The site has gone through a number of changes over the years, but these days it’s simply a day-to-day narrative of the history of the Oakland Raiders franchise. Plans are in the works – they’re always in the works – to create something more encyclopedic, but that’s not the primary focus and hasn’t been for quite a while now.
The start of what would eventually become the Raider Logbook came in 1997 when I first got access to a quality newspaper archive in the Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington. All too often, when I should have been tracking down obscure sources for my Victorian social history field course, I would go grab a couple of reels of the San Francisco Chronicle and read about the old days in Raider history. Living far from the source, most of what I knew about my team came on the back of football cards and in books and on television on Sundays and Monday nights. The ability to read day-to-day reports about players who had previously just been a single-line encyclopedia entry was thrilling and addictive.
Perhaps a year earlier, while at Eastern Washington University, finishing up my BA, I had received my first email address and soon found something called the Raider Fans Mailing List (RFML). These days (2019), with an endless array of blogs, news sites, video, and Twitter feeds, team news is always available and up to date, but back then, as the Web was just going, ahem, viral, most of the good stuff was on Usenet message boards stuck in and around the spam that was already going strong. But the RFML was the answer to a prayer. It had been around for a few years before I got there and it had developed into a great community of fans who were knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and smart. Over the years as the web grew, it lost much of its utility and longtime members who set the tone drifted away for various reasons, but in its heyday it was a great family to belong to.
Now with access to the Chronicle and trying to find a way to contribute to the RFML, I started writing up detailed accounts of old Raider games and posting them to the list. Some enjoyed them, others did not, and most probably ignored them, but one who didn’t ignore them was a guy named Bill Johnson. He liked what I was doing and invited me to contribute to a new website he was creating called Raiderfans.com. I started posting stuff under the name “Anome” on a page called the Raider Logbook. Bill, who went by the name Quartermaster on his site, soon expanded it into NFLFans.com that covered every team in the league. It was what SB Nation is now, years before SB Nation was created. It was an ambitious, exciting time. Eventually, Bill scaled back his operation to become Worldwide Fans in Black (fansinblack.com), another robust Raider fan community that is probably unparalleled on the web today. Unfortunately, Bill died a couple of years ago, but the community he created almost single-handedly lives and thrives.
Not long after I started contributing to Raiderfans, Manny Baldenegro reached out to me. Manny was a self-styled “Raider fan-addict” who went by the name “El Pirata” online and published a Raider newsletter called the Silver and Black Electronic Report (SABER). If I remember correctly, it was distributed via email, but it also had a web presence and several issues can be found on the Internet Archive at raiderfans.com/saber.
SABER provided game previews and post-game analysis from the mid-90s through at least 2000 and I contributed a number of pieces in ‘98 and ‘99. Unlike my work for Bill, which was all historical in nature, many of my contributions to SABER were analyses of the then-current team, a job for which I was deeply underqualified but Manny was gracious and supportive throughout and I had a lot of fun writing for him. I’m not sure what Manny is up to these days, but I’m sure it has something to do with his beloved UCLA.
About this same time, yet another person reached out to me: Tim Del Rosario. In 1997 or 1998, Tim started a print publication called Raider Fan Magazine that, as he put it, was “by the fan, for the fan,” and somewhere in 1999, I think, he asked if I would be willing to write for him. I was, of course, and in addition to writing history pieces, Tim wangled me a media pass for Raider games in Seattle for a few years, leading to my getting to watch an entire game in the Kingdome press box seated not more than 10 feet away from Al Davis. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed that, watching him scribble notes to himself on cocktail napkins and “Little Al” Locasale debating with another aide whether to bring “Big Al” another soft drink. A fantastic memory I’ll always treasure. Tim kept the magazine going for several years after I stopped writing for him, but like Manny, I’m not sure what he’s doing nowadays.
By 2000, life had happened. I had finished my MA, had two small boys to raise, and had some other distractions to deal with that meant I could no longer be a reliable correspondent for Bill, Manny, or Tim. I’m not particularly good at keeping in touch over the long haul, so I lost track of them pretty quickly.
Even though I could no longer work to a deadline, I still wanted to write and explore Raider history, so in 2001 I purchased the URL raiderlogbook.com and set to work. This was at a time when sports database sites were still in the early stages of evolution and there was a niche for me to fill. With that in mind, I started assembling a player register and stat pages, mostly by cribbing from the likes of Total Football and the NFL Record and Fact Book. I also began to post single paragraph summaries of each game from 1960 on. Not having much skill in web page design, my efforts were pretty ugly, but they were out there and sometimes even viewed by others.
I poked and prodded at it for far too many years, but never found a design or approach that was wholly satisfying. Additionally, much of what I had originally intended to do had been done much more comprehensively by others, particularly by Doug Drinen and Sean Forman at Sports Reference. So, somewhere around 2010 I decided instead to center the site around a blog that would provide a narrative chronicle of the team’s history from the origins of the AFL. I futzed around with that for a while, still trying to do everything at once, from player biographies to a comprehensive statistical database. The problem was I would get sidetracked on minutiae and neglect the blog. And that went on for a long, LONG time. Only in the last year have I put together a research and note-taking regimen that allows me to post to the blog on a more or less daily basis (still with many gaps, though). I still want to write biographies and create a stat database, but only as secondary goals. The narrative is now the thing.
About that narrative. My research comes almost exclusively from what was printed in newspapers at the time. The sources I use most often are the Oakland Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Hayward Daily Review. These, because I have access to them and because they each assigned one or more beat writers to the team. I take what I find there, add tidbits I find in other papers and gamebooks, and synthesize it into each blog entry. I make no large claims to originality or strict adherence to historiographical tenets. I do try not to simply copy and paste, but I also try to stick to the “facts” as they are given and inevitably similarities of style and word usage creep in (how many ways can you describe a great catch?). Wherever warranted, especially when editorializing is done by the reporter in question, I do my best to identify the writer and point out that that person’s opinion is being reproduced here. Plagiarism? I’m open to discussion on that topic. As I mentioned, I don’t claim the chronicle as solely the product of my own work and don’t expect any of this to stand up to the rigor of peer-review by an academic journal. I’m just having fun researching and sharing what I find.
On that note, I’ll also say that this is the very simplest form of what the historians call antiquarianism. Despite the site’s subtitle, this isn’t really history in the professional sense. There are plenty of good sports historians working that beat, though there is much work to be done, especially in social and labor history, not to mention cultural history. Many fine works exist in these fields, but compared to baseball, football is an untilled meadow. If I had more time and were capable of more focus perhaps I’d write about those things, but this is a hobby and I’m just here to have fun.
Again, thanks to Bill Johnson, Manny Baldenegro, and Tim Del Rosario, for giving me a place to start and encouragement when I needed encouragement, to Sports Reference for their unbelievably comprehensive and still growing network, and to the Pro Football Researchers Association for providing a place to gather and share, and especially, Rupert Patrick, PFRA member, for all his work gathering and posting gamebooks to the member site, which makes all of this so much easier. (To join the PFRA, go to profootbalresearchers.org)
And should anyone ever read this, hello! Drop me a line if you want to chat. I’m just here squinting at digitizations of badly-scanned microfilm and should probably refocus my eyes for a few minutes.