Category Archives: Nascar

“Pimps, Drugs & Busts; The Oakland Raiders Top 10 Worst Draft Picks of All Time”

 

nfl draft

Insiders have said that Al Davis was always looking for 4 players; the new Cliff Branch, Ken Stabler, Willie Brown & Jack Tatum.  Here are the Raiders attempts that failed.

#10:  Darrius Heyward-Bey: #1, 7 overall (2009 draft)

Before the 2009 draft, most experts had Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin as the top 2 WR in the NFL draft.  Then along came the NFL combines.  DHB ran a 4.3 40 at the combines and Al Davis was smiling like the Grinch on Christmas morning.  Even though he only had 138 catches for 1958 yards in 3 years at Maryland, DHB shockingly was chosen.

I remember destroying this pick in an article the next day and getting destroyed back by Raider fans saying I needed to give him time.  Was 4 years enough?

In an amazing 300 targets in 4 years, DHB only caught 140 passes for 11 TD’s.  In that same time Michael Crabtree caught 260 catches on 429 targets and 21 td’s.  Local station KNBR radio joked that for Raider fans sake 40 times at the NFL combines should be kept away from Al Davis.

#9 Jessie Hester WR: #1, #23 overall (1985 draft)

This pick is usually forgotten by most.  During the glory days of Florida St. football, Jessie Hester was a star.  He was quick and loved to go deep.  At 5’ 11” and 175 lbs. He looked like Cliff Branch and the Raiders drafted him in the first round.

In 3 years Hester caught 56 passes for 10 touchdowns and the Raiders cut him before year 4.  He found a short term home for 4 years at Indianapolis as the #3 and #4 WR but he mostly was a second tier player.  He ended up being a huge bust for the Raiders that few talk about.

#8 Derrick Gibson CB: #1, #28 overall (2001 draft)

At the NFL combines Derrick Gibson was a star.  He bench pressed 400 lbs. and ran a 4.40-4.45 forty.  At 6’ 2” and 210 lbs., you could see teams swooning.  Marquez Pope blew a coverage and was beaten by Baltimore’s tight end Shannon Sharpe for a 96 yard TD in the playoffs that sealed the Raiders fate.  A safety was needed.

Gibson struggled a lot in tackling and he had terrible instincts against the pass.  Many college safeties are free lancers with little responsibility and that’s what Gibson was.  After 5 years the Raiders cut Gibson and no other NFL team ever picked him up.  Another in the long line of NFL combine and work out warriors Al Davis fell in love with who was a huge bust.

#7 John Clay OL: #1, #15 overall (1987 draft)

When Missouri stand out John Clay was drafted by the Raiders #15 overall, the Raiders thought they had a tackle for the next 10 years.  At 6’ 5” and an athletic 300 lbs., he fit the mold as a huge Raiders OL.  After 1 year though the Raiders realized they had made a mistake.  They traded him to the Chargers along with two draft choices for all world OL Jim Lachey.  Problem was they traded Lachey; who starred for Washington; for Jay Schroeder who never panned out at QB.  Clay only started in 10 games and played 2 seasons in the NFL until he was out of the league.

#6 Ted Watts S: #1, #21 overall (1981 draft)

What made this pick so painful is that the Raiders also had the #23 pick in the first round and they selected OL Curt Marsh who rarely played due to injuries.  In 5 years Marsh was out of the NFL with only 22 starts.  If it wasn’t for 2nd round pick Howie Long this draft would have been disastrous.

Al Davis told the media, Hanford Dixon, and anyone else that would listen that he was taking the Southern Mississippi CB if he was there at the #21 pick.  Dixon was there but Al Davis took Ted Watts out of Texas Tech instead.  Why?  Because he had better 40 times than Dixon and because Dixon refused to run more than once.  Dixon went on to a storied 9 year career at Cleveland being one of the best CB’s in the NFL.  The 3 time pro bowler is revered in Cleveland and in all those years he missed 5 starts.

Ted Watts only started 22 games in 4 years with the Raiders and he just never caught on as a starter.  He was not a good tackler and seemed over-matched in coverage.  He bounced around to the New York Giants and San Diego Chargers and was out of the league in 6 years only starting in 25 of the 74 games he played.

#5 Patrick Bates S: #1, #12 overall (1993 draft)

Some thought the Raiders might go with Alabama safety George Teague who thrived on making big plays but the Raiders stood pat and chose Texas A & M star Patrick Bates.  He was a part of the Aggies famous “Wrecking Crew” defense.

His first year was at UCLA and within a month of each other his mother and grandmother; who he was very close to; both died.  After transferring to Texas A & M for a new start, he was arrested for assault.

He was eventually arrested for holding a woman at gun point.  On the field he wasn’t much better.  He seemed more athlete than football player and wasn’t that big of a hitter either.  He was out of the league in 3 years ending his career with 1 interception.  Teague had a 9 year career and even though it wasn’t great, he had some great moments and some good seasons.  He still holds the record for a post season interception returned for a touchdown with his 101 yard interception return against Detroit in the first round of the 1993 playoffs.

#4 Bob Buczcowski DE: #1, #24 overall (1986 draft)

This guy really was a pimp.  This is a name that the Raiders; and especially the NFL want you to forget.  Bob had a good career at Pitt and the Raiders seemed to like him more than some other teams which had him going in the second round.  The Raiders chose him and the rest is infamous history.

He played for the Raiders one year and was let go.  He then played a year each at Arizona and Cleveland before he was out of the league.

In 2005 he was arrested for being a co-conspirator in a drug and prostitution ring in Pennsylvania.  His live in girlfriend was Amy Schifano who was known as the Monroeville Madam.  It was said that they had up to 300 calls a day and they rented hotel rooms for clients.  There also was cocaine distribution involved.  Facing 87 years in prison, Buzcowski turned states evidence and became a witness for the prosecution for a much reduced sentence.  His final sentence was 90 days house arrest.  A bust that got busted.  Don’t blame me; it writes itself!

#3 Marc Wilson QB: #1, #15 overall (1980 draft)

First off you will not find a nicer guy than Marc Wilson.  He ended up being a successful businessman.  In a couple of interviews in the last 10 years he summed up his career.  “It may not have seemed it at times but I really put my all in my career.  Football is my least favorite sport and when I played in the NFL I never felt I was good enough to have control over the game.  It was always a struggle.  In basketball and baseball I felt in control.  I just wish it would have went better.  I don’t even watch football anymore and have no desire to go to games.”

With a rocket arm but little accuracy, Marc Wilson was drafted by the Raiders out of BYU.  He was one of the originators of the QBU era of the Cougars.  In a QB poor draft the Raiders knew that Jim Plunkett was still kind of a crap shoot.  From 1980-1986, the Raiders had a revolving door at QB.  Plunkett would start and then struggle and then Marc Wilson would take over.  Wilson would struggle or get hurt and then Plunkett started.  Add an injury here and there and it was a mess at times.  In that time Plunkett had one really good year in 1983 (Raiders won the Super Bowl), and Wilson had one good year in 1985 (Raiders were considered favorites to go to the Super Bowl).

In 1985 Wilson was atrocious in the first round of the playoffs and the heavily favored Raiders lost to the Patriots 27-20 at home.  Wilson was 11 for 27 with 3 INT’s and 1 TD and was booed off the field.  The upstart Patriots shocked the NFL by going to the Super Bowl and being destroyed by the 1985 Bears.

In his 8 years as a Raider QB he only started 50 games.  He was 31-19 and he gave Raider fans nightmares.  Many feel if it wasn’t for injuries in the 1970’s the Raiders would have had 1 more Super Bowl win, and if it had better QB play in the 80’s they would have had 1 more Super Bowl win in that decade as well.  The Raiders had a lot of talent but the Plunkett/Wilson roller coaster was a hit or miss saga with more misses than hits as time went on.  To old school Raider fans, just the mention of Marcs name brings tingles down the spine.  What could have been.

#2 Todd Marinovich QB: #1, #24 overall (1991 Draft)

In the late 1980’s ESPN started picking up a loyal viewership and Todd Marinovich was one of their first media darlings.

Lost in Robo QB history, was that his father Marv was the first ever strength and conditioning coach in the NFL.  He was hired by?  Al Davis.  He studied Eastern Bloc training methods and many of his methods were used in the origination of core training and are still used today.

Todd as an infant teethed on frozen liver and kidneys.  He could not eat white sugar or processed food and only drank raw milk.  Up until his adulthood he was not allowed to eat fast food or sweets.  He rarely ate red meat.

After his parents divorced he really was out of control.  His pot use was so bad in high school opponents fans chanted Marijuanavich & he was busted for cocaine.  President Reagan honored Todd at his home after a big win & he was the Johnny Manziel of his time with celebs always wanting to party with him.

In the pro’s his drug use was worse.  He passed NFL drug tests by using friends urine, until once he used a friend that had partied all night and he tested positive for alcohol.  He then turned to LSD which wasn’t tested for.  He was out of the league in 2 years starting only 9 games including 1 playoff game where he threw 4 INT’s in a 10-6 loss to Kansas City.  Pittsburgh attempted to sign him but he told them he no longer wanted to play in the NFL.  He played in Canada for a short time.  A real troubled person who seems to be doing better in life.

#1 Jamarcus WR: #1, #1 overall (2007 draft)

It’s funny how many Raider fans defended these picks at the time  (Come on; you know who you are).  My fights online with them are of legend.  This was another one of those picks I hated and maybe received the most hate of all time.  Here were iconic college players Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson who were men among boys in college being thrown away for Jamarcus Russell.  A guy that got famous in a bowl game against a Notre Dame defense that was one of the worst in the country and the NFL combines where he threw 65 yards on one knee.

Russell in college was an amazing athlete.  He was huge; 6’ 6” and 270.  Problem was against teams like Auburn and others who ran a pro style type defense he struggled.  He was not an accurate QB but he could throw it a mile.  At the NFL combines he wowed teams with his size and big arm.  John Clayton said, “how could anyone not pick him #1.”

He played 3 years for the Raiders and in 25 starts he was 7-18.  With his poor conditioning and his struggles with drugs, he was let go.  He tried some come backs but was never really taken seriously.

Well there you have it.  The importance of quality drafts can’t be explained any more clearer than with these busts.  The draft is the key to creating and sustaining a winner in the salary cap era.

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“Forgotten AFL Greats of the AFC West”

This article is for the fans of the AFL especially the AFC West.  If you are a fan of these great teams, some of these players may be household names to you.  It’s so important that the history of the game is respected, and these great players are not forgotten.  This article is in honor of them, and the fans that watched the AFL.

san diego chargers 1960

San Diego Chargers:

Many think the Chargers uniforms of the 1960’s and 70’s are the greatest ever made and it’s hard to argue with that.  I love the powder blue.  What also can’t be argued is their dominating win in the AFL Championship game in 1963 sealing their argument as one of the great teams of the AFL era.  Their innovative passing game was nixed for a power running game, and it worked to perfection as the Chargers beat the Boston Patriots 51-10.

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Sid Gillman:

Sid Gillman may be the greatest football coach of all time. He is the only coach in history that is in both the NFL and College football Hall of Fame. His coaching tree is the greatest of all time bar none. Bill Walsh, Al Davis, Chuck Knoll, Chuck Knox, Dick Vermeil, Don Coryell, Joe Gibbs, John Madden, Tom Flores, George Seifert, Dennis Green, Jon Gruden, Brian Billick and many others fall under his umbrella of greatness.

The vertical passing game of the Raiders was taken straight from him. Al Davis called him the Einstein of the NFL and he is the father of the modern passing game. There will never be another Sid Gillman. As John Madden recently said, “what some teams are just discovering, Sid Gillman was doing in the 60’s”.

Gary Garrison:

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San Diego’s version of Fred Biletnikoff was the great Gary Garrison. Lance Alworth gets all of the publicity but in reality the Chargers had another fine Wide Receiver. His nickname was the ghost. Sid Gillman literally called him an artist in regards to his amazing route running skills.   One sports writer said it was like watching a figure skater on a football field; his routes were so precise.

He is 5th and 4th all time on the Chargers reception and yards list respectively. He has more receiving yards than Kellen Winslow and Wes Chandler. He averaged an amazing 18.6 yards a catch which is second all time for San Diego pass catchers with over 120 catches.

Paul Lowe & Keith Lincoln:

With Paul Lowe and Keith Lincoln in the backfield, San Diego had one of the greatest 1-2 punches in pro football history. They helped lead the Chargers to their only championship in 1963. Lowe is the 2nd all time leader in rushing yards for the Chargers. He was the 1965 UPI AFL MVP, 2 times AFL All Star, and 2 times All AFL team. He was also voted onto the ALL time AFL team, 2 times comeback player of the year, and he’s the all-time AFL leader in average yards per carry at 4.9.   And he still holds the NFL record for 6 straight 100 yard games with 14 or fewer carries.

And oh by the way they had Keith Lincoln.  He went to high school in Monrovia California and went to Washington St. Originally he was a QB, and he was so good that he got two awesome nicknames; the Monrovia Meteor and the Moose of the Palouse.  He was a 5 time AFL All-Star, 2 time All AFL player, and is in the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.

Paul Lowe can still be seen today at the Chargers games. He is a season ticket holder and a fan favorite.

Kansas City Chiefs:

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The Chiefs have had an amazing history of talented teams with some of the greatest players to ever play football.  Buchanon, Dawson, Taylor, Lanier, Culp, Thomas, Holmes; the list goes on and on.  When eclectic head coach Hank Stram allowed NFL films to record him during the Super Bowl, he became the first NFL coach to wear a microphone. Stram was innovative and brought in the triple stack defense to hide his linebackers. When he had several WR’s injured against the Raiders powerful pass rush and great DB’s; he used the T formation and ran 60 times for over 300 yards leading KC to a stunning 24-10 victory over Oakland.   In that game, Len Dawson completed 3 passes for 16 yards.  In the AFL days they lead the AFL in playoff appearances tied with the Raiders.  Hank Stram was as great as the players he coached and boy was he fun.

Joe Delaney:

“I’ve played against the best–O.J. SimpsonGale SayersWalter Payton and (Delaney) ranks right up there with them…He is great with a capital G.”

Hall of Famer Elvin Bethea, Houston Oilers

He was just good people.

If you would allow me an exception, I wanted to add a player that didn’t play in the AFL days, but someone who isn’t remembered enough.  Just the mention of this players name can still bring a smile and a tear to some ex-players, coaches and fans eyes. He was headed for greatness.

His acts of generosity and kindness are still of legend. So are his acts on the football field. A Raider beat writer once said, “There is fast and then there is Joe Delaney fast”. He was a game breaking type of player who could catch the ball and run like the wind. With a strike shortened season and an eye injury, he only played 1 ½ years but he was amazing. He had 196 yards rushing against Houston and ran for 1121 yards his rookie year while getting the Rookie of the Year Award and making the Pro Bowl.

He once ran 75 yards for a touchdown but it was called back. Two plays later he ran for an 82 yard touchdown. Sadly, while trying to save 3 boys that were drowning, Delaney never got out of the water and died. He could not swim but he could not sit by and watch them die and do nothing. Only 1 of the boys made it. Joe received the US Presidential Citizens Medal from President Reagan and should always be remembered as being a real man, and a person that the NFL and their fans can be proud of.

Ed Podolak:

If you are a big fan of the AFL or a Chiefs fan, you are saying how come Ed’s on this list?  Well outside of KC many of today’s fans are clueless to how great of a player Podolak was. His occasional wildness off the field after his playing days gets some publicity at times but in reality Chiefs Running Back Ed Podolak was one heck of a football player. With his hooked bar helmet, he looked like a red bull chasing after people. He could catch, run, return kicks, and block. He was an all purpose back that could do it all.

He is the 5th all-time Chiefs RB in regards to rushing yards, and the 10th leading pass catcher of all time. He was also a quality return man that made many clutch kick returns. His wars against the Raiders and their bulldozer RB Marv Hubbard were must see tv and some of the most physical games ever played.

Jerrel Wilson:

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Nicknamed Thunderfoot, Jerrel Wilson was flat out one of the greatest punters of all time.  Often overshadowed in the all time punter conversation due to the greatness of Ray Guy, his booming and towering punts were a thing of beauty.  Ray Guy and Wilson transformed the punting game into an offensive weapon in regards to controlling field position.

He was a 3 time pro bowler and on the all AFL team, and in one year avg. 46.1 yards per punt.  He also did it in the clutch.  To punt when your team isn’t very good or if nothing is at stake is one thing but to do in when it counts is another.  His greatness should not be forgotten.

Oakland Raiders:

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For a 25 year period, the Raiders winning % was far and away better than any professional sports team in the U.S.  In their first 20 Monday night football games they were 18-1-1.  In the greatest decade of the NFL; the 1970’s; they had the most wins.  In the NFL.com fan poll of the greatest teams ever a few years ago, the 1976 Oakland Raiders were voted the greatest team of all time by over 5.5 million NFL fans.

In QB Daryle Lamonica’s first 45 games as a Raider (after a trade from Buffalo) the Raiders were an unreal 40-4-1.  His successor; Ken Stabler; was 56-13 in his first 69 games.

For 3 decades 2 teams were almost always on top of the television ratings charts in the NFL.  The Cowboys and the Raiders.  The 2 teams people loved to hate.  For a time the Cowboys were America’s team and the Raiders were the renegades of the NFL with talent to back it up.  Those days seem light years away.  They moved to Los Angeles which slowly eroded their tough blue collar Oakland persona, and the violence at games along with the small crowds, eroded their mystique.  Their style of play changed and they’ve never been the same.  It’s sad because few teams in the NFL boast a higher level of talent in their great history.  No team in history was more crazy, wild, talented, and colorful as the Oakland Raiders.

(below is the article on the 1976 Raiders chosen as the greatest NFL team of all time)

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/over-5-2-million-nfl-fans-vote-the-1976-oakland-raiders-the-best-team-of-all-time/

Warren Wells:

(please support and follow the AFL Godfather on twitter @NFLMAVERICK   I got this video from his public page but I’d really appreciate if you’d support him.  He has great stuff from the past!  Thank you!)

“The greatest player I ever coached was Warren Wells. I never saw anyone that gifted and that fast”.

Former Raiders Head Coach John Madden

On December 6, 1970, Warren Wells made an unreal catch on the last field play of the game to beat the Jets 14-13.  His catch against 2 Jet defenders would make Houdini applaud.  Wells was that good.

This is still one of Ronnie Lott’s favorite all-time players. If you talk to any player of the 1960’s, the one player that always amazed them was Warren Wells. For a 3 ½ year period, he struck terror in the eyes of all teams.  He unfortunately was one of only 2 NFL players who were drafted and made to go to the Vietnam war in 1965.

He was as fast as lightning and just as gifted. Before the NFL changed the statistic criteria, Warren Wells was the all time leader in yards per catch at an inhuman 23.3 yards a reception. In one year he caught 47 balls for an incredible 27 yards per reception.   He and Daryle Lamonica; The Mad Bomber; were the originators of Al Davis’ feared vertical game.

Due to off the field issues and an ankle injury, Wells career was cut short. He straightened up his life after doing prison time during his younger days, and last year was honored by lighting the Al Davis torch at one of the Raiders home games.

http://www.raiders.com/media-vault/videos/Warren-Wells-Lights-Torch-in-Honor-of-Al-Davis/ffd9a538-97ff-4c2a-8785-29e2e4c64820

Tom Keating:

keating tom

He was the anchor of the famous “11 Angry Men” Oakland Raiders defense and was a key player of the 1960’s and 1970’s.   Tom Keating was one of the best defensive linemen in AFL history. He was a 2 time AFL all star and on the all time AFL 2nd team member. He played so hard that a story was written about him when the Raiders played the Packers in Super Bowl II. He was a part of the famous 1967 Raiders defense that caused a record 667 yards in losses on 67 sacks. They remain one of the greatest and most unheralded defenses of all time.

He was talented and tough.   Off the field he was a fan favorite and very happy go lucky. He was a bay area guy and lived and died here. Many feel that if he didn’t have such bad knees that he was a hall of famer for sure.

Dave Grayson:

dave graysonryreyr

There are many that feel Dave Grayson is a Hall of Famer.  Dave played for Oakland between 1965-1970.  He played for the Dallas Texans/Chiefs before that, and was originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys.  Grayson was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Oregon.  Tom Landry felt he was too small and not physical enough so he was let got and Hank Stram gave him a shot and he stuck.

Al Davis Traded for CB Dave Grayson in 1965 (he traded him for future actor Fred “The Hammer” Williamson) from the Chiefs and then traded for Willie Brown from Denver in 1967.  This allowed the Raiders to play the physical bump and run style that has been a trademark of the team for years.

When NFL and former Cowboys personnel guru Gil Brandt was asked who were the 4 best cornerbacks in Dallas history his first 3 were not a shock.  Mel Renfro, Herb Adderly & Deion Sanders.  “I also include Dave Grayson.  He didn’t play with the Cowboys but he’s so good I’m including him.”

Denver Broncos:

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Houston Oilers v.s. Denver Broncos
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Boston Patriots v.s. Denver Broncos

A little known fact that may buy you a drink someday if you are a Denver fan is that many of the AFL teams didn’t have much money to start with. The Broncos first uniforms were actually mustard yellow and brown.  Why was that you say?  The reason they were that color is that the Broncos wanted to save money so they bought the used uniforms off of the University of Wyoming football team and used them for a year. It saved them thousands of dollars.  Wyoming were upgrading their uniforms so they were available. They then got a designer to make a new uniform the following season.

Frank Tribucka:

One of the many crazy and memorable stories of the AFL is the one about Bronco great Frank Tribucka.  Tribucka was the father of Notre Dame and NBA player Kelly Tribucka.  Frank was a Notre Dame legend.  At 33 years old he had played for several teams in the NFL, Canada, and AFL and he came to the expansion Broncos to be a coach after retiring.  During the last pre-season game they asked him to play to sell a few tickets.  He then started the next week as the Broncos QB and played for the next 3 years.

In his first year he threw for 34 interceptions (still a Denver Bronco’s record) but also became the first QB in NFL or AFL history to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season.  Against the Bills he threw for over 447 yards in a game; a Bronco record that stood for over 38 years.  Frank had a great personality and was very popular and will always be a part of the AFL lore.

Goose Gonsoulin:

Austin William Goose Gonsoulin
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Goose was as tough as nails. In a day and age where the game was so physical, he played in an amazing 61 straight games for the Broncos.  He is third all time in the AFL for interceptions with 43 and has the AFL record for most interceptions in a game with 4.  Gonsoulin is also still 2nd all time in Denver Broncos history in interceptions only 1 behind leader Steve Foley.  He was a 6 time AFL all star and was voted on the AFL’s all time 2nd team.

In his first 6 years with Denver, he had an amazing 43 interceptions, 542 return yards with 2 brought back for touchdowns.  A fun loving, true great of the AFL era.

Rich “Tombstone” Jackson:

Another guy that doesn’t get his due is Rich Tombstone Jackson. He was the first real great pass rusher in Denver history. He was very physical and Lyle Alzado of all people called him the toughest man he ever met.  Just another of the all time great players that never got his due.  He was way before his time and mastered the head slap and many other moves to the dismay of the NFL.

He was a 2x AFL All Star, 2x AFL All Pro and voted second team on the all time AFL team. As with many players of his day before modern knee surgeries, he tore his knee and had to retire early from football. Many believe he was the best pass rusher of that era and that without injury he was heading into the NFL Hall of Fame.  While Deacon Jones got all of the publicity, Jackson quietly tormented opponents.  It’s sad he’s never mentioned more.

Final Thoughts:

With so many people lacking any knowledge of the past in our social media mentality of today, it’s important for all of us to remember the great players of yesteryear. These are players from the AFC West but obviously the AFL had amazing teams and athletes from New York and Buffalo to San Diego.  My father talked to me often about the greatness of the AFL.  From the Titans and Texans, to the Bills and Raiders, AFL lore has so many amazing players and stories.  I hope that we never forget the greatness of the AFL and more and more groups are created to discuss such amazing memories that we enjoyed with our parents and grandparents.

“After 41 years of pain, the nightmare from the Indy 500 for Swede Savage’s daughter ends in Smiles”

swede savage

I truly believe Swede Savage would have done for Indy, what Dale Earnhardt Sr. did for Nascar.

I never was much into auto racing until I saw a story that was done by ABC sports about 5 years ago.  It was about an up and coming driver that had passed away in 1973, but he was unlike any other driver of his day.

David Earl “Swede” Savage Jr. was not your typical southern good ol boy race car driver.  With most drivers coming from the south or midwest, Swede was the typical Southern California boy.  He was tall, good looking and had a cool way about him.  He was nice and humble and many felt he would be one of the huge break out stars in the indy circuit.  Swede was a four sport athlete with a racers heart, first racing as a 5 year old in the soap box circuit.  Many were predicting the 1973 Indianapolis 500 to be his coming out party to stardom.  He was the guy girls wanted to date, and the racer guys wanted to be like. Dale Earnhardt had that marketing aura and I think Swede was a marketers dream.

More than a few race fans felt that the 1973 Indy 500 was cursed. The rain was a huge factor cancelling the race for two and a half days.  There had also been a fatal accident during a practice run.   Salt Walther was also critically injured on Monday with some spectators having to be hospitalized for burns from the fuel that was flown into the air. At the end of the race, 3 people would be dead, one racer critically injured and several fans were hospitalized.

In one of the most horrific wrecks you will ever see, on lap 58 the rear wing of his car came loose in turn 4 and it made the car unstable.  Jim McKay’s voice raised immediately when he saw this and it’s hard to listen to.  Swede’s car turned directly into an infield retaining wall at full speed hitting head on.  The car exploded and a huge plume of fire and smoke rose.  He ended up near the upper wall and the fuel leaked all over and caught on fire; debris was everywhere.  It seemed like a lifetime before they could get the fire out with fans screaming for the firemen to hurry.

 

Here is rare footage of the accident from the wall.

If the nightmare wasn’t bad enough crewmember Armando  Teran ran across the infield to help the drivers.  He was run over by a fire truck driving going the wrong way at 60 MPH and was killed instantly.  He was hit so hard his body flew high up into the air and the Indy 500 crowd screamed in horror.

 

When Savage began to move, Jim McKay was stunned.  Swede actually was joking around with those helping him and he went into the hospital with hopes for a recovery. Sadly in 33 days he was gone.

There still remains a mystery on what killed him.  Doctors said it was tainted blood that gave him hepatitis and caused his liver to fail; or his kidneys failed. His father and family have said it was pulmonary damage from the fire and the lack of oxygen that was given to him.  In the end even 100% oxygen could not keep him breathing.

Sadly Swede Savage left an unborn daughter.  His wife eventually would give birth to Angela.  They had another daughter Shelly who tragically died in 1995 from Leukemia. Swede also had a son John.

His daughter Angela has lived with pain for a long time.  She said she was born with a broken heart and never got over the loss of her dad.  She once said she thought she’d be sad forever.  She had battles with drugs and alcohol as early as 10 years old and never had peace.

On the coaxing of a race car fan who wanted her to see why her father loved Indy racing so much, she began to think of going.  With a groundswell of financial and moral support, social media friends raised money for her to go to the Indy 500 this year.  When Indianapolis Motor Speedway Management found out about it, they contacted her and paid for the basics of the trip including a memorial car for her to drive in honor of her father.

Angela went with her husband Scott and Swede’s brother Bruce.  A documentary book and movie are now in the works for all of Swede’s loving fans.

I had always been a little bitter that Indy did not do more to commemorate Swede but I can understand it.  I was very happy though to see many Indy people and former racers embrace Angela and Bruce during interviews. You could see their joy in talking about him. I think this gives the fans, as well as his family the closure they’ve longed for. Angela was all smiles and she wore her fathers old racing uniform today.  (Angela’s interview starts at minute 24)

Angela stated in an article,”What I want to do now is to take the open wound, sew it up and celebrate; cap it off with joy!”.  For Angela, the drivers and the fans, the closure and celebration of his life heals many wounds.

Swede Savage, his adoring fans, and his family deserve nothing less.