February 8, 1961

In Prescott Sullivan’s column in today’s San Francisco Examiner, former Raider co-owner and general manager Chet Soda was quoted as saying his fellow owners hadn’t lost quite as much money as had been originally reported. Back in December, there were stories saying the owners had lost about $400,000, or $50,000 per owner. Soda explained that the figure didn’t take into account typical business practices, that his own losses were closer to $15,000, and that his fellow owners’ losses were probably in that neighborhood, too.

“When losses are written off as a tax deduction against other income,” he said, “none of us will be hurt too much.”

Elsewhere, it wasn’t likely that the Raiders were going to meet the 49ers on the gridiron any too soon, but the teams announced they would take their rivalry to the hardwood on the 21st at a court in Pleasanton. Further details were unavailable at the moment.

Oakland Tribune
San Francisco Examiner

Art Beckett

Arthur T. Beckett
Born May 23, 1894, Sacramento(?), California
Died May 19, 1978, age 83, Walnut Creek, California

Of the eight original Raiders owners, Art Beckett had the shortest tenure and was probably the least well-known. He owned a piece of the team for less than a month and after selling out, resumed his career as a building contractor without much drama.

Born on May 23, 1894, in Sacramento, to Arthur E. Beckett, an oil industry worker, and his wife, Marguerite, his family appeared to enjoy reasonably comfortable circumstances. His father eventually left the oil industry and settled in as a harbormaster at the Port of San Francisco, a position he held until his retirement. Arthur, Jr., was the oldest of three siblings that included a brother, Roy, and a sister, Marguerite.

Not much is available concerning the younger Arthur’s childhood, though two different newspapers reported that in March 1910, the 15-year-old had his bicycle stolen. Sometime around 1916, Art, now about 21, married Gertrude, 19, and by the taking of 1920 census they had a pair of daughters, Jean and Beverly. He was also the head of his own contracting firm.

A son, Thomas, was born at about that time, but in August 1921, tragedy struck the family. According to a story in the Oakland Tribune, young Thomas, listed as a two-year-old but not mentioned in the recent census, had been playing on the back porch of the family’s home in Oakland. Somehow, he got tangled up in the ropes of a porch swing and when Gertrude found him there, he was dead, presumably by strangulation.

In 1924 the couple had another son, Jack, and by the 1930 Art’s business was going strong and both husband and wife were active in Oakland’s social club scene. Beckett was also an avid fisherman if the number of stories of his exploits on the Feather River are anything to go by.

By the 1950s, his contracting business, now a partnership with Frederick Federighi, was doing quite well for itself, having a hand in the building of the Bay Fair Shopping Center in San Leandro.

Other than regular mentions of his and his wife’s participation in various social club events, he next came to the public’s attention when he was included in a list of prospective owners of an American Football League team in Oakland on January 26, 1960. His group was awarded the team four days later, but unlike most of his partners in the endeavor he was never quoted about it. He was also absent from an ownership meeting and group photo on February 10. Soon thereafter, on the 22nd, team co-owner Robert Osborne announced that Beckett had given up his portion of the team and that his slot would be filled by Roger Lapham. And that was it. He had been a Raiders owner for roughly 24 days.

He attracted one last bit of notoriety when he battled the Internal Revenue Service over some financial maneuvers he and Federighi had undertaken in the late 1950s. The case was decided against him in 1963. Afterward, he and Gertrude continued to live their lives as they always had, running their business and taking part in club affairs, some of which included other former team owners, such as Chet Soda and Wallace Marsh.

He died in 1978 at the age of 83. He left behind his wife, three adult children, and eight grandchildren. His obituary made no mention of his one-time ownership of a share of the Oakland Raiders.

Hayward Daily Review
Oakland Tribune
Sacramento Bee
San Francisco Call
San Francisco Chronicle
United States Census Bureau
United States Tax Court records

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 15, 1961

It took a seven-hour meeting and intervention by AFL commissioner Joe Foss, but the long-rumored ownership shakeup finally happened.

The day started with the eight owners getting together to try and resolve the mutual antipathies that had built up among the various group cliques. Three hours in and with nothing settled, Foss arrived in person with a pair of league lawyers.

As Foss explained, behavior at recent league meetings had shown that “all was not well in Oakland. It was decided then that I should come to Oakland for the meeting. I was authorized to take away the franchise if the problems couldn’t be worked out. I got here after the men had been in session for three hours and had reached an impasse.” Everyone agreed they wanted to keep the team in Oakland, but Foss said, “they just couldn’t get along and it was obvious one group had to sell out. For the next four hours, I and the league attorneys listened to both sides of the argument and finally a sale agreement was reached. Everyone in the league feels that Oakland can become one of our great franchises.”

It was decided that Don Blessing, Charles Harney, Roger Lapham, Wallace Marsh, and Chet Soda would sell their shares to Ed McGah, Robert Osborne, and Wayne Valley. McGah would retain his position as president, with the vice presidency going to Valley, and Osborne assuming the treasurer role.

Afterward, Valley said, “The three of us have wanted all along to proceed in Oakland. We are all East Bay businessmen and we feel that we can succeed.” Asked about rumors that the team would pursue austerity, he added, “We want to win, and we are businessmen, and within those confines we shall move forward. We have lots of things to look into and personnel to evaluate. This is not to say that we are unhappy with the people we now have.”

One of those people was Eddie Erdelatz who, responding to the news that the team would stay in town, said it was “one of the greatest things to happen to the city of Oakland. We will make every effort to field a team Oakland can be proud of next season. The American League has shown what it can do on the field. Our fans were pleased with the wide-open style of play and I feel we’ll have much larger crowds next year.”

Oakland Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle

 

January 14, 1961

A report appeared in Chicago newspapers that White Sox owner Bill Veeck had purchased the Raiders for $175,000 and planned to move them to Comiskey Park. All parties hastened to refute the story.

Veeck said the tale was “absolutely not true. I have not talked with officials of the Oakland team or any other professional football club and I don’t contemplate doing so. We would like to have a tenant for Comiskey Park in the offseason, but I wouldn’t go so far as buying Oakland to get one.”

Wayne Valley said, “We don’t know anything about that. It’s the first I’ve heard of it and it’s completely untrue. It’s a shot in the dark. If there were anything to it, I would be the first one to know.”

Chet Soda said the report was a “complete surprise to him,” though co-owner Roger Lapham said that Soda had responded positively to the rumor when he first heard it and Lapham added for himself, “You can quote me: the Raiders are for sale at the proper price.”

All this served to highlight news of continued dissension amongst the owners. Lapham said, “We’ll either resolve our problems among ourselves or sell the club before the end of the month.”

Newly installed team president Ed McGah acknowledged there were disagreements but thought they “should see it through at least the second year, as we agreed.” He admitted some of the owners wanted to sell out and that other owners had offered to buy them out, but in any event the team would stay in Oakland. “Bob Osborne, for one, is too civic-minded to let (a move) happen and our pre-incorporation articles state that no one can sell any part of his stock without the unanimous approval of the other owners.”

Hayward Daily Review
Oakland Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle

January 3, 1961

Freed from the constraints of the team presidency, Chet Soda waxed at some length on what he thought the team needed going forward. The Raiders need a “one hundred percent austerity program for the next two years,” he said. “They need a tight, money-conscious operation to survive. People keep comparing our club to rich, well-established National League clubs that have the reputation of going first class, but this isn’t an organization that has been operating in the black for years, so the situation is different. Some NFL clubs spend as much as $150,000 on scouting future prospects, but they are spending tax money so they aren’t hurting. With the Raiders, everything is an expenditure because new clubs just don’t make money right off the bat. If you cut a corner here, another there, it adds up, and when it starts adding up, it cuts down on red ink.”

Referring to the next general manager, he said, “What is needed is a real sharp businessman, first and foremost. If you can get such a man who also has had some experience in pro football, so much the better. However, there aren’t too many guys available with the right qualifications.”

While the team continued the search for a new GM, they learned that their first-round draft pick, tackle Joe Rutgens of Illinois, had signed with the Redskins.

Hayward Daily Review
San Francisco Chronicle

January 2, 1961

In news that was not unexpected, Chet Soda stepped down as president and general manager of the Raiders today. “I have contemplated this move for some time,” he said. “I expect to stay with the organization and have no immediate plans to sell my holdings in the Raiders.” He said he had twice tried to resign earlier, but the board of directors had talked him out of it each time. There was no comment from the other owners and both Robert Osborne and Wayne Valley said they hadn’t heard of his decision until reporters tried to reach them for comment. “I haven’t been to my office in three days,” said Osborne. “The letter of resignation could be in the mail on my desk.”

No successor was named, but Eddie Erdelatz quickly removed himself from the running. “I am not old enough to quit coaching,” he said. “I don’t think any man could handle both the coaching and the business end of the Raiders. It is too much for one man in a new organization. I want it known that I’m still working for the Raiders and intend to continue as coach.” With no word from the owners and Erdelatz’s lack of interest, assistant general manager Bud Hastings was thought to have the inside track for the position.

Hayward Daily Review
Oakland Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle

December 30, 1960

A couple of interesting rumors popped up today. The first and wildest was a story involving a Honolulu boxing promoter named Bill Pacheco. Pacheco, known for being an attention hound, had been quoted in his hometown newspaper as saying he would “give a million dollars” for an AFL franchise if he could get control of Honolulu Stadium. From there the story went that he had contacted Chet Soda to see if the Raiders were for sale.

Soda said he’d “never been contacted by this man, but if he is offering a million dollars for a franchise, give him my name and phone number, will you?” The Raider general manager did admit the owners had talked about moving the team to Hawaii at one point, but “we never gave it a serious thought. We are busy right now trying to get ready for the next two years in Oakland. If we ever get a stadium on this side of the bay we’ll be okay right here.”

He also offered a comment about reports that the NFL was offering larger than usual contracts to some of their draftees. “I think they are making a mistake offering big money to rookies who haven’t even made the team,” he said. “I wonder what some of the veterans will think when they find the rookies are making more money than they are.” The Raiders had yet to announce the signing of any of their draft choices.

The other rumor involved former 49ers and Eagles head coach Buck Shaw. After coaching the Eagles to an NFL championship over the Packers four days ago he had announced his retirement from coaching and had returned home to the Bay Area. Eager tongues began to suggest he might take up a position with the Raiders, but he quickly put those stories to rest. “I’m going to devote my time to other business,” he said. “I would not be interested in a post as advisory coach to the Oakland Raiders or a job as general manager. It requires too much time.”

Hayward Daily Review
San Francisco Chronicle

December 24, 1960

The American Football League named their official all-league team today and three Raiders were included. On the first team was center Jim Otto. Making the second team were guard Don Manoukian and defensive back Eddie Macon. Selections were made by league coaches along with a handful of beat writers chosen by the league.

News of another meeting of team owners, scheduled for next week, appeared in the news today. The meeting’s agenda was, among other things, to discuss Eddie Erdelatz’s future with the team. Rumor had it that Chet Soda was planning to relinquish the role of general manager and he was quoted as saying Erdelatz “would be given every consideration” for the job.

United Press International

December 21, 1960

The owners met again today but no significant decisions were made. Afterward, Chet Soda was asked about the general manager position. “I haven’t decided,” he said. “I have neglected my business in the past year and I never intended to remain permanently in the position. We’re going to make a decision pretty soon.”

Speculation continued that Eddie Erdelatz either was going to be offered the job or wanted the job and would leave if he didn’t get it. Soda commented first by saying he didn’t think one person could have handled both the head coach and general manager jobs in the first season. He then said “I asked him (Erdelatz) about the things I had read, and he said he had read them also but that was all he knew about it. All I know is we have a contract. Eddie has never told me he does not want to coach our club in 1961. That’s the way it stands now.”

Bakersfield Californian
Eureka-Humboldt Times
San Francisco Chronicle

December 19, 1960

The Raiders ownership group had their first post-season meeting and, contrary to reports, there was no shift among their membership. Chet Soda remained president and general manger of the team though he acknowledged, “in any business group there’s the possibility of a change of officers at any time.” He characterized the meeting as “affable,” and referred to the rumors of some owners selling out saying, “there was an exchange of opinion on certain matters, but it isn’t progress when you quit after putting up money to build up a business. In the clutch, I’m sure any one of the eight owners would take over and operate alone if he had to.”

At the moment, Eddie Erdelatz was still head coach, but rumors persisted that he was angling to add the GM job to his portfolio and would leave if he didn’t get it. Soda expected him to stay regardless, saying, “Eddie has a two-year contract. I’m in the construction business and I’ve always felt in business dealings, you honor your contract.” Erdelatz made no public comment.

Soda briefly addressed reports of the team’s financial losses, though he wouldn’t say whether the reported $400,000 figure was accurate. He said the losses were “not as great as anticipated and surprisingly small. If you consider the advantages Denver and Buffalo had in their operations our losses were among the lowest in the league.” He cited Denver’s ownership of their stadium and Buffalo’s small stadium rental fees as support for his claim.

Figures were released showing that for at least six of the seven home games, paid attendance was significantly less than the reported figure. Soda blamed at least some of the poor showing on the league’s television contract, complaining that only four of the seven team’s road games were shown to Bay Area fans and added, “TV could be a blessing and a poison for both us and the National League. Conflicting telecasts such as we had this season are bound to hurt everyone. The government will force both leagues to get together in all things just like the American and National baseball leagues.”

He thought an improvement in attendance in 1961 would be “automatic,” and said, “There’s no question Candlestick is the place to play in 1961. Naturally, we would prefer a stadium in the East Bay, but will wait until 1962 when the proposed Oakland stadium is completed,” and said he was “confident” a new stadium would be in place by then.

Another owners’ meeting was scheduled for later in the week.

The team also reported they had acquired guard Jack Stone from the Texans as compensation for giving up signing rights to Abner Haynes back in the spring. Stone at 6’2” and 245 pounds out of Oregon had played all 14 games for Dallas in 1960, his rookie season.

Hayward Daily Review
San Francisco Chronicle