Frank Youell Field Sky Shot
Not so long ago, I received an email from a gentleman who has been buzzing around the Silver and Black Pride website lately. He calls himself Mallard Davis, and I don't know his entire real name, however, I do know that his first name is Bob. Now, Bob asked me to talk about the early stages of the Oakland Raiders...before they were the Raiders, and how they came to be the Raiders. He said he would like me to do this "for some of the young bucks who were born after the Raiders last won a Super Bowl."
Now, the Raiders last Super Bowl win was in 1983, and I was born in 1982, so I had just turned a year old at that point in my life. He may or may not have known this, but Bob was about to make me embark on a historical journey to uncover documents that may have been lost to many fans (although they are easily accessed on the internet) over the 50 year history of the NFL's greatest franchise.
It's interesting, because Bob said in the email that "anyone can Wiki this stuff," but I'm not sure that anyone ever does. Bob is quickly making a name for himself as the history buff on Silver and Black Pride, asking people questions during my last live chat like, "What Raider D Lineman graduated from ‘The University of Mars'?" as well as, "What player broke Namath's jaw in a 1967 game?"
The Oakland Raiders story begins in 1959, when the National Football League offered a spot in their league to a yet to be named Minneapolis expansion team who was playing, at that time, in the American Football League. We now know this team to be the Minnesota Vikings. After the owners of the Minneapolis team accepted the NFL's invitation, this sent the AFL scrambling to find a replacement for the lost team. On January 30th, 1960, that replacement team was awarded to the city of Oakland, California.
At the time, the city of Oakland seemed like an unlikely place to start a football team. But Los Angeles Chargers owner, Barron Hilton, threatened to forfeit his franchise unless another west coast team was added to the AFL. Despite having no ownership group and no stadium suitable for professional football, as well as the successful NFL's San Francisco 49ers franchise very close by, the AFL gave the new team to the city of Oakland.
After they received the franchise, Oakland civil leaders began looking for business men willing to invest in the new team. A limited partnership was formed between Y. Charles Soda, Ed McGah, Robert Osborne, F. Wayne Valley, Don Blessing, Harvey Binns, and Charles Harney. A "name the team" contest was held by a local newspaper, and the team was given its original name, the Oakland Señors. Many local residents, however, were not pleased with the name and Y. Charles Soda was known within the Oakland business community for calling his acquaintances "señor". The team's name would be changed nine days later. Their original colors were black, gold, and white.
The Raiders ownership wanted their team to play at the field of the University of California Berkeley, but they were refused the right to let the team play at Memorial Stadium. So, they chose Kezar Stadium in San Francisco as the site of their home games. The first home game played by the Raiders was September 11, 1960 and it was a loss to the Houston Oilers, 37-22. Raiders' games were called locally by Bud Foster, handling play-by-play, and Mel Venter, providing color analysis, for local radio station, KNBC 680-AM (now known as KNRB). When the Raiders' games were on KDIA (1310 AM) Bob Blum, did the play-by-play and Dan Galvin, did the color. In 1966, Bill King was hired for the play-by-play and Oakland Tribune sports writer, Scotty Sterling as color man.
For the final three home games of the 1960 season, the Raiders were allowed to play at Candlestick Park after approval by the San Francisco's Recreation and Park Commission. It was the first time that professional football was played at the new stadium. But the change of venue failed to draw larger crowds, and the Oakland team finished the year with a 6-8 record. They lost $500,000 and found themselves desperately in need of money in order to continue running the team. F. Wayne Valley may have saved the future of one of the greatest NFL franchises when he took a $400.000 loan from Buffalo Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. That's right everybody, the Buffalo Bills franchise is the reason why there is an Oakland Raiders franchise today.
At the conclusion of that 1960 season, General Partner Y. Charles Soda dropped out and on January 17, 1961, limited partners Valley, McGah and Osborne bought out the remaining four limited partners. Soon after that, Valley and McGah purchased Osborne's interest, with Valley named as the managing general partner. After splitting the previous home season between Kezar and Candlestick, the Raiders moved exclusively to Candlestick Park in 1961, where total attendance for the season was about 50,000, the team finished 2-12.
Valley threatened to move the Raiders out of the area unless a stadium was built in Oakland, but in 1962 the Raiders moved into 18,000-seat Frank Youell Field for their first home in Oakland. It was a temporary home from 1962-1965 for the team while the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was under construction. Mallard Davis recalls:
"My Dad had seats on the 50 yard line for a couple years. I remember that seats were wood bleachers and we did not seem to have much room. It was the first time I ever peed in a trough (funny how you remember that) and we got felt hats. Being 8, I don't remember much, except I do know that the backs were Clem Daniels and Hewert Dixon. We lived in the High Street/MacAurthur area and Clem Daniels had a liquor store a couple blocks from us. I just find it interesting that the Raiders could have been the Señors and the original field is now where Laney College is at."
In 1963, Valley hired Al Davis, a former Chargers assistant coach, to be the head coach and GM of his Oakland team. At 33, Al Davis was the youngest person in professional football history to hold these positions. Reportedly inspired by the University of Army's black and gray uniforms, Davis immediately changed the team's colors to Silver and Black. He installed what he called the "Vertical Game" which was originally inspired by Chargers Head Coach Sid Gillman's "West coast offense". In 1963, the Raiders finished the season with a 10-4 record and Al Davis was named the AFL's coach of the year.
In 1966, Davis left the team to be the commissioner of the AFL, two months later, the AFL merged with the NFL, and Davis' heated history with the NFL was ignited after he found out that he would no longer be the commissioner of the AFL. On July 25th, 1966, Al Davis returned to the Raiders as part owner. He bought a 10 percent share of the team for $18,000, and became the team's third general partner and head of football operations.
Under Davis' leadership, the team saw continued improvement. Davis' hand-picked successor at head coach, John Rauch, coached the team to the 1967 AFL Championship, beating the Houston Oilers 40-7, and they earned a bid in Super Bowl II which they lost to the Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers 33-14. The Raiders continued their success for the next two years, finishing the respective seasons by winning the Western Division Title.
In 1970, the AFL-NFL merger took place and the Raiders joined the Western Division of the American Football Conference in the newly merged NFL.
In 1969, John Madden became the team's sixth head coach, and under his leadership, the Raiders became one of the most successful franchises in the NFL, winning six division titles during the 1970s. The achievement was marred somewhat by three consecutive losses in AFC Championships from 1973 to 1975, two against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their "Steel Curtain" defense. In 1976, the Madden's Raiders finished the year 13-1 and finally defeated the Steelers 24-7 in the AFC Championship game. Then they beat the Minnesota Vikings, the team they originally replaced in the AFL, 32-14, in Super Bowl XI for the franchise's first Super Bowl Ring.
In 1972, with Wayne Valley attended the Olympic Games in Munich, for a period of several weeks; during that time, Davis' attorneys drafted a revised partnership agreement that gave him total control over all of the Raiders' operations. McGah, a strong supporter of Davis, signed the partnership agreement. Under partnership law, by a 2-1 vote of the general partners, the new agreement was thus ratified. This infuriated Valley, who immediately filed a grievence, but the courts sided with Davis and McGah. In January 1976, Valley sold his interest in the team, and 25 percent owner, Al Davis, took the master reigns of the Raiders.
In 1979, after ten consecutive winning seasons and one Super Bowl championship, John Madden left the Raiders to pursue a career as a television football commentator. His replacement as head coach was former Raiders quarterback Tom Flores, the first Hispanic head coach in NFL history. In the fifth week of the 1980 season, starting quarterback Dan Pastorini broke his leg and was replaced by former number-one draft pick Jim Plunkett. Plunkett led Oakland to an 11-5 record, a wild card berth, and ultimately a 27-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV. With the victory, the Raiders became the first ever wild card team to win a Super Bowl.
Since their inception in 1960, the Raiders have participated in five Super Bowls, winning three, and have inducted eleven players who made their primary contribution to professional football while with the Raiders, in addition to owner Al Davis and head coach John Madden inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. The Raiders' total of thirteen Hall of Famers is tied for seventh-highest with the St. Louis Rams.
This project was a history lesson for me and I have to thank Bob for that. Bob is obviously a die-hard fan, who has followed the team all these years and I'm sure he would love to watch the Raiders win their next Super Bowl Championship, just the same as Al Davis would, and just the same as the rest of Raider Nation. So, next time you see the name Mallard Davis post a comment, makes sure you ask him a question about the rich history of the Oakland Raiders. And if he asks you a question, be prepared to do some research!
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