In a night that went as perfect as a last minute Ken Stabler drive, Ken Michael Stabler took his rightful place in the NFL pro football hall of fame. For one last time, Ken Stabler lead everyone on a magical ride that will never be forgotten.
With decades of Raider tradition all around mixed in with a little Southern warmth from the state of Alabama, Canton looked more like Oakland, Ca than the sleepy town that wakes up for a week every year before the NFL season starts.
With several Raiders by their sides and HOF WR Fred Biletnikoff giving support, Ken Stabler’s grandsons unveiled the HOF bust of their beloved grandfather. In one action, all of the emotions that have built up from decades of frustration, anticipation, sadness and hope was released. Tears flowed, and closure began to fill the air slowly like a soft mist on a hot night. All the years of waiting; all the unjust votes and comments came out in a healing moment that hopefully now brings closure to an amazing career by an amazing man.
I have many good friends from around the country who ask me, why was there so much emotion and love for Ken Stabler. I think the answer is easy.
When the Snake saw a fan he didn’t care what color you were. He didn’t care if you were famous or rich. He truly appreciated the adoration that was given him. I think Ken always knew how important he was to the City of Oakland, Alabama and the bay area. That’s why he was so kind to so many. He never judged; never lashed out; he was always good to those that supported him, and shrugged off those that hurt him. Many saw a little of themselves in Ken. Sometimes misunderstood, often doubted, and occasionally misjudged. Ken was an every man and in reality so many people related to the things he went through.
Ken was real. He made mistakes; he failed at times; he was ripped in the media at times; but he ALWAYS dusted himself off and kept coming. He never quit and the harder someone pushed, the harder he pushed back. The Raiders and Ken Stabler smashed people in the mouth and never gave up. That’s why when most teams would have quit, the Raiders usually won due to the never give up attitude of the Snake. Ken was a lot like the fans that supported him. He was a lot like the City of Oakland and the East Bay; always fighting, never quitting.
Why Younger Fans Should Be Excited:
Some younger Raider fans seem to be in a fog at the great adoration for Ken and this amazing era. Let’s face it, we live in a society where history to some is what pokemon go character you caught last night. If it’s old, society seems to not care about it.
If you are a younger fan, look at the extreme excitement that is seen in social media today for the upcoming season. The Raiders were 7-9 last year and some are nearly losing their minds with excitement. Nothing wrong with that especially with all the improvements, but put it into perspective.
Think about going 56-13 in Ken’s first 69 starts. Think of going 18-1-1 on Monday night football. Think of having the highest winning % of ANY professional team in the U.S. of ANY sport for a 25 year stretch. Think of 3 Super Bowls in 7 years and 5 straight AFC Championship games. For almost 3 decades the Raiders and the Cowboys were consistently on top of the NFL ratings for most watched teams on television. Oh and don’t forget having more wins in the greatest NFL decade of all time, the 1970’s. Could you imagine what Ken and the Raiders offense could do with today’s rules? Now you understand OUR excitement. As Raider great Tim Brown said Friday, “When Ken walked into our locker room you saw everyone change. It was like royalty had just come into the room. The Raiders of that time were just that good; people adored him.”
A Leader to the End:
The reason this meant so much to so many is because Ken really was the Raiders leader in every way. He was a leader on the field and off. Players felt he was invincible and looked to him when things got rough. Even after his death he inspired. Raiders greats like George Atkinson, Art Thoms, and George Buehler followed in Ken’s footsteps and decided to donate their brains to the study of CTE and give them to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after they passed away. Truly unselfish acts inspired by the Snake’s selflessness and the encouragement of his partner Kim Bush.
“When you see your teammate deteriorate a lot through the end of his life, to see him go out like that, it brings us together,” Thoms said in a Mercury News article. George Atkinson has complained often of his memory issues. “Ken meant so much to us and we felt we needed to do this.”
The Closest Team in the NFL:
Many of the retired Raider players talked about how close they were to each other. Many stated how no team was as tight as they were. Even after retiring, they would meet for dinner often and even if players were out of state, they would fly back to join their fellow teammates. It was important to them to stay in touch with an incredible time that gave them so much enjoyment.
We have many older patients and one is Mr. & Mrs. C who live deep in the wine country (I wont give their name for health privacy reasons.) They used to be a Raiders season ticket holders in the 60’s and 70’s. I visited them recently.
Mrs. C is the classic sweet nurturing elderly woman who still feels a good meal will solve any problem. Mr. C was a successful businessman who’s health is failing. I go to their house so he doesn’t have to go into the office. I also know they enjoy my visits. Mr. C usually holds court with a scotch in his hand while I get my usual pay for a house call. A cold beer with a roast beef or turkey sandwich or the occasional German Chocolate cake and cold glass of milk.
“You know something James, those times were so special and those guys meant the damn world to us. Players like Tom Keating and Art Thoms; Tony Cline, Warren Wells, Charlie Smith, Raymond Chester. Tatum and Atkinson, Skip and Willie. Otto, Beuhler and Dalby; Upshaw and Shell; Sistrunk and Kinlaw; Rod Martin and Vilipiano. Sumner, Wolf, and Al Locasale. So many great men that gave their all to win. And Kenny was everyone’s favorite. No group of players and fans were closer. The minute you forget this son, you won’t be worth a damn as a writer, or as a fan.”
After a pregnant pause, Mr. C showed a moment of rare emotion. Pointing his finger at me he said softly while winking, “Ken in the Hall of Fame? This one means something son; this one means something.”
a person, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
My father once said that the hardest part about aging is watching people around you; including family, friends, athletes and celebrities; slowly pass away as the years go by. As NFL fans it’s also hard for us to watch the iconic fans of our youth slowly leave us with the passing of time. Another great one has left us in Ron “The General” Rickard. “Raider Ron” was a Hall of Fame fan, and so much more.
We all have a story, and Ron’s was one of fun, determination, struggle, pain and joy. That’s why fans from all over the country have been saddened by his death at the tender age of 54 due to liver failure. He had been battling for over 6 years. He was hoping for a liver transplant but it wasn’t to be. He had contracted Hepatitis C which eventually damaged his liver. Sadly the liver that he long waited for came 12 hours after his passing.
Ron was a cherished member of the exclusive NFL Pro Football Ultimate Fan Association and his brothers and sisters from this group are hurting from his passing.
“Raider Ron’s” story is an amazing one. What made Ron’s story amazing is that he went to 246 straight games for the Raiders; HOME and AWAY! He even got to go to the game in Wembley to keep the streak alive after winning the “One Nation, Your Story” contest.
After his 200th game his friends that he competed with (mostly as a leader) at The Bad Boys of BBQ threw him a tailgate party in his honor. “Kingsford” Kirk Bronsord, the leader of the Bad Boys of BBQ stated in an article from the Raiders website, “I’m proud and honored to be able to say that this is a great friend of mine. He has done something that few people get to do. That’s 12 ½ years of never missing a game”.
Ron said of the streak, “one year I told my wife, you know, I want to go to every game and do it just one time. So I did it and everything went pretty smooth so I did it again the next year.”
After his 246th game in 2014, the Raiders honored him, and Lincoln Kennedy interviewed Ron on the field. He was thrilled to be able to light the Al Davis memorial torch.
Ron’s story doesn’t end there by a long shot. He began to create friendships with Raider fans from all over the country. He also created great friendships with fans of other teams. From Tampa Bay, to San Diego to anywhere there was an NFL stadium, people grew to love Rickard. That love was shown when at times fans would help him financially including getting him tickets and other items to keep the streak alive.
Fast friend and a person I enjoyed talking to; Ron’s Fellow Hall of Fame icon Tim Young; (The Famous Tampa Bay Fan known as “The Captain”) said he once came to a game in Oakland knowing no one. “I walked into the parking lot and I told Ron I was looking for a tailgate to adopt me. Ron quickly took me in and added me to the fold. A long friendship ensued”. (I will be featuring Tim’s story during the season hopefully with an amazing podcast!)
Friendship was important to Ron and people reciprocated that feeling. Ron said in an interview, “70 or 80 people; many of them Raider fans; have even offered to serve as living donors for me”.
Tim said that Ron grew up in Kentucky. He came to California and started a car wash which he later sold.
Ron’s personality was refreshing. Friends described him as blunt and to the point but also compassionate and caring. He had a goofy, fun side and even when he went through hardships he always had a smile to give to whoever needed it.
“He was very smart” Tim exclaimed, “but he never was arrogant and he never name dropped. He was extremely kind and humble. He showed great sportsmanship. Ron and his wife couldn’t have kids but he adored them. He mentored many people showing them the ropes of life, of being a good fan and of being a good person. He did so much for so many”.
Ron and his lovely wife Janet were true soulmates with years of devotion. He was loyal, appreciative, kind and strong. He was given a rotten hand, but he smiled and fought hard with all he had to the end. Ron enjoyed being a Raider fan but most of all he enjoyed just being. He inspired and touched so many, and he put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces.
The Commodores have a song called Heroes and here are some of the lyrics:
Heroes make the sun rise in the mornin’ Heroes make the moon shine bright at night Heroes make our lives a little stronger All our fears go away when he’s around
Whoa, heroes make our lives a little stronger If you look you’ll surely see they’re you and me
I am lucky in life. I had heroes. My mom and dad; my grandparents; uncles and aunts and great friends. Ron was a hero too. Heroes are not some of the popular dysfunctional celebrities who are famous for being famous. They are not boy band members or coaches that make risky play calls. Heroes are every day people living through the ups and downs of life. Heroes are soldiers fighting for our freedom. Heroes are teachers and janitors and wait staff.
A hero loves their family, shows kindness and love to others, and they don’t look down on people. And during their darkest hour they still think of those around them and how they can make things better for them. They are our partners, parents and grandparents who fight a disease with dignity and grace. They are those that give of themselves with no care or desire to worry about what they get in return. They are the ones that inspire others to do good with little to no fanfare. They are us. Ron was one of those heroes. The simplest of things.
The best way to honor Ron is to be that hero. To be the one that leads and encourages and inspires. Live with ethics and grace and be inspired by right and wrong. Be kind when others aren’t, and be level headed and open minded when anger fills the air. In a country that has lost it’s way with violence, anger and a lack of compromise, be a hero like Ron. In this way his legacy will live on. A good General mentors and inspires even after they are gone.
So in remembrance of Ron and in support of his amazing wife Janet, I would love for fans from all over the country to donate to help them financially during this tragic time. Healthcare costs have drained them (sadly) and if everyone donated just a little, they could reach their modest goal quickly.
I would also encourage those to go to his memorial this Saturday. Here is a website with the information, and an RSVP. A celebration tailgate party will include food, drink, music and dancing. I’m sure stories of Ron will be a plenty.
I have and always will support good fans from all of the NFL teams in their causes, hardships and triumphs. We are not gang members. We are people who are part of one team; the human race; who just want a chance to live a good, fun life in peace. Just like Ron, support one another and let’s never forget to live life to the fullest while never taking ourselves too seriously. And as Ron “The General” Rickard taught people; wear your colors proud, but wear your heart prouder.
I love the people of Alabama, Oakland, Southern California and all over the world that support me so kindly! People from over 40 nations have read my articles. Their positive encouragement and support is beyond measure and I’m eternally loyal to you all. You are an inspiration and I am very appreciative and grateful!
I’ve become a big fan of Ryan Fowler and Drew DeArmond. Please support them and listen to them live online.
Here is my interview with the amazing Host Ryan Fowler on 99.1 The Game on why Ken Stabler did NOT get into the NFL Hall of Fame until now.
Listen to Ryan Fowler 99.1 The Game From 2 pm to 6 pm CST; The Home of Alabama and National Sports
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:
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.
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”.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
(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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
Yesterday we looked at Bill King, Tom Flores, and the Raiders offensive players that might or might not be placed in the Hall of Fame. Today we will look at players on the defensive end who have been overlooked.
I was really happy to see so many eyes opened on social media yesterday and so many discussions on some of the players I put in my article. It’s great and fun to discuss and many put some very intelligent thoughts into their responses.
I’ve tried to do my part of showing people about grudges and biases that writers and voters to the HOF may have had on some players who could possibly be inducted. I never really understood totally just how vicious and deep some biases were, especially with east coast writers. It was eye opening.
For the last year and a half I’ve researched the stories of Raider players that might get into the hall and seen how clueless or how vengeful writers are to some of them; especially Raiders. Ken Stabler and Jack Tatum went through hell with them, and others have been black listed and will never see the HOF even though they deserve it.
Let’s also remember too, if a west coast team plays at night, usually east coast writers won’t even see them play. They read about the game or look at highlights. They are in bed sleeping. They won’t admit that but let’s be real.
Without further ado, let’s look into some of these players credentials and make the argument for or against their inductions.
When Chris Berman and Chris Collinsworth were talking about players that should be in the HOF a couple of years ago, they both said one guy; Jack Tatum. And Chris Collinsworth looked like he saw the Headless Horseman while saying it.
The running joke in the NFL in the 1970’s for NFL fans was that when you looked in your closet at night you don’t look for the boogeyman; you look for Jack Tatum. Just like Dick Butkus, Jack Tatum revolutionized his position. He was 225 pounds of educated, tough muscle from Woody Hayes University, Ohio St. He never said much on the field; said less off of it; but wow did he change football and every safety want’s to be him.
“Jack was my guy”, said a proud Ronnie Lott. “Everything I did I tried to copy from him. He was the man”.
NFL Bad Boy Conrad Dobler was amazed at Tatum. “Jack hit people so hard. It was like when he hit them they would not be hurt but they would be buried”. Running mate and trash talker of the Soul Patrol George Atkinson said, “Even I could not believe the force he hit people with. It sounded like a car wreck when he hit someone. His angles and his timing were perfect. No one wanted to come over the middle because it was like being hit by a truck. I’ve never seen anything like it”.
Tatum could take on Tackles and stop the run, or eliminate a WR so that they would never want to catch a ball over the middle again. He was so tough that if he was on the other side of the field and knew he wouldn’t make the play, he would go after anyone in his area just to hit them. Iconic Dolphins WR Paul Warfield once said, “if you didn’t have your head on a swivel against the Raiders, you would not finish the game. They were that scary.”
In his famous hit in the Super Bowl against the Vikings, people could not believe Sammy White caught the ball. Viking great Fran Tarkenton explained the play. “I was watching this helmet fly by me. For a split second I literally thought Sammy’s head was in it. I never heard a harder hit. How he caught that is beyond me”.
Sadly in a meaningless exhibition game he hit Patriots WR Darryl Stingley in a very legal hit. In fact the NFL and even the Patriots coaching staff went over the film dozens of times and admitted Tatum did nothing wrong. Stingley was paralyzed and his family was very angry at Tatum. Tatum said he tried to reach out to the family but they refused him. John Madden actually visited Stingley instead and said Jack never got over it. The east coast media; especially Boston; shredded Tatum in the papers for years and vowed he’d never be in the HOF. He sadly died at the age of 61.
Deserves to be in the HOF: YES YES YES
Will be Voted into HOF: No
Lyle Alzado roamed the field like a volcano ready to erupt. His Raider teammates called him “Three Mile Lyle” after the explosion of the nuclear plant Three Mile Island. No one knew when he’d blow up.
He grew up with an abusive father. Once when a sibling was getting beaten, Lyle at the age of 15 protected them and hit his father and broke his jaw. Lyle’s father called the police and pressed charges; assault. He was arrested. The scars on his soul were deep and unexpressed.
His life was one big tornado. In an amazing career, this great pass rusher ended with 97 sacks. Lyle is a hall of famer through and through but there is a saying if you work for or work with the NFL; Protect the Shield.
Just like with police and politicians, they feel you keep your mouth closed and Lyle didn’t. While he was dying of brain cancer and losing over 100 pounds, he did interviews talking about his immense use of steroids. Players hated him for it because it tarnished them; the NFL hated him for it because it embarrassed them. A year after his death, the NFL started testing for steroids, many say due to the backlash of Lyle’s speaking out.
He sadly died at the age of 43. Many said he was always looking for happiness and peace, but never really found it. I hope he finally has.
Deserves to be in the HOF: For Sure
Will He be Voted into HOF: No
I remember talking to an east coast writer and asking him what he thought about Rod Martin maybe going into the hall of fame. His answer? “Who is Rod Martin”. See what I’m telling you?
Don’t get me started on how clueless some Americans are in our history. Sports is included. Why sports fans don’t educate their kids on the history of their teams is beyond me. We should have more of an appreciation of the foundation of a team and not just live life like we’re 15 year old girls. For the most part as a nation we are clueless if it happened before 1990. (Rant over).
Rod Martin had a long and illustrious career as linebacker of the Oakland Raiders. He had the greatest defensive Super Bowl of all time with 3 interceptions against the Eagles. People also forget he played a key role in the Washington win in the Super Bowl too with many key plays including stopping John Riggins on a 3rd and 4th and short, once near the goal line. He also batted down key passes and picked up a fumble.
He was AFC defensive player of the year one time and a pro bowler twice. He was a mainstay for the Raiders and in the biggest games he played his best. One of the forgotten Raiders who should be better remembered.
Deserves to be in the HOF: Yes
Will be Voted into HOF: No
He once overdosed when he was with Kansas City being taken to the hospital while his coach gave him chest compressions on the way to the hospital. Raider staff members had to sleep in front of his hotel room to make sure he wouldn’t leave at night and party. Fans saw him as a big ton of fun, but at times players saw him as a big pain. A nice guy off of drugs, but a whirlwind while on them.
Matt Millen wrote in his book at what a pain John was at times. He used drugs often. Qaaludes, Valium, pot, cocaine, pain killers, alcohol. Nothing was off limits when the Tooz was around. His partying was of legend. The night before the Raiders played the Eagles in the Super Bowl he said he would patrol Bourbon Street to make sure Raider players were in at a decent hour. He ended up partying until 3 a.m. and was fined $1000. Disciplined Dick Vermeil told the national media, “if that were an Eagle, his ass would be on a plane home by now”.
In the 1970’s the strong man competitions on ABC were extremely popular. Most trained over 6 months for the events. Just to pass time, Matuszak entered into one competition; without a day of training. Most of the competitors kind of laughed at such arrogance. After the smoke cleared, he placed in the top 10 at 9th. “He’s super human”, said one competitor. “I really never saw anything like him”.
Once when the Tooz was arrested, Ken Stabler had to bail him out. When he got to the Police Station Stabler said, “Drunk, cowboy hat, cowboy boots and no clothes. Yep, that’s my roomie; I’d know him anywhere”.
On the field John was a great player one minute, and a disappearing act the next. He was a good guy when sober and he played well, but it was hard to get him when he wasn’t high off the field. He was an inconsistent but solid player. No telling how good this 6′ 8″ giant could have been. Sadly at the age of 38 he died of an accidental overdose of pain killers. A small amount of cocaine was found in his system. Sadly 2 years later one of his sisters Dawn passed away suddenly. Their family went through a lot of pain.
For many he will forever be fondly known as Sloth in the movies Goonies. The stories of his kindness are of legend. It took 4-5 hours to put on his makeup. The kids in the movie adored the Tooz and they constantly played pranks on him. He never said a word and just laughed. He said once, “How can you get mad at kids who are just having the time of their lives”. One of the kids said, “I saw him play football on television and he looked so mean. But with us he was just our Giant friend; he was Sloth to us”. He had several acting accomplishments including a memorable scene in North Dallas Forty. He was well liked by a lot of people on the sets who still talk of him fondly.
Deserves to be in the HOF: No
Will be Voted into HOF: No
When Hayes came out of college, many said he wasn’t very smart. What the Raiders found out is that he had a stuttering problem. Now Hayes will speak to anyone that will listen while showing a great personality.
Hayes was a pro bowler 5 times; all pro once; AFC player of the year once; single season record for interceptions in a year (13), and named to the prestigious all decade team for 1980.
It’s not even worth talking about; just like Branch and Tatum, of course Lester should be in. I feel embarrassed to even defend it. Eventually he will be but again, it’s a joke for him to wait so long.
For Raider, Alabama, and NFL fans that have been crying out for Ken Stabler to be elected into the NFL Hall of Fame, their prayers were answered Saturday night. The NFL announced that Ken Stabler along with Brett Favre, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Kevin Greene, Dick Stanfel and controversial former San Francisco 49er owner Eddie DeBartolo had been newly elected into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame.
My Twitter timeline was blowing up for joy but also with anger due to the huge slight all these years. No negative feeling should diminish the joy everyone feels but it is frustrating. In the annals of life it may not be that big a deal, but in the world of sports it was a miscarriage of justice to say the least and we need to call people out for it.
I thought of John Madden and the Raider players who loved him so much. I thought of older fans who saw him play and those that are no longer here. I thought of his daughter Kendra who knew of her dad’s talent and carried the torch for him for so long. I thought of daughters Marissa and Alexa who must have been awestruck by the devotion and love shown to their dad, and are just learning how great he was on the field. I thought also of his grandkids who he adored. I thought of his sister Carolyn who also has been nothing but gracious and kind through out the years. His nephews, friends, and other family members also have a huge void in their lives.
I thought of Alabama fans and friends of Ken’s that had also fought for him to be recognized. Their devotion is equal to that of Oakland.
And last but not least, I thought of his partner of almost 16 years Kim Ross, who bravely supported him while he quietly battled the side effects of CTE. While we saw the glorified side, she saw the fight that is seen behind the scenes when the crowds no longer cheer and the player walks away. A fight that no longer should be fought alone.
As I announced Ken’s induction to my happy followers, I also thought of all of the people over the years that had fought for Ken’s being in the hall of fame. The people with websites and social media pages. Everyday people who cared so much. People in the media and sportswriters. The NFL players of present and past who had constantly said how Ken deserved to be a part of this group. Many emotions stirred up inside me. Some amazing and some not so pleasant.
The Reality of It All:
If a voting writer thinks that a player does not belong in the HOF due to their play on the field, then they should not vote them in. Believe me I get it; not everyone belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame. But I also get that the grudges and unprofessionalism of NFL HOF voters has to be addressed and called out. We should not give sportswriters/voters a pass when the players they unjustly keep out for biased reasons finally get in. Instead they need to be held accountable.
What Does This Vote Prove?:
Sites that try to hire me (boy are they dumb) and readers always ask me why I write as an independent. The pure reason is so I won’t be censored or edited. My goal in life isn’t to be famous or known, it’s to call out injustices and to tell the truth. Most write what their readers want to hear to be popular and get viewers, and they try to kiss up to teams and the NFL. My readers know that I write because I want to inform them and give people an idea of what is going on; good or bad. I go after the smart reader, and as many of them know, most corporations and governments are not big fans of the truth sometimes.
In saying that, what this vote proves is one thing; Ken Stabler and everyone near him got cheated. I’m not going to rehash old articles or quotes; if you want to find out check out my past writings; but in reality this was just wrong.
Just Saturday, Terrell Owens found this out as well. Even though he has some of the best WR credentials in years, he did not make the HOF. I still remember how crappy he treated writers and other people and how he arrogantly looked his nose down on them; payback is a beatch; ask Barry Bonds.
I don’t like Terrell Owens antics either. In reality though if I was a voter my OPINION on how he treated people should not play into the equation. Even though Owens is a different type of situation than Stabler’s, isn’t this an honor for what people do on the field? On the field he was a HOF player whether I like him or not. For God’s sake OJ Simpson is still in.
Look at the self righteous Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. When MLB saw the money in daily fantasy leagues, they pimped themselves out quicker than a Kardashian in front of a camera. You couldn’t go a minute without commercials about Draft Kings. Unless of course it was their announcement that they would not put Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame because of his ties with gambling. I mean this stuff writes itself! Hypocrisy knows no bounds when it comes to major sports leagues.
Or what about Howard Cosell who is shockingly not in the HOF. Frank DeFord, Al Michaels, and so many of the great sports media figures of our time say Howard Cosell may be the most important NFL announcer of all time. That doesn’t count his huge contributions to boxing, baseball, and every other sport he was involved with. He WAS Monday Night Football. He even told the nation when John Lennon was shot and killed. He told it like it is whether it was fun or not. He said something.
Howard Cosell though had a big mouth and the NFL didn’t like it. He spoke for players issues at times. He also talked about how someday networks would only want athletes as announcers because they would be loyal to the networks and the NFL product. He called it “jockocracy”; the dumbing down of announcers. He was right.
He also was a witness in the lawsuit by the USFL against the NFL years ago. Again he told the truth. In 2010 Sports Illustrated listed the reasons why Cosell had indeed been black listed from the NFL HOF. None of the writers will admit it; but no way is Howard getting in which is a joke. This is why it’s so scary. The NFL is so powerful that they control the networks and many of the sportswriters/voters know that to get along you go along.
Bill Simmons; one of the most powerful media people at ESPN (some had him getting $5 million per year) created Grantland; the greatest ESPN publication of all time. Simmons spoke out against Roger Goodell calling him and the NFL liars in the Ray Rice situation. The NFL was furious and let ESPN know it. Even though he was proven right, he was suspended for 3 weeks. This was at the same time when self absorbed ESPN reporter Britt McHenry berated a woman at a towing yard so viciously that it went viral. She was suspended a week. So in ESPN and the NFL world, bullying someone and abusing someone verbally while embarrassing the product is far less a mistake than telling the truth.
Simmons was eventually fired and Grantland was in time, terminated. McHenry still has her job, business as usual. Don’t mess with the NFL.
HOF Voters Biased:
I just saw a 1970’s Sports Illustrated archive on Google books with an interview of Paul Zimmerman or Dr. Z. He was the ESPN NFL guru before Mel Kiper Jr. He was a voting member of the NFL HOF and eventually the senior committee. He admitted in print that for the only time in his career he lobbied AGAINST a player at one of their player voting meetings. That player was Ken Stabler. At that time Zimmerman held a lot of pull and he vowed, “I’ll never vote Stabler into the HOF”. He believed the Bob Padecky story.
The grudge against Stabler was so bad, even Bob Padecky; who still believes the Snake set him up; last week told Frank Cooney; Ken Stabler’s HOF advocate and selector of the NFL HOF Senior Selection Committee; to tell the other writers that if they think the Snake should be in the HOF that it would be alright with him if they voted him in. Remember this occurrence happened over 35 years ago, and Ken didn’t do it!!!
What needs to happen is that voters need to vote based on their on-field performance and not on petty grudges, invisible or real. If they don’t, they need to be called out on it by players, fans, and the media. They need to be held accountable.
Even with the travesty that has occurred, the parties for Ken Stabler’s induction will be long and hard. I can’t wait to see John Madden and the family, friends, and fans of Ken enjoying their day in the sun. In the back of our minds after it is over and the parties stop, lets not forget the voters all these years that cheated Ken and everyone associated with him into sharing this day with him. Remember that when future Raiders come up for a vote every year, to make sure you contact the voting writers directly to show your support of these great players. We can be lazy and complain, or get involved and make sure that their families, friends and fans don’t have to go through what Ken’s did.
Oakland Raider fans are different. They are real. There are white collar and blue collar; black, brown and white; rich and poor with all parts of society represented. The Oakland Raiders are not a team to Oakland fans; they are our family. Other fans look at players like hero’s, but to us Ken was a friend and family member who gave us countless thrills and the adoration we had for him was given back by his kindness and appreciation. He was the key to an innocent and amazing era that created the foundation of a then football dynasty. He and all of the Raiders meant so much to so many.
So when the likes of Cliff Branch, Tom Flores or other players come up for selection into the NFL HOF, let’s not forget the joy they brought to us. And most importantly lets not forget the tolls their play has taken on their bodies. Let’s support and fight for retired players rights, and the health of all present and past players. Let’s also pressure the NFL and HOF to step up to the plate and do all they can to make sure these men live as healthy of lives as possible. And best of all; see you in Canton!
Saturday the Senior Selection Committee of the NFL will vote on whether Raider great Ken Stabler gets into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Even though it’s not life and death that he get in, it’s kind of a vindication for his family and friends and his fans all over for a career and a player that was never properly appreciated by the very sport he was so great in. For many it’s still something that eats at people for the injustice of it all, however big or small in the scheme of things.
A Year of Grief:
I’ll be blunt; last year sucked. Lots of things happened and it was so draining emotionally and physically for a lot of people. It was a very bad year for me personally as well, a year where you just want to live in a cave and not burden anyone. What didn’t help was all of the losses for the Oakland Raiders. Marv Hubbard, Charlie Sumner, Al LoCasale, Art Powell, just to name a few. And last but not least Ken Stabler. It got to be too much. Great people who helped create a dynasty of winning.
The other night a friend of mine called me and asked if I wanted to meet a friend of his. He was in the national media and he saw some of my writing and asked to meet me. Why anyone would want to meet me still blows me away but when they offered steak, all the Guinness and Bass I could drink and talking about sports, well I’m all in.
My history in the medical field with the east coast isn’t a good one, especially with New York Giants fans.
If you are a friend of mine, yes I will mess with you. I like doing ribs and jokes and sometimes I will go to extreme lengths. Well this was payback. We met at my friends house. My favorite Michael Franks and Earl Klugh tunes in the background, a cold glass of beer and steaks on the grill; life es bueno. The guy we will call “Matt” started asking questions about me and complimenting me on my work. He then asked me, “by the way, being in the Bay Area, isn’t it kind of ridiculous people think Ken Stabler should be in the hall of fame?” I stopped eating mid fork.
Here is my article on WHY Ken deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
I could see my friend trying not to laugh. A wry smile coming over him. I had played a lot of jokes on him over the years and this was a payback. He knew how I felt about Ken and here was someone from the east coast; probably another mainstream media person who is clueless to any sports story west of the Mississippi; asking me a question like that?”
I took a long cold drink of a black and tan and then picked up a glass of good Napa Pinot Noir and said calmly, “yes of course he should be in the HOF”.
I’m half German and half Spanish; two countries that tried to take over the world; so even though I’m not much of a hot head, I also don’t really like to keep quiet about things. I said lets sit down and go over why you think Ken Shouldn’t be in the Hall Of Fame. He pulled no punches & Neither did I.
Before we start for those who wonder, these are my reasons why Ken isn’t in the HOF yet.
Ok this is an east coaster; going below the belt in the first round. What he was talking about was the Bob Padecky story where Bob said that Ken had cocaine planted on his car years ago. Ken vehemently denied it and most felt his friend was the one that did it. The damage was done though. Sportswriters around the country banded together saying they’d never vote Ken in the HOF. Paul Zimmerman, or Dr. Z; the draft guru before Mel Kiper Jr.; one of the most powerful voices in football media in the early days of ESPN, said it on air.
I showed him my story and told him that even though Padecky still believes it, he’s told others to tell writers he would have no problem if Ken Stabler got into the HOF.
For those who want to know, here is my article on the incident with Bob Padecky.
I love it; the guy knows his stuff. In his last 4 years Stabler had 42 touchdowns and 74 interceptions. He played for a Houston team that was not talented and who played the power I. It was conservative and based pretty much on giving Earl Campbell 40 carries a game. (and people wonder why he is in a wheel chair at times). For the Saints the years before Ken got there, they were 41-106; almost all of those years was with media darling Archie Manning. The Saints were the doormat of the NFL. Ken in his second year lead them to their best record ever.
Ken’s first year in Houston was his second best year as a pro leading the Oiler’s to their best record in their history up to then. After Ken left Houston, their record the next 5 years (one is strike shortened) was 16-57. These were 2 terrible teams that Ken made much better with his skill, something no sportswriter ever talks about.
Some of his detractors say Ken wasn’t good long enough, which is a crock. Roger Staubach only had 85 wins in his career. Terry Bradshaw 107. Bob Griese only had 92. Ken was 100-50 but his career was too short? Not long enough? Sure didn’t bother committee voters to vote those players in. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Ken was the fastest QB to get to 100 wins and in his first 62 games he was an inhuman 50-12 as a starter. In their first 20 Monday Night Football games the Raiders were 18-1-1; many with Ken as QB. My only question to my east coast friend when asking why Ken isn’t a HOF is why are we even questioning this? The 1970’s was the greatest era of football and Ken had the most wins as a starter and was the best QB in that era with a Super Bowl win and a league MVP.
Ken remains the ONLY QB in NFL history that lead his team to playing in 5 straight conference championships. He was probably the greatest 2 minute drill QB in history. I don’t even know why I have to say these things really. Even writing this I’m getting frustrated. “I was not the best QB of the 1970’s”, stated Pittsburgh Steeler great and HOF QB Terry Bradshaw. “It was Ken Stabler; Ken was better than I was.”
As most men do when they get into their twilight years, they patch up differences. Frank Cooney; former San Francisco Examiner writer who covered the Raiders during the glory years, is in charge of presenting Ken’s case to the members of the Senior Selection Committee. He said in 2009 that Ken met with Raiders owner Al Davis. They buried the hatchet and Al admitted that he was one of the main reasons Ken was not in the HOF. Al’s venom to players like Ken and Marcus Allen; players he felt crossed him; was of legend and was vile and vicious and Al actually spoke against Ken. In the end, it was a good thing they met with all of the bad blood that they had ever since he traded Ken to the Oilers for overrated but strong armed Dan Pastorini.
The last time Al was at the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony, he was interviewed and admitted that one of his big regrets in life was not doing more to get Raider players in the HOF. Many teams actually hired advertising and PR agencies to promote their players. Al admitted they didn’t do anything and it was a wrong that needed to be righted.
Also to their credit, Ken met with Bob Padecky, the sports writer that to this day feels Ken had him set up. They did make up though when Ken was @ Infineon Raceway in Sonoma when Bob covered the event which Bob wrote about years ago. In a recent article, Bob has said he also reached out to Frank Cooney and again said to tell the sportswriters that if they want Ken in the HOF that he was all for it.
Two Minute Drill:
For Ken Stabler’s family and friends this week seems like an eternity. I’m so glad though the younger daughters have seen who Ken was and what he meant to so many. I’m sure they don’t want to build up their hopes up too high. Let’s be honest; the Raiders are the Doc Holiday of pro football and no one ever cries over the bad guy. We don’t need vindication from the NFL HOF to tell us what we already know, but it would be nice.
What fans and loved one’s of Ken’s doesn’t want is charity. We don’t want you to vote Ken in because you feel bad that he’s no longer here. We don’t want sympathy; we want sports justice. Ever since Al Davis was blind sided by the AFL & NFL during the merger, the Raiders have been the pirates of the sports world. As Al Davis, Ron Wolf, John Madden & Ken used to always say; we don’t take what the opponents give us, we take what we want. And what we want is for Ken’s amazing career to finally be rewarded.
As Saturday’s vote is looming, it’s down to the wire. I picture in a video Bill King’s voice booming loud and poetically describing the scene like a piece of art. Ken is giving us one last two minute drill; a miracle drive against the Patriots in the Playoffs. Picture John Madden losing his mind during a time out, while Ken is looking into the crowd seeing who is actually at the game and viewing what the fans are doing. The enclosed Oakland Coliseum as loud as a freight train. While others are anxious with stress Ken is the Snake. Cool as ice.
One more Sea of Hands game; another miracle in San Diego with a Holy Roller; one more last second come from behind drive where no one but Raider fans and players gave them a chance. Ken used to say to his teammates, just leave time on the clock and I’ll take care of the rest. Throw deep.
And as the final vote is tallied maybe it’s right that it goes down to the wire; with so many on pins and needles, I believe they will Vote Ken into the HOF. And as we all celebrate with bittersweet laughter and tears, I picture Ken with a sly smile jogging off the field giving us all a wink. With a southern smile he tells us we had this all along but in reality it doesn’t change any of us or diminish anything that he accomplished, or lessen the relationships that were made.
But in reality the Pro Football Hall of Fame Voters still don’t get it. But we get it in Alabama. We get it in Phoenix Arizona. We get it in Oakland and everywhere else that the average football fan resides. And every peer that he played with or against that is supporting Ken for the highest honor gets it. In reality the HOF pales in comparison to why so many love him and that is something you can never take away. Ken Stabler; Hall of Famer in the greatest game of all; life. How innocent were those times; how rich we are to have known them.