USC’s1978 national champions and the 1979 Rose Bowl champs. A member of the College Hall of Fame and the team's 1980 MVP, Lott also won the Davis-Teschke Award as the most inspirational Trojan. He was a chip off the Marv Goux block; the very epitome of football toughness, pride, intelligence and fierce loyalty. Lott is said by some to be the hardest hitter of all time. Who can say? Those who got hit by him. They are the ones who said it. Lott was the eighth pick of the 1981 draft. Safety Kenny Easley of UCLA was actually considered the better prospect, chosen ahead of him by Seattle. Easley was a fine pro, but Lott is the stuff legends are made of. In 2001 ex-49er coach Bill Walsh was asked whether he would have chosen Easley over Lott had the Seahawks not picked him. Walsh denied that he would have, despite rumors that at the time he subscribed to Easley's scouting reports. He also adamantly denied that he had considered his own Stanford quarterback, Steve Dils, over Joe Montana during the 1979 draft. Whether Walsh's memory was faulty or just convenient, fate or good judgment led him to make all the right moves. Montana and Lott, opponents in the 1978 "battle of L.A.," were the cornerstones of the greatest dynasty in professional football history. The 49ers won five Super Bowl titles between the 1981 and 1994 seasons. While Montana had already been San Francisco's quarterback on losing teams in 1979 and '80, Lott's arrival made them an instant winner of their first Super Bowl. On a team that also included Charles "Tree" Young, the 49ers beat Anthony Munoz and the Bengals. The 1984 49ers are thought by some to be the best pro team ever, or at least the best offensively. Lott and Montana starred on repeat World Champions from 1988-89. In 1991 Lott returned to the Coliseum when he was traded to the Los Angeles Raiders. He inspired that team to success through sheer inspiration and hard hitting in his two years there, before finishing up with the Jets and Kansas City. Lott was a perfect Raider. Had Oakland drafted him in 1981 instead of San Francisco, the next decade might have been much different. The terms “commitment to excellence” and “pride and poise” perfectly embodied Lott’s work ethic and on-field willingness to hit with the force of a jackhammer. He was not the biggest, the fastest or the strongest. On the surface, others seemed tougher than the quiet, reserved Lott, but none were so willing to lay their bodies on the line. Lott called his autobiography Total Impact. “Right before impact, my adrenaline rises,” he wrote. “I can actually feel it surge. I can taste it. An inner force tells me to push harder. Something deep inside says, ‘Let everything go into this hit. Bring it from your toes!’ ” Lott is of course in the USC Hall of Fame, the College Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Like so many articulate Trojans, the ruggedly handsome Lott worked for a while as a TV football commentator. He remains committed to his alma mater and his two years as a Raider were good ones. TRADING PLACES Ronnie Lott had been drafted by the Raiders instead of San Francisco in 1981, he and his USC teammate, Marcus Allen, might have developed the greatest of all Raider dynasties at the L.A. Coliseum in the 1980s. Moss never grew in Oakland Whatever it is guys like Marcus Allen and Ronnie Lott have, guys like Randy Moss do not have it. Allen and Lott represented class and work ethic. Moss represents low class. In a section of a book called “Winners and Whiners,” Allen and Lott are winners. Moss is a low rent whiner. Like another whiner, Terrell Owens, Moss does not lack for ability, His is world class. The Raiders have always been a team of renegades, and when Moss came to Oakland some tried to equate him with their <ED: HELLS; NO APOSTROPHE, UNIQUE TO THEIR SPELLING> “Hells Angels” past. But the team concept and camaraderie that John Matuszak, Ken Stabler and Lyle Alzado embraced was beyond Moss. Moss is part of a “hip hop culture,” a “me generation” of whiners, complainers and overpaid malcontents; cancerous lesions no team can hope to win with. These types of flashy talents are the ever-present bugaboo of pro sports. Many a coach has enough ego to believe he can harness this sort of athlete into a champion. It rairly occurs. Age and maturity are the only antidotes. Unfortunately that usually does not occur until arthritis sets in. Moss was the same story wherever he went. He originally was kicked off the Florida State team because he could not adhere to the discipline. Off to Marshall, a small college program albeit with a good football tradition. He was a superstar there and entered the National Football League with great ballyhoo. With the Minnesota Vikings, it was always the same thing. Moss had big numbers and was a staple of the ESPN highlight reels. They occurred, usually in non-clutch situations; certainly not the kind of situations that result in ultimate championships. This was very similar to Owens’s trajectory, or downfall, depending which way it is viewed. In 2005, Davis, one of those “big ego” guys who think they can take any whiner and turn him into a winner, brought Moss to Oakland. The usual lip service was paid; the “new Randy,” the “respect,” the admiration for his talent. No, Moss was not surrounded by other stars who could make him shine. Nobody was going to turn those 2005-06 Raiders into champions, but Moss’s lack of leadership, class or to mental toughness was above the ordinary. He just tanked and complained. Sports makes for great stories, awe-inspiring and wonderful. Guys like Moss are not worth the paper used to describe their low rent efforts. Get out. The Raiders felt the same way. During the 2007 NFL Draft, they made observation of a map, determining that New England was the place in America that would put just about the farthest possible distance between themselves and Moss. Moss was therefore removed from the premises. Good riddance. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, Moss. CAN’T ANYBODY HERE PLAY THIS GAME? Disaster It started with the Baret Robin fiasco at the 2003 Super Bowl. Through a succession of coaching changes and bad decisions, disaster has been the fate of the Raiders since. In a history of the Raiders, one of the most successful franchises in professional sports history, a chapter on their failures, however, is a very short one. In 2005, Randy Moss was brought in and he was a . . . disaster. He could catch the ball when it got to him, but the leadership, the “extra mile” effort that might have propelled a bad team at least into some semblance of success was not going to happen. He just tanked, showed bad attitude, sulked and complained. He was the high quintessence of all that is unimpressive. He gets no respect, only scorn. Oakland was 4-12. Bill Callahan, who took the team to the Super Bowl, was long gone by 2006, as was Jon Gruden, who was “traded” to Tampa Bay only to lead the Bucs to a Super win over Oakland. Art Shell was brought in; a desperate move by Davis in the hopes that his great Raider persona would make the current crop shine. The game had passed Shell by, however. What resulted was merely blame and recrimination. The 2006 Raiders were atrocious; the worst team in pro football. Their opening-game shutout loss to San Diego, 27-0, might have been the most anemic offensive performance of the modern era. Robert Gallery, the 2004 Outland Trophy winner and a first round pick, looked to be the most over-rated player ever. He was unbelievably bad. Warren Sapp, a great star in Tampa, admitted that playing in Oakland was like being exiled. They were a laughing stock, a joke on the Jim Rome Show. The stadium was half-empty. The team’s “mystique,” the “greatness that is the Raiders” were mocking words from their historical past. In 2006, Davis made one of the worst decision conceivable when he passed on fabulous USC Heisman Trophy quarterback Matt Leinart, probably because he was “gun shy” after the Todd Marinovich disaster of the early 1990s; as if drafting one left-handed Trojan QB was the same as another. When Leinart emerged as a budding star in Arizona, Davis tried to blame Shell. But hope remains eternal. In 2007, the Raiders made moves that will pay off. Young Lane Kiffin, a winner through and through; one of the architects of the Southern Cal juggernaut under the great Pete Carroll, was brought in to right the ship. It was a job many established coaches would not take, but perfect for a young guy like Kiffin. He cannot lose. If the team fails, he will have gained experience and nobody will blame him; Davis is the only target. If he wins, Kiffin will be accorded “miracle worker” status by the Raider Nation. Given the first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Oakland chose JaMarcus Russell, a potential star from LSU of such enormous physical gifts as to be almost beyond belief. Russell also appears to be one of those soft-spoken guys, raised in a Bible-reading Southern environment, who can be a team leader. If anybody can develop him, Kiffin might be the guy. Then they opened the rathole, shoved Moss down it, seeing to it that wherever he was, it was not near them. The Raiders were at their lowest ebb, but the good news was they could only move up. TRADING PLACES MERGER After World War II, a new league was formed to challenge the NFL. Featuring successful franchises in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the All-American Football Conference had its moments. In the end, it failed to merge, although the Rams and 49ers did receive an invite, which brought major pro sports to the West Coast before Walter O’Malley orchestrated the Dodger-Giant moves of 1957-58. The American Football League succeeded where the All-American Football Conference failed, precisely because the AFL had Al Davis. It was a new era; an era of jet travel, of unprecedented American economic expansion and political-military dominance; a time of entrepreneurial capitalism and liberalized court decisions giving more freedom than ever to the free ranging spirit of sports enterprise. The AFL was successful on and off the field. Several of the league’s owners had the kind of money to take big chances. Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson had secretly invested in the Raiders, which helped the club weather its early debt woes. The AFL declared all out war on the traditional draft-and-sign methods of the NFL, which like baseball had a form of “reserve clause” that made a player virtual property, first in the manner of his selection, then in its contractual inflexibility. The AFL, however, instituted the “futures” draft of underclassmen in the college ranks. They treated their players more like valued employees in other industries who had the freedom to work where and with whom they chose, within the strictures of agreed contracts. “You attack their supply lines,” Davis said of the AFL’s “war” with the NFL. He and his league fought like tribesmen in the mold of the “Arab revolt” led by T.E. Lawrence in World War I, consisting mostly of the destruction of Turkish railroads. A large number of top NFL stars were “secretly” signed to “future” AFL contracts, meaning that when their deals were up with current teams they would jump to the junior league. Joe Namath of Alabama signed with the New York Jets out of Alabama for400,000. Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte was also inked for big dough. The lure of huge money was irresistible, demonstrating the newfound place of sports in the American pantheon.

By 1966, the NFL was ready to sue for peace. The AFL wanted the best possible terms. There was only one man who, it was felt, had the brass knuckle qualities to force the best deal: Al Davis.

Davis was at first uninterested in becoming AFL Commissioner. He was the Raiders’ coach, dedicated to building a champion. But the Machiavellian Davis saw the future. Becoming Commissioner was not just a selfless job, albeit one with a nice $60,000-a-year salary plus perks. Davis saw that a merger with the NFL would benefit his league and his team greatly. As Commissioner, he could steer things in favor of the Raiders, and at the appropriate time leave the job and return to Oakland, flush with the advantages bestowed by him. He also wanted to expand the AFL into Los Angeles. Davis knew the future lay in the Sunbelt – the West and the South. His L.A. years, three with USC and one with the Chargers, had made an impact. The Coliseum and its 100,000 seats, the huge populace, and the growth of television, radio and merchandising rights, made it a gold mine. The Angels had expanded the near-limitless market to Orange County. Davis could envision a Los Angeles sports behemoth that would overshadow the Chargers in San Diego. In some ways, the AFL used Davis when he “traded places,” becoming their Commissioner. He was like the IRA to the owners’ Sinn Fein. Davis was to hit below the belt and cause as much damage as possible. In the mean time, the AFL owners would negotiate from the position of strength that Davis’s actions leveraged for them, like Henry Kissinger getting a triangulated peace deal with the North Vietnamese, Russians and Chinese. The result of this situation would result in a good deal for the AFL, the NFL and Pete Rozelle. It would forever mark Davis as an outsider, a renegade, even though he was positioned to be just that by the owners. Tex Schramm of the Cowboys and Lamar Hunt of the Chiefs agreed on a merger. Secret meetings between Rozelle with various AFL and NFL owners were held, unbeknownst to Davis. He wanted a merger, too, but did not realize that he was being used to help the process along. When the dust settled, the AFL and NFL merged. The two leagues would remain as is through 1969, when the AFL TV contract expired. An “AFL-NFL Championship Game” (the Super Bowl) would be played between champions of the two leagues, the first one at the L.A. Coliseum in January 1967. In 1970, the leagues would be re-configured into the American and National Football Conferences, with several NFL franchises filling out spots in the AFC, featuring an integrated schedule of inter-conference games. This was all well and good, and fine with Davis. But Rozelle and the AFL owners sold out Davis, too. First, there would not be a separate “league president:” of the AFL and NFL, as there was in baseball. Pete Rozelle would be Commissioner of the whole shebang, all of which fell under the rubric of the National Football League. Davis, instead of being elevated to a position on par with Rozelle, was useful no more, and therefore would be out of a job. But just as painful was that the agreement was hammered out without his knowledge or consent. First, the AFL would have to come up with almost$27 million in order to join the party, but the New York and Oakland franchises would be forced to pay additional reparations to the Giants and 49ers, respectively, because they had “encroached” on their territories. This was not the half of it. The Jets and Raiders were to move to cities with no NFL teams by the time the leagues fully merged into the intra-conference AFC-NFC configuration.

A common draft was agreed on, too, instead of the separate drafts of past years. The AFL had underestimated its value. Everywhere the teams and the leagues could be compared up until 1966, they had the upper hand. They signed the best college players, had the most exciting stars, played the most colorful brand of offensive football, and had captured major media markets.

In New York, “Broadway Joe” Namath and the Jets were the toast of the town, playing at brand new Shea Stadium while the Giants toiled in losing fashion in a stadium named after the Yankees. The Oilers moved into the Astrodome, the Broncos into Mile High Stadium. The winning Raiders moved into the Coliseum while the loser 49ers played in the archaic Kezar.

Davis was livid. Wayne Valley was flabbergasted. The real war had only just begun! Over the next years, court battles would ensue. The Raiders and Jets both remained in Oakland and New York, respectively. Much of the original “indemnity” money to be paid by the AFL to the NFL, and by individual teams, was greatly reduced. But in what may have been the most important development, Al Davis was now, for all practical purposes, out of a job that he had contracted to hold for several more years. Instead of being a figurehead until his contract expired, he turned “lemons into lemonade.”

Negotiations were entered into. Davis maximized his position of strength. Valley, the Raider ownership group, and Davis contracted for Davis to become a one-third owner of the team for the rock bottom price of $17,500. Davis had a windfall ownership stake in a lucrative franchise for the 1962 price of the team, which of course was when they were in debt, floundering and on the verge of extinction. That was still not all of it. A 10-year agreement was reached, making Davis the managing general partner. Valley and Ed McGah became silent partners. Davis, like Napoleon at Versailles, was given total autonomy. He was the dictator. SMOOTH OPERATOR Al Davis, as Commissioner of the American Football League, successfully talked “half of the NFL's top quarterbacks to agree to join the AFL” in his short three-month tenure, according to the Raider media guide. These “earth shattering changes to the landscape of pro-football” would not have “forced the NFL to once and for all view the AFL as a legitimate league,” leading “to a merger, that would bring both leagues together with a common draft and a year-end championship game.” WAR GAMES On the Raiders travel itinerary, it says at game time: “We go to war.” GOING CAMPING In training camp, Al Davis would put 300 pounds of weights on his bed and sit down with a towel around his neck, pretending to be lifting when he was did not, just so people would think he was into weight training. Kings of “Tinsel Town” In 1982, the Raiders literally “traded places” via a franchise shift to Los Angeles. After two seasons at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, the team had performed brilliantly, but a disturbing trend was beginning to make itself felt. Attendance at the Coliseum was disappointing. With the best and most exciting team in pro football, Davis thought his team’s reception would match the boffo enthusiasm heaped upon the Dodgers when they arrived in 1958. Davis envisioned sellouts of the 92,000-seat Coliseum, but found that big crowds responded more to the marquee value of L.A.’s opponent than they did to the “greatness that is the Raiders.” With the Thursday deadline for sellouts rarely met, home TV contests – such an important factor in developing a following - were not frequent, which hurt the team’s public perception. The Rams were still very much a part of the L.A. consciousness. Ex-USC coach John Robinson had a contender in Anaheim, where they played in a stadium viewed as more amenable to upper crust fans. Davis envisioned the Coliseum as it was for Trojan games, filled with upscale alumni, their “trophy wives” and USCion children in tow. Instead, the Silver and Black’s fan base increasingly reflected the team’s “criminal element” in the form of inner city fans identified with the Raiders’ color scheme and style, much the way gang members do. But these problems were viewed as “growing pains” that would work themselves out. In 1983 the L.A. move was still a successful one; perhaps not as visionary as Walter O’Malley’s, but a bold grabbing of market share. The 10-6 Central Division champion Pittsburgh Steelers came to the Coliseum, which was now completely sold out. Lester Hayes established his presence with authority by picking off Cliff Stoudt and running it all the way into the end zone. Allen scored twice, and Mike Haynes was tremendous. All vestiges of the old Raider-Steeler rivalry were replaced by Raider dominance, and again in Davis’s historical way of thinking, he had outlasted his hated foes from the Steel City the way Rome had outlasted Attila the Hun. The final score was Los Angeles 39, Pittsburgh 10. Stoudt took some brutal hits, and as Davis liked to say, “The quarterback must go down, and he must go down hard!” Seattle beat Miami on the road, coming in as a wild card team with confidence, having beaten the Raiders twice, but it was not to be this time. Seattle’s rookie running back Curt Warner, a former Penn State star, was stopped. Marcus Allen led the way for Los Angeles. Strong safety Mike Davis intercepted Seahawk quarterback David Krieg twice, while Marcus poured it on for 154 yards on 25 attempts. Frank Hawkins bulled his way in twice. The line of scrimmage was L.A.’s domain, and the sellout crowd was exuberant in celebrating the 30-14 pasting, sending their men to the Super Bowl. If Al Davis’s team could capture the “World Championship of Professional Football” in just their second year in L.A., it would match the Dodgers, who accomplished that feat in their second season (1959). Davis hoped that such a victory would establish his team in the city, giving them the dominant position over the Rams, a winning organization that had never won a Super Bowl. When the Raiders demolished Washington, 38-9, it marked the high point in the career of Al Davis and the history of his team. It certainly looked to be vindication for him, answering the many critics of his L.A. move. Looking back on that era, some 25 years later, it seems there were mistakes and miscalculations. Certainly, the Raiders had captured the city’s imagination, and it seemed unlikely at that point that their hold on the pro football mentality of Southern California would lessen. USC was entering the longest drought period in their hallowed history. Indeed the following two seasons saw the Raiders field teams that competed at the highest levels. But there was no extra “goodwill,” so to speak. Unlike the Dodgers and Trojans, whose fan bases are loyal through good times and bad, the Raiders found themselves lumped in with the Rams, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Mighty Ducks, Angels and Bruins. All of them have known greatness, in some cases ultimate greatness. They have achieved success at the gate and been darlings of the populace in one way or another, but find that popularity very much a “what have you done for me lately?” proposition. None of that mattered on January 22, 1984 in Tampa, Florida. Super Bowl XVIII had all the “bell and whistles” one could hope for, with two storied franchises going after the biggest prize in the game. It matched the two-time Super Bowl champion Raiders against the defending champs, the same Redskin club that beat L.A. in the fifth game of the season. Joe Theismann’s team was favored, having gone 14-2 and beaten Joe Montana and the great Bill Walsh 49ers in the NFC title game. The television executives and all those who like the excellent ratings produced by a close game were disappointed, however, because Los Angeles dispatched Washington early, leaving no doubt as to their superiority. It seemed impossible to believe Washington had beaten this team in September. It seemed impossible to believe the Silver and Black had been beaten four times, much less twice by Seattle. The Raiders exploded, all of their pent-up energy and emotion channeled perfectly, harnessed by a ferocious defensive scheme, Plunkett’s big game composure, and Marcus Allen’s bid for immortality. Nose tackle Reggie Kinlaw, plus linebackers Bob Nelsen, Matt Millen and Ted Hendricks, bottled Theismann and Company like ketchup at the Heinz plant. Unable to get his passing game going, Theismann went to running back John Riggins, but he was stuffed repeatedly. In the first quarter, Derrick Jensen blocked a Washington punt, which Lester Hayes fell on in the end zone. When Plunkett nailed Branch for a touchdown it was 14-3, but the game was secured, ironically, by a mistake by the great Redskin coach Joe Gibbs. Just before the half, instead of running out the clock and taking it in to re-group, Gibbs had Theismann throw a swing pass to Joe Washington; just like the one he had burned the Raiders on in Washington back in September. Defensive coordinator Charlie Sumner saw it from a mile away. Reserve linebacker Jack Squirek, responding to Sumner’s play calling, stepped in front of Washington, picked it off and waltzed into the end zone. It demoralized Washington, now trailing 21-3. Many viewers turned off their TV sets at that point, but they still have great memories of the second half. That is because Marcus Allen’s incredible performance has lived on in NFL Films’ immortality the way Bart Starr’s, Joe Montana’s, and the Steel Curtain’s Super Bowl moments have been preserved. Allen took a handoff on his own 25, a simple off-tackle, but the Redskins plugged the hole, forcing Marcus to reverse course and use his speed to burn the Redskins for a 75-yard touchdown run that was a thing of beauty. It was the longest run from scrimmage in Super Bowl history. Allen added another score in the fourth quarter, and was stopped just short of a third. Chris Bahr added a field goal and suddenly Tom Flores had won two Super Bowls in four years, which has the effect of making him the most successful coach in the team’s great history, with all due respect to John Madden. The Raiders outscored opponents 106-33 in the post-season. They were never challenged, unlike the 1976 and 1980 Super Bowl champions, both of whom faced major scares on the road to victory. It was a team of great talent: Plunkett, Allen, Howie Long, Lester Hayes, Mike Haynes, Todd Christensen, Rod Martin, and Vann McElroy. Veterans Bob Nelsen, Ted Hendricks, Lyle Alzado, Dave Dalby, Mickey Marvin, and Henry Lawrence were still excellent players. With the likes of Don Mosebar, Greg Townsend and Dokie Williams waiting in the wings, there was no reason to believe the club’s future would not be bright. While Plunkett was sitting on top of the world, Marc Wilson had shown flashes of brilliance. There was no sentiment to replace Plunkett with Wilson in 1984, but plenty of optimism that a smooth quarterback transition could be effectuated when the time was right. HALL OF FAMERS Raider Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes made nine Pro Bowl appearances in a fabulous 14-year NFL career, forged after starring at Arizona State. BUSINESS COMES FIRST The first “Million Dollar Gate” in NFL history came in 1982, the Raiders first year in Los Angeles. The Raiders and L.A. Rams played to a sold-out Memorial Coliseum crowd, with gate receipts topping the$1 million mark. The Raiders won the cross-town battle, 37-31.

SOCIAL PROGRESS

The real Willie Brown

Willie Brown is not Willie Brown, Willie Brown, Willie Davis or Willie Davis. Willie Brown of the Oakland Raiders is not Willie Brown, one-time “Ayatollah of the California Assembly” and Mayor of San Francisco. He is not the Willie Brown who captained USC to the 1962 national championship, played in the NFL, and then became an assistant under John McKay.

He is not Willie Davis of the Green Bay Packers, or Willie Davis of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

For that matter, he is not Willie Mays or Willie McCovey, fellow Bay Area sports icons.

The 1960s and 1970s saw a plethora of great black athletes named Willie, mostly from the South, and it got confusing. Al Davis built his team in large measure by recognizing that many of the traditional black colleges like Grambling were gold mines of football talent. Brown was one of those cutting edge guys who represented social progress in the 1960s.

Willie Brown of the Oakland Raiders was never a guy who did much to draw attention away from the game, but in 16 years on the pro battlefields he most definitely distinguished himself. Davis acquired Brown from the Denver Broncos, where he had already made his mark, tying an NFL record for interceptions in a game vs. New York in 1964.

Brown was part of the influx of talent that came to Oakland in 1967, turning a promising franchise into a dominant one that went 13-1, advancing to Super Bowl II against Green Bay.

Brown shares the all-time Raider lead for interceptions with 39 and earned All-Pro honors seven times, in addition to five AFL All-Star appearances and five Pro Bowls.  He was named to the All-Time AFL Team in 1969, played in three AFL and six AFC championship games, plus Super Bowls II and XI.

Brown’s legend was made when, with NFL Films’ highlight man John Facenda providing the dramatic voiceover, the camera captures Brown’s interception of Fran Tarkenton and his Super Bowl-record 75-yard interception return, clinching the 1977 victory over Minnesota. In slow motion, Brown racehorses down the field, the brilliant Pasadena sunshine providing a backdrop, Raider partisans whoopin’ it up in slow motion. Madden jumps and down, his wild hair and disheveled shirt flopping around. Dramatic and classical music gives it an operatic quality. The highlights also include Bill King’s rat-tat-tat descriptions, which are the essence of broadcast perfection.

Brown also returned interceptions for play-off touchdowns against Miami in 1970 and against Pittsburgh in 1973. He intercepted at least one pass in an NFL-record 16 straight seasons, and had 54 in his brilliant career. This came to a total of 472 return yards and two touchdowns in regular season play.

Brown played in 205 pro games and was the MVP of the 1965 AFL All-Star Game. He won the 1968 Gorman Award as the “Player Who Best Exemplifies the Pride and Spirit of the Raiders.”

He was the defensive captain for 10 years and a selection to the 25-Year AFL-NFL All-Star team, then picked to enter Canton on his first try in 1984. After football, Brown was a Raider assistant and briefly tried to bring the moribund Long Beach State program back into the fold. He is a member of the Louisiana and Mississippi Sports Hall of Fames, and after Long Beach State re-joined the Raiders.

“The Real Willie Brown is so enormously talented that hardly any quarterback thinks it specially clever to throw the ball near him,” wrote Wells Twombly in Oakland’s Raiders: Fireworks and Fury(1973).

Brown was described as a “strong and charming man,” a laid-back rural Southerner with a pleasant off-field demeanor. Despite – or, in reality, because of - his interception records, opposing teams often did not throw the ball in his direction, for obvious reasons.

“They don’t throw towards me much, it’s true,” he stated, “But I consider that a rare compliment. I can’t relax, though. I fully expect to get the pass on every play and I stay as close as possible to my man. If I crowd him on the short pass, I may find that he’s gone deep. If I play him deep, he’ll take the short throw. So I try to stay right on top of him. If I have my man covered, it’s going to hold the quarterback up, so our rush line can get him. All this happens in just a few seconds. It always amazes me how long those few seconds seem to take.”

Brown came out of Eddie Robinson’s program at Grambling before the world had come to fully recognize how much talent there was at the little state school in Louisiana. He was a 6’, 2”, 210-pound tight end, but Robinson ran a ground-oriented offense so Brown mainly blocked.

The Houston Oilers signed Brown as a free agent and turned him into a defensive back. He learned the position in practice sessions, covering Charlie Henigan (who once caught 101 passes in a single season). The quarterback shredding the secondary was George Blanda. But the Oilers cut him. Denver signed him and he displayed brilliance, but the club was mediocre. Brown was lost in the shuffle, for the most part.

Except, of course, Al Davis had a spy system comparable with the Mossad’s. He was scouted and a full report provided to Davis, who arranged for a trade that was more like highway robbery. The truth is, Brown’s talent was well known in AFL circles, but Denver still let him get away.

“I have come to understand fully now why Lou Saban traded me,” said Brown in 1973. “I would have done the same thing if I were the coach. He came into a losing organization. He wanted to bring in his own players – younger players. He did me a favor by trading me to a team like Oakland. He couldn’t have been nicer.”

Brown’s great career is even more impressive when one considers that he was playing man defense during the age of the “bump and run,” facing what may have been the most advanced new passing schemes, the best crop of quarterbacks, and the most talented wide receivers the game has ever known.

He was tasked with stopping offenses designed by the likes of Hank Stram, Weeb Ewbanks, Sid Gillman, Don Shula and Chuck Noll. He squared off against quarterbacks the likes of Joe Namath, Len Dawson, John Hadl, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, and Bob Griese, who were throwing to pass-catching talents with names like Don Maynard, Lance Alworth, Otis Taylor, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Paul Warfield.

He gave as good as he got. For the most part, those terrific offensive minds, with those terrific offensive tools at their disposal, chose to throw the ball in the direction of somebody other thanthe Real Willie Brown!

PAIN AND SUFFERING

1967: Lost to Green Bay in the Super Bowl.

1968: Lost to “Broadway Joe” Namath and the “Super Jets.”

1969: Lost to Kansas City in the AFL title game.

1972: Lost to Pittsburgh in the “Immaculate Reception” game.

1974: Lost to underdog Steelers at home in AFC championship game.

1975: Lost to Steelers on an icy Three Rivers Stadium in AFC title game.

1977: Lost to Denver when Rob Lyttle’s fumble was not called.

1991: Smoked in the snow at Buffalo in AFC title game.

2001: Baltimore’s defense overwhelms Raiders in AFC title game.

2002: The “Brady tuck” fumble is not called, Pats win AFC.

2003: Barret Robbins goes AWOL, Gruden gets Tampa “Super revenge.”

The Raiders ended Miami’s 31-game home winning streak, 31-21, in the first game of the 1975 season.

Upshaw

Gene Upshaw’s career mirrors the social mobility of black athletes, not just on the playing field but in front offices and, in his case, within union circles. He came to the Oakland Raiders as their first pick in the 1967 draft out of tiny Texas A&I. Al Davis certainly knew that there was a tremendous amount of hidden talent in those smalls schools, particularly in the South. The best pro football teams of the 1960s were the ones picking off these nuggets. The Raiders were one of the best pro football teams of the 1960s.

The 6’, 3”, 268-pounder was only the second guard ever inducted into Canton (1987). He was All-Pro or All-Conference eight times, played in six Pro Bowls, and one AFL All-Star Game. He is the all-time Raider leader in games played with 217, having missed only one game in his career. He played in 207 straight games, playing in the Super Bowl in three decades (1968, 1977 and 1981). He holds the club record for play-off games (24), and was the offensive team captain from 1973-81. In 15 years, Upshaw was the heart and soul of the greatest Raider teams of all time (11 play-off appearances, eight division titles, one AFL, two AFC, and two Super Bowl championships). He was named to the AFL-NFL 25-Year All-Star Team when the NFL held its 75th Anniversary. He was also selected to the All-Monday Night Teams, was a Hall of Famer on the first ballot, and became the executive director of the NFL Player’s Association.

Upshaw had the gruff outward demeanor of an inmate from the original Longest Yard, but in truth he was a humorous man with an infectious laugh. His leadership skills and reputation for honesty were the things that led people to him, ultimately earning him the captaincy of the Raiders and later the directorship of the union.

Upshaw was always known as a helpful sort, and a true coach’s dream. Madden always felt that if Upshaw was complaining, there was a valid problem that needed to be addressed. Upshaw’s roommate in Oakland was Bob Brown, one of the best offensive tackles of his day.

“Gene, you’re still just a kid,” Brown told Upshaw, back when he was just a kid. “Wait until you’ve been around this game awhile.”

“I know what he wants to do,” Upshaw said of Brown’s prodding. “He wants to push me to the point where I give every ounce I have. Every player gets to the raging point. He needs somebody to give him a boost. Brown is my man.”

When he was playing, Upshaw made it a point to speak to underprivileged kids, trying to steer them away from crime, drugs and gang life. According to ex-San Francisco Examiner sportswriter Wells Twombly, who wrote Oakland’s Raiders: Fireworks and Fury, Upshaw did not merely speak to the groups, but actually visited the homes of wayward youth, getting involved in their lives, and trying to help.

“They tell me about their loneliness, their family problems, their troubles at school,” Upshaw told Twombly in 1973. “Things that turn kids on drugs might not be a big thing to some people, but they’re plenty big to these kids. Everybody takes love for granted. Lack of it can destroy a youngster. He hits the streets and pretty soon it’s all over. I talked to a kid just the other day. He was on the streets looking for a love substitute. He found a pusher, instead. He’s hooked.”

“Upshaw . . . was a breakthrough-type guard,” wrote Bob Carroll in When the Grass Was Real. “Offensive guards needed size, but they also had to be fast enough to lead sweeps. Most of them were around 6-2 and 240 pounds; Gene was 6-5 and 255, bigger than some offensive tackles, but still one of the quickest linemen in the league. From the time the Chiefs unveiled their giant defensive tackle Buck Buchanan, Al Davis began looking for a guard with Upshaw’s combination of size and speed.”

“I figured if Buchanan was going to play for the Chiefs for the next 10 years,” said Davis, “we better get some big guy who can handle him. Those two guys put on some stirring battles over the years.”

“I don’t have as much fun pass blocking, but I get satisfaction from it,” Upshaw said of the Raiders’ dominant offensive scheme. “That’s where we separate the men from the boys. It takes a hell of a man to stand in there on pass protection, to take those roundhouse clubs to the head and the butting with the helmets and all that. You’ve got to keep control of yourself.

“The good protection blocker sits and waits for the defense to make the move and then reacts. You have to be passive and aggressive at the same time. If you charge too hard, some of the quick linemen will get you off balance and skip around you or grab you and throw you. Or you might fire off at the wrong guy and the defense will be in a stunt and another guy will have an open road to your quarterback.”

Upshaw specialized in running sweeps.

“That’s my play,” he said. “A wide receiver wants to catch a long touchdown pass. A defensive lineman wants to break in to sack a quarterback. I get my satisfaction pulling to lead those sweeps. That’s a play where it comes down to just me and the defensive back. If I get him clean, we’re going to make a long gain. If I miss him, we don’t get a yard.

“I’m weighing in at 260 coming right at that defensive back. He’s 210 at most and 185 some of the time. And he hasn’t got a chance. I’ve got it in my head that whatever he does has to be wrong. If he goes outside, I’m going to put him out of bounds. If he goes inside, I’ll knock him in. And if he stands there, man, I’m going right over him.”

John Madden installed defensive changes in 1976. Some old pros were left “out in the cold,” some young ones found opportunity. It worked when the Raiders finally won a Super Bowl. Madden went from the traditional 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme, getting away from down linemen to an “Orange” defense. The key to its success was 6’, 2”, 225-pound linebacker Willie Hall out of USC, who had previously been cut by Oakland. Also, Fred Steinfort beat out George Blanda for the kicker’s position in 1976 training camp, which led to Blanda’s retirement. Jim Otto called it quits before the season, meaning two of their most venerable legends were not part of the Super Bowl championship team.

1963-65: Al saves the Oaklaned franchise

Part of the Al Davis strategy was to take advantage of the fact that he and his team were underestimated. Davis had played that hand all his life, using the power of low expectations to sneak up on opponents; often using evasion, trickery and deception in the manner of hiastorical figures, dictators and political Machiavellians (all of whom he studied as models for this tactic). Then, once gaining the upper hand, he replaced that with fear and intimidation to consolidate his gains.

Oakland was the perfect staging grounds for such a strategy. They were the anti-California of the Beach Boy ‘60s. Los Angeles was Hollywood; glamour, the surf life, beautiful girls. Orange County represented wealth and political power. San Diego was the good life. San Francisco was elegance and Old World style.

Oakland made Cincinnati look like a world capital. When teams arrived in Oaktown, every sight and sound lulled them into downgrading their opponents. The airport was chintzy, the hotel was rickety, the restaurants cheap, the bars were dives, the women were unattractive, the men still stuck in the Great Depression. Once at Youell Field, the “stadium” suffered in comparison with the sports monuments of New York, L.A. and Boston. The fans were provincial.

Then the contest would start, and it was a whole new ball game. Davis would advertise himself as the father of the wide open passing game. He surely was an innovator, and Bill Walsh, the “West Coast offense” impresario who coached under him, called him a genius, but Davis basically copied what he had learned under Sid Gillman.

Copycat or not, give Davis credit for learning well, but there is also no question that he was an innovator in his own right. After the team had gone 6-8 (1960), 2-12 (1961) and 1-13 (1962), rookie Coach Davis turned the team around in miraculous fashion. He fashioned the silver-and-black color scheme that remains their trademark to this day. At first it was rejected because when the Tribune ran color photos, it was thought they would look like black-and-white, but the image was powerful in person.

In 1963, a little-known quarterback from the San Joaquin Valley by way of the University of Pacific (a kind of “minor league” for the early Raiders), Tom Flores led the team to a 10-4 mark. Running back Clem Daniels was a star. Center Jim Otto was the best in the business. Receiver Art Powell was a typical example of the Davis type of player.

Powell was an early free agent (the AFL in many ways gave birth to the modern economics of pro sports) having played out his contract with the New York Titans, who bid him “good riddance.” He was what might be described as a “black agitator.” It was felt that he was prejudiced against white people and could not work with them. In Davis he found a colorblind man who cared only about winning, and in this environment he thrived.

In Davis’s first regular season game, the Raiders shocked the defending Western Division champion Houston Oilers, 24-13 on the road. This created enough interest to sell out Youell Field when the Raiders returned home to face Buffalo. That, combined with a resounding 35-17 victory, is credited with propelling the first major political steps towards the building of the Coliseum, completed a mere three years later.

When his players tried to give him the game ball, Davis replied in typical fashion: “I’m not a sentimental guy. I only like to win.” Oakland stalled at mid-season, which included a disastrous three-game eastern road trip, but finished the 1963 campaign with six consecutive wins to close out a successful year. Victories over San Diego on the road and defending champion Kansas City (who captured the ’62 AFL crown in Dallas) propelled interest in the team, drawing 600 people to the airport to greet them after beating the Chargers.

The re-match with San Diego at Youell Field exemplified the nascent “pride and poise” label that would resonate with the Davis image. Trailing 27-10, Oakland caused five San Diego turnovers, converting that into a 41-27 win, typical of exciting AFL games.

The season finale was more of the same, further embodying what the league was. The NFL seemed stodgy and boring by comparison. Green Bay under Vince Lombardi had won the 1962 “world championship” by virtue of capturing the NFL play-offs after a 13-1 regular season. They did it the old-fashioned way: defense, a balanced short passing game, and a great running attack led by the Paul Hornung-Jim Taylor combo. In 1963 and 1964, however, the NFL was semi-boring. They were exemplified by the ancient style of George Halas and the Chicago Bears.

In that legendary ’63 finale at Oakland, Flores and Houston quarterback George Blanda put on a spectacular show. Flores threw for six touchdowns and 407 yards, 247 of them to Powell. The final score score: Raiders 52, Oilers 49. Davis made it clear afterwards that he was not through; that his goal and of the team’s was to establish the “Oakland franchise as a professional football power.”

The language of the Raiders’ Christmas cards, offering that promise, was all Davis. They did not offer excitement or a winning team. Rather, “power” was the operative word, like Caesar vowing to restore the “glory that was Rome.”

Davis was named Coach of the Year, and in a stroke of genius that would embody why his players are so loyal, he deflected all praise towards his players. He was not in it for money, awards or personal glory. He may not have said it quite like that yet, but he wanted to “Just win, baby!”

Over the next two years, Davis further proved what an eye he had for talent. Former USC coach Don Clark told the press that Davis was now “feared” because of this knack for spotting players others missed or were willing to part with, which of course led to embarrassment for the exposed party.

Dan Conners was drafted out of the University of Miami. Ben Davidson was let go by Washington and signed by Oakland. Billy Cannon, the 1959 Heisman Trophy winner whose highly publicized signing by Houston was credited with getting the league off to a good start, was obtained. Davis had his first dispute with Pete Rozelle, who “awarded” Carroll Rosenbloom and Baltimore Arizona State halfback Tony Lorick. In those days, players could be drafted before their college eligibility was over, which caused problems, such as when Davis inked Lorick prior to the NFL Draft. When Baltimore picked Lorick first, a dispute arose and Rozelle sided with Rosenbloom, for obvious reasons. Lorick helped Baltimore to the 1964 NFL title, and Davis did not forget.

In a loss to Buffalo, Daryle Lamonica, a mostly disappointing reserve quarterback from Notre Dame, led the Bills to a narrow win over Oakland. It did not miss Davis’s attention. Davis competed for California’s All-American quarterback, Craig Morton. Landing the local hero would be a majorcoup and a blow to the struggling 49ers. In the end, Dallas outbid the Raiders. Davis later spun the message that he wasn’t all that impressed with Morton, and it has been speculated that he did not want the pressure of a “hometown hero” at quarterback, because he would be forced to play him. But the message was clear: Davis was a serious contender. It also meant that he needed a quarterback for the future. It would not be Morton. It would be Lamonica.

The 1965 Raiders were 8-5-1, good for second place in the AFL West behind San Diego. The season concluded amid great optimism, centered on the fact that construction of the Coliseum was progressing in time for the team to play there in 1966.

DID YOU KNOW . . .

That in his first year as the Raiders head coach in 1963, Al Davis garnered two awards: AFL Coach of the Year and Oakland’s Young Man of the Year?

HALL OF THE VERY GOOD

In 1964, the Raiders signed running back-turned-tight end Billy Cannon. Cannon won the 1959 Heisman Trophy at LSU, and his signing with Houston was considered the first major coup for the AFL. Considered washed up by 1964, he was revitalized by the position change, giving his team star power in their early days.

The Raiders had not flourished under Al Davis, creating the political will to build the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in time for the 1966 season, the city most likely would never have attracted the A’s (1968) and later the Warriors, who moved over from San Francisco’s Cow Palace when the Coliseum Arena was built in the early 1970s.

Flores and Shell

Tom Flores and Art Shell are unique members of the Raider family. Both were star players, both became head coaches, and both are considered loyal to Al Davis, who prioritizes that as the ultimate Raider quality.

Flores was born on March 21, 1937, in Fresno, California. After graduating from the University of Pacific in 1958, it took two years for Flores to make a professional football team. He was cut by the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in 1958 and by the NFL's Washington Redskins in 1959.

When the AFL was established in 1960, Flores caught on with the Oakland Raiders. He became the team's starting quarterback early in the season, leading the league by completing 54 percent of his passes, throwing for 1,738 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Flores had his most productive season in 1966. Although he completed only 49.3 percent of his attempts, he passed for 2,638 yards and 24 touchdowns in 14 games.

Oakland traded him to the Buffalo Bills in 1967. A backup with Buffalo, Flores was released early in the 1969 season, then picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs. He spent the 1970 season on Kansas City's taxi squad, then retired as a player.

After serving as an assistant coach with Buffalo and Oakland, Flores took over as head coach of the Raiders in 1979. The franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1982. In nine seasons, he directed the Raiders to three first place division finishes and Super Bowl victories after the 1980 and 1983 seasons.

While John Madden is often portrayed as the “face” of the Raiders, he has become more of a national television figure while Flores remains the man who played, coached, worked in the front office for, and broadcast the Raiders. It is Flores, not Madden, who won not one but two Super Bowls.

While the 1976 team is generally accepted as the greatest in team history, and indeed one of the finest pro football champions ever assembled, 1983 in many ways marks the highest mountaintop scaled by the franchise. Playing in Los Angeles, where they were consolidating their fan base and new identity, the Raiders under Flores were a dominant team. Unlike 1977, when victory came over an overwhelmed Minnesota club, the January 1984 Super Bowl win came over a truly great Redskin team.

“We knew we had a good team,” said Flores. “All the pieces were in place. But we didn’t have Gene Upshaw and Art Shell for the first time in about 15 years, and we had to replace that leadership. But we felt we had enough veterans who would step forward.

“There are ups and downs in every championship season, and we didn’t kill everybody we played that year, but we won some games in the fourth quarter. Great teams do that.”

Jim Plunkett in particular blossomed – after years of floundering – under Flores’s leadership. He was 35 in 1983, and had endured every kind of professional adversity while forging eventual success.

“We knew we could win with Plunkett because he had done it for us before, and we felt he still had something left,” Flores said of the decision to stay with Plunkett instead of going to Marc Wilson. “But we also felt we could win with Wilson if we had to turn to him.”

Flores was faced with his share of challenges in 1983, mainly in the form of Marcus Allen’s early-season injury. In the 37-35 loss to Washington during the regular season, Allen was unavailable, but Plunkett showed what he was made of. He threw four touchdown passes, rallying the team from a 13-point deficit to a 35-20 lead in the rollercoaster affair, before Joe Theismann led Washington to their ultimate comeback.

In 1988, Flores moved into the team's front office. After a year he left to become president and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks. He named himself head coach in 1992, but was fired from both positions after the 1994 season.

As a player, Flores completed 838 of 1,715 passes for 11,959 yards and 92 touchdowns. He also rushed for five touchdowns. As a coach, he had a 97-87 record.

After the Raiders returned to Oakland, Flores joined the broadcasting team, sharing the booth with Greg Papa. He has remained a steadfast Raider, not playing the role of critic. Flores has avoided bad-mouthing his successors, although ultimately none of them have really approached where he took the franchise.

Art Shell joined the Raiders as a third round draft choice in 1968, playing 15 years before induction into Pro Football’s Hall of Fame on August 5, 1989. He was an All-American Football Conference selection six straight years from 1973-78, and an All-Pro in 1973, 1974 and 1977. Shell played in 207 league games, third highest in the history of the Silver and Black.

He was selected to play in eight Pro Bowls, the most of any Raider player until wide receiver Tim Brown was selected to a ninth in 2001. Shell’s career spanned three decades and included 23 postseason contests, including eight AFL-AFC championships and the Raider victory in Super Bowl Xl. He was particularly credited with a near-perfect performance in the victory over Minnesota, limiting the Vikings’ highly regarded defensive end Jim Marshall to no tackles, sacks or assists during the 32-14 win.

He played in his first 156 games before missing five games due to a preseason injury, then launched into another streak of 51 straight games. Shell was named to the NFL All-Monday Night Team.

Shell came to Oakland after a stellar career as a two-way lineman at Maryland State-Eastern Shore. After retirement, he became the Raiders’ offensive line coach until 1988, when he became head coach of the Silver and Black. He served as the head coach of the Raiders until 1994. Shell was later re-hired after Bill Callahan’s firing following the 2005 season but success did not follow.

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

21 – Raiders playoff appearances (1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1990, 1991, 1993, 2000, 2001, 2002).

INJURY FRONT

If only Bo Jackson had not been hurt, the baseball/football star from Auburn, who briefly starred for the L.A. Raiders in the late 1980s, probably would have had a Hall of Fame career in one if not two sports.

CELEBRITY CORNER

Hunter Thompson, the <ED: HELLS, NO APOSTROPHE> Hells Angels, and the criminal element

The Oakland Raiders have a dark image. Defensive stars George Atkinson and Jack Tatum were among the Raiders who some said were “dirty players.” Tatum’s hit of New England’s Daryl Stingley, which resulted in Stingley’s paralysis, played a big role in that reputation. Atkinson had his share of on-field run-ins with Pittsburgh and other teams. Later Raider ruffians like John Matuszak and Lyle Alzado played the outlaw image to the hilt. Al Davis was no small reason for the “criminal” moniker. He wanted to be feared, like a Mob boss from his native Brooklyn. The team colors suggested just such a thing. The Raiders were hated and feared by the Chiefs, Chargers, Steelers, Jets, Dolphins . . .

But the image of the outlaw Raiders was solidified by an outlaw “gonzo journalist,” Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, a.k.a. Raoul Duke. Thompson was not, just in case the gentle reader is unaware, an actual “doctor” of anything. Thompson, a native of Kentucky, wrote blistering, drug- and alcohol-induced, semi-racist, anti-American, anti-Republican, anti-establishment screeds of such brilliant wit and humor as to engender the grudging admiration of those he savaged.

Thompson actually “served” in the Air Force, which consisted of his driving his commanders out of their mind while writing for the Air Force newspaper – when not AWOL, that is.

In the mid-1960s, Thompson made his name when he walked straight into the brutal world of the Oakland, California-based Hells Angels. The Angels thought him a sissified scribe until Thompson demonstrated his ability to out-drink, out-drug and out-anything else the Angels did. It established his bona fides as a national writer of substance just as America was changing. It also gave him Bay Area imprimatur, enhanced by subsequent assignments from the then-San Francisco-based Rolling Stone magazine.

In the early 1970s Thompson became a legend of the written word with his magnum opusFear and Loathing in Las Vegas; a book so brilliant, yet so crude, as to be beyond the ability to translate. He followed it up with a scathing look at politics, exposing the art form of electioneering as an open, bleeding sore called Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.

By 1973, Thompson was not a writer; he was a cult, his readers as loyal as those of Ernest Hemingway’s or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s were in their day. An enormous sports fan and inveterate gambler, Thompson set his set his sights on the cult of personality that by then was Al Davis. His pal was Dave Burgin, later the editor of the San Francisco Examiner. Burgin is a man known as the “Billy Martin of sports editors” because he would take over a failing paper, turn it around, then wear out his welcome. Burgin told Thompson that Davis and the Raiders (along with Pittsburgh) were “the only two teams in the whole league flaky enough” for Thompson to “identify” with.

Davis may have read books about military generals, but only to glean what he could for football knowledge. He did not have the slightest idea who Dr. Hunter Thompson was. He had never heard of Rolling Stone

“Who’s the guy over there with the ball in his hand?” Davis asked when he saw the stoned-looking Thompson infiltrating one of his supersecret practice sessions.

“His name’s Thompson,” said San Francisco Chronicle sportswriter Jack Smith, who apparently had been cleared for entry into the inner sanctum.

“The Rolling Stones?” Davis ejaculated. “Jesus Christ! What’s he doing here? Did you bring him?”

“No, he’s writing a big article,” said Smith. “Rolling Stone is a magazine, Al. It’s different from the Rolling Stones; they’re a rock music group . . . Thompson’s a buddy of George Plimpton’s, I think . . . and he’s also a friend of Dave Burgin’s – you remember Burgin?”

“Holy s—t! Burgin!” Davis practically vomited his name. “We ran him out of here with a cattle prod!”

Smith explained that Thompson had written “a good book about Las Vegas.” Of course, if Davis had read Thompson’s descriptions of A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, he would have arranged for Thompson to be burned at the stake on the 50-yard line.

Thompson observed that Davis looked like “a pimp or a track-tout.”

“Get the bastard out of here. I don’t trust him,” was Davis’s assessment of Thompson, the author of the “good book about Las Vegas.”

Thompson described his experience “covering” Davis’s Raiders as “massive slander,” mixed with “a series of personal professional disasters . . .a beating by stadium cops outside the Raider dressing room . . .” and of course “total banishment” from “the field, locker room, press box . . . bar, restaurant, zoo or shotgun store” where any Raiders might be found.

He also described Davis, aside from looking like a “track-tout,” as “A small wiry man in a tan golf jacket with a greasy duck-tail haircut who paced along the sideline on both fields with a speedy kind of intensity . . .” all of which caused Thompson “bad vibes” from Davis’s “fiendish intensity of . . . speech and mannerisms” which Hunter then said were strongly reminiscent of “another Oakland badass,” the focus of his book on the Hells Angels. That was the gang’s “president,” the infamous Ralph “Sonny” Barger, who had recently beaten a multiple-murder rap, along with assorted charges of heroin possession with intent to sell, weapons, sexual assault on minors, intent to commit forcible sodomy, and God knows what other pleasantries.

Somehow, by hook or crook, Thompson did manage to get close enough to his subject to fashion an astounding piece, even getting Davis to talk at length about “Environmental Determinism.” Apparently, Davis tried to buy property in Aspen, Colorado (where Thompson lived), but was rebuffed because his money was “dirty” and he had “connections in Las Vegas.”

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’s dramatizations of Al Davis sounded much like that of a journalistic depiction of Pontius Pilate’s hand washing during the trial of Christ. A writer specializing in verbal savagery scaled the heights of his art in painting this Davis portrait.

Thus, with the publication in one of Rolling Stone’s best selling editions at the height of the magazine’s success, by its most popular and infamous writer, was the Raider “criminal element” image born.

“Any society that will put Barger in jail and make Al Davis a respectable millionaire at the same time is not a society to be trifled with,” remarked Thompson, as if warning the locals of the consequences of going to war with Rome.

Aside from having written the “good book about Las Vegas,” Thompson had run for sheriff of Aspen, causing the establishment of Aspen to come this close to hiring some “Las Vegas connections” to end his candidacy with extreme prejudice. This serendipity was just enough to allow Thompson slight access to Davis, which was like getting an up-close-and-personal with Mephistopheles.

Somehow, Davis and Thompson bonded, ever so slightly and for just a short period of time, but Thompson got as close to Davis as anybody, which is not saying much. Davis almost accepted an invitation to meet the good doctor in a local tavern, then suddenly turned to Thompson and asked, “What are you after? Why are you here?”

Thompson never did have that beer with the owner, but he did quaff a few with Raider players, which was certainly not a hard rendezvous to make. They were all amazed that he even got within five feet of Davis.

“. . . The world really is changing when you see a thing like that – Hunter Thompson and Al Davis” standing side by side in broad daylight, one player was quoted.

Titled “Mano o Mano with the Oakland Raiders,” Thompson’s piece was as masterful as all his other work. Davis probably ordered his underlings to scour America, buy every copy and burn it, but it actually worked to his advantage. It was more fodder for the mystique of Davis and his team, who he wanted to be feared . . . and loathed.

DRUG  STORE

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson supposedly did a mind-boggling amount of narcotic drugs, suposedlyconducted interviews with a number of Raiders in a seedy Oakland biker bar, and supposedly did one of his most famous interviews in relation to – sort of – a football game. In his classically biting tome Fear and Loathing On the Campaign Trail ’72, a book filled with fantastic stories of “facts” weaved in mesmerizing yet fanciful detail around people and events - what is true or not is murky to this day - Thompson claimed that, during the week of the1973 Super Bowl between Miami and Washington, he scored an interview with President Richard Nixon under the proviso that the subject be limited to football! Like many “interviews” and “journalistic stories” appearing in his books and articles over the years, separating the fact from the fiction is difficult, yet one of the most interesting aspects of the Thompson mystique.

A few years after the release of Easy Rider, Raider behemoths Ben Davidson and Tom Keating took a motorcycle trip to Mexico which, according to legend, matched Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’s famed 1971 trip to Las Vegas to cover a dirt bike race.

Howie, Stork, Raiderettes, and the “Five-Oh”

Naturally, since the Raiders are one of the all-time great pro football franchises, they have produced all-time great players. These men have been have been recognized with induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Howie Long was a defensive end who joined the Oakland Raiders with the second pick of the 1981 draft, after having earned the MVP award in the Blue-Gray game his senior year at little Villanova. In his 13 years, he was associated with the team in Los Angeles. Howie was born for Hollywood. He married a USC Law School graduate and with his All-American image became a poster boy for the team, which in the 1980s was glamorized in a way they never were in Oakland.

Howie had a “rock star” image with the fans, especially the ladies, but he was not known as a wild party guy. He had worked too hard to get where he was, and had the gift of stability. He usually was not part of the team’s “floating cocktail party.” On July 29, 2000, his stability was rewarded with induction into Canton.

He played his entire career for the Raiders, making a record-tying eight Pro Bowl appearances in his career. Long moved into the starting role with the Raiders beginning in the fifth game of the strike-shortened 1982 season. He became just the second Raider defensive lineman to make a Pro Bowl, earned first- or second-team All-Pro in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1989. He also named All-AFC four times.

In 1985, Long accounted for 10 sacks, with at least one in eight games. He was selected as Raider Lineman's Club Defensive Lineman of the Year by his teammates. Although he missed much of the 1988 season due to injury, he still managed to record three sacks and intercept the first pass of his career, which he returned 73 yards in a game against the Houston Oilers.

He is a member of the NFL's All-Decade team of the 1980s, recorded 84 career sacks, not including 7.5 sacks in 1981 before the sack was an official NFL statistic. Howie parlayed his popularity and intelligence into a long career as an NFL TV analyst and commercial spokesman. One of his teammates on the great Raider defenses of the 1980s was linebacker Ted Hendricks, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 4, 1990.

Hendricks, known as the “Mad Stork” because he was tall and ran the field with his arms flapping like a stork, played 15 years in the NFL. He joined Oakland as a free agent in 1975. He was with theSilver and Black for nine years and played in 131 consecutive league games with the Raiders, 215 in his career; the most by any linebacker in NFL history.

Ted was a member of all three Raider “World Champions of Professional Football” (1976, 1980 and 1983). He intercepted 26 passes for 332 yards and one touchdown while recovering 16 opponents’ fumbles, and shares the NFL record for most safeties in a pro career with four. He also shares the postseason NFL record for most opponents fumbles recovered in a career with four. He scored three touchdowns in his career on a fumble recovery, an interception return and the return of a blocked punt.

Hendricks was named All-AFC seven times, All-NFC once and played in eight AFC-NFC Pro Bowls. He was originally a second round pick in the 1969 draft by Baltimore, where he was a member of Baltimore’s Super Bowl V Championship team. He played for the Colts before being traded to Green Bay in 1974. Hendricks was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time team in 1994

At the University of Miami, he was a three-time All-America linebacker/defensive end, named to some All-American teams as a sophomore in 1966 and a consensus All-American choice in 1967 and 1968. The 6’, 7”, 220-pounder was named college Lineman of the Year by United Press International as a senior.

Hendricks was moved to outside linebacker when he joined the Colts. He distinguished himself as a pass rusher and kick blocker.

When the new World Football League was organized in 1974, its teams signed a number of players to future contracts, to begin playing after their NFL contracts expired. Hendricks was among them. When the announcement was made, the Colts traded him to the Green Bay Packers for the 1974 season. Because of the WFL's financial problems, Hendricks never played in the league. Instead, Al Davis signed him.

Unlike Long, Hendricks liked to party in the Raider tradition. The L.A. version was different from the Oakland version. Being in Los Angeles created an entirely different dynamic.

The Raiderette cheerleaders, who were not considered to be in the same league as their Dallas Cowboys counterparts during the Oakland years, suddenly became one of the hottest dance groups in pro sports. The talent pool of aspiring models, actresses and dancers who tried out for the Raiderettes, in an effort to promote their careers, was much greater than in other cities.

In L.A., the Raiders and their fans descended upon a restaurant/bar called the California Pizza and Pasta Company on Sundays after home games. Also known as the “502 Club,” it was a sports bar located across the street from USC, thus it was within walking distance of the Coliseum. A longtime hangout of USC athletes, the “Five-Oh” was the happening place to be, with Raiderettes and Raiders partying together with SC players and average fans. The NFL has strict rules about player-cheerleader fraternization, but if these rules were in place then, they were not enforced.

While Raider players made the scene at the trendiest clubs in Hollywood and around town, it was the 502 Club where the “old met the new.” The “Five-Oh” was dilapidated; nothing fancy. In that regard it resembled the kind of seedy Oakland dives Ken Stabler led teammates to in the 1970s, but it still had a touch of L.A. flair. Many Hollywood stars, namely James Garner and James Woods, were regulars at Raider games. On a typical Sunday evening after a home game, the “Five Oh” was occupied by celebrities big and small. They mixed with players, cheerleaders and average fans, many of whom upheld the whole “criminal element” reputation cultivated in the L.A. years. It was truly one of the wildest, most eclectic scenes imaginable. It is not an exaggeration to say that, for about three hours after home games, the 502 Club was the hottest “in place” to be in all of Los Angeles.

Most of the players and the Raiderettes lived in the South Bay (the team trained in El Segundo), so it was common for everybody to start out at the “Five-Oh,” and after dinner and drinks, caravan to Redondo’s Red Onion or some other dance club. Average fans, plus USC students and players (especially in the Todd Marinovich years) would “tag along.” Some of the things that emanated from those wild nights cannot be described herein, which is what the imagination is for!

GOING CAMPING

The Raiders were notorious for wild parties at their Santa Rosa training camp. The following are the 10 most notorious “campers”:

1. John Matuszak

2. Ken Stabler

4. Ben Davidson

5. George Atkinson

6. Jack Tatum

7. Fred Biletnikoff

8. Tom Keating

9. Dave Casper

10. Ted Hendricks

MEDIA MONSTERS

Aside from John Madden and Howie Long, several other Raiders have been involved in broadcasting, radio and TV work over the years? They include game analysts Tom Flores and Jim Plunkett, George Atkinson (who has hosted a call-in show), Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott, and Eric Dickerson.

RIVALRIES

1973: payback with Pittsburgh, defeat of then dominance by the Dolphins

Ray Guy was drafted in the first round in 1973, a rare thing for a punter but a testament to his skills, which he utilized to the great benefit of his team over the years. It should land him in the Hall of Fame. For 14 years Guy mastered the “coffin corner kick” and gave his team great field position time and time again.

Raymond Chester was traded to Baltimore for Bubba Smith. Smith, a monster defensive back from Michigan State, came out of Beaumont, Texas to spur Duffy Daugherty’s Spartans into the 1966 “Game of the Century” vs. Note Dame, a memorable 10-10 tie at East Lansing.

Smith had gone to the Baltimore Colts, where he led Don Shula’s team to a 13-1 record and the 1968 NFL championship, only to lose in ignominious fashion to “Broadway Joe” Namath and the “Super Jets.”

Fans exhorted Smith to “Kill, Bubba, kill.” He was a ferocious player, his size and strength being intimidating. But inside Bubba was the sensitive heart of a poet. Smith would go on to an acting career. Perhaps Bubba’s sensitivity prevented him from achieving the kind of all-time greatness he otherwise might have, despite his “Kill, Bubba, kill” reputation. In ’73 Oakland had a good, but not great, 9-4-1 record. They defeated Kansas City, a great team that suddenly seemed to have grown old at the worst time, just as they moved into their gleaming new Arrowhead Stadium. The ’73 Raiders were one of those teams that, on any given Sunday could beat anybody in the league, but seemed not to have found its consistent self. Ken Stabler, normally accurate to a tee, was intercepted an inordinate amount in 1973, which contributed to their below-par record.

The 1973 campaign began with what by now was a predictable, disturbing trend - a loss - this time in the form of a 24-16 disappointment at the hands of Minnesota. George Atkinson was their lone bright spot with a punt return for a touchdown.

But Oakland demonstrated the next week why they were so dangerous; maybe not the best team in pro football, but a team that could beat the best. The Dolphins came to town riding an 18-game winning streak, but in a defensive struggle fell to Oakland, 12-7. A scheduling conflict involving the World Champion Oakland A’s forced the Raiders into playing the game at Cal’s Memorial Stadium, the field they had been denied from calling home back in 1960.

Oakland then took on Kansas City, their one-time hated rival who were experiencing down years (the club has never truly returned to the glory of the 1960s, in all the years since). Phil Villapiano made 11 unassisted tackles, but the vaunted Raider offense was no place to be found in the 16-3 loss. This was the turning point in Raider annals; when John Madden finally decided to cut loose from the commitment to Daryle Lamonica.

Age and sophisticated defensive schemes took their toll on “The Mad Bomber.” Stabler was brought in. While he was intercepted too much in his first full year, he never relinquished the spot. The press began to focus on Kenny. The farther they dug, the more nuggets they found. Snake was from L.A., as in lower Alabama, what he called the “Redneck Riviera.” He was a high livin’ party animal, in-season or off-season.

The former Notre Damer Lamonica had been aloof, more concerned with his business investments than hangin’ out with his teammates. Stabler, on the other hand, much like a later Oakland celebrity, Jason Giambi, became the “social director.” He arranged for regular forays to various seedy Oakland bars, including legendary sessions at a lounge near the Oakland Airport. The press began to report on wild goings-on, and the Raider image – on top of Ben Davidson’s motorcycle trips and a notorious “mano o mano story” by Hunter S. Thompson - was further burnished.

Oakland immediately began to respond to Stabler’s unifying on- and off-field presence. Drinking and team play have never been associated with winning. No coach wants his players knocking themselves down with spirits. Yet somehow, some way Snake and his teammates had the “right stuff,” so to speak. Kenny was ready every Sunday, and in his first two efforts came away with 17-10 (St. Louis) and 27-17 (San Diego) victories. Stabler’s 12-of-19 performance against the Cardinals was rare in an offense that was perennially used to the quarterback completing well under 50 percent of his low percentage bombs.

Snake’s ball control style, mixed with the occasional long ball, revitalized Madden’s offense, giving their running backs a chance to show what they could do, too. The San Diego game was a symbolic changing of the Old Guard, with 1960s superstars Lamonica and San Diego’s Johnny Unitas watching from the bench while Snake and Dan Fouts squared off, the first of many confrontations.

On Monday night at Denver, Stabler was spectacular with his passing but not so much with his scrambling. Six sacks in a 23-23 tie offset his 300 yards in the air, but Snake may have had his greatest pure game the following week in Baltimore. He completed 25-of-29 passes for 304 yards. With help from Clarence Davis (32-yard TD run) the Raiders prevailed, 34-21.

The New York Giants, a shell of their old selves, came to the Coliseum and were like lambs put out to the slaughter in a 42-0 Raider triumph, but two straight home games with Pittsburgh and Cleveland were a disaster.

Stabler’s minor injury partially explained how the team, which had been so potent, could suddenly be so inept. Of course, the great Steeler defense put the clamps on many a talented quarterback in the 1970s. In ’73 they felled Stabler and the Silver and Black in an impressive 17-9 win. The carry-over effect was obvious when the Raiders lost to Cleveland the next week by 7-3 in front of an Oakland crowd.

But the famed “pride and poise” of the Davis mystique showed itself in fine form when Oakland reeled off four straight wins to capture the Western Division. San Diego was no match, 31-3, with George Atkinson dominating his side of the ball.

At the Astrodome, Dan Pastorini was bottled up in Oakland’s 17-6 win. Then it was payback time against the Chiefs, 37-7. Marv Hubbard rushed for 259 yards. Mike Siani, Charlie Smith and Clarence Davis then keyed a tight 21-17 win over Denver to give Oakland the division championship and a shot in the play-offs.

The first round featured Oakland’s burning desire for revenge, revenge and more revenge, when the Steelers came to Oakland. This game marks the development of the rivalry; two of the three great AFC powers of the decade, not yet fully developed, and therefore neither quite ready to unseat Miami.

The repercussions of “The Immaculate Reception” were on everybody’s mind, perhaps more so than beating Miami or getting to the Super Bowl. On this day it was all Raiders. Stabler directed them masterfully, with Hubbard, Smith and Davis dominating the turf with pounding runs to spur the 33-14 win. Willie Brown tortured Terry Bradshaw with a key interception that set up an Oakland score.

The Raider offensive line was shaping up to become what history records is the greatest, or one of the greatest, ever assembled: Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Jim Otto, George Buehler, and John Vella. The vaunted Steeler ground attack was limited to a mere 65 yards rushing. Blanda, not ready for retirement just yet, contributed five field goals.

The next great obstacle facing the Raiders was Miami. Like the Packers, Jets and Chiefs of years’ past, they were too tough to overcome. Oakland played the great Dolphins competitively but in the fourth quarter Larry Csonka scored a backbreaking touchdown. Garo Yepremian kicked a field goal to widen the final spread, 27-10.

The Dolphin offense of that era more closely resembled a college team of the Woody Hayes or Bo Schembechler variety. Even though quarterback Bob Griese had been a passing sensation at Purdue, and indeed was a Canton-worthy pro signal-caller, the Dolphin ground game was so devastating, and their defense so impregnable, that Don Shula chose an offensive approach that was about more conservative than Ronald Reagan.

Mercury Morris and Csonka thundered away behind the blocking of Larry Little and Norm Evans. An interception in the fourth quarter also killed the Silver and Black. Miami rarely made those kinds of mistakes.

1974: role reversals

In 1974 the Raiders then made one of their biggest mistakes. They lost their “pride and poise.” With the Coliseum in full bedlam, the team joyously made their way into the locker room amid a celebration after the “sea of hands” win over Miami that had all the earmarks of a Super Bowl victory party, with little immediate consideration for the fact they had to win another play-off game just to advance to the final game.

The media pressed them with questions that had the ring of, “What’s it like to finally ‘win the big one?’ ” before they had gone all the way. Gene Upshaw was just happy that “something like that went our way in the play-offs. Usually that’s the kind of thing that goes against us.”

“I hope Oakland goes all the way,” remarked Miami coach Don Shula.

But it was John Madden, normally smarter than this, who made the mistake of telling the press the Raiders had “beaten the best team in pro football today,” which meant that his team was now the best in pro football.

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Steelers heard and absorbed every word. The odds were against them. They had been shut out by Oakland at Three Rivers Stadium earlier in the season, and had lost to them soundly in the 1973 play-offs. The “revenge factor” had still not worn off after “The Immaculate Reception,” and the game was at the Coliseum. No ice, no snowstorms, no freezing artificial carpet; just California sunshine for a California team on California grass.

It was not even close. The Steelers outclassed Oakland, their pass rush blitzing Kenny Stabler all day long, while Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier cranked out big gains. The Raiders led 10-3, but in the fourth quarter Pittsburgh separated the men from the boys with three scores to win, 24-13.

“Just use the same quotes from last year,” said Hubbard. “Every damn year it’s like this. We had everything in our favor. We had them in our stadium, in front of our fans, on grass, coming off that great game last week. It just wasn’t in the cards this year, again. When will it be?”

“Defeat is a bitch,” Madden said.

Over the previous decades, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ “next year” came in 1955. The Dallas Cowboys silenced the critics with their 1972 Super Bowl victory, and that same year the previously-snakebit Lakers finally won an NBA title. The Raiders had exclusive membership in a dubious club, it seemed. The glare of the national spotlight was on them, and it was not kind.

Birth of the Denver wars

Prior to 1977, the Denver Broncos were not rivals, but patsies of the Raiders. Denver played them tough in 1970 and upset the Raiders once or twice, but it was rare.

The Raiders continued to draft well after the 1976 world championship campaign, bringing in defensive backs Mike Davis from Colorado and Lester Hayes from Texas A&M. With Tatum, Atkinson, Brown, Thomas and Neal Colzie firmly established, they were not going to break into the starting line-up soon, but would certainly pay dividends down the line.

Rod Martin was a seventh round selection from USC, overlooked by the rest of the league but chosen by Davis based on John McKay’s strong recommendation. Aside from rookies Mickey Marvin, Randy McClanahan and Jeff Barnes, tackle Mike McCoy and end Pat Toomay were brought in. When the 1977 season started, Oakland looked better than ever in a 24-0 pasting of San Diego, in which Charger quarterback James Harris was held to 77 yards passing.

Terry Bradshaw could not get Pittsburgh moving in the Raiders’ 16-7 win over the Steelers. At that point it certainly appeared that, in the Patton vs. Rommel struggle for supremacy between these two franchises, the Silver and Black had gained the upper hand.

Trailing Kansas City 21-10, Oakland rallied behind Davis’s 28-yard touchdown run. When Cleveland went down, 26-10, the Raiders were 4-0 for the first time. Maybe they would have been better off dealing with their usual adversity; an upset loss in the opener, perhaps. It was too smooth, at least until Denver came to town.

Since the creation of the American Football League, the Broncos were an underperforming team playing in a cowtown. The Raiders considered them just another division foe to get fat on. But in 1977 that all turned around, with a thud. The Broncos were doing it with defense, winning by scores like 7-0, which was not particularly impressive to anybody, least of all the Raiders and their “fireworks and fury” offense.

Quarterback Craig Morton was a San Jose guy and an All-American at California. A hard partier, he was one of those guys who found spirituality, turning his life around for the better. But as a QB, he was yesterday’s news. He never filled Don Meredith’s shoes at Dallas and eventually lost his job to Roger Staubach. Many people did not even know he was still in football when he brought the unbeaten Broncos to the Coliseum, but they all knew about it after he engineered the 30-7 beat-down of the defending “World Champions of Professional Football.”

Knowing the ride back to the Super Bowl might be bumpy, Oakland got serious, prevailing over Richard Todd and the Jets 28-27. Only two weeks after losing to them, they faced the Broncos again, on a Monday night at Mile High Stadium. The Raiders decided to demonstrate they were not over the hill just yet, led by Toomay sacking the slow-footed Morton four times in a 24-14 win.

“It was a hell of a victory,” said Madden.

Wins over Seattle and Houston had Oakland on a roll, but another old punching bag, the Chargers, asserted themselves in a 12-7 win, their first against the Raiders since 1968.

Pro football is not like college. The vagaries of a long season wear a team down. Maintaining the mental edge is hard. Each team is composed of fellow pros. The talent differential in the NFL is not nearly as great as it is in the collegiate game, where a Tennessee is virtually an automatic over a Vanderbilt, an Ohio State usually a sure thing against a Miami of Ohio.

With the play-off system, of course, each game is not as important as a college schedule in which an unbeaten season is often necessary in order to finish number one. Some would say that gambling influences can make the pro football bounce in funny ways, too.

So it was with the 1977 Raiders, who got stretched towards the end. After suffering ignominious defeat at the hands of the normally lowly Chargers, they beat Buffalo, only to lose to the Rams in L.A., 20-14. Denver, full of vim and vinegar, stayed strong throughout, winning the West with a 12-2 mark vs. Oakland’s 11-3. The wild card berth it brought them was, by their high standards, a letdown.

Forced to travel, which in January of course means cool weather, Oakland found themselves surrounded by 60,763 Baltimoreans screaming for blood. In a true classic Stabler dueled Colt quarterback Bert Jones, the lead changing hands in the manner of the Miami-Oakland classic of 1974. Stabler liked going to Dave Casper in this game, but the Oakland defense could not contain the gunslinging LSU product, Jones.

Needing three to tie, Snake engineered one of those patented drives that are remembered so well, nailing the big tight end on the classic “ghost to the post” play for 42 yards. Then Madden played it close to the vest, settling for Errol Mann’s 22-yard field goal to send the 31-all game into overtime.

Both teams stalled until well into the OT when Snake found Cliff Branch for 19 yards, setting up Casper in the end zone to send the 37-31 winners into Denver for a game that, in their minds, would truly separate the contenders from the pretenders.

The fact that Denver manhandled a fine Pittsburgh club to get to the title game should have been all the caution they needed. Playing in front of the legendary Denver crazies in winter cold, there was no way Oakland could legitimately expect to dictate and dominate.

In the end they should have won, but Rob Lytle’s fumble and subsequent recovery by Mike McCoy was not seen by the referee, giving Denver another shot at the goal line, which they converted; enough to give them a 20-17 victory that goes down in the pantheon of Raider disappointments.

“What’s going on here?” Davis yelled from the press box, where he saw the play with his own eyes and on the TV monitors, which do not lie. “That’s a fumble.”

After the game, instead of admitting their mistakes, the referees defended the bad call, causing Davis to compare it to Vietnam.

“The Big Lie,” he called it.

Jack Tatum began a long tradition that some call excuses, but others say is right on. He stated that the referees were prejudiced against Oakland because of the “criminal element” and Davis’s strident feud with Rozelle.

CHEATERS SOMETIMES PROSPER

In 1978, Oakland trailed San Diego, 20-14 with the ball at the Charger 15, with mere seconds left, and no time outs. With his receivers covered, Woody Lowe hit Ken Stabler. Instead of going down for the count, he “fumbled” the ball forward in the desperate hope that it would bounce enough yards for a first down and be recovered by the Raiders. With the clock winding down to nothing, the ball did bounce crazily forward. Pete Banaszak “pushed” it at the three. Dave Casper fell on it for the winning touchdown, 21-20. Bill King’s call of this play is considered one of the greatest in broadcast history, in which he gets existential - “is anything real anymore” – and comical. “Madden wants to know if it’s real. The referee says yes, get yer big butt out of here. He does.” The NFL declared. “There shalt be no more ‘Holy Rollers,’ ” however, changing the rules to disallow the forward progress of fumbles.

RIVALRIES

1. Denver Broncos

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

3. Kansas City Chiefs

4. San Diego Chargers

5. Miami Dolphins

6. New England Patriots

7. New York Jets

8. San Francisco 49ers

9. Cleveland Browns

10. Washington Redskins

The Oakland Raiders passed on drafting Cal All-American quarterback Craig Morton reportedly because Al Davis was worried that he would be pressured into playing the local hero, who would make him “look bad” if he failed to live up to expectations.

The Raiders plundered the Niners

By 2001, they were baaaaaack!! The Raiders were living up to their reputation for plundering the local citizenry like Mediterranean pirates. The hottest topic in the Bay Area was one that created drawn lines and had everyone picking a side. Was Al Davis going to ride into effete San Francisco, kidnap the icon Jerry Rice from under the nose of the wine drinkers, and haul him like captured booty back to O-town?

I was then the lead sports columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, and in that capacity had it on good authority that the Raiders would sign Rice. There were issues to be worked out, but in the end, Davis gets what Davis wants. The 1980 Raiders made the Super Bowl on the strength of veterans, and that was the logical push for them to make.

This was like seeing the Barbarians come in and have their way with your women. The Raiders getting Rice was like the A’s getting Willie Mays to switch addresses back in 1970. If you were a 49er fan, how did this make you feel?

Before the deal was made, it was opinion time for the "49er Faithful" and "The Black Hole" fans, because the choice was Rice, Andre Rison, or neither one?

Rison or Rice? Oh man, are you kidding? These were a couple of guys who were so fast in their prime that they could turn the switch off and be under the sheets before the lights went out.

Davis, Jon Gruden and the Raiders faced a public conundrum. Which one did they want? Did they want either one playing alongside Tim Brown? Rice was not technically available, but Bill Walsh, in fact, listed one of his greatest final accomplishments as his handling of Rice’s departure from the 49ers. Free agent Rison could be had.

At the time, Oakland was there, brother. One game away from the Big Dance in 2000. Quarterback Rich Gannon was no spring chicken, but he had some bullets left in his arsenal.

Leases and lawsuits would not prevent a return to L.A. (refer ye to the archives of history.) The Raiders then and now need to draw sell-outs and light up the Bay Area TV market. Rice would put butts in the seats. Plus, this was about winning that year.

There is no substitute.

Rice was not the deep threat he was, but he could still make important plays and be a fabulous weapon for Gannon, who was an outstanding scrambler who would give Rice time to juke defenders. 39 or no 39 (his age in October 2001), if you gave Rice time to juke defenders, explosive things happened.

The Raiders also had to decide whether their schematic was to beat Baltimore in the AFC title game, or to best set themselves up for Western Division opponents. Walsh set up his offense to beat the 4-3 and San Francisco ran rampant over Denver in the 1990 Super Bowl. Gannon lobbied for Rison in 2000 because of their Kansas City connection, and the move paid off handsomely when Rison took James Jett’s place and he scored the winning touchdown in the opener against San Diego, despite not knowing the playbook. Most of the Raider players liked Rison, who resurrected his career there. In 2001 he wanted to re-sign with his 2000 team.

But Rice would give them more weapons against 2000 world champion Baltimore, who had stifled Oakland in the AFC title game. For that reason it was logical to get Rice. Rice could cover the middle and go deep. In May of 2001 I ventured over to the Coliseum to cover an A’s game, when the “Rice or Rison?” question was hanging in the air. I cornered A’s announcer Greg Papa, also the Raiders’ radioman, and put the question to him.

Rison has “done a lot of living, if you know what I mean,” Papa told me, but asked to be quoted as a “Raiders’ source,” which he still is; a high-ranking one. “For this reason among others, Rice brings more to the table.”

Papa plainly informed me that he had the inside scoop on the decision and that “it’s gonna be Rice.” I told him I was going to press with this and needed to know for sure, and he thus assured me. Knowing what I know, Papa must have had Davis’s authority to speak so plainly, albeit anonymously.

I wrote a column for the Examiner arguing that Tim Brown was a possession receiver, but Rice could cover the middle and still go deep on occasion; that he was indeed the best choice; and in fact was the choice. I broke the story. An assistant editor at the Examiner tried to tell me that “Papa’s not a source. He’s a member of the media like you and me.”

Papa was not a member of the media like we were. No announcer of the Oakland Raiders ever will be so long as Al Davis is their owner. He was an employee of Davis, serving entirely at the pleasure of the Man in Black. Calling him a member of the media, at least in the context of his association with Davis and the Raiders, was like calling the White House press secretary a member of the White House press corps. Bill King could detail what happens when the team’s announcer has a disagreement with the team’s owner. He is not an independent journalist “covering” the Raiders. So, no matter what that editor said back in ’01, Greg Papa was highly, precisely, and to quintessential effect, a high-ranking Raiders’ source!

I wrote that James Jett offered enough speed to keep the defense honest, although Gannon could not consistently get the ball down field. If Jett would show that he could catch the ball, though, the Raiders would have more weapons than the Army. This strengthened the Rice choice. On the best rushing team in the AFC from 2000, opponents not only would have to defend in reality, but make extra preparations.

Meanwhile, Gannon, Tyrone Wheatley and the rest of the team would find holes widen for them. Brown and Rice could be the best two-some in the league, I opined.

Rison’s agent was lobbying to get his guy a deal, but Oakland, I said, should wait for – and indeed had already decided on - Rice. The question was whether Rice and Brown would find Oakland “was not too big a town for both to hold one end of the Lombardi Trophy.”

A week or so later, my breaking story was proven right as rain, just as my source, Greg Papa, had told me it would. As I predicted, Rice and Brown became a dynamic pass-catching duo working with Gannon, and came within one win – and maybe Barret Robbins’s bi-polar night in Tijuana – from both holding “one end of the Lombardi Trophy.”

It was a perfect Al Davis deal: plundering the most precious booty of the rival San Francisco 49ers. For a few years, it revived Oakland as the pro football team in the Bay Arae, which is immeasurably important to Davis.

Greg Papa continues to be a Raider source. Had he spoken out of school that 2001 afternoon he would no longer be. That assistant editor? The last I heard he was working for a free paper that nobody ever read.

Jon Gruden  was 34 when he was hired by the Raiders.

HALL OF THE VERY GOOD

Rich Gannon was the MVP of the 2001 and 2002 Pro Bowls.

The San Francisco Raiders

They were an after-thought; a fill-in. A sub. A football team that had never met each other. An anomaly. They did not start in Oakland, and they were not the Raiders. They were the Senors. They started across the bay, in San Francisco.

First of all, the American Football League began in 1960. It was a fly-by-night organization anyway, but the Oakland franchise was the fly-by-nightingest. There were eight original AFL teams. The Houston Oilers were owned by Bud Adams, a Texas . . . oilman, of course. They played at a high school stadium.

They were not the only team in Texas. The Dallas Texans were owned by the scion of an influential, highly conservative family: Lamar Hunt. But in 1960, the established National Football League added the Dallas Cowboys, coached by Tom Landry. The Cowboys were a disaster. The Texans, a success. Had they played each other in head-to-head match-ups, the Texans or Oilers would have won easily, but in those early years the NFL had imprimatur enough to win the “battle of Dallas,” thus creating the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Boston Patriots played at Fenway Park. The New York Titans played at the Polo Grounds. The Los Angeles Chargers toiled at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, then at San Diego’s old Balboa Stadium. The Denver Broncos played a mile above sea level. Every original AFL city was a political or economic hub except for Buffalo.

Then there was the Minneapolis-St. Paul franchise. Minnesota was entering the big time in 1960. The state had a long, proud football tradition. The Minnesota Golden Gophers of coach Bernie Bierman were a powerhouse rivaling Southern California, Notre Dame and Alabama in the 1930s. Under Murray Warmouth, they were again challenging for national championships in the early 1960s.

Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, located between the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, was going up. Calvin Griffith moved his Washington Senators there in 1961, setting up shop as the Twins. When the AFL started, they were the eighth franchise city, but at the last minute the NFL offered them a team. Thus were the Minnesota Vikings born, and fill-in Oakland became the last AFL city.

The Dodgers and Giants had successfully moved to the West Coast two years earlier. Charles O. Finley bid hard for the expansion Los Angeles Angels, but did not have the Hollywood clout of Gene Autry. After purchasing the Kansas City A’s, he watched closely the unfolding fortunes of the Raiders, eventually deciding to become their uneasy neighbor.

California supported four college football teams – Cal, Stanford, USC and UCLA. The Minneapolis Lakers were moving to Los Angeles. The L.A. Rams and San Francisco 49ers had a lively rivalry. The Coliseum in Los Angeles was filled with 100,000 fans for big pro and college games. California was the future.

Therefore, despite not having a stadium – not to mention a coach, a staff, uniforms, a draft list, or a roster – Oakland was awarded the eighth AFL franchise on a “wing and a prayer.” Actually, they assumed there would be a stadium, at least a temporary one. Oakland is located right next door to Berkeley, the home of the University of California. Their Memorial Stadium, built hazardously on top of the famed Hayward (earthquake) Fault in the lovely Strawberry Canyon, it held around 80,000 fans. But Cal-Berkeley was apparently not comfortable with mercenary professional athletes performing for pay “right out in the open” on their premises, quipped writer Wells Twombly. They told the Raiders to take a hike.

Except, of course, they were not the Raiders. Chet Soda was an early financial backer, bound and determined to bring pro football to his city and give it some “big league” grandeur. He greeted everybody he met, “Hello, senor,” much the way Babe Ruth called everybody “Keed” or USC baseball coach Rod Dedeaux’s universal appellation for all was “Tiger.” A nickname contest was held, and the team was called the Senors.

Without use of Memorial Stadium, the Oakland franchise had no place to play. They swallowed their pride and decided to use Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, home of the 49ers. Kezar was already an ancient edifice by 1960. Built for high school football, it held some 59,000 fans and had sold out its capacity for big games between Lowell, Balboa, St. Ignatius and other schools in its heyday – the 1920 and ‘30s. College football, TV and the San Francisco 49ers stole the prep (not to mention local small college) thunder. The 49ers were a solid NFL franchise by 1960. Originally a member of the old All-American Conference, they and the Rams had been incorporated into the NFL by the early 1950s. The Rams managed to win the NFL title in 1951. The 49ers were always a day late and a dollar short, such as in 1957 when they blew a large lead in the second half of a play-off game to Detroit. Still, they were a contender. The 49ers and the city of San Francisco regarded anything from Oakland as decidedly low rent, second rate, minor league. As “Lost Generation” writer Gertrude Stein had once said of Oakland, “There is no there there.”

The Oakland Senors . . . ?

Soda decided their uniform colors would be red. Their “mascot’ would be a Mexican sombrero. As soon as the Senors name was introduced, it was rejected. One member of the Oakland City Council had attended Texas Tech University, the home of the Red Raiders. The colors were rejected, and the “Red” was taken out of the name. “Raiders” seemed a fit, since Oakland was a port city; home to many a ship’s captain and seaman. One-time resident Jack London was an adventurer, and the image of  “sea pirates” was romantic, fitting to the town.

With the rejection of “red” from the color scheme as well as the name, black seemed a natural to go with “Raiders,” emblematic of the “black-hearted” ocean dwellers of Robert Louis Stevenson fame.

All of this happened very quickly. Oakland was awarded the Minneapolis-St. Paul franchise a mere three weeks prior to the first scheduled exhibition game vs. the Dallas Texans. The team was in an immediate hole. Because of the confusing last-minute developments, they had drafted late. They had no organization. All the best college players were gone to the other teams. The first exhibition was played on a typically cold, foggy San Francisco night at Kezar Stadium, located in the middle of Golden Gate Park (the epicenter of the “Summer of Love”), in July of 1960.

“I wonder how many people who saw that first game against the old Dallas Texans thought the Oakland Raiders would be around in the year 1973?” asked Jim Otto, a member of the original team, in Wells Twombly’s Oakland’s Raiders: Fireworks and Fury (1973).

12,000 people are recorded to have been at Kezar that night. Very few of them paid for a ticket. The team provided free or cut-rate tickets to anybody who wanted them.

The game, however, was prophetic. Dallas led all the way. With 1:22 to go, Oakland scored to narrow the gap to 14-13, Texans. They went for a two-point conversion, but were stopped inches short. According to Otto, the fans still remaining were on their feet, cheering. A star was born!

TRIVIA

Who was Frank Youell, the man Youell Field was named after?

A: Youell was an East Bay undertaker.

DID YOU KNOW . . .

That after Minnesota went to the NFL instead of the AFL, the league briefly flirted with Atlanta before deciding to put the last of the original AFL teams in the Bay Area?

IN THE BEGINNING

Al Davis and the ownership group

After “war” broke out between the AFL and NFL, thus spooking the Minnesota group from taking up with the new league - then accepting an NFL expansion team instead - an ownership group from Oakland was needed in order to buy the new team. No one rich businessman stepped forward. Instead, eight men formed the ownership syndicate. The costs and aggravations of such an endeavor, combined with the natural power struggles and political intrigue inherent therein, thus reduced the eight-man to a fairly stable three-man group consisting of Wayne Valley, Ed McGah and Robert Osborne.

The team was terrible in the beginning. Coach Eddie Erdelatz, who had enjoyed success at the Naval Academy in the 1950s, was unable to harness the mercenary pro game. After losing by scores of 55-0 and 44-0, he was confronted by Valley, a millionaire construction magnate who played fullback at Oregon State. When Erdelatz offered no plan, he passed from the scene and a re-organization ensued.

The Oakland Tribune offered constant speculation that the Raiders would move to Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Duluth . . . Without a stadium in Oakland, the situation would have to change. Candlestick Park was built for the Giants. The Philadelphia Warriors moved to the Cow Palace and created uniforms that said simply “The City.” The Republicans decided to hold their 1964 convention in The City. San Francisco had everything.

Finally, the Raiders were able to move out of San Francisco when Frank Youell Field was hastily constructed. It was a temporary fix; a high school-quality field built on what is now a parking lot adjacent to the 880 Freeway, next to Laney College. Youell Field would not do over the long haul, but with further plans to build the Oakland-Alameda Country Coliseum, it would have to until that ambitious project could be completed.

Next came the search for a coach. The failure to compete in the original draft had set the team’s roster way back. In 1962, the team hired and fired several coaches. Valley interviewed every available prospect. They all turned down the job, citing the lack of talent stemming from the first draft, followed by failure to sign players drafted in subsequent years.

Finally, Valley approached Al Davis, a 33-year old assistant on Sid Gillman’s staff with the San Diego Chargers. Davis was an unlikely “football genius.” He was a non-practicing Jew who, while growing up in Brooklyn, New York, studied the ways in which Europe could be conquered. Davis had a military mind admire the bold planning and execution of the German blitzkrieg. He translated this kind of “aerial bombardment” into his vision of what constituted the most effective form of football warfare.

Davis had a perfect football-military mind. His early years saw a combination of the two. He had no athletic talent, but was captivated by football. Later Raider press guide biographies called Davis a “star” football player. Not true. He may have played freshman football in college. He attended Syracuse University. One story making the rounds had Davis signing on as the Syracuse football team’s student manager. When the team photo was taken, Davis managed to place himself on the row with the coaches, not with the student managers. Then he supposedly bribed the school yearbook staff into writing that he was an “assistant coach.” Armed with this “evidence,” he sent out resumes, looking for coaching gigs.

Davis did a stint in the Army, but somehow managed to use his military service – which was in the middle of the Korean War – to polish his football resume, coaching the team at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. After the service he managed to land a job on the staff at The Citadel, a leading military school.

In no time, Davis engendered great anxiety, getting the school into trouble over his aggressive recruiting tactics. A firestorm of controversy surrounded him, causing the head coach to quit. Despite being the reason the coach quit, Davis had the chutzpah to march into the office of Citadel president General Mark Clark.

Clark was a living military hero surpassed at that time perhaps only by Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, and Douglas MacArthur. He had led the winning Italian campaign, liberating Rome in World War II. He looked at the odd Davis, who tried to score points by telling him he had named his child, Mark Clark Davis, after him, then demanded that he be named the head coach. General Clark hemmed and hawed. Davis asked him, “Don’t you want to win?”

“Of course I do,” said General Clark . . . “but not at any cost.”

Thus was Davis shown the door. Remarkably, he eventually landed at one of the most prestigious programs in the nation. Don Clark hired him at the University of Southern California because Davis promised – and delivered – three football transfers from The Citadel, all of whom became starters at USC. It was a tough period at USC. The team, coming off a payola scandal that landed them on NCAA probation, struggled. Davis, however, was a colleague of future SC head coach John McKay, and legendary taskmaster Marv Goux. Davis tried to position himself as USC’s next head coach when Clark left, but when McKay got the job he was not invited to stay on.

Upon Clark’s (and Davis’s) departure, coinciding with the birth of AFL in 1960, Davis managed to talk his way onto Sid Gillman’s staff with the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers wanted to sign former UCLA quarterback Ronnie Knox to play quarterback, but Knox was a peripatetic personality not suited for pro football. They settled instead for future Congressman Jack Kemp, out of L.A.’s Fairfax High and Occidental College. L.A. did not take to the Chargers. Tiny crowds at the 100,000-seat Coliseum were pitifully embarrassing, so they packed their bags and took their act to San Diego.

The eventual success of the AFL is directly attributable to Gillman, the high-flying Chargers, Kemp . . . and Davis. They lit up the San Diego sky with a new brand of football, an embellishment of Gillman’s genius and Davis’s vision of “aerial bombardment.”

Davis, a svengali personality, talked Lance Alworth into signing with the Chargers instead of San Francisco; Keith Lincoln with the Chargers instead of Detroit; and USC All-American lineman Ron Mix with San Diego instead of Baltimore.

Still, “I wasn’t that sure about him,” Valley recalled. “I had heard he was too aggressive and that he’d do anything to win. I thought to myself, ‘What do we need most?’ The answer was: a winner. I guaranteed him he’d have the money he would need.”

Davis was not from an impoverished background. He did not require a big salary, and at first rejected Valley’s offer, explaining that he did not need the money, already had a good job with excellent compensation working for Gillman, and “I don’t think you’ll spend the necessary money to build the kind of organization that I want.”

Here was an ambitious young assistant football coach turning down the chance to be a head coach, an unheard of prospect. The selling job was not Davis convincing Valley, but the other way around; or at least that was the way Davis maneuvered it, all to his benefit. Valley offered a three-year contract. Davis agreed on the proviso that he be given total command, like Napoleonic France. The Raiders would be no Democracy. The entire front office staff was shown the door. The ticket manager was fired, replaced by the Chargers’ man.

“Poise is the answer . . . pride and poise,” Davis told his players. “Wherever you go, you are the Oakland Raiders. Anybody who is ashamed of that can get an airplane ticket right now. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done. You’re here now and you’re going to win, win, win.”

“It was like the young Alexander meeting the Macedonian Army for the first time,” wrote Wells Twombly. The historical military comparisons would go on forever: Hitler taking Poland, Alexander conquering Asia Minor, Patton’s drive through the Low Countries, Hannibal crossing the Alps or Caesar’s defeat of Pompeii . . . these examples of dominance would be used countless times to describe “The Mad Bomber” Daryle Lamonica, the field generalship of Kenny Stabler, the bravado of Jim Plunkett in the face of his enemies.

The first thing Al Davis did when he took over as the Raider coach was to give the team a new look. They took the field in silver and black uniforms with a logo of a pirate's head wearing an old-fashioned maskless football helmet, an eye patch over his left eye, with two swords crossed in back, on a black shield with “Raiders” written in white above him. With the new look, the Raiders won their first game over the Oilers in Houston, 24-13, and also their second game a week later.

WAR OR PEACE?

Al Davis said in the May 1981 edition of Inside Sports: “Blitzkrieg. Expediency. Panzers.Wehrmacht. Quick strike. Bang. Boom. I admired them. I felt they had something . . .”

TOP 10 CALIFORNIA CHAMPIONS BEFORE THE RAIDERS’ 1960 DEBUT

USC track and field, 20 (1926-30-31-35-36-37-38-39-40-41-42-43-49-50-51-52-53-

54-55-58)

2. USC football, 4 (1928-31-32-39)

3. (tie) California football, 3 (1921-22-37)

5. (tie) Stanford football, 2 (1926-40)

USC baseball, 2 (1948-58)

California baseball 2 1947-57

8. (tie) Los Angeles Dodgers, 1 (1959)

Los Angeles Rams, 1 (1951)

UCLA football, 1 (1954)

Al Davis had been made head football coach at the University of Southern California in 1960 instead of John McKay, the fortunes and identities of the Trojans and Raiders would have been far different than what we came to know.

RAIDER CULTURE

Football’s CIA

By the late 1960s, Al Davis and his Raiders had a well-earned reputation as the most secretive organization in professional sports. Over the years, as organization men have retired, trades occurred, free agency and other factors played out, slowly but surely some of the team’s trade secrets became known. Nevertheless, they remain football’s version of the Central Intelligence Agency.

But few have ever really known what went on behind closed doors. Many players do not know certain things, as the methods are compartmentalized on a “need to know basis,” just like at Langley. Reporters have never been given free access to practices or meetings.

In the early 1970s, the Raider media guide listed only one scout, Ken Herock. The rest operated in secret, theoretically telling their wives and children they sold insurance while secretly evaluating collegiate football prospects, castoffs, and semi-pros.

“Where to this week, honey?”

“Uh, Norman, Oklahoma.”

“And next week?”

“Lincoln, Nebraska. Big seminar on annuities, dear.”

For years, Davis entrusted much of the organizational work to Don McMahon. McMahon pitched for the San Francisco Giants. He went to high school with Davis in Brooklyn. Apparently, Davis needed to know somebody since boyhood in order to feel safe with him, not unlike Mafia culture, which he has studied and made use of in his own organizational structure.

McMahon reportedly headed a shadowy group of “gophers” whose job it was to “burrow under the surface,” scouting collegians and also-ran professionals; players cut by NFL squads, or languishing in Canada, who might have a year or two left in the tank for a cheap price.

Ron Wolf was the Raiders’ director of player personnel, and while Davis loomed large over the organization, Wolf is considered one of the great genius figures of the professional scene. In Oakland, he effectuated the Davis mystique, wearing glasses that made him look like “twin television sets,” according to San Francisco Examiner writer Well Twombly.

Like Davis, Wolf’s “playing career” was nebulous at best. Nobody quite knew whether Wolf played at Maryville College in Tennessee or the University of Oklahoma. In many ways, Davis’s organization was the model for Billy Beane’s Moneyball style, which built the Oakland A’s baseball team into a powerhouse in the 2000s. In this regard, an executive’s experience on the field of play was not considered important. Rather, his knowledge, gleaned from unorthodox sources, could be used to create better football success.

Davis studied politics, history, the Mafia and warfare, using techniques first detailed in Sun-Tsu’sThe Art of War to build his organization and acquire players other executives passed on or did not know about. Beane became the same kind of man, reading historical biographies, then using techniques picked up from those readings to develop great teams on a budget. He hired young men from Ivy League schools with little traditional baseball background, but who were bright, well read, and thought like he did. His methods have been very successful.

Wolf’s greatest attribute was a photographic memory, which he is alleged to have put to use for the U.S. government prior to his work with the Raiders. In the early 1970s, the Raider media guide said the following about him: “Wolf was an intelligence specialist in West Berlin prior to joining the Raiders.”

It was Wolf who presided over a series of drafts in which the Raiders chose players from small schools and traditional black colleges; players who went on to All-Pro careers while All-Americans from traditional powers failed. Players like linebacker Phil Villapiano, wide receiver Mike Siani, fullback Marv Hubbard, and linebacker Gerald Irons were low profile guys who contributed to the “greatness that is the Raiders.”

Ben Davidson was a great big kid from Los Angeles, turned down by four teams before Wolf picked him up and the organization developed him into one of the game’s fiercest defensive ends.

“What we try to do is find ‘Raider-types’ and adapt them to our system, rather than look for players of divergent skills and try to find a system that fits them all,” Davis said.

Davis became obsessed with the waiver lists, which was how he acquired George Blanda after Houston released him at age 39.

“George helped us win a lot of important games and he became a folk hero in the bargain,” said Davis. “It has been a satisfactory arrangement for both parties.”

In 1973, the Raiders chose a punter, Ray Guy from Southern Mississippi. Few teams “waste” their first pick on a punter, but Guy turned out to be one of, if not the greatest, punters in NFL history, as well as one of the finest athletes Oakland ever produced. He is not in the Hall of Fame, but he should be and eventually will be.

Otis Sistrunk never went to college. An odd character, he fit right in with the Raiders, who joked that his alma mater was “The University of Mars.” He was a castoff of the Rams, who unloaded him on Davis. Davis already knew everything about Sistrunk, and that he did not fit into the Rams’ salary structure. He became an integral part of Raider championship teams much less their polished L.A. image.

Raider practices have always been closed. They have never gone out of their way to accommodate writers. For this, Davis has enemies in the media. He has never cared. His fan base always identified with this “outsider” status. They are the hard hats, the militants and the recalcitrants of Oakland, Hawyard, San Leandro, San Lorenzo; roughnecks who disdain the effete ways of San Francisco and root for the “shot and a beer” team that has called the Oakland Coliseum home for so many years.

The team has always found a home for players who display these traits. Ken Stabler, considered a “wild child,” suspended by Alabama football coach Bear Bryant for aberrant behavior; with his long hair, his lascivious lifestyle, his love of wild partying, symbolized this.

Davidson was one of the first to ever wear a handlebar moustache, long before Rollie Fingers and the A’s stylized the look in the 1970s. He was viewed as a dangerous giant, but any Davids playing for the Chiefs, Jets or Chargers never felled this Goliath.

Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, and Bob Brown were black players with chips on their shoulders, but when they got to Oakland they realized Davis did not see color. Given the free and unfettered opportunity to demonstrate their abilities, they took full advantage of the situation, forging legendary careers.

SOLDIER BOY

In addition to Ron Wolf’s supposed work as “an intelligence specialist in West Berlin,” Larry MacPhail, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ general manager in the late 1930s, had been involved in a plot to kidnap Kaiser Wilhelm in the waning days of World War I. He resigned from the Dodgers, it is speculated, to work for the OSS in World War II. Big league catcher Moe Berg, who also happened to be a Jewish intellectual and Ivy League attorney, was tasked by the OSS with getting Nazi rocket scientists to defect to the U.S. rather than surrender to the Soviets. He is credited with spiriting Werner von Braun to the West, where he became head of the American rocket program.

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

15 – Division championships won by the Raiders (1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1983, 1985, 1990, 2000, 2001, 2002).

“Pride and poise”

Near the end of the 1970 classic Patton, the German intelligence officer assigned to General George Patton’s file, amid the chaos of a falling Berlin, stares at a photo of the all-conquering American.

“The absence of war will destroy him,” says the German.

Indeed, the film switches gears, from the high-speed voltage of U.S. victory to Patton’s melancholy reaction to it. With no enemies left to vanquish, Patton seems not to know what to do with himself. This appeared to have been Al Davis’s mood after the “fall of Minnesota” in the 1977 Super Bowl.

Pete Rozelle presented the Lombardi Trophy to Davis after the victory. He was surrounded by Jack Tatum and George Atkinson, two of the players who embodied the so-called “criminal element” critics said marred Oakland from true greatness.

But it was Davis’s reaction to victory over the Vikings that was most telling. There was “pride,” and there was “poise,” but the Davis reaction to ultimate success, to finally “winning the big one,” said much about the man. He had been working for this day during each of his 16 years in pro football; plus his collegiate career before that. For 14 seasons he had fought to build this little franchise in a hardscrabble city, a team that played its games at Frank Youell Field, out of the media spotlight accorded to the glamour towns, in the shadow of glitzy San Francisco.

His goal, to turn them into “a dominant pro football power,” to use just one of the many phrases that sounded as much like Patton exhorting the Third Army as a football phrase, had been accomplished prior to 1976. Now, however, they were not merely a “power,” a “dominant force,” or a “dynamic organization.” His Silver and Black were – and this is another Davisism – the World Champions of Professional Football. You can look it up, in Raider publications. Raider Super Bowl victors are not just “Super Bowl champs” or “World Champs” or “NFL Champs.” They are the “World Champions of Professional Football.”

One almost expects to read Davis’s bio and, instead of seeing him listed as the “principal owner and president of the general partner of the organization with pro football’s winningest percentage,” to read instead “Al Davis, He of the Greatest Mind in Professional Football, Caesar of the Mightiest of All Grid Empires, and Master of All He Surveys In the Lands of the East Bay, the Central Valley, the Los Angeles Basin, and in That Most Hallowed of All Victorious Annexed Countries: the Raider Nation!”

After Super Bowl XI, Davis was contemplative in a way that one might imagine Ike was after accepting surrender in the Rheims schoolhouse, or Lincoln when told Lee had not put up a fuss at Appomattox. John  Madden was more relieved than anything else. Stabler, Matuszak, Biletnikoff and the other wildmen that made up this team knew that, just as in the Grand Funk Railroad classic, “Now, these fine ladies, they had a plan . . .” they were out to become the embodiment of those desires!

But Davis could not outwardly enjoy it. Like Ike and Lincoln, like Patton who had seen too much war, Davis had seen too much disappointment. He sat in the Rose Bowl’s luxury box. Well-wishers began to hover around him, offering their congratulations. Davis never moved from his chair, staring at the field of play. There was no joy in his eyes. He seemed to have achieved revenge more than victory.

“I still have the NFL/AFL feeling,” he said. “I grew up with it. I remember the obstacles put in our way.”

Interestingly, the team they had beaten, Minnesota was the franchise that was supposed to be awarded the AFL in 1960, but when the NFL decided to expand they decided to go for the established league instead, giving birth to Oakland, the league’s step-child.

“Without Al Davis,” wrote Jim Murray in the Los Angeles Times, “Oakland would be Tampa Bay.”

Davis was all about the pursuit, the commitment to excellence. It was as if the actual achievement of it created a weakness; as if only the hunger and desire that emanates from bitter defeat gives a team the real impetus to pay the ultimate price necessary.

Years later, USC football coach Pete Carroll would win consecutive national championships, while talk show host Jim Rome said, “I don’t see any reason why he can’t win five or 10, like John Wooden.” Carroll “embraced” the attention, the hype, the Heismans, smilingly telling whoever was listening that he just wanted to “keep this going as long as we can.”

Carroll’s sunny attitude was the total opposite of Al Davis’s dismal “I can’t be happy” approach. Perhaps this was a Davis flaw, for the Raiders of 1967-1985 were consistently one of the most talented, dominant teams in the game, yet the three Super Bowls won during that span of time is a strange underachievement. They could have, should have won more, perhaps quite a few more.

Nobody maintained excellence as long as they did, though. The Dallas Cowboys were the closest, winning two Super Bowls during a run that stretched from 1966 to 1981 in which they contended and made the play-offs almost every season. The 49ers from 1981 to 1997 fall a few years short. Lombardi’s Packers were a team of the 1960s, but not beyond that.

The Jets, the Colts, the Chiefs, the Dolphins, even the Steelers; they all came and went. Pittsburgh won four Super Bowls, but their ultimate run was really a seven-year stretch compared to what Oakland (and L.A.) did in nearly two decades. But Pittsburgh won the “big one” over and over.

1976-77 seemed to be a self-fulfilling prophecy from Davis’s perspective. The Holy Grail had been won. What next? Obviously, the Raiders came back with the goal of winning it, but if Davis was going to “relax” – and loosen his team up by virtue of it – thus giving them the freedom to pursue a second straight title absent the pressures of yesteryear, well that was not his style.

The King of them all

The man was an artist. The Da Vinci, Michelangelo or Frank Lloyd Wright of broadcasting.

Bill King was the long-time announcer for the Oakland A’s, and before that the voice of the Raiders, Warriors, Giants, and California Golden Bears. He had one of the most recognizable deliveries in sport. The goateed Sausalito resident was a highly recognizable Bay Area figure who was even stopped and asked if he was the devil.

The man was a talkative angel.

“I always liked to talk,” said the Bloomington, Illinois native of how he got his start in broadcasting with the Armed Forces Radio Network, while stationed in the Marianas Islands after World War II, during a 2001 Coliseum interview.

“It was great duty. I guess you could say I was the Robin Williams of Guam,’ ” said King, referring to Williams’s role as Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987).

Like so many veterans, King migrated to California, and was the right man in the right spot when the Giants brought Major League baseball to San Francisco.

“I worked with Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons on Giants’ games on KSFO,” recalled King, as well as Cal games, then the Raiders and Golden State Warriors.

“Football by far is the hardest sport to do,” he said. “Basketball is the easiest. In baseball, you have to be careful when you open your mouth not to show how stupid you are.”

King announced California football as well as the 1960 Bears’ national championship basketball team, coached by the legendary Pete Newell.

King achieved his most lasting fame announcing the most dramatic moments of the most exciting team in pro football history, the Al Davis Oakland Raiders of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. He followed the team to Los Angeles from 1982 to ’94, but left in a dispute with Davis when the team returned to Oakland in 1995.

“Davis is a fascinating man,” King said of the mysterious Raiders’ owner. “He coached and was Commissioner of the AFL.”

Was Davis the “genius” behind the wide-open passing game of the old American Football League?

“Sid Gillman was the real force of the new offensive philosophy of the AFL,” exclaimed King of the former San Diego Chargers’ coach, “but Al absorbed those philosophies. Interestingly, though, nobody won with over 40 passes in those days.”

In 1970 back-up quarterback George Blanda passed and kicked the team to a series of miraculous wins, and King’s legend was made when he said “George Blanda is King of the World!” after he kicked a long field goal to beat Cleveland. His “Wells to the right, Biletnikoff slot left” was a trademark, too, but two phrases define King’s football broadcasts.

One stems from the 1974 AFC play-off win over Miami, when he stated “Raiders: Two yards from the Promised Land” just before Clarence Davis’s touchdown grab gave them victory.

The other is “Holy Toledo,” which King used mostly to described touchdowns. “It’s better than saying holy s--t,’ ” was King’s explanation.

“Ken Stabler was a delight,” King said of Snake. “He’s the only athlete I’ve ever known who had no fear of failure. He’s the converse of Dennis Eckersley, who like most athletes drove himself through fear of failure.

“The Raiders’ party scene was over-hyped, but I will say that their rowdiness at the El Rancho Tropicana in Santa Rosa lived up to the legend. John Madden was fairly true to the image of him, but he was totally absorbed in his job. Now, he truly loves what he does, because he’s glad not to have to have the tunnel vision required of a head coach.”

King was a literate man who made references to the likes of Aristotle and Fitzgerald, among others, but he “cannot explain what comes out of my mouth.”

King saw all the great ones.

“Rick Barry is intelligent and has a huge ego,” King said, “but I’m always sorry when I hear him say some of the disparaging things that get him in trouble.”

King supported Ray Guy as a football Hall of Famer, but was not sure of Stabler’s qualifications.

One thing was for sure. King has Hall of Fame credentials in at least two sports. Shortly after the 2005 baseball season ended, King went in for minor surgery, but died of complications on the operating table. He had planned to return to the A’s in 2006 and probably beyond.

Bay Area radio stations honored his memory with tributes, stories and classic broadcasts for a week after his passing. For those who did not grow up with him, or had not heard his Oakland Raider and Golden State Warrior work, it was a revelation.

King was a local Bay Area radio announcer. He was never a national figure or TV personality (like Madden), aside from games that may have been carried nationwide, or the classic highlights on ESPN or NFL Films. He toiled in Oakland, part of a large enough market, but not New York or Chicago. When he worked Los Angeles Raider games in the 1980s and ‘90s, it opened his reputation up to a huge, new audience. A decade after the team’s departure, any knowledgeable Los Angeleno includes King among the town’s all-time greatest sports announcers.

While the likes of Vin Scully, Dick Enberg, Bob Costas and Keith Jackson are revered national figures, those who are intimately familiar with King’s work unhesitatingly list him among the very, very best sports announcers of all times. He was considered a fine baseball announcer, but that was his third best sport. Whether King or Chick Hearn is the best basketball announcer ever is debatable. Each had their own traits, but King’s sharp eye for detail on the hardcourt was unparalleled. Hearn had more tricks and phrases. King was just a whirling dervish of perfectly delivered syntax, seemingly describing what was going through the player’s minds, in addition to their physical skills.

But King’s football broadcasts remain works of art. Nobody was ever a better radio football voice. Nobody. Keith Jackson’s TV persona was unique, but King on the radio was numero uno. Any poll of Raider fans from the 1970s reveals that sentiment. The team was so great, so exciting, that of course he was given fabulous material, but in the mind’s eye the “greatness that is the Raiders” was as much in the telling – by Bill King – as in the incredible deeds of the players themselves.

He will be missed.

TRIVIA

What did Bill King say about Ken Stabler when, in the second half of the Raiders’ Super Bowl win over the Vikings, it was obvious the game was won?

A: "Jascha Heifetz never played a violin with more dexterity than Kenny Stabler is playing the Minnesota Vikings' defense this afternoon at the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena.”

TOP 10 ALL-TIME SPORTS ANNOUNCERS

1. Vin Scully

2. Bill King

3. Keith Jackson

4. Dick Enberg

5. Chick Hearn

6. Ernie Harwell

7. Jack Buck

8.  Red Barber

10. Pat Summerall

“Just win, baby!”

The Oakland Raiders went through a transition period in 1978 and 1979. In 1980 there was little sentiment favoring their chances at returning to the glory days. That was precisely what they did, however, in an improbable season surrounded by turmoil, which somehow seems to always be just the way Al Davis likes it. They did what the managing general partner simply asked of them: “Just win, baby!”

John Madden retired from coaching. He claimed to have been stressed out, and did not like to fly. He has steadfastly maintained over the years he was not pushed out, nor did he leave over disagreements with the intrusive Davis.

Slowly but surely, many of the great stars of the 1970s became older, replaced by the many fine draft choices that now bore fruit. The most notable of these was Kenny Stabler, who performed erratically in his last two years in Oakland. He was traded to Houston, where he did have success before eventually calling it quits.

Dan Pastorini, a one-time wunderkind from the University of Santa Clara, was brought in, expected to lead the team, but in his pro career since the 1971 draft he had not shown why this was a reasonable hope.

The same could be said of Jim Plunkett. Plunkett and Pastorini were part of the famed “Year of the Quarterback,” collegiate seniors in 1970 who dominated the spring draft. Plunkett won the Heisman Trophy, leading Stanford to victory over Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. New England selected him first. Aside from Pastorini, 1970 senior quarterbacks included Joe Theismann of Notre Dame, Lynn Dickey of Kansas and Archie Manning of Ole Miss.

Raider fans were non-plussed by the acquisition of Pastorini or Plunkett. Plunkett was considered completely over the hill, having failed in Boston and disappointed in his return home to San Francisco.

Tom Flores replaced Madden in 1979. Fans would have preferred that he play quarterback, as he had so effectively in the 1960s. Pretty boys like Pastorini or ballyhooed collegiate superstars like Plunkett did not compare in their minds to a guy like Stabler, who played “ugly,” but got the job done.

On top of these developments, Davis was mired in a controversy over the Oakland Coliseum, proposed luxury boxes, and courtship by the city of Los Angeles, which Davis made plainly obvious he took seriously.

Former USC star wide receiver Bob Chandler was acquired from Buffalo for Phil Villapiano. Biletnikoff either retired or was made to retire. Jack Tatum was gone, and Kenny King was in. Cedrick Hardman and Joe Campbell shored up the defensive line. Defensive back Odis McKinney came from the Giants, Dwayne O’Steen from the Rams. Kicker Chris Bahr replaced Jim Breech. Linebacker Matt Millen from Penn State would pay immediate dividends. BYU super QB Marc Wilson had some people thinking that he was the future.

Pastorini had led winning Oiler teams, but he had Earl Campbell to hand off to in Houston. He impressed nobody as the team lost three of its first five, but destiny played its hand when Pastorini was injured against San Diego, leading to the desperation move of Plunkett calling signals. A few weeks later, Pastorini broke his leg, and again Plunkett was brought in.

San Diego, a powerhouse offense led by Dan Fouts, came to town. To everybody’s surprise, most notably the Chargers, Plunkett was effective and the defense applied pressure in stopping Fouts in a 38-24 win. When the Raiders won on Monday night the following week against Pittsburgh, 45-34, the improvement was impossible not to be impressed by.

Plunkett, Chandler, Morris Bradshaw, Rod Martin; they all performed well, as did veteran Cliff Branch. Plunkett was again terrific in a 33-14 win over Seattle, hitting Chandler for two scores while Lester Hayes wreaked havoc in the defensive secondary. The line recorded six sacks.

Miami fell, 16-10. Despite three fumbles Oakland prevailed over Cincinnati, 28-17. Arthur Whittington’s 90-yard kickoff return keyed a 19-17 win over the Seahawks. With a six-game winning streak Oakland traveled to Veteran’s Stadium to take on the “best” team in pro football, the Philadelphia Eagles of quarterback Ron “The Polish Rifle” Jaworski and coach Dick Vermeill. Despite losing, 10-7, the game demonstrated that if they could get to the post-season they might prevail.

With the defense now clocking on all cylinders, they beat Denver, 9-3, with Plunkett scoring the only TD, but Dallas beat Oakland 19-13.  Chandler scored two touchdowns in beating Denver, 24-19, and in the final week they wrapped up an 11-5 wild card berth with a big victory over the Giants.

Houston entered the Coliseum and it was old home week, with Stabler, Tatum and Dave Casper suited up for Bum Phillips’s Oilers. The Raider defense sacked Snake seven times and Earl Campbell was shut down, while Plunkett hit Kenny King and Todd Christensen with key passes in a stirring 27-7 win.

Next came one for the ages, when the warm weather Californians traveled to Cleveland for a game on frozen, windswept Lake Erie in January. Playing on virtual ice, brutal conditions, the Raiders tightened up on defense in minus 16 degrees. Lester Hayes dominated in the secondary, as was his custom.

Mark van Eeghen bullrushed in for a score to give Oakland a slim 14-12 lead in the fourth quarter, but Cleveland was driving. Quarterback Brian Sipe just needed a field goal, but the blustery conditions made that less than a sure thing. He risked a touchdown pass, paying the ultimate price when Mike Davis intercepted the ball in front of Ozzie Newsome to give Oakland the win.

Overcoming the harrowing Cleveland conditions gave the Raiders a sense of freedom, and playing for the title on the sun-swept plains of San Diego Stadium seemed a walk in the park afterwards. Of course, stopping Dan Fouts would be a challenge for the ages. He was not actually “stopped,” but neither was Plunkett in the wide-open affair.

Oakland got lucky when Plunkett’s deflected pass was caught by Ray Chester for a 65-yard score. King and Van Eeghen scored TDs, but with a 34-28 lead in the fourth quarter Fouts loomed dangerous on the Charger sidelines. In a magnificent showing, Van Eeghen and King ground out first down after first down in a time-consuming seven-minute drive to clinch the game, sending Al Davis and his men to the Super Bowl, where Philadelphia awaited.

The game was played in New Orleans, one of America’s great party towns. Philadelphia coach Dick Vermeill kept a tight lid on the Eagles, until they were in stir, waiting out the days in their swank hotel rooms. Despite Stabler’s departure, the Raiders were as frolicking as ever, hitting Bourbon Street with the enthusiasm of frat boys during Rush Week. John Matuszak was spotted dancing with a young lovely the night before the game, but in typical Raider style neither Davis, Flores nor anybody else complained, so long as he performed on Sunday, which he did.

It was not even close. Oakland dominated the first half, with Rod Martin’s interception setting up a Branch touchdown. Jaworski was stymied while Plunkett hit King on a beautiful 80-yard sideline scamper to give the Raiders a 14-3 lead at the midway point.

Martin intercepted two more Jaworski passes, and Plunkett finished with 21 completions on 33 attempts for 261 yards, winning the MVP award and the Super Bowl, 27-10.

DID YOU KNOW . . .

That cornerback Lester Hayes was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1980?

TRIVIA

What three Raiders have been named Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl?

A: Wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, Super Bowl XI.

Quarterback Jim Plunkett, Super Bowl XV.

Running back Marcus Allen, Super Bowl XVIII.

Super Bowl preview: Plunkett vs. Theismann

Al Davis graciously accepted the Lombardi Trophy from Pete Rozelle after the 1981 Super Bowl triumph over Philadelphia. It was like Charles de Gaulle and Dwight Eisenhower pretending that the “free French forces” were needed to liberate France. The tense scene was defused when, in Churchillian manner, Davis told the media that it was his team’s “finest hour,” indicative of “the greatness that is the Raiders.”

This time, having won a Super Bowl he was not favored to capture, he seemed to enjoy it, as opposed to his fatalistic approach to the 1976 championship, when defeat with his greatest team might have been too much to bear.

The Oakland Raiders had hired Brooklyn-born Al Davis in 1963. He built a dynasty in Oakland and identified with the blue collar East Bay fan base. He enjoyed stickin’ it to San Francisco and the “wine drinking” 49ers. But he was never one of those Bay Area guys who think the sun rises and sets there.

When Davis made his biggest football moves early on, it was in southern California; first as an assistant at USC, then under Sid Gillman with the L.A. and San Diego Chargers. He had lived in the Southland long enough to know that it is bigger, a greater market, than the Bay Area, particularly his niche of the Bay Area. He recognized that L.A. had star power - TV, newspapers, Hollywood - and a bigger “personality” on the national stage, one that rivals that of his native New York.

For these reasons, it should not have come as a big surprise that he coveted what he saw as the future in L.A. After all, one of his stated goals in his short tenure as AFL Commissioner had been to break “back” into the Los Angeles market.

The Rams moved to Orange Country in 1980. UCLA made the switch to the Rose Bowl. The L.A. Memorial Coliseum, indeed the city and county proper, were more or less “vacant.” It was like Manifest Destiny, his for the taking of it. Or, as Davis looked at this development - and to his militaristic way of thinking - it was lightly defended Normandy after the Germans had been duped into thinking the real invasion would come at Pas de Calais. “Rommel” would realize the error of this thinking soon, so time was of the essence! Davis’s “blitzkrieg” of Los Angeles needed to happen in lighting-strike manner.

A bigger stadium, more fans, more merchandising, greater radio and advertising revenue; the persona of a city that could match his own. He fell for the glamour of Los Angeles - the Beverly Hills home, the show biz panache - and for a number of years the town embraced the Raiders. But in the end, Davis mis-judged what he had in L.A., and learned what he should have known, which is that it is a frontrunners’ town. The fickle fans of the Southland reserve whatever loyalty they possess ultimately for the Dodgers and Trojans. All others are at the peril of their record, which had better be worthy of the A list.

But Los Angeles was on the rise in 1982. The Olympics were coming. Most of the teams were good, and attendance was up. The Dodgers and Angels were contenders. The Bruins and Trojans were strong. It was the era of the “Showtime” Lakers. The timing was good for Davis, in that the Joe Montana-Bill Walsh 49er era was just starting to capture the imagination in San Francisco, while Anaheim’s Rams were down after years of success. They were in San Francisco’s shadow, but worse, in their division!

It took some doing, as does any seismic event, but Davis finally made the move to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It was a bumpy first year for several reasons, but all in all a good one. First, the Raiders managed to draft USC's Heisman Trophy tailback, Marcus Allen. He was an immediate star. To have a player of that local caliber starring on the same field where he thrilled college audiences was a great advantage.

The down side came in the form of a player’s strike which, like the baseball walk-out of the previous year, took a great season and ruined it. Plunkett was comfortable in Los Angeles, maybe even more so than he was playing in the shadow of his youth, in which he was raised by two blind parents and had to live up to the exalted status of athlete-role model. In L.A. he was just another star in the Constellation.

Allen was spectacular and the Raiders were 8-1, but of course seven games were lost to the strike. There were play-offs, and the Jets upset Los Angeles at the Coliseum. Washington called themselves “world champions” because they won the Super Bowl, but it was just a *strike season.

1983 was, to quote the doorman of the Emerald City, “a horse of a different color.” Another Trojan great, Don Mosebar, was drafted. Charlie Hannah came over from Tampa, and Mike Haynes was acquired from New England after holding out there. UCLA’s Dokie Williams became a starter, and Greg Townsend came into his own as a pass rush specialist.

No longer living in suitcases, commuting to L.A. for games, the Raiders began to enjoy their surroundings. They won at Cincinnati to open the season, 20-10. Marcus Allen led the way with an early score.

Houston came to the Coliseum and lost, 20-6. Veteran quarterback Archie Manning was sacked five times. On Monday Night Football, the Raiders demolished Miami for most of the game, but Dolphin rookie Dan Marino showed a portent of things to come when he directed two late drives to close the gap to a respectable 27-14. When they defeated the Broncos and befuddled rookie John Elway (who did not look nearly as ready for the spotlight as Marino) 22-7, L.A. was 4-0 and riding high.

Allen sat out the Washington game with a hamstring pull, but the road loss was one of the most exciting games ever played. It was a battle between two “Year of the Quarterback” graduates. Joe Theismann’s Redskins jumped out to a big early lead, but Plunkett threw an incredible 99-yard touchdown pass to Branch, followed by Greg Pruitt’s 97-yard punt return to get the team back in it.

Theismann suddenly lost his hot hand and Los Angeles controlled the game, building a 35-20 lead that the D.C. fans found hard to believe they were seeing. Redskin coach Joe Gibbs then replaced John Riggins with Joe Washington, who caught a 66-yard touchdown pass. Theisman led his team on a last minute TD drive to pull out the incredible 37-35 victory.

The game made it plainly obvious that these were the two best teams in pro football. It was a preview of the Super Bowl. The Raiders hoped that the results would be similar to the 1980 season, when they lost on the road to the NFC champion Eagles, only to apply retribution in the Super Bowl. Davis and his team well understood that the “fat lady” does not sing in October; she is merely warming up her pipes for the January opera spectacular called trhe Super Bowl.

Los Angeles went through a bit of a mid-season slump. Kansas City fell, 21-20, only because Ted Hendricks blocked Nick Lowry’s game-winning field goal try from 45 yards out, but against Seattle the Silver and Black committed eight turnovers in a 38-36 defeat. Plunkett was sacked eight times and threw three interceptions.

In a move that upon reflection seems incredible, Marc Wilson replaced Plunkett and held the position for four weeks! When he passed for 318 yards to lead L.A. to a thrilling 40-38 win over Dallas, it looked like the future was now. Plunkett was seen as a “stopgap” quarterback, albeit one who had been doing more than that for three years. Fullback Frank Hawkins gained 118 yards on the ground against the Cowboys, and Ted Watts’s interception of a Danny White pass set up Chris Bahr’s game-winning field goal.

Seattle came to the Coliseum and in another game that looking back is hard to believe, beat up on the Raiders 34-21. In the back of the minds of some Raider fans, however, was the memory of 1969, when Oakland beat Kansas City twice during the regular season to establish dominance over them, only to fall to the Chiefs in the AFL title game.

If Seattle and Oakland were to play each other in the post-season, the Seahawks’ two wins over the Raiders could be good news and bad news for them. The good news, of course, being the knowledge that they could beat them; the bad news being that the law of averages was against their accomplishing this task three times in one season.

The Seattle game exposed Wilson, as he was intercepted five times and lost the halo of future greatness, thus putting the team, after a Wilson injury, back in Plunkett’s control. The veteran righted the tilting ship, leading Oakland to five straight victories, ultimately giving them the division title over Seattle.

Kansas City, Denver and Buffalo fell, with the Bronco win being the hardest, 22-20. Rod Martin continued to make big plays on defense. Todd Christensen established himself as a bona fide star. Marcus Allen was one of the best running backs in the game.

The defense took control in a 27-12 win over the New York Giants. On a Thursday night in San Diego, Oakland posted 42 straight points after the Chargers broke out to a 10-0 lead, with Todd Christensen scoring three times, Allen once and Hawkins twice. At 11-3 the division was clinched.

With little left to play for – the home-field advantage looked to be secure – Oakland blew a 24-7 lead and lost to St. Louis, 34-24. This meant the finale against the Chargers indeed was for the right to play in L.A. Plunkett, Allen, Branch and Bahr spurred them to the 30-14 victory over the ever-dangerous Chargers of Dan Fouts. They were 12-4 with the “hammer” over the 12-4 Dolphins, whom they had beaten.

Raiders tight end Todd Christensen and back up quarterback Marc Wilson both played at Brigham Young University. One USC Trojan has been named Super Bowl MVP playing for the Raiders (Marcus Allen in 1984). Lynn Swann of Pittsburgh also won it in 1976.

TOP 10 ALL-TIME GREATEST L.A. PRO SPORTS CHAMPIONS

1. 1972 Lakers

2. 1963 Dodgers

3. 1987 Lakers

4. 1983 Raiders

5. 2003 Lakers

6. 1951 Rams

7. 1965 Dodgers

8. 1985 Lakers

9. 2002 Angels

10. 1988 Dodgers

TRIVIA

What was defensive back Skip Thomas’s self-given nickname?

A: “Dr. Death.”

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

26-12 – Ken Stabler’s touchdown-to-interception ratio in 1974.

THINGS TO SAVOR

1. 1974: Raiders 28, Dolphins 26 (play-offs, “Sea of Hands”)

2. 1970: Raiders 23, Browns 20 (“George Blanda is King of the World!”)

3. 1968: Raiders 43, Jets 32 (“Heidi game”)

5. 1970: Raiders 14, Jets 13 (Lamonica-to-Wells)

6. 1978: Raiders 21, Chargers 20 (“Holy Roller”)

7. 1976: Raiders 24, Patriots 21 (play-offs, roughing the passer called on Pats)

8. 1981: Raiders 14, Browns 12 (play-offs, Davis intercepts Sipe in the ice)

9. 1984: Raiders 38, Redskins 9 (Super Bowl, Marcus Allen leads the way)

COMEBACK

Amazing grace

Jim Plunkett’s life story reads like a Dickens novel, or a combination of them. Throw in Bleak Houseand Great Expectations, then A Tale of Two Cities, with a happy ending like A Christmas Carol. He always had an unassuming personality, yet he rode the whirlwind of drama wherever he went.

There is a saying, which Richard Nixon always liked to quote, that started off, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent alone can not. There is nothing more common in the world than unsuccessful men with talent.”

This is a true statement, and words to live by. The Horatio Alger message of these inspirational words is the driving force behind most successful people in all walks of life. It certainly is reflected in the life and career of Jim Plunkett.

Plunkett grew up poor in San Jose. His Mexican-American parents were both blind.

“I was even embarrassed about where and how we lived in San Jose,” Plunkett wrote in The Jim Plunkett Story. “Eventually I outgrew my embarrassment. I came to the conclusion that if you love someone, what difference does it make how much money is in the family bank account?”

Plunkett was the star quarterback at James Lick High School, but not a national blue chipper. He was recruited locally and by UCLA, but not by USC. Ironically, they recruited Mike Holmgren, then a more-celebrated quarterback from Lincoln High in San Francisco. Ultimately, he was not Plunkett’s equal, although he did win a Super Bowl coaching at Green Bay.

Plunkett earned a scholarship to prestigious Stanford University, which was only a few miles north on the 101 Freeway, but a world apart from what he was used to. Plunkett’s father passed away after his first year at Stanford, creating further obstacles to overcome.

“I was a poor, shy Mexican kid from east San Jose trying to mingle with the confident, intelligent scions of wealth who attend Stanford,” Plunkett wrote, “. . . Many times I thought to myself: ‘Maybe, Jim, you belong someplace else.’ ”

On top of that, coach John Ralston was unimpressed with Plunkett’s quarterbacking skills, suggesting that he switch to defensive end.

“I want to play quarterback,” Plunkett told Ralston. “Tell me what I have to do.”

Ralston gave Plunkett a summer regimen to follow, knowing that he would either take to the challenge or fall by the wayside.

“When he came back in the fall, you wouldn’t have believed the difference,” said Ralston.

With the help of assistant coach Dick Vermeill, Plunkett learned how to throw on the run, a key in Ralston’s play-action schemes. While the more ballyhooed Mike Holmgren sat on the Southern California bench, Plunkett beat out all the competition to assume Stanford’s starting spot in his red-shirt sophomore season. He never looked back.

In 1968, Plunkett led Stanford to a 20-0 victory over California in the Big Game at Berkeley, establishing himself as one of the nation’s best signal-callers. In 1969 he continued to revitalize the once-moribund Indian football program, and would have had his team in the Rose Bowl except for a last-second USC field goal, denying them a trip to Pasadena.

In 1970, Plunkett entered the season in the discussion for All-American and Heisman Trophy honors. He was not the favorite, however. Archie Manning of Mississippi and Joe Theismann of Notre Dame (who actually changed pronunciation of his name from Thees-mann to Theis-mann as part of the school’s marketing campaign) were considered the more likely prospects.

In the fifth game of the season, Plunkett elevated himself into the favorite’s role by engineering a brilliant 24-14 victory over the mighty Trojans. After following that with a 63-16 demolishing of Washington State, Stanford was in the driver’s seat for the Rose Bowl, too.

Victories over UCLA and Washington clinched it. Theismann was brilliant in a driving rainstorm against USC at the L.A. Coliseum, but his team lost the game, 38-28, which probably gave Plunkett just enough to win the Heisman in a regional vote. Then the Indians took on the unbeaten Ohio State Buckeyes. This was said to be Woody Hayes’s greatest team, led by quarterback Rex Kern and safety Jack Tatum. The “sure thing” victory over Stanford would give them their second national title in three years.

Instead, Plunkett was marvelous, hitting receiver Randy Vataha just before a blitzing Tatum could get to him. The touchdown sealed Stanford’s 27-17 win, considered one of the greatest upsets in Rose Bowl history.

Plunkett was riding high. Drafted number one in 1971, he beat Oakland 20-6 in his pro debut at Foxboro Stadium. That was his last hurrah; until taking over the Raiders in 1980.

“The biggest problem was that Jim was billed as The Franchise from the start,” said Vataha, who teamed up with him in New England, as well. “People believed that, especially after his first year. The next two years were bad years. It soon became that everything that happened to the Patriots, good or bad, was attributed to Jim.”

After the drafting of Alabama offensive lineman John Hannah and USC fullback Sam “Bam” Cunningham in 1973, the Pats improved, but by the mid-1970s the team had lost faith in Plunkett. Worse, Plunkett seemed to have lost faith in himself. Steve Grogan became New England’s starter. Plunkett eventually found himself in San Francisco.

It was supposed to be so perfect; the Bay Area product and Stanford star coming home – another John Brodie, it was felt - but the 49ers were terrible. This was accentuated by the fact that the cross-bay Raiders were a 1970s dynasty. Plunkett quickly learned that his Stanford heroics were long forgotten.

“Booing, I learned to my chagrin,” he said, “is a national and not a regional affliction.”

Plunkett never did hook up up with another San Francisco native, O.J. Simpson, who joined the team in 1978. O.J. was legitimately past his prime, and it certainly looked like Plunkett actually was, too, except that in his case he had never had a prime in pro football. Then the Raiders picked him up when nobody else wanted him in 1978.

“It’s all over,” Plunkett told his old Stanford pal, Bob Moore, who had been cut by Tampa Bay himself. “I’ve got to think about doing something else.”

But Davis saw something in Plunkett.

“Al Davis works with a Pygmalion syndrome,” said Plunkett’s attorney, Wayne Hooper. “He takes players who haven’t made it elsewhere, for whatever reasons, but who have the ability. Then he rehabilitates them . . .”

“I never wanted to play for the Raiders,” said Plunkett. “I never even liked them. The 49ers were my team. The Raiders dressed in black, the Hells Angels of football.”

It was a miracle that Plunkett stuck around long enough to find success in Oakland. He sat behind Kenny Stabler in 1978 and 1979, but Wayne Hooper had predicted Stabler would be traded at some point, which he was prior to 1980. An intelligent guy who graduated from Stanford with a “B” average, Plunkett had many options, but he refused to quit. Not when Stabler started. Not when Dan Pastorini was acquired and named the starter.

Finally, after Pastorini’s 1980 injury, Plunkett got his opportunity and he made the most of it, leading the team to an 11-5 record, a wild card berth, victory over Stabler and Houston, and then the trip to Cleveland in January of 1981.

“I was never as cold as I was January 4, 1981,” he wrote.

The California native toughed it out, ironically beating out another Californian, San Diego State graduate Brian Sipe of the Browns. Then, in the San Diego sunshine the following week, he outdueled Dan Fouts of San Francisco’s St. Ignatius High School.

“Jim Plunkett’s comeback is one of the greatest stories in sports,” said Tom Flores.

After beating still another more-heralded quarterback, the “Polish Rifle” Ron Jaworski and Philadelphia in the 1981 Super Bowl, Plunkett reflected on his career.

“ . . . I was lost for a while, almost forgotten,” he wrote. “I could have quit and never made it, but I stuck it out.”

In the music reel of Jim Plunkett’s life, one hears the tender lyrics of “Amazing Grace . . . how sweet the sound.”

RIVALRIES

That the Raiders move to Los Angeles brought to a boil the legal troubles with the NFL and the personal feud between Pete Rozelle and Al Davis? Prior to the 1983 season, the Raiders added salt in the wound by winning a $35 million antitrust suit against the NFL for blocking the move to Los Angeles. TRIVIA How many Heisman Trophy winners have played for the Raiders? A: Six. They include LSU’s Billy Cannon (1959), Stanford’s Jim Plunkett (1970), USC’s Marcus Allen (1981), Auburn’s Bo Jackson (1985), Notre Dame’s Tim Brown (1987) and Michigan’s Charles Woodson (1997). SCANDAL After Ken Stabler posed in the nude with topless dancer Carol Doda, and Dan Pastorini appeared inPlaygirl, what did Jim Plunkett do? He won two Super Bowls and, in answer to whether he would appear in similar magazine layouts, asked “. . . who would want to look at me?” All-Time Raiders Team DEFENSE Starter (Honorable mention in parentheses) DE Howie Long (Chester McGlockton) DE Ben Davidson (Greg Townsend) DT Tom Keating DT John Matuszak (Otis Sistrunk) OLB Ted Hendricks OLB Rod Martin (Phil Villapiano) ML Dan Conners (Matt MillenGreg Biekert) CB Willie Brown CB Mike Haynes (Lester Hayes) SS Mike Davis (George Atkinson) FS Jack Tatum (Vann McElroy) OFFENSE Starter (Honorable mention in parentheses) LT Art Shell LG Gene Upshaw C Jim Otto (Don Mosebar, Dave Dalby) RT John Vella (Harry Shuh, Henry Lawrence) RG George Buehler (Steve Wisniewski, Mickey Marvin) TE Dave Casper (Todd Christensen, Raymond Chester, Billy Cannon) WR Fred Biletnikoff (Warren Wells, Art Powell) WR Tim Brown (Cliff Branch) HB Marcus Allen (Clarence Davis) FB Mark van Eeghen (Marv Hubbard, Frank Hawkins) QB Ken Stabler (Jim Plunkett, Daryle Lamonica, Rich Gannon, Tom Flores) SPECIAL TEAMS Starter (Honorable mention in parentheses) KR George Atkinson PR George Atkinson (Tim Brown) PK George Blanda P Ray Guy C John Madden (Tom Flores) ALL-TIME RAIDERS ROSTER Last Name First Name Pos. Years Played College Jersey # Ackerman Rick DT 1984, 1987 Memphis State 58, 97 Adams Sam DT 2002 Texas A&M 95 Adams Stanley LB 1984 Memphis State 59 Adams Stefon DB 1986-89 East Carolina 44 Agajanian Ben K 1962 New Mexico 3 Aikens Carl WR 1987 Northern Illinois 83 Alexander Elijah LB 2000-01 Kansas State 58 Alexander Mike WR 1989 Penn State 80 Allen Dalva DE 1962-64 Houston 80 Allen Eric DB 1998-01 Arizona State 21 Allen Jackie DB 1969 Baylor 22 Allen Marcus RB 1982-92 Southern California 32 Alzado Lyle DE 1982-85 Yankton 77 Amey Vince DT 1998 Arizona State 92 Anderson Courtney TE 2004-05 San Jose State 83 Anderson Eddie DB 1987-97 Fort Valley State 33 Anderson Marques S 2004 UCLA 23 Araguz Leo P 1996-99 Stephen F. Austin 2 Archer Dan T 1967 Oregon 78 Armstrong Ramon T 1960 Texas Christian 66 Armstrong Trace DE 2001-03 Florida 93 Asad Doug TE 1960-61 Northwestern 83 Ashmore Darryl G-T 1998-01 Northwestern 73, 77 Aska Joe RB 1995-97 Central Oklahoma 35 Asomugha Nnamdi CB 2003-2005 Califonia 21 Atkins Larry LB 2003 UCLA 59 Atkins Pervis WR 1965-66 New Mexico State 39, 81 Atkinson George DB 1968-77 Morris Brown 43 Badger Brad T 2002-05 Stanford 70 Bahr Chris K 1980-88 Penn State 10 Baldwin Keith DE 1988 Texas A&M 99 Ball Eric RB 1995 UCLA 42 Ball Jerry DT 1994-96 Southern Methodist 93 Banaszak Pete RB 1966-1978 Miami 40 Banks Estes RB 1967 Colorado 38 Bankston Warren TE 1973-78 Tulane 46 Bansavage Al LB 1961 Southern California 53 Barbee Joe T 1960 Kent State 77 Barksdale Rod WR 1986 Arizona 88 Barnes Jeff LB 1977-87 California 56 Barnes Larry LB 1960 Colorado State 52 Barnes Pat QB 1998 California 4 Barnes Rodrigo LB 1976 Rice 51 Barnwell Malcolm WR 1981-84 Virginia Union 80 Barrett Jan TE 1963-64 Fresno State 82 Bartlewski Rich TE 1990 Fresno State 94 Barton Eric LB 1999-03 Maryland 50 Bates Patrick DB 1993-94 Texas A&M 24, 29 Belcher Kevin T 1985 Wisconsin 76 Bell Anthony LB 1992 Michigan State 59 Bell Greg RB 1990 Notre Dame 28 Bell Joe DE 1979 Norfolk State 68 Bell Nick RB 1991-93 Iowa 38, 43 Belway Brian DE 1987 Calgary 79 Bender Wes RB 1994 Southern California 49 Benson Duane LB 1967-71 Hamline 50 Benson Tom LB 1972 Oklahoma 54 Berns Rick RB 1982-83 Nebraska 40 Bess Rufus DB 1979 South Carolina State 38 Bessillieu Don DB 1983, 1985 Georgia Tech 47 Beuerlein Steve QB 1988-90 Notre Dame 7 Biekert Greg LB 1993-01 Colorado 54 Biletnikoff Fred WR 1965-78 Florida State 14, 25 Bird Rodger DB 1966-68 Kentucky 21 Birdwell Dan DT 1962-69 Houston 53 Bishop Sonny G 1963 Fresno State 66 Black Barry G 1987 Boise State 67 Blanda George QB-K 1967-75 Kentucky 16 Blankenship Greg LB 1976 Cal State-Hayward 57 Bonness Rik LB 1976 Nebraska 54 Boyd Greg DT 1984 San Diego State 76 Boydston Max TE 1962 Oklahoma 84 Boynton George DB 1962 East Texas State 27 Brabham Cary DB 1994 Southern Methodist 40 Bracelin Greg LB 1981 California 54 Bradshaw Morris WR 1974-81 Ohio State 81 Branch Calvin DB 1997-00, 2005 Colorado State 27 Branch Cliff WR 1972-85 Colorado 21 Branton Gene TE 1987 Texas Southern 82 Bravo Alex DB 1960-61 Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo 47 Brayton Tyler DE 2003-05 Colorado 91 Breech Jim K 1976-79 California 5 Brewington Jim T 1961 North Carolina College 73 Bringham Jeremy TE 1998-01 Washington 87 Bromell Lorenzo DE 2003 Clemson 95 Brooks Bobby LB 2000-01 Fresno State 55 Brooks Bucky DB 1998 North Carolina 33 Broughton Willie DT 1992-93 Miami 97 Brown Bob T 1971-73 Nebraska 76 Brown Charles T 1962 Houston 76 Brown Derek TE 1998 Notre Dame 86 Brown Doug DT 1964 Fresno State 74 Brown Larry DB 1996-97 Texas Christian 24 Brown Ron DE 1987-88 Southern California 64, 96 Brown Ron DB 1990 Arizona State 24 Brown Tim WR 1988-03 Notre Dame 81 Brown Willie DB 1967-78 Grambling 24 Browne Jim RB 1987 Boston College 47 Browner Keith LB 1987 Southern California 51 Browning Dave DE-DT 1978-82 Washington 73 Bruce Aundray DE 1992-98 Auburn 56, 99 Brunson Larry WR 1978-79 Colorado 82 Bryant Tony DE 1999-02 Florida State 94 Bryant Warren T 1984 Kentucky 66 Buchanan Ray S 2004 Louisville 34 Buchanon Phillip CB 2002-04 Miami (FL) 31 Buczowski Bob DE 1987 Pittsburgh 95 Budness Bill LB 1964-70 Boston University 48 Buehler George G 1969-78 Stanford 64 Buie Drew WR 1969-71 Catawba 89 Bunch Jarrod RB 1994 Michigan 45 Burch Gerald TE 1961 Georgia Tech 86 Burgess Derrick DE 2005 Mississippi 56 Burton Ron LB 1990 North Carolina 59 Butcher Paul LB 1996 Wayne State 59 Byrd Darryl LB 1983-84, 1987 Illinois 54 Caldwell Tony LB 1983-85 Washington 57 Calhoun Rick RB 1987 Cal State- Fullerton 21 Camarillo Rich P 1996 Washington 16 Campbell Joe DE 1980-81 Maryland 77 Campbell Stan G 1962 Iowa State 67 Cannavino Joe DB 1960-61 Ohio State 27 Cannon Billy TE 1964-69 Louisiana State 33 Carr Chetti WR 1987 Northwest Oklahoma 20 Carr Chris DB/KR 2005 Boise State 23 Carrington Darren DB 1996 Northern Arizona 21 Carroll Joe LB 1972-73 Pittsburgh 51 Carter Louis RB 1975 Maryland 33 Carter Perry DB 1996-98 Mississippi 20 Carter Russell DB 1988-89 Southern Methodist 29 Cash Kerry TE 1995 Texas 88 Casper Dave TE 1974-80, 1984 Notre Dame 87, 88 Cavalli Carmen DE 1960 Richmond 85 Celotto Mario LB 1980-81 Southern California 52 Chandler Bob WR 1980-82 Southern California 85 Chapman Ted DE 1987 Maryland 77 Charles Mike DT 1990 Syracuse 95 Chester Raymond TE 1970-72, 1978-81 Morgan State 87, 88 Christensen Todd RB-TE 1979-88 Brigham Young 46 Churchwell Hansen DT 1960 Mississippi 75 Clark Danny LB 2004-05 Illinois 55 Clay John T 1987 Missouri 78 Cline Tony DE 1970-75 Miami 84 Coleman Kenyon DE 2002 UCLA 90 Coleman Rod DT 1999-03 East Carolina 57 Colzie Neal DB 1975-78 Ohio State 20 Collins Kerry QB 2004-05 Penn State 5 Collins Mo G-T 1998-03 Florida 79 Collons Ferric DT 1993 California 92 Combs Derek CB 2002 Ohio State 43 Conners Dan LB 1964-74 Miami 55, 60 Conway Brett K 2000 Penn State 5 Coolbaugh Bob WR 1961 Richmond 43 Cooper Chris DT 2001-03 Nebraska-Omaha 75 Cooper Earl TE 1986 Rice 49 Cooper Jarrod S 2004-05 Kansas State 40 Copeland Horace WR 1999 Miami 80 Cormier Joe LB 1987 Southern California 95 Costa Dave DT 1963-65 Utah 46 Costello Joe LB 1989 Central Connecticut 94 Craig Dobie WR 1962-63 Howard Payne 42 Craig Roger RB 1991 Nebraska 22 Crockett Zack RB 1999-05 Florida State 32 Crow Wayne RB-DB 1960-61 California 22 Crudup Derrick DB 1989, 1991 Oklahoma 23 Cunningham Rick T 1996-98 Texas A&M 68 Curry Ronald WR 2002-05 North Carolina 1, 89 Dalby Dave C-G 1972-85 UCLA 50 Daluiso Brad K 2001 UCLA 3 Daniels Clemon RB 1961-67 Prairie View 36 Daniels David DT 1966 Florida A&M 75 Davidson Ben DE 1964-71 Washington 83 Davidson Cotton QB 1962-69 Baylor 19 Davis Bruce T 1979-87 UCLA 79 Davis Clarence RB 1971-78 Southern California 28 Davis Greg K 1998 The Citadel 7 Davis James DB 1982-87 Southern 45 Davis Mike DB 1978-85 Colorado 36 Davis Scott DE 1988-91, 1994 Illinois 70 Davison Jerone RB 1996-97 Arizona State 48 Dennery Mike LB 1974-75 Southern Mississippi 54 DePoyster Jerry K 1971-72 Wyoming 4 Deskins Don G 1960 Michigan 79 Dickerson Andy G 1987 California Lutheran 64 Dickerson Eric RB 1992 Southern Methodist 29 Dickey Eldridge WR 1968-71 Tennessee State 10 Dickinson Bo RB 1964 Southern Mississippi 23, 30, 33 Diehl John DT 1965 Virginia 73 DiNapoli Gennaro G 1998-99 Virginia Tech 64 Dittrich John G 1960 Wisconsin 68 Dixon Hewritt RB 1966-70 Florida A&M 35 Dixon Ernest LB 1998 South Carolina 58 Dixon Rickey DB 1993 Oklahoma 31 Dorn Torin DB 1990-93 North Carolina 46 Dorsett Anthony DB 2000-03 Pittsburgh 33 Dorsey Dick WR 1962 Southern California 21, 81 Dotson Al DT 1968-70 Grambling 71 Dougherty Bob LB 1960-63 Kentucky 47 Dreisbach Scott QB 1999-00 Michigan 10 Dudley Rickey TE 1996-00 Ohio State 83 Dufault Paul C-G 1987 New Hampshire 54 Duff John TE-DE 1993-94 New Mexico 84 Dunn David WR-KR 2000 Fresno State 88 Dyal Mike TE 1989-90 Texas A&I 84 Dyson Matt DT-LB 1995 Michigan 59 Eason John TE 1968 Florida A&M 82 Easy Omar FB 2005 Penn State 33 Edmonds Bobby Joe WR 1989 Arkansas 41 Edwards Lloyd TE 1969 San Diego State 36 Eischeid Mike K 1966-71 Upper Iowa 11 Ekejiuba Isaiah LB 2005 Virginia 50 Ellis Craig RB 1987 San Diego State 33 Ellis Jim LB 1987 Boise State 58 Ellison Glen RB 1971 Arkansas 27 Ellison Riki LB 1990-92 Southern California 50 Enis Hunter QB 1962 Texas Christian 14 Enyart Bill LB 1971 Oregon State 46 Evans Vince QB 1987-95 Southern California 11 Fairband Bill LB 1967-68 Colorado 86 Fargas Justin RB 2003-05 Southern California 20 Fellows Ron DB 1987-88 Missouri 21 Fenner Derrick RB 1995-97 North Carolina 34 Fernandez Mervyn WR 1987-92 San Jose State 86 Ficca Dan G 1962 Southern California 69 Fields George DT 1960-61 Bakersfield J.C. 80 Finneran Garry DT 1961 Southern California 76 Fitzpatrick James G-T 1990-91 Southern California 73 Fleming George RB 1961 Washington 21 Flemister Zeron TE 2005 Iowa 88 Flores Tom QB 1960-61, 1963-66 Pacific 15 Folston James LB 1994-98 Northeast Louisiana 55 Ford Cole K 1995-97 Southern California 5 Foschi John Paul TE/FB 2005 Georgia Tech 49 Foster Ron DB 1987 Cal State- Northridge 41 Francis Carlos WR 2004-05 Texas Tech 10 Franklin Keith LB 1995 South Carolina 58 Frank Donald DB 1994 Winston-Salem 47 Franks Elvis DE 1985-86 Morgan State 94 Fredrickson Rob LB 1994-97 Michigan State 53 Freeman Mike G 1988 Arizona 61 Freeman Russell T 1995 Georgia Tech 70 Fulcher David LB 1993 Arizona State 45 Fulcher Mondriel TE 2000-01 Miami 89 Fuller Charles RB 1961-62 San Francisco State 20 Gainer Derrick RB 1992 Florida A&M Gallegos Chon QB 1962 San Jose State 12 Gallery Robert T 2004-05 Iowa 76 Gamache Vince K 1987 Cal State- Northridge 3 Gannon Rich QB 1999-04 Delaware 12 Garner Bob DB 1961-62 Fresno State 28 Garner Charlie RB 2001-03 Tennessee 25 Garrett Carl RB 1976-77 New Mexico Highlands 31 Gault Willie WR 1988-93 Tennessee 83 Gbaja-Biamila Akbar DE 2003-04 San Diego State 98 George Jeff QB 1997-98 Illinois 3 Gesek John G 1987-89 Sacramento State 63 Gibson Claude DB 1963-65 North Carolina State 25 Gibson Derrick DB 2001-05 Florida State 26, 36 Gilbert Sean DT 2003 Pittsburgh 90 Gillett Fred TE 1964 Los Angeles State 44 Ginn Hubie RB 1976-78 Florida A&M 29 Gipson Tom DT 1971 North Texas State 73 Glover Andrew TE 1991-96 Grambling 87 Glover La'Roi DT 1996 San Diego State 92 Gogan Kevin G 1994-96 Washington 66 Goldstein Alan WR 1960 North Carolina 81 Golic Bob DT 1989-92 Notre Dame 79 Golsteyn Jerry QB 1984 Northern Illinois 14 Goltz Rick DE 1987 Simon Fraser 94 Goodlow Darryl LB 1987 Oklahoma 90, 98 Gordon Alex LB 1990 Cincinnati 55 Gordon Darrien CB 1999-00 Stanford 23, 34 Gossett Jeff P 1988-96 Eastern Illinois 6, 7 Graddy Sam WR 1990-92 Tennessee 85 Graham Aaron C 2001 Nebraska 68 Graham Derrick G 1998 Appalachian State 74 Graham Jeff QB 1995 Long Beach State 8 Grant DeLawrence DE 2001-05 Oregon State 95, 99, 59 Graves Rory T 1988-91 Ohio State 60 Grayson Dave DB 1965-70 Oregon 45 Green Charley QB 1966 Wittenberg 12 Greenwood David DB 1988 Wisconsin 41 Grimes Phil DE 1987 Central Missouri 97 Grossart Kyle QB 1980 Oregon State 17 Grove Jake C-G 2004-05 Virginia Tech 64 Guy Louie DB 1964 Mississippi 22 Guy Raymond K 1973-86 Southern Mississippi 8 Hagberg Roger RB 1965-69 Minnesota 30 Hall Tim RB 1996-97 Robert Morris 45 Hall Willie LB 1975-78 Southern California 39, 83 Hamilton Bobby DE 2004-05 Southern Mississippi 98 Hannah Charley G 1983-88 Alabama 73 Harden Mike DB 1989-90 Michigan 45 Hardman Cedrick DE 1980-81 North Texas State 86 Hardy Charles WR 1960-62 San Jose State 82 Hardy David K 1987 Texas A&M 4 Harkey Lance DB 1987 Illinois 24 Harlow Pat T 1996-98 Southern California 75 Harris James DE 1998-99 Temple 93 Harris John DB 1960-61 Santa Monica J.C. 28, 29 Harris Johnie DB 1999-01 Mississippi State 37 Harris Napoleon LB 2002-04 Northwestern 58 Harrison Dwight DB 1980 Texas A&I 28 Harrison Nolan DT-DE 1991-96 Indiana 74 Harrison Rob RB 1987 Cal State- Sacramento 25 Hart Harold RB 1974-75, 1978 Texas Southern 23, 34 Hart Roy DT 1991 South Carolina 61 Harvey James G 1966-71 Mississippi 70 Harvey Richard LB 1998-99 Tulane 52 Hasselbeck Don TE 1983 Colorado 87 Hasty James DB 2001 Washington State 34 Hawkins Clarence RB 1979 Florida A&M 26 Hawkins Frank RB 1981-87 Nevada, Reno 27 Hawkins Mike LB 1982 Texas A&I 57 Hawkins Wayne G 1960-70 Pacific 65 Hawthorne Anttaj DT 2005 Wisconsin 77 Hayes Lester DB 1977-86 Texas A&M 37 Haynes Mike DB 1983-89 Arizona State 22 Heinrich Don QB 1962 Washington 11 Hendricks Ted LB 1975-83 Miami 83 Hermann Dick LB 1965 Florida State 46 Herock Kenny TE 1963-65, 1967 West Virginia 84, 86 Hester Jessie WR 1985-87 Florida State 84 Hetherington Chris FB 2003-04 Yale 44 Highsmith Don RB 1970-72 Michigan State 32 Hilger Rusty QB 1985-87 Oklahoma State 12 Hill Greg DB 1987 Oklahoma State 36 Hill Kenny DB 1981-83 Yale 48 Hill Madre RB 2002 Arkansas 23 Hill Renaldo DB 2005 Michigan State 22 Hill Rod DB 1987 Kentucky State 38 Hinton Marcus TE 1995-96 Alcorn State 85 Hipp I.M. RB 1980 Nebraska 20 Hobbs Darryl WR 1993-96 Pacific 80 Hobert Billy Joe QB 1993-96 Washington 9, 12 Hoisington Al WR 1960 Pasadena J.C. 84 Holland Jamie WR 1990-91 Ohio State 82 Hollas Donald QB 1997-98 Rice 12 Holloway Brian G-T 1987-88 Stanford 76 Holmberg Rob LB 1994-97 Penn State 57 Holmes Lester G 1997 Jackson State 71 Hopkins Jerry LB 1968 Texas A&M 52 Horton Ethan RB-TE 1987, 1989-93 North Carolina 23, 88 Hoskins Derrick DB 1992-95 Southern Mississippi 20 Hostetler Jeff QB 1993-96 West Virginia 15 Howard Desmond WR 1997-98 Michigan 80 Hoying Bobby QB 1999-01 Ohio State 14 Hubbard Marv RB 1969-75 Colgate 39, 44 Hudson Bob RB 1973-74 Northeast Oklahoma 36 Huddleston John LB 1978-79 Utah 57 Hulsey Corey OL 2003-05 Clemson 71 Humm David QB 1975-79, 1983-84 Nebraska 11 Hunley Ricky LB 1989-90 Arizona 99 Husted Michael K 1999 Virginia 5 Ioane Junior DT 2000-02 Arizona State 92 Irons Gerald LB 1970-75 Maryland State 86 Irons Grant DE 2003-05 Notre Dame 96 Ismail Raghib WR 1993-95 Notre Dame 86 Jackson Bo RB 1987-90 Auburn 34 Jackson Bobby RB 1964 New Mexico State 32 Jackson Grady DT 1997-01 Knoxville 90 Jackson Leonard LB 1987 Oklahoma State 91 Jackson Monte DB 1978-82 San Diego State 42 Jackson Richard LB 1966 Southern 32 Jackson Steve DB 1977 Louisiana State 42 Jackson Victor DB 1987 Bowie State 49 Jacobs Proverb T 1963-64 California 77 Jaeger Jeff K 1989-95 Washington 18 Jagielski Harry DT 1961 Indiana 70 Jakowenko George K 1974 Syracuse 6 James Tory DB 2000-01 Louisiana State 20 Janikowski Sebastian K 2000-05 Florida State 11 Jasper Ed DT 2005 Texas A&M 95 Jelacic Jon DE 1961-64 Minnesota 88 Jenkins Robert T 1994-96 UCLA 64 Jenkins Ronney RB 2003 Northern Arizona 27 Jennings Brandon DB 2000-01 Texas A&M 39 Jennings Rick WR 1976-77 Maryland 33 Jensen Derrick RB-TE 1979-86 Texas Arlington 31 Jensen Russell QB 1985 California Lutheran 18 Jett James WR 1993-01 West Virginia 82 Jimerson A.J. LB-DE 1990-91 Norfolk State 58 Johnson Eric LB 2000-03 Nebraska 41 Johnson Rob QB 2003 USC 7 Johnson Kevin DT 1997 Texas Southern 98 Johnson Monte LB 1973-80 Nebraska 58 Johnson Teyo TE 2003-04 Stanford 82 Johnson Tim LB 2002-05 Youngstown State 51 Johnston Mark DB 1964 Northwestern Johnstone Lance DE 1996-00 Temple 51 Jolley Doug TE 2002-04 Brigham Young 88 Jones Calvin RB 1994-95 Nebraska 27, 44 Jones David TE 1992 Delaware State 82 Jones Horace DE 1971-75 Louisville 82 Jones Jim LB 1961 Washington 32 Jones Mike LB 1991-96, 2002 Missouri 52 Jones Sean DE 1984-87 Northeastern 99 Jones Willie DE 1979-82 Florida State 90 Jordan Charles WR 1993 Long Beach City College 85 Jordan LaMont RB 2005 Maryland 34 Jordan Randy RB 1993, 1998-02 North Carolina 28 Jordan Shelby T 1983-86 Washington (mo.) 74 Joyner L.C. DB 1960 Diablo Valley J.C. 46 Junkin Trey TE 1985-89, 1996 Louisiana Tech 52, 87 Kaufman Napoleon RB 1995-00 Washington 26 Keating Tom DT 1966-72 Michigan 74 Kelly Joe LB 1993 Washington 57 Kelly Tommy DT 2004-05 Mississippi State 93 Kennedy Lincoln T 1996-03 Washington 72 Kent Greg T 1966 Utah 73, 80 Keyes Bob RB 1960 San Diego 24 Kidd Carl DB 1995-96 Arkansas 46 Kimmel Jamie LB 1986-88 Syracuse 59 King Emanuel LB 1989 Alabama 92 King Joe DB 1995 Oklahoma State 31 King Kenny RB 1980-85 Oklahoma 33 King Linden LB 1986-89 Colorado State 52 Kinlaw Reggie DT 1979-84 Oklahoma 62 Kirby Terry RB 2000-01 Virginia 42 Klein Dick T 1963-64 Iowa 70 Klinger David QB 1996-97 Houston 7 Knight Marcus WR 2001-02 Michigan 83 Koch Pete DE 1989 Maryland 74 Kocourek Dave TE 1967-68 Wisconsin 88 Koegel Warren C 1971 Penn State 56 Kohn Tim G 1997 Iowa State 72 Korver Kelvin DT 1973-77 Northwestern (Iowa) 71 Kowalczyk Walt RB 1961 Michigan State 35 Koy Ted TE 1970 Texas 38 Krakoski Joe DB 1963-66 Illinois 27 Kruse Bob G 1967-68 Wayne State 62 Kunz Terry RB 1976-77 Colorado 34 Kwalick Ted TE 1975-77 Penn State 89 Kysar Jeff T 1995-96 Arizona State 79 Lachey Jim T 1988 Ohio State 74 Lamonica Daryle QB 1967-74 Notre Dame 3 Land Dan DB 1989-97 Albany State 25 Lanier Ken T 1993 Florida State 79 Larschied Jack RB 1960-61 Pacific 23 Larson Paul QB 1960 California 12 Laskey Bill LB 1966-70 Michigan 42 Lassiter Isaac DE 1965-69 St. Augustine 77 Lathan Greg WR 1987 Cincinnati 81 Lawrence Henry T 1974-86 Florida A&M 70 Lawrence Larry QB 1974-75 Iowa 13 Lechler Shane P 2000-05 Texas A&M 9 Lee Zeph RB-DB 1987-89 Southern California 40 Lekkerkkerker Brad OT 2005 U.C. Davis 75 Levitt Chad RB 1997 Cornell 31 Lewis Albert DB 1994-98 Grambling 24, 29 Lewis Bill C-G 1986-89 Nebraska 51 Lewis Garry DB 1990-91 Alcorn State 21 Lewis Harold RB 1962 Houston 21 Lewis Tahaun DB 1991 Nebraska 20 Liles Alva DT 1980 Boise State 60 Lloyd Doug RB 1991 North Dakota State 37 Lockett Wade WR 1987 Cal State-Fullerton 87 Locklin Billy Ray G 1960 New Mexico State 73 Lofton James WR 1987-88 Stanford 80 Long Howie DE-DT 1981-93 Villanova 75 Lott Billy RB 1960 Mississippi 31 Lott Ronnie DB 1991-92 Southern California 42 Louderback Tom LB 1960-61 San Jose State 60 Love Clarence CB 2002-03 Toledo 38 Lynch Lorenzo DB 1996-97 Sacramento State 43 Lyons Lamar DB 1996 Washington 44 Macon Ed DB 1960 Pacific 28 MacKinnon Jacque TE 1970 Colgate 37 Mann Errol K 1976-78 North Dakota 14 Manoukian Don G 1960 Stanford 67 Marinovich Marv G 1965 Southern California 68 Marinovich Todd QB 1991-92 Southern California 12 Marsh Curt G 1981-86 Washinton 60 Martin Rod LB 1977-88 Southern California 53 Martin Tee QB 2003 Tennessee 17 Martini Rich WR 1979-80 California-Davis 89 Marvin Mickey G 1977-87 Tennessee 65 Maryland Russell DT 1996-99 Miami 67, 97 Mason Lindsey T 1978-81 Kansas 71 Matsos Arch LB 1963-65 Michigan State 56 Matthews Ira RB-WR 1979-81 Wisconsin 43 Matuszak John DE-DT 1976-82 Tampa 72 Maxwell Tom DB 1971-73 Texas A&M 42 Mayberry Doug RB 1963 Utah State 33 McCall Joe RB 1984 Pittsburgh 43 McCallum Napoleon RB 1986, 1990-94 U.S. Naval Academy 34 McClanahan Randy LB 1977, 1980-82 Southwestern Louisiana 57 McCloughan Kent DB 1965-70 Nebraska 47 McColl Milt LB 1988 Stanford 56 McCoy Larry LB 1984 Lamar 90 McCoy Mike DT 1977-78 Notre Dame 76 McDaniel Terry DB 1988-97 Tennessee 36 McElroy Reggie G-T 1991-92 West Texas State 77 McElroy Vann DB 1982-90 Baylor 26 McFarlan Nyle DE 1960 Bringham Young 26 McGlockton Chester DT 1992-97 Clemson 91 McKenzie Reggie LB 1985-88 Tennessee 54 McKinney Odis DB 1980-86 Colorado 23 McLemore Chris RB 1987-88 Arizona 20 McMath Herb DT 1976 Morningside 61 McMillen Dan LB 1987 Colorado 92 McMillin Jim DB 1963-64 Colorado State 45 McMurtry Chuck DT 1962-63 Whittier 73 McRae Charles T 1996 Tennessee 73 Medlin Dan G 1974-76, 1979 North Carolina State 79 Mendenhall Terry LB 1971-72 San Diego State 54 Mercer Mike K 1963-65 Northern Arizona 10 Merrill Mark LB 1984 Minnesota 52 Mickell Darren DE 2001 Florida 98 Mickens Terry WR 1998-00 Florida A&M 85 Middleton Frank G 2001-04 Arizona 73 Millen Matt LB 1980-88 Penn State 55 Miller Alan RB 1961-63, 1965 Boston College 37 Miller Bill WR 1963, 1966-68 Miami 89 Mills John Henry LB/TE 1997-98 Wake Forest 56 Mincy Charles DB 1999 Washington 22 Mingo Gene K 1964-65 None 21 Miraldo Dean G 1987 Utah 64 Mirer Rick QB 2002-03 Notre Dame 3 Mirich Rex DT 1964-66 Northern Arizona 87, 78 Mischak Bob TE-G 1963-65 U.S. Military Academy 87, 67 Mitchell Tom TE 1966 Bucknell 82 Mix Ron T 1971 Southern California 77 Moffett Tim WR 1985-86 Mississippi 83 Montalbo Mel DB 1962 Utah State 22 Montez Alfred QB 1996 Western New Mexico 10 Montgomery Clemon RB-WR 1981-85 Abilene Christian 28 Montgomery Tyrone RB 1993-94 Mississippi 21 Montoya Max G 1990-94 UCLA 65 Moody Keith DB 1980 Syracuse 26 Moore Bob TE 1971-75 Stanford 88 Moore Manfred RB 1976 Southern California 36 Morant Johnnie WR 2004-05 Syracuse 19 Morris Riley DE 1960-62 Florida A&M 55, 92 Morrison Dave DB 1968 Southwest Texas State 49 Morrison Kirk LB 2005 San Diego State 52 Morrow Tom DB 1962-64 Southern Mississippi 35 Morton Mike LB 1995-98 North Carolina 50 Mosebar Don C-G-T 1983-94 Southern California 72 Moss Randy WR 2005 Marshall 18 Moss Winston LB 1991-94 Miami 99 Mostardi Rich DB 1962 Kent State 27 Mraz Mark DE 1989 Utah State 97 Mueller Vance RB 1986-91 Occidental 31, 42 Muhammad Calvin WR 1982-83 Texas Southern 82 Muirbrook Shay LB 1997 Bringham Young 52 Muransky Ed G-T 1982-84 Michigan 76 Murdock Jesse RB 1963 California Western Mustafaa Najee DB 1995 Georgia Tech 48 Myles Toby G-T 2000-01 Jackson State 70, 77 Nash Keyon S 2002, 2004 Albany State 44 Nedney Joe K 1999 San Jose State 6 Nelson Bob LB 1980-85 Nebraska 51, 55 Newman Anthony DB 1998-99 Oregon 30 Nicholas Pete T 1962 Baylor 70 Noble Mike LB 1987 Stanford 53 Norris Jim DT 1962-64 Houston 72, 74 Novsek Joe DE 1962 Tulsa 71 Oates Carleton DT 1965-72 Florida A&M 85 Ogas Dave LB 1968 San Diego State 61 Oglesby Paul T 1960 UCLA 74 Oliver Ralph LB 1968-69 Southern California 56 Osbourne Chuck DT 1998-99 Arizona 98 Osbourne Clancy LB 1963-64 Arizona State 81 O'Steen Dwayne DB 1980-81 San Jose State 35 Otto Gus LB 1965-72 Missouri 34, 45 Otto Jim C 1960-74 Miami 00, 50 Owens Burgess DB 1980-82 Miami 44 Papas Nick QB 1961 Fresno State 12 Parilli Babe QB 1960 Kentucky 10 Parker Andy TE 1984-88, 1990 Utah 81 Parks Nate G-T 1999-2000 Stanford 71 Parrella John DT 2002-04 Nebraska 97 Pastorini Dan QB 1980 Santa Clara 7 Patten Joel T 1991 Duke 71 Patterson Elvis DB 1990-93 Kansas 43 Pattison Mark WR 1986 Washington 89 Pear Dave DT 1979-80 Washington 74 Peat Todd G 1990, 1992-93 Northern Illinois 64, 74 Peete Rodney QB 2000-01 Southern California 16 Perry Gerald T 1993-95 Southern 71 Perry Mario TE 1987 Mississippi 84 Perryman Raymond DB 2001 Northern Arizona 31 Peters Volney DT 1961 Southern California 79 Peterson Calvin LB 1982 UCLA 54 Phillips Charles DB 1975-80 Southern California 47 Phillips Irvin DB 1983 Arkansas Tech 25 Phillips Jess RB 1975 Michigan State 35 Philyaw Charles DE 1976-79 Texas Southern 77 Pickel Bill DT-DE 1983-90 Rutgers 71 Pickens Bruce DB 1995 Nebraska 39 Pierson Shurron LB 2003 South Florida 55 Pitts Frank WR 1974 Southern 85 Plunkett Jim QB 1978-86 Stanford 16 Pope Marquez DB 2000-01 Fresno State 49 Porter Jerry WR 2000-05 West Virginia 84, 86 Porter Kerry RB 1989 Washington State 31 Powell Art WR 1963-66 San Jose State 84 Powell Charlie DE 1960-61 None 27 Powers Warren DB 1963-68 Nebraska 20 Prebola Gene TE 1960 Boston University 89 Price Dennis DB 1988-89 UCLA 20 Prior Anthony DB 1998 Washington State 25 Prout Bob DB 1974 Knox 29 Pruitt Greg RB 1982-84 Oklahoma 34 Pyle Palmer G 1966 Michigan State 68 Pyles David T 1987 Miami (Ohio) 63 Rae Mike QB 1976-78 Southern California 15 Ramsey Derrick TE 1978-83 Kentucky 84 Rathman Tom RB 1994 Nebraska 44 Ray Marcus DB 1999 Michigan 42 Redmond J.R. RB 2003-04 Arizona State 27 Reese Archie DT 1982-83 Clemson 74 Regent Shawn C 1987 Boston College 62 Reinfeldt Mike DB 1976 Wisconsin, Milwaukee 37 Reynolds Billy QB 1960 Pittsburgh 46 Reynolds M.C. QB 1961 Louisiana State 17 Rice Floyd LB 1976-77 Alcorn A&M 52 Rice Jerry WR 2001-04 Mississippi Valley State 80 Rice Herold DE 1971 Tennessee State 67 Rice Ken T 1964-65 Auburn 75 Rich Randy DB 1978 New Mexico 27 Riddick Louis DB 1998 Pittsburgh 41 Ridlehuber Preston RB 1968 Georgia 37 Riehm Chris G 1986-88 Ohio State 77 Rieves Charles LB 1962-63 Houston 32, 48 Rison Andre WR 2000 Michigan State 80 Ritchie Jon RB 1998-01 Stanford 40 Rivera Hank DB 1962 Oregon State 23, 41 Robbins Austin DT 1994-95, 2000 North Carolina 95 Robbins Barret C 1995-03 Texas Christian 63 Roberson Bo WR 1962-65 Cornell 40 Roberts Cliff DT 1961 Illinois 71 Robinson Greg RB 1993-94 Northeast Louisiana 28 Robinson Jerry LB 1985-91 UCLA 57 Robinson Johnny DT-DE 1981-83 Louisiana Tech 68 Robiskie Terry RB 1977-79 Louisiana State 35 Roderick John WR 1968 Southern Methodist 41 Rodriguez Mike DT 1987 Alabama 74 Roedel Herb G 1961 Marquette 61 Romano Jim C 1982-84 Penn State 52 Romanowski Bill LB 2002-03 Boston College 53 Rosensteil Bob TE 1997 Eastern Illinois 89 Rother Tim T-DT 1989-90 Nebraska 78 Rowe Dave DT 1975-78 Penn State 74 Rubke Karl DE 1968 Southern California 54 Russell Booker RB 1978-79 Southwest Texas State 34 Russell Darrell DT-DE 1997-01 USC 96 Sabal Ron T 1960-61 Purdue 64 Sands Terdell DT 2003-05 Tenn.-Chatanooga 92 Santiago O.J. TE 2003 Kent State 83 Sapp Warren DE-DT 2004-05 Miami 99 Schmautz Ray LB 1966 San Diego State 58 Schroeder Jay QB 1988-92 UCLA 10, 13 Schuh Harry T 1965-70 Memphis State 71, 79 Schweigert Stuart S 2004-05 Purdue 30 Scott Carey DB 2003 Kentucky State 37 Seale Sam WR-DB 1984-87 Western State (CO) 43, 88 Seiler Paul T 1971-73 Notre Dame 65 Shabazz Siddeeq S 2003 New Mexico State 28 Shaw Glenn RB 1963-64 Kentucky 32 Shaw Terrance CB 2002-03 Stephen F. Austin 22 Shedd Kenny WR 1996-99 Northen Iowa 84 Shell Art T 1968-82 Maryland State 78 Sherman Rod WR 1967, 1969-71 Southern California 13, 23 Shipp Jakie LB 1989 Oklahoma 58 Shirkey George DT 1962 Stephen F. Austin 77 Siani Mike WR 1972-77 Villanova 49 Simpson Jack LB 1962-64 Mississippi 49, 50 Simpson Willie RB 1962 San Francisco State 20, 39 Sims Barry G-T 1999-05 Utah 65 Sistrunk Otis DE-DT 1972-79 None 60 Skrepenak Greg T 1992-95 Michigan 78 Slaughter Chad T 2002-05 Alcorn State 78 Sligh Richard T 1967 North Carolina College 73 Slough Greg LB 1971-72 Southern California 45, 58 Smith Anthony DE 1991-97 Arizona 94 Smith Bubba DE 1973-74 Michigan State 77 Smith Charles RB 1968-74 Utah 23 Smith Hal DT 1961 UCLA 72 Smith James RB 1960 Compton J.C. 38 Smith Jim WR 1985 Michigan 86 Smith Jimmy RB 1984 Elon 29 Smith Kevin TE 1992-94 UCLA 39, 83 Smith Ron DB 1974 Wisconsin 27 Smith Steve RB 1987-93 Penn State 35 Smith Travian LB 1998-04 Oklahoma 53, 56 Smith Willie RB 1961 Michigan 63 Sommer Mike RB 1963 George Washington 29 Spencer Ollie G 1963 Kansas 63, 67 Spivey Mike DB 1980 Colorado 45 Squirek Jack LB 1982-85 Illinois 58 Stabler Ken QB 1970-79 Alabama 12 Stalls Dave DT 1983, 1985 Northern Colorado 61, 74 Steinfort Fred K 1976 Boston College 4 Stemke Kevin P 2002 Wisconsin 10 Stephens Rich G-T 1992-96 Tulsa 77 Stewart Joe WR 1978-79 Missouri 80 Stinchcomb Matt T 1999-03 Georgia 74 Stone Jack T 1961-62 Oregon 75 Stone John WR 2003-04 Wake Forest 86, 15 Stone Ron G 2004-05 Boston College 67 Strachan Steve RB 1985-89 Boston College 39 Streigel Bill LB 1960 Pacific Stubblefield Dana DT 2003 Kansas 94 Svihus Bob T 1965-70 Southern California 76 Sweeney Steve WR 1973 California 89 Swlling Pat DE 1995-96, 1998 Georgia Tech 56 Sword Sam LB 1999 Michigan Slyvester Steve C-G-T 1975-83 Notre Dame 66 Talley Stan K 1987 Texas Christian 5 Tatum Jack DB 1971-79 Ohio State 31, 32 Tautolo John T 1987 UCLA 61 Taves Josh DE 2000-01 Northeastern 99 Taylor Billy RB 1982 Texas Tech 49 Taylor Malcolm DT 1987-88 Tennessee State 96 Teal Willie DB 1987 Louisiana State 20 Teresa Tony RB 1960 San Jose State 25 Terrell David S 2004 UTEP 35 Thomas Skip DB 1972-78 Southern California 26 Thomas William LB 2000-01 Texas A&M 59 Thoms Art DT 1969-76 Syracuse 80 Tillmon Tony DB 1987 Texas 29 Todd Larry RB 1965-70 Arizona State 22 Toomay Pat DE 1977-79 Vanderbuilt 67 Tongue Reggie DB 2005 Oregon State 29 Toran Stacey DB 1984-88 Notre Dame 30 Townsend Greg DE-LB 1983-93 Texas Christian 93 Trapp James DB 1993-97 Clemson 27, 37 Trask Orville DT 1962 Rice 79 Treu Adam C-G-T 1997-05 Nebraska 62 Truax Dalton DT 1960 Tulane 72 Truitt Olanda WR 1996-97 Mississippi State 17, 88 Tuiasosopo Marques QB 2001-05 Washington 8 Turk Dan C 1989-96 Wisconsin 67 Turner Eric DB 1997-99 UCLA 29, 42 Tyson Richard G 1966 Tulsa 71 Upshaw Gene G 1967-81 Texas A&I 63 Upshaw Regan DE 2000-01 California 91 Urenda Herman WR 1963 Pacific 39, 83 Valdez Vernon DB 1962 San Diego University 25 Van Divier Randy G 1982 Washington 67, 68 Van Eeghen Mark RB 1974-81 Colgate 30 Vann Norwood LB 1988 East Carolina 50 Van Pelt Brad LB 1984-85 Michigan State 91 Vaughan Ruben DT-DE 1982 Colorado 99 Vella John G-T 1972-79 Southern California 75 Villapiano Phil LB 1971-79 Bowling Green 41 Voight Bob DE 1961 Los Angeles State 78 Walker Denard DB 2004-05 LSU 25 Walker Derrick TE 1999 Michigan 86 Walker Fulton DB 1985-86 West Virginia 41 Walker Langston T 2002-05 California 66 Walker Marquis DB 1998-99 Southern Missouri 38 Wallace Aaron LB,DE 1990-95, 1997-98 Texas A&M 51, 59 Walter Andrew QB 2005 Arizona State 16 Ware Tim WR 1989 Southern California 15 Warren Jimmy DB 1970-74, 1977 Illinois 20, 22 Warzeka Ron DE 1960 Montana State 78 Washington Fabian CB 2005 Nebraska 27 Washington Lionel DB 1987-94, 1997 Tulane 23, 48 Washington Ronnie LB 1987 Northeast Louisiana 91 Washington Ted DT 2004-05 Louisville 92 Watts Robert LB 1978 Boston College 54 Watts Ted DB 1981-84 Texas Tech 20, 41 Waymer Dave DB 1992 Notre Dame 44 Weathers Carl LB 1970-71 San Diego State 49, 51 Weaver Gary LB 1973-74 Fresno State 52 Wells Warren WR 1967-70 Texas Southern 81 Westbrooks Greg LB 1978-81 Colorado 52 Wheatley Tyrone RB 1999-03 Michigan 47 Wheeler Dwight C-T 1984, 1987-88 Tennessee State 67 Wheeler Ron TE 1987 Washington 82 White Alberto DE 1994 Texas Southern 96 White Eugene RB 1982 Florida A&M 29 Whitley Curtis C-G 1997 Clemson 66 Whittaker Scott C-T 1997 Kansas 78 Whitted Alvis WR 2002-05 North Carolina State 87 Whittington Arthur RB 1978-81 Southern Methodist 22 Wilkerson Bruce G-T 1987-94, 1998 Tennessee 68 Williams Brock DB 2003-04 Notre Dame 37, 29 Williams David WR 1987 Illinois 19, 89 Williams Demise DB 1987 Oklahoma State 33 Williams Dokie WR 1983-87 UCLA 85 Williams Harvey RB/TE 1994-98 Louisiana State 22 Williams Henry DB 1979 San Diego State 45 Williams Howie DB 1964-69 Howard 29 Williams Jamie TE 1994 Nebraska 88 Williams Jermaine RB 1998-99 Houston 34 Williams K.D. LB 1999 Henderson State 59 Williams Marcus TE 2002 Washington State 85 Williams Randal TE 2005 New Hampshire 86 Williams Ricky DB 1985-87 Langston 25 Williams Rodney WR 1998-99 Arizona 89 Williams Roland TE 2001-02, 2004 Syracuse 86 Williams Sam DE 2003-05 Fresno State 54 Williams Willie DB 1966 Grambling 49 Williamson Fred DB 1961-64 Northwestern 24 Williamson J.R. LB 1964-67 Louisiana Tech 52 Willis Chester RB 1981-84 Auburn 38 Willis Mitch DT 1985-87 Southern Methodist 98 Wilson Marc QB 1980-87 Brigham Young 6 Wilson Marcus RB 1991 Virginia 40 Wilson Nemiah DB 1968-74 Grambling 26, 48 Wilson Otis LB 1989 Louisville 50 Wilson Wade QB 1998-99 East Texas State 16 Winans Jeff G-DT 1976 Southern California 73 Wise Mike DE 1986-90 California-Davis 90 Wisniewski Steve G 1989-01 Penn State 76 Wolff Scott QB 1987 Mt. Union 17 Wood Dick QB 1965 Auburn 18 Wooden Terry LB 1998 Syracuse 57 Woods Chris WR 1987-88 Auburn 88 Woodson Charles CB 1997-05 Michigan 24 Woodson Rod S 2002-03 Purdue 26 Wright Alexander WR 1992-94 Auburn 89 Wright Steve T 1987-93 Northern Iowa 66 Wyatt Alvin DB 1970 Bethune-Cookman 41 Youso Frank T 1963-65 Minnesota 78 Zecher Rich T 1965 Utah State 74 Zereoue Amos RB 2004 West Virginia 28 Zogg John G 1987 Boise State 69 Coaches: (13) Eddie Erdelatz 1960-1961 Marty Feldman 1961-1962 Red Conkright 1962 Al Davis 1963-1965 John Rauch 1966-1968 John Madden 1969-1978 Tom Flores 1979-1987 Mike Shanahan 1988-1989 Art Shell 1989-1994 Mike White 1995-1996 Joe Bugel 1997 Jon Gruden 1998-2001 Bill Callahan 2002-2003 Norv Turner 2004-2005 Art Shell 2006-Present NOTES FOREWORD by BRUCE MACGOWAN INTRODUCTION THE SAN FRANCISCO RAIDERS? 21 AL DAVIS AND THE OWNERSHIP GROUP 25 General Clark hemmed and hawed. Davis asked him, “Don’t you want to win . . .?” Dickey, Glenn,Just Win, Baby: Al Davis and His Raiders, New York: Harcourt, 1991. FOOTBALL’S NAPOLEON 32 1963-65: SAVING THE OAKLAND FRANCHISE 36 MERGER 42 “You attack their supply lines,” Davis said of the AFL’s “war” with the NFL . . . Simmons, Ira, Black Knight: Al Davis and His Raiders, Prima, 1990 SO CLOSE, AND YET SO FAR 47 COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE 52 THE HEIDI GAME 58 “I would have outrun Hudson, too,” Smith said . . . LaMarre, Tom, Stadium Stories: Oakland Raiders, Globe Pequot, 2003. “THE MAD BOMBER” 64 “Tom started it all with the Raiders at quarterback,” recalled Lamonica . . . “I still have the NFL/AFL feeling,” he said. “I grew up with it. I remember the obstacles put in our way . . .” LaMarre, Tom,Stadium Stories: Oakland Raiders, Globe Pequot, 2003. THE MIRACLE WORKER 70 “I was considered a troublemaker,” Blanda recalled . . . Twombly, Wells, Blanda: Alive and Kicking, Nash Publications, 1972. “THE IMMACULATE RECEPTION” 78 “When you get into these things with the Oakland Raiders, you start to worry,” said Noll . . . Twombly, Wells, Oakland’s Raiders: Fireworks and Fury, New York: Prentice-Hall, 1973. FOOTBALL’S CIA 86 “What we try to do is find ‘Raider-types’ and adapt them to our system, rather than look for players of divergent skills and try to find a system that fits them all,” Davis said . . . LaMarre, Tom,Stadium Stories: Oakland Raiders, Globe Pequot, 2003. DOUBLE ZERO 92 “When I was with the Chargers, we felt if we could get you out of the game, the rest of the team would quit because you are the leader of the team,” Davis told him . . . Otto, Jim, Otto: The Pain of Glory, Champaign, Il: Sagamore Publishing, 2000. HUNTER THOMPSON, THE HELL’S ANGELS, AND THE CRIMINAL ELEMENT 97 THE REAL WILLIE BROWN 104 “I have come to understand fully now why Lou Saban traded me,” said Brown in 1973 . . . Twombly, Wells, Oakland’s Raiders: Fireworks and Fury, New York: Prentice-Hall, 1973. KNOCKIN’ ON THE DOOR OF GREATNESS 109 “THE SEA OF HANDS” 116 “Just use the same quotes from last year,” said Hubbard . . . “Just use the same quotes from last year,” said Hubbard . . . LaMarre, Tom, Stadium Stories: Oakland Raiders, Globe Pequot, 2003/ UPSHAW “Gene, you’re still just a kid,” Brown told Upshaw, back when he was just a kid. “Wait until you’ve been around this game awhile . . .” Twombly, Wells, Oakland’s Raiders: Fireworks and Fury, New York: Prentice-Hall, 1973. “HOME OF CHAMPIONS” 129 THE PROMISED LAND 134 SNAKE 141 “Send you’re A students to Cal and Stanford,” he told them . . . Travers, Steven, September 1970: One Night, Two Teams, and the Game That Changed A Nation, Lanham, Md: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2007. THE BEST SLOW, WHITE, HALL OF FAME RECEIVER MONEY CAN BUY 147 “Fred Biletnikoff plays football the way the Cossacks used to fight wars,” wrote sportswriter Wells Twombly . . . Twombly, Wells, Oakland’s Raiders: Fireworks and Fury, New York: Prentice-Hall, 1973. “PRIDE AND POISE” 152 “I still have the NFL/AFL feeling,” he said. “I grew up with it. I remember the obstacles put in our way . . .” LaMarre, Tom, Stadium Stories: Oakland Raiders, Globe Pequot, 2003. THE ASSASSIN 161 “GUYS DO STUFF.” 167 “There never was a name in my mind,” Davis said of hiring Madden . . . Ribowsly, Mark, Slick: The Silver-and-Black Life of Al Davis, New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1991. “JUST WIN, BABY!” 174 “THE GREATNESS THAT IS THE RAIDERS.” 180 KINGS OF TINSEL TOWN 187 AMAZING GRACE 194 “I was a poor, shy Mexican kid from east San Jose trying to mingle with the confident, intelligent scions of wealth who attend Stanford,” Plunkett wrote, “. . . Plunkett, Jim and Dave Newhouse,The Jim Plunkett Story, New York: Dell Publishing Co. 1982. GOLDEN BOY 201 "I'd broken for about 15 yards and there was one man between me and the goal line," he said . . . Allen, Marcus and Carlton Stowers, The Autobiography of Marcus Allen, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. HOWIE, STORK, RAIDERETTES, AND THE “FIVE-OH” 206 FLORES AND SHELL 210 “We knew we had a good team,” said Flores . . . LaMarre, Tom, Stadium Stories: Oakland Raiders, Globe Pequot, 2003. RONNIE LOTT 214 “Right before impact, my adrenaline rises,” he wrote . . . Lott, Ronnie, Total Impact, New York: Doubleday, 1991 THE KING OF THEM ALL 217 “Davis is a fascinating man,” King said of the mysterious Raiders’ owner . . . Travers, Steven, “A King Walks Amongst Us,” San Francisco Examiner, May 18, 2001. THE YEAR AL AND GEORGIA STOLE CHRISTMAS 222 “Georgia will meet her Maker and be judged for what she did,” said Fred Dryer . . . Travers, Steven, “The Year Al and Georgia Stole Christmas,” StreetZebra, August 1999. THE RAIDERS PLUNDERED THE NINERS 227 Rison has “done a lot of living, if you know what I mean,” Papa told me, but asked to be quoted as a “Raiders’ source,” which he still is; a high-ranking one . . . Travers, Steven, “Raiders Will Plunder Niners Again,” San Francisco Examiner, May 15, 2001. RICH GANNON AND THE 2002 SUPER BOWL TEAM 232 "After my rookie year <with the Minnesota Vikings in 1987>, I went back to Philadelphia and bought a 1960 Buick Elektra 225 convertible for$4,400," Gannon recalled . . . LaMarre, Tom,Stadium Stories: Oakland Raiders, Globe Pequot, 2003.

ALSO FROM STEVEN TRAVERS

RANDOM HOUSE AND TRIUMPH BOOKS

“TROJANS ESSENTIAL: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BE A REAL FAN!”

The University of Southern California Trojans are a monumental, heretofore never-seen-before dynasty. They have altered the very historical structure of the college grid landscape, surpassing Notre Dame as "history's greatest all-time collegiate football program."

This book tells the colorful stories of the "Trojan Empire." Read about John McKay and John Robinson, who from 1962-81 presided over the most dominant 20-year period ever. Read about Pete Carroll's Trojans of the 2000s, bidding to join Bud Wilkinson's 1950s Oklahoma Sooners and Frank Leahy's 1940s Notre Dame Fighting Irish as the greatest single-decade dynasties ever. Read about the 1972 Trojans, the greatest single-season team of all time. Read about Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, the finest same-team combo since Army's "Mr. Inside" and "Mr. Outside," Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard.

Trojans Essential: Everything You Need to Know to Be A Real Fan! details the fabulous record of Southern California football from its inception in 1888 right on up to Travers's eyewitness account of its near-miss attempt at a third straight national championship in 2005 - and beyond. Within these pages, read about USC's tied-with-Notre Dame-for-most-ever 11 national championships and seven Heisman Trophy winners.

Read all about the "Trojan Wars" that USC has fought with the Irish; a battle that has, since 1926, taken on the ageless, titanic struggle for national supremacy reminiscent of Troy’s struggles with Greece (as described by Homer).

Herein is the story of the incredible series with UCLA, which has captivated a country, excited a great city, and formed a backdrop for social change. The history of the Rose Bowl is the history of USC and a country through two World Wars and beyond.

Read about how USC, led by Sam "Bam" Cunningham, went into Birmingham, beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in 1970, and helped to end segregation in the American South.

Here are the great legends, All-Americans, colorful and controversial figures: Brice Taylor, Morley Drury, Erny Pinckert, Cotton Warburton, Ron Yary, Tim Rossovich, Mike Battle, the "Wild Bunch" and the "Cardiac Kids," Charles Young, Richard "Batman" Wood, Lynn Swann, J.K. McKay, Pat Haden, Anthony Davis, Ricky Bell, Brad Budde, Paul McDonald, Ronnie Lott, Junior Seau, Tony Boselli, Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Williams, "Wild Bunch II," and "The Four Horsemen of Southern California": Leinart, Bush, LenDale White, and Dwayne Jarrett.

Heisman winners: Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Charles White, Marcus Allen, Carson Palmer, and the incredible Leinart. The iconic coaches: Howard "Head Man" Jones, McKay, Robinson, Pete Carroll. Dark days: the O.J. case, losing streaks to Notre Dame and UCLA, the "curse of Marv Goux" and the "fall of the Trojan Empire." Highlights: Johnny Baker's 1931 field goal to beat Notre Dame; Doyle Nave's pass to "Antelope Al" Kreuger to upset unbeaten, untied, unscored upon Duke in the 1939 Rose Bowl; Frank Gifford leading the 1951 upset of Cal at Berkeley; C.R. Roberts' 251 yards in a racially hostile environment at Texas in 1956; beating Wisconsin's Ron VanderKelen in the 1963 Rose Bowl; Craig Fertig-to-Rod Sherman to upset Notre Dame in 1964; O.J.'s mad dash to beat UCLA in 1967 with a national title on the line; Anthony Davis's two superhuman games against the Irish, including 55 straight points to beat Notre Dame in 1974; Pat Haden-to-J.K. McKay to beat Ohio State in the 1975 Rose Bowl; Frank Jordan's field goal to beat Joe Montana's Irish in 1978; Fred Cornwell's catch to defeat Oklahoma in 1981; and Todd Marinovich-to-Johnny Morton to beat UCLA in 1990.

Here is the story of the "resurrection" of the Trojan Empire: routing Oklahoma in the 2005 BCS Orange Bowl; the "two greatest football games ever played": a miracle comeback at South Bend in 2005 and the national championship Rose Bowl game vs. Texas in 2006.

Trojans Essential: Everything You Need to Know to Be A Real Fan! is the dramatic telling of the Southern California football story, filled with Hollywood endings. It is a library essential for all Trojans and college grid fans alike!

“A’S ESSENTIAL: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BE A REAL FAN!”

In the history of baseball, the Athletics franchise has been one of the very most successful in the game. Behind only the New Yankee dynasty, the A’s are tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the second-most World Championships with nine. The Giants have won only five, the Dodgers only four. Comparatively, USC and Notre Dame have won 11 national championships in college football.

The A’s dominated the American League for two decades before Babe Ruth transformed the Yankees into the Bronx Bombers. For much of the past 85 years, when the Yankees slipped it was the A’s who emerged victorious. Since the beginning of divisional play in 1969, the A’s (with four World Championships, 12 division titles and 14 post-season appearances) have been nearly as successful as the modern Yankees (six World Championships).

The story of the A’s is one of “feast or famine” – periods of great glory followed by periods of mediocrity. However, through ups and downs; ownership changes; and movement from Philadelphia to Kansas City to Oakland, the A’s have given their loyal fans excitement. They are one of the game’s most colorful stories, on and off the field. Their fans are truly lucky, as the comparison of the A’s over the years with most of the other franchises reveals.

Bay Area author Steven Travers grew up a rabid A’s fan, attending countless regular season and post-season games with his father during their greatest glory days; listening to them for hours on the car or home radio; and following them on television.

A professional ball player himself, Travers realized his dream – briefly – when he became an A’s minor leaguer, even pitching for Billy Martin in a Major League Spring Training game between Oakland and San Francisco. Rarely does a writer have such an attachment with a sports team. The serendipity does not end there. He was a teammate of Jose Canseco’s and a USC classmate of Mark McGwire’s!

This fun book tells the story of Connie Mack, Rube Waddell; the Philadelphia dynasty of Foxx, Cochrane, Grove, Dykes and Simmons; the “moustache gang” of Reggie, Vida, Sal, and Catfish; the “Bash Brothers” teams of Jose and Big Mac; of Stewart, Henderson and Eckersley; right on up to Billy Beane’s latest champions: ace pitchers Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson; stars like Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada; and 2005-06.

Travers does not forget other colorful characters: Charlie O. Finley, Monte Moore, Bill King and Billy Beane. French sociologist Jacques Barzun, visiting America around 1910, stated, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” Those words are as right today as they were then. The A’s are truly an American tradition.

“ANGELS ESSENTIAL: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BE A REAL FAN!”

Steve Travers takes you on a fanciful journey that starts on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, and today is an institution in conservative Orange Countty. In the beginning, the Angels were colorful devils, haunting the free ‘n easy nightclubs of L.A. by night, and making their mark on the Dodger Stadium turf by day.

Bo Belinsky, Dean Chance and Leon “Daddy Wags” Wagner gave this expansion team personality, separating them from the Dodgers. This book details all the colorful history of the team, on up to their improbable 2002 World Championship.

“D’BACKS ESSENTIAL: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BE A REAL FAN!”

Through the magic of free agency, the Arizona Diamondbacks were able to field a great team, capturing the World Championship with an improbable 2001 victory over the Yankees in a post-9/11 Series that showed America – not to mention Islamo-Fascism – that nothing can bring down the greatest country God ever gave to Mankind. This book tells the short but fabulous story of a great team that emerged from the desert and found the Promised Land.

“DODGERS ESSENTIAL: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BE A REAL FAN!”

Ah, the Dodgers. Love ‘em or hate ‘em. The beloved Bums of Brooklyn. “Beat L.A.!” This franchise has seen the lowest valleys and ascended to the highest mountaintops. They have been underdogs and a baseball empire. They have enraged and overjoyed millions of fans from coast to coast. Like very few American sports franchises, the Dodgers are a recognizable international symbol of this nation’s sporting obsession.

Baseball in Brooklyn is almost as old as baseball itself. New York City is the cradle of baseball’s civilization, the Mesopotamia of Our National Pastime. The Dodgers came into existence, and like the Israelites from the beginning they were overlooked. Until the 1940s, the game was dominated by their New York rivals: John McGraw’s Giants and Babe Ruth’s Yankees.

The formation of the Dodger character in the 1940s and ‘50s, and how they found the Promised Land, is one of the most unique stories of a team and their fans ever told. Then it was all ripped away from them, and like Manna from Heaven the denizens of Los Angeles, California were given the greatest of all diamond gifts. The religious fervor with which L.A. embraced the team and enhanced the character of this great franchise is as different a story – and just as fascinating – as what occurred in Brooklyn.

California sports historian Steven Travers fills these pages with the most colorful and descriptive moments, large and small, that makes up the collective conscience that is Dodger baseball. He is uniquely qualified to tell the Dodger story, having grown up a Dodger fan who played minor league ball against them; then lived half his adult life in that bastion of Dodger haters - the San Francisco Bay Area - and the other half in L.A., where he was constantly within radio earshot of the great Vin Scully.

Pull up a chair: Zack, Babe, Daffy, “Leo the Lip,” Mr. Rickey, Jackie, Roy, The Duke, Newc, Gil, Pee Wee, Oisk, the O’Malleys, Walt, Dandy Sandy, Big D, Garv, Sutton, Orel, Kirk, Piazza, Tommy and the rest of the “Boys of Summer” are just waitin’ to entertain you.

This team is “Easternmost in quality and Westernmost in flavor.” If you do not know what that means, you’re not a real Dodger fan.

KUDOS FOR

"BARRY BONDS: BASEBALL'S SUPERMAN"

by

STEVEN TRAVERS

Travers' new book finally explains the phenomenon.

…the Bonds tale is spelled out in the most thorough, interesting, revealing, concise manner ever reached.

MAURY ALLEN/WWW.THECOLUMNISTS.COM, GANNETT NEWSPAPERS

I think you’ll not only enjoy yourself but learn a few things that you didn’t know about Barry Bonds.  And perhaps you’ll come to realize as I have, that he’s not only a great ballplayer, but a most interesting person.

Travers appears to have the right credentials for the task: He is a former minor leaguer who also penned screenplays in addition to a column for the San Francisco Examiner. He calls on that background in crafting a straightforward, warts-and-all profile that remains truthful without becoming a mean-spirited hatchet job…

USA TODAY BASEBALL WEEKLY

(Steve Travers) is a Renaissance Man...a great read...entertaining.

JIM ROME SHOW

A great new baseball book and must-read for fans of the Giants and Barry Bonds.

MIKE MCDOWD/KFTY 50, SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA

Travers’ work is a remarkably frank assessment of Bonds’ character, his background, his flaws and virtues...

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE

Steve Travers is a great writer, an educated athlete who knows how to get inside the player's heads, and when that happens, greatness occurs. He's gonna be a superstar...the best columnist in the Bay Area.

DAVE BURGIN/EDITOR, SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER

Steve Travers is a phenomenal writer, an artist who labors over every word to get it just right, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of sports and history.

STREETZEBRA MAGAZINE

Bonds books paints tough portrait.

DWIGHT CHAPIN/SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

A very interesting read which is not your average baseball book…Steve has achieved his bona fideswhen it comes to having the credentials to write a book like this.

GEOFF METCALFE/KSFO RADIO, SAN FRANCISCO; SYNDICATED ON WORLDNETDAILY

This is a fascinating book written by a man who knows his subject matter inside and out.

Get this book. You've brought Bonds to life.

FRED WALLIN, SYNDICATED SPORTSTALK RADIO HOST, LOS ANGELES

This promises to be the biggest sports book of 2002.

This cat struck out Kevin Mitchell five times in one game. I'll read the book for that reason alone. Plus, he hangs out with Charlie Sheen. How do I get that gig?

…gossipy, easy-to-read tale…explores the sports culture that influences this distinguished slugger…entertaining.

LIBRARY JOURNAL

Warts-and-all…Travers explores Bonds' mercurial temper and place in baseball history.

…the first comprehensive biography of Barry Bonds.

BUD GERACIE/SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

Travers thought he hit the jackpot…

FURMAN BISCHER/ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Travers…hit the big time…Travers…established himself as a writer of many dimensions…a natural.

JOHN JACKSON/ROSS VALLEY REPORTER

Travers is a minor league pitcher turned sports writer, and therefore qualified to evaluate [Larry] Dierker's thought process in ordering all those walks regardless of the score or the situation.

…looks at all of Barry's warts, yet remains in the end favorable to him. Not an easy balancing act. This is not your average sports book. It is edgy and filled with laughs... and inside baseball. Good, solid reading.

AMAZON.COM

GRAND SLAM HOME RUN. Travers, a former baseball pitcher himself, delves into the mind of Bonds.

BORDERS.COM

It reveals some aspects of his relationship with Willie Mays and is instructive in what makes Barry tick, good and bad.

STOCKTON RECORD

"This a good book that really covers his whole life, and informs us where Bonds is coming from. His entire life is laid out. He is very qualified to continue to write books such as this one. Good job."

MARTY LURIE/"RIGHT OFF THE BAT" OAKLAND A'S PRE-GAME HOST

…a quality piece…(Travers) uses his experiences in baseball…providing a humorous glimpse into the life of a player. Would I recommend this book? Absolutely…laughed out loud several times at Travers' unique way of explaining his experiences. This book is definitely worth the time.

JOHN KENNY/ESPORTNEWS.COM

Travers’ account mentions everything from cocaine to sex to car crashes to what Bonds said he would do to Roger Clemens…more than a “hit” piece.

JOHNSON CITY PRESS

Travers' book does do a more well-rounded job of solving the mystery of who Bonds is…appealing…is the more inside look at Bonds in Travers' book.

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

…Travers' work is every baseball aficionado's dream.

FAIRFIELD DAILY REPUBIC

You've created quite a stir here at the station, with the Giants, and throughout baseball.

RICK BARRY SHOW/KNBR RADIO, SAN FRANCISCO

You've stirred a hornet's nest here, man.

JT "THE BRICK"/SYNDICATED NATIONAL SPORTS HOST

This is a controversial subject and a controversial player, but you've educated us.

RON BARR/"SPORTSLINE", ARMED FORCES RADIO NETWORK

A baseball player who can write…who knew? This one sure can!

ARNY "THE STINKIN' GENIUS" SPANYER/FOX SPORTS RADIO, LOS

ANGELES

You know baseball like few people I've ever spoken to.

ANDY DORFF/SPORTSTALK HOST, PHOENIX, PHILADELPHIA AND NEW JERSEY

Congratulations…a tour de force.

KATE DELANCEY/WFAN RADIO, NEW YORK CITY

Good work!

I really loved this book.

Good stuff.

I can't stand Bonds, but you've done a good job with a difficult subject.

GRANT NAPIER/SACRAMENTO SPORTSTALK HOST

Steve's a literate ex-athlete, an ex-Trojan and a veteran of Hollywood, too.

LEE "HACKSAW" HAMILTON/XTRA RADIO, SAN DIEGO

A great book about a great player.

A gem.

ROSEVILLE PRESS-TRIBUNE

Here's the man to talk to regarding the subject of Barry Bonds.

JOHN LOBERTINI/KPIX TV, SAN FRANCISCO

He's enlightened us on the subject of Bonds, his father, and Godfather, Willie Mays.

BRIAN SUSSMAN/KPIX TV, SAN FRANCISCO

I hate Bonds, but you're okay.

SCOTT FERRALL/SYNDICATED NATIONAL AND NEW YORK

SPORTSTALK HOST

You've done some good writin', dude.

One of the better baseball books I've read.

…the "last word" on Barry Bonds…

SCOTT REIS/ESPN TV

…a hot new biography on Barry Bonds…

DARIAN HAGAN/CNN

…one of the great sportswriters on the current American scene, Steve Travers…

Note from the author coming soon...

(415) 456-6898
(415) 450-7263 cell
(603) 658-0612 fax
USCSTEVE1@aol.com

Agent:
Ian Kleinert/(212) 431-5454
Objective Entertainment, New York City

PROFESSIONAL...

## Published Reviews

May.21.2009

Another bull’s-eye by Steven Travers. He has captured the love, laughter, and largesse of the 1962 baseball season, maybe the most entertaining season of all time, especially in New York, Los Angeles, and...

Jul.19.2009

Redwood High Baseball Team of 1977 to be Remembered
Keep your eyes peeled for the IJ next week, because we''ll have a piece in the sports section on Redwood High's phenomenal 1977 "mythical" national...