Feb 082016
 

In another stunning reversal, the AFL awarded the eighth and final franchise to the city of Oakland. Much of the credit for the change went to Chargers owner Barron Hilton. Hilton, who had been out of town for previous votes, made a strong plea upon his return for choosing Oakland. And on the league’s fifth ballot, the California city was chosen unanimously. Commissioner Joe Foss gave three reasons for the decision: the creation of a west coast rival for Los Angeles, the Oakland community’s strong show of interest, and better geographic balance than would have been provided by a team in Atlanta. Foss also credited a strong presentation by Chet Soda, Wayne Valley, and in particular, Robert Osborne.
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Feb 062016
 

I originally posted this the day following the death of Ken Stabler. Today, on the day of his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I wanted to post it again here, a portrait of a man who will always represent pro football and the Oakland Raiders for me more than any other player. At last, my childhood hero is in the Hall of Fame. If only he could have been here to enjoy it.

The impressionable years of my childhood aligned seamlessly with the golden age of Oakland sports. It was the era of Rick Barry’s Golden State Warriors and their 1975 championship, the Swingin’ A’s and their three straight World Series triumphs, and most of all, the greatest years of pro football’s most storied team, the Oakland Raiders.

Those were heady days to be a youthful Raiders fan and my list of football heroes was long, indeed. Even now, the names conjure countless indelible images in my mind’s eye: George Blanda, Willie Brown, Marv Hubbard, Fred Biletnikoff, Jack Tatum, Dave Casper, Gene Upshaw, George Atkinson, Jim Otto, Cliff Branch, and that’s just a start. John Madden and Al Davis absolutely fit in there as well. But there is one name above all that, for me, personified the Oakland Raiders, and that name is Kenny Stabler.

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Jan 212016
 

Perfectly illustrating the uncertainty surrounding information coming from the AFL’s meeting in Dallas, the Atlanta bid, in a complete reversal of opinion, now appeared to be the shoo-in choice. A preliminary ballot among the seven team owners revealed a 6-1 vote in favor of the Georgia city over Oakland. George McKeon’s San Francisco proposal was now out of the running entirely. Spurred into action by the vote, the Oakland forces pulled out all the stops. Impassioned pleas for the city’s bid arrived in Dallas by telegram from mayor Cliff Rishell, congressman George Miller, and William Sparling of the Chamber of Commerce. On another front, councilman Frank Youell, in an appeal to San Francisco city officials, went straight for the heart, asking them to allow an Oakland team to use one of their stadiums, reminding them how Oakland had opened its doors to San Franciscans after the 1906 earthquake.

Oakland Tribune

Jan 212016
 

The news out of Dallas was that Atlanta was probably out of the running and that the competition was now between Chet Soda’s Oakland group and and George McKeon’s San Francisco assemblage. While the AFL continued their deliberations, Robert Osborne returned to Oakland to report to the city council. During the council’s meeting, they voted to put a measure on the June ballot to finance a stadium with revenue bonds.

Oakland Tribune

Jan 212016
 

Developments in the Oakland ownership derby became more muddled. One of the potential bidders, Bill Jackson, had flown to Dallas to make a presentation, but after witnessing Chet Soda’s pitch, Jackson withdrew from the process, saying Soda had done a great job. However, back in the Bay Area, a fourth group emerged. This one was led by George McKeon, son of a local construction firm owner, and Kezar Stadium concessionaire Bernard Hagen. McKeon and Hagen had sent a telegram to the league asking for consideration of their bid for a team representing San Francisco.

In Dallas, the AFL continued to weigh their options. Observers thought Oakland now had the inside track and that the San Francisco bid seemed unlikely to get much support. These sources pointed out that the AFL had already invaded two NFL cities, New York and Los Angeles, and even a third, if Dallas counted. But the league was still clearly undecided. Bud Adams of Houston and Ralph Wilson of Buffalo were said to favor Atlanta, while Dallas’s Lamar Hunt and Barron Hilton in Los Angeles were Oakland backers. Aiding the Oakland position was confirmation by the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Commission that Kezar Stadium and Candlestick Park would be available as long as a team’s needs didn’t conflict with those of the Giants and 49ers.

Oakland Tribune

Jan 212016
 

In Dallas, Chet Soda, supported by fellow investors Robert Osborne and San Leandro contractor Wayne Valley, made his presentation to the AFL. An Atlanta group was also there making a competing bid. No consensus had yet emerged, though some thought Houston owner Bud Adams was leaning toward Atlanta because it would make for an easier split of the league into eastern and western divisions and because there was a strong untapped market for professional football in the South.

Oakland Tribune

Jan 212016
 

A pair of developments clarified the Oakland ownership picture slightly. While latecomer Chet Soda was flying to Dallas to attend a meeting of the AFL owners scheduled for the 26th, Ted Harrer took a step back from the process, citing a fear that conflict among the local groups might harm the chances of Oakland getting a team at all.

Oakland Tribune

Jan 212016
 

In a statement to the press, San Francisco mayor George Christopher wondered whether the Bay Area could support two professional teams. The statement prompted some fear that mayor’s concerns might influence the Kezar and Candlestick authorities to withdraw permission for an AFL team to use either stadium.

Oakland Tribune

Jan 212016
 

The University of California regents met and formally denied permission for the use of their stadium by the pros. Meanwhile, the Bill Jackson and Ted Harrer prospective ownership groups finally met for discussions, but no merger agreement came from it. The negotiators couldn’t agree about who would have ultimate authority. To complicate matters further, a third group of investors appeared on the scene, this one headed by local real estate developer Chet Soda. The new group also included Oakland city councilman Robert Osborne and Candlestick Park contractor Charles Harney.

Oakland Tribune

Jan 142016
 

Oakland city councilman Frank Youell came out in support of placing a stadium bond on the June ballot. Ideally, he hoped to see approval of a plan to build a 50-60,000 seat facility with up to 10,000 parking spaces, located alongside the Nimitz freeway, bounded by Fifth, Eighth, and Fallon streets.

In ownership news, a report clarified that Bill Jackson and Ted Harrer’s teams had not yet met. The Jackson group announced they had sent a formal application along with the $25,000 entry fee to the league and had been in preliminary talks with Candlestick Park authorities.

Oakland Tribune