Raider co-owner Robert Osborne reaffirmed that his group was serious about landing an American League baseball team for Oakland. “Several of the Raider owners are interested in the baseball project,” he said, “and we hope to go after the franchise with the same vigor as we did the football thing.”
Speaking of the football thing, the team was trying to determine who would be able to take the field against Boston. Tom Flores was back to throwing the ball and showing few, if any, effects from his recent shoulder injury, but Eddie Erdelatz still had no plans to play him in the game. His tight end, Gene Prebola, who sat out the Buffalo game, was doubtful for this one, too. Also doing time in the trainer’s room were halfback Dean Philpott and defensive back John Harris, both of whom were battling knee sprains.
In league news, the AFL announced that the regular season roster limit would be 35 instead of 33, giving teams a little more depth, a need felt especially by injury-prone teams like the Raiders. Teams would still have to make a preliminary cut to 38 by August 30. The Raiders currently had 43 players on the squad.
While the team was flying to Massachusetts, Raider owners Chet Soda and Wayne Valley were in New York trying to persuade Joe Cronin and Dan Topping of the American League to put an expansion baseball team in Oakland. The trip was all part of an effort to drum up support for public funding of a stadium in the East Bay. Fellow owners Robert Osborne and Ed McGah and Oakland mayor Clifford Rishell were also involved in the process. The passage of a bond issue slated for the fall election was at stake and the group hoped the prospect of a baseball team coming to town would boost their chances.
Soda thought the cost of a American League franchise would be in the neighborhood of $500,000 to $750,000 and said that if they couldn’t get a stadium in Oakland soon, the Raiders might have to move to San Francisco permanently.
Oakland’s team ownership confirmed Chet Soda as general manager, removing the word “acting” from his title. Soda, along with Wayne Valley and Robert Osborne, were the members of an executive committee tasked with other high-level hires, particularly the head coach position. Phil Bengtson and Eddie Erdelatz continued to be the front-runners for the job. Soda, a businessman with little to no football experience, was likely to hire someone more knowledgeable for the assistant GM spot. In the meantime, he expected to open a team office in Oakland within a few days and fill more administrative positions by the end of the week.
The team appointed Chet Soda as acting chairman of the board while the search for a coach and general manager continued. The owners hired former University of San Francisco athletic director Jimmy Needles to oversee the candidate screening process. A rumor from a persuasive source hinted that Eddie Erdelatz had been offered the head coaching job after a 7-1 approval vote by the owners, with only Charles Harney voting against. However, Robert Osborne denied that an offer had been made, that a vote had been taken, or even that Needles had been hired as a consultant. Nevertheless, the Tribune reported that Erdelatz had met with Soda and Needles and that he wanted a three year contract for either $20,000 per year plus a percentage of the gate, or a straight $25,000 per year.
On the general manager front, observers thought the team had eliminated Pappy Waldorf from consideration because his demand of a $30,000 salary plus a percentage of the gate was too high. Phil Bengtson now commanded the front-runner spot with Paul Christopoulos and assistant Detroit Lions general manager Bud Erickson still in the mix.
In stadium news, the California State Senate joined the Oakland City Council and Alameda County Board of Supervisors by passing a resolution asking the Cal regents to reconsider letting the pros on campus.
Hayward Daily Review
With the wax on the league seal of approval still drying, the rumors about coaches and general managers started in earnest. Eddie Erdelatz, former Naval Academy head coach and Bay Area native, was in town applying for the open head coaching job at Cal and his name shot right to the top of the list for the Oakland job as well. The first name mentioned in connection with the GM post was Jackie Jensen, the recently retired right fielder for the Boston Red Sox. As a San Francisco native and former All-American halfback at Cal, his bona fides were solid. Despite the rumors, Robert Osborne hastened to deny that club owners had yet met to discuss potential hirings.
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.
Read more “January 30, 1960”
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.
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.
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.
A first meeting to plan strategy for an Oakland bid was convened by Barron Hilton in San Francisco. Among the attendees were Oakland Tribune assistant publisher William Knowland, chairman of the Oakland sports stadium committee George Jacopetti, Oakland city councilmen Robert Osborne and Dan Marovich, Oakland city manager Wayne Thompson, Berkeley city assemblyman Don Mulford, Oakland Chamber of Commerce president William Sparling, Robert Lurie, Hal Schoener, a former San Francisco 49er player representing local magnate Ted Harrer, and AFL leader Lamar Hunt. Hunt pointed out again that time was of the essence and that a local bid had to be put together as quickly as possible. For most of the meeting the focus was on getting a stadium. Of primary concern was the possibility that East Bay fans would not support a team playing in San Francisco, even under the Oakland name. A faint hope was held out that the team could convince the University of California to allow the team to play in 80,000 seat Memorial Stadium until an Oakland stadium could be built, but a long-standing university rule against allowing professional sports to use school facilities stood in the way. There was also a rumor that the city of Hayward, just south of Oakland, was considering building a stadium and trying to land the team.
Some negotiating among the potential owners leaked from the meeting as well. Osborne indicated he would be willing to invest up to $200,000 as part of an East Bay ownership group. Jacopetti also identified himself as a possible investor. Schoener said Harrer would be in, but wanted 51 percent ownership of the team as a condition of his investment.
Frank Leahy, the Chargers general manager, was also at the meeting to assist Hilton, and explained that a draft pool would be created from players let go by the other seven teams and that, in the interest of league competitive balance, efforts would be made to ensure that the pool did not consist solely of scrubs. Leahy thought each team would take about 60 players to training camp in the summer, with roster limits to be set at 33 by the first week of the regular season. Initially, the league was planning to start play the weekend of September 18.