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.”
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.
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.
Kendra: @JimJaxMedia this is an amazing article and tribute to my Dad. Thank you. He would have loved this. The love & support has amazed us all.
Marissa: @JimJaxMedia Thank you so much for honoring my dad with such beautiful words.
“Some People need 8 Hours of sleep and some need 3 hours. I didn’t need much sleep and sometimes studied my playbook by the light of the jukebox”
“He was the perfect quarterback and the perfect Raider. If I had to pick one quarterback to win a game in the final drive, it would be Ken Stabler”
“It’s a Travesty of sports justice that Ken Stabler is not in the Hall of Fame. He was as good as any quarterback I ever saw”
Former Bronco Great, Tom Jackson
“Joe Namath was the greatest athlete at quarterback that I ever had, but Ken Stabler was the best quarterback that I ever coached.”
Paul “Bear” Bryant, legendary Alabama Coach
“He was such a gentleman. He wanted to fight it quietly without bother. That’s who he was”.
Ted Hendricks, HOF Raider Linebacker
“I never saw anything like it. He was like Madison Bumgarner the way he could throw fastballs or sliders with pinpoint accuracy.”
Lester Hayes, Former Raider Cornerback
“The Passing Of Legendary Raider Ken Stabler Shocks a Nation”
A leader and true Southern Gentleman to the end.
I’m the big brother people call when there is a tragedy or a problem. There isn’t a week that goes by where someone won’t call me between midnight and 3 am with either a problem or wanting to talk. Call it the John Boy Walton in me. For this I don’t cry much in front of people and I try to be strong. And to be honest I never cry over a celebrity or an athlete’s death. Famous people have never impressed me that much and when people drop their names I just kind of shrug. Unfortunately after hearing the fiasco which is the internet tell me finally that the matriarch of the dynasty which was the Oakland Raiders was gone, I was filled with emotions that shocked me.
Kenny Stabler; Snake; passed away yesterday at the age of 69 due to complications of stage 4 colon cancer sending a shock wave of sadness throughout the NFL world. In death, as he did in life, Kenny took on the pressure himself and many of his teammates didn’t even know he was sick. Stabler, until the end; was the classy leader that took on the pressure while lifting the load off of others. Later in life he did color commentary for Alabama games and the state is in mourning for their favorite son.
I slowly walked down my hiking trail and just wanted a minute alone with no sounds. I looked out over the water and for the first time in my life I cried over the loss of a professional athlete.
Ken Stabler; like many; was my favorite athlete. In fact I often either wanted #12 on my teams or the #21 for Roberto Clemente. As an adult I would often write both numbers on professional contracts at the bottom of pages. I remember my parents and coaches getting mad at me as a little boy for wanting to use my left hand like Kenny. I remember praying to God to make me have special powers so I could use my left arm like Stabler did.
For a young fan to even grasp in a small way what Stabler meant to the Raiders would take a lot of effort on their part. If you ever get the chance, read the book Snake. It’s the candid account of the lifestyle and crazy ways of the Raiders of that time. In the greatest era of the NFL in the 70’s, George Clooney and Clint Eastwood had nothing on the Snake.
In high school Stabler was 29-1 as a starter. He averaged 29 points a game as a high school basketball player and was drafted by two major league baseball teams. At Alabama he was 28-3-2. For the Raiders he was 69-26-1. 126-30-4. I’m speechless.
To see how dominating the Raiders and Ken Stabler were, look at this stat. In Stabler’s first 69 games as a regular starter for the Raiders, the Raiders were 56-13. I actually had to check the numbers 5 times to make sure they were right. That is unreal. That’s greatness.
The Stabler Kindness:
Stabler’s generation is amazing. Many times under the darkest of circumstances, they are so selfless. This is seen especially in sickness and death. When he was sick he didn’t want to be a burden and again, was as selfless and giving as a man can be. Kenny and his family have helped countless people through the XOXO Stabler Foundation. Kenny also was amazingly giving of his time and his efforts in many charities and causes. Like most of his generation he didn’t want much fanfare and didn’t call the presses every time he helped someone. He was a great person. He never turned down a fans request to sign something or talk to him.
I often feel bad for his daughters, grand kids & his long time Partner Kim who have shown great patience with some of us loving Ken so much. They have been as caring and kind as he was. In death they also showed the selfless Stabler spirit. The Stabler family announced that his brain and spinal cord will be donated to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center to support research for degenerative brain disease in athletes. People forget that the Snake was involved in the concussion lawsuit against the NFL.
People often say why does it matter where the Raiders play? I always tell people outside the Oakland bay area that the Raiders are your team but they are our family.
The stories about the fans and players interactions during the glory days of the Raiders in the 70’s are of legend and will never be seen again. The Santa Rosa area would be up all night during training camp, and many times Ken Stabler was up with them. My father actually got to drink with Mr. Stabler once in Santa Rosa when the Raiders were holding court in one of the watering holes.
People forget that during the 70’s the players weren’t getting rich off of the NFL. Many players had extra jobs and did other things to make money. Often times they would meet, work with, or become friends with the fans. You can still see it with some of the Raiders kids and grandkids who are online still repping the silver and black. With fans. the Raiders were not considered celebrities but literal family members.
The fans were close to the players but the most beloved player of them all was Ken Stabler. Mix part Clint Eastwood, Johnny Cash, Sammy Baugh and Part Johnny Unitas and you had Ken Stabler.
I laugh now when fans say the NFL and other teams hate the Raiders. They really have no idea what hate is. Back in the 70’s there was no internet, and there wasn’t even an ESPN. The only way to get national news on any team was to watch it on television and most news services were based on the east coast and they were extremely biased. There were times that you would get more coverage about the Jets and Yankees than you did on your local teams. If they covered the Raiders, it usually wasn’t very positive.
The Raiders were flat out hated; by everyone; including some in the media. Since the merger Raider owner Al Davis felt screwed by the AFL and the NFL because he felt they had told him he would become their commissioner. Al Davis from then on was a renegade and it was us against the world. The Raiders constantly had one of the best teams in the NFL and the loudest home crowd but because they never had won a Super Bowl, they were shredded in the media.
The media often said there was a reason for their apathy towards Oakland. “The Raiders and Ken Stabler can’t win the big one; they choke in the big games; the road to the Super Bowl easily goes through Oakland; The Chokeland Raiders”; it was hard for fans at that time to take, and only a Super Bowl win would fix it.
The animosity for the Raiders was so bad that even after Stabler won the 1974 MVP trophy (and even opponents were shocked he didn’t win it in 1976); many times announcers would have to remind people during the game all the things that Stabler had accomplished. If you were west of the Mississippi in those days, you had to really fight for respect.
Stabler was Joe Montana before Montana. Montana often said Stabler was the guy he tried to be like and that was someone he looked up to. Stabler was a master at game management and his pinpoint passing accuracy was of legend. Because the Raiders were so good he never got the credit for being as great as he was and that often bothered other players, but not Snake. Remember this was during the time where there are no HD high speed camera and videos on the sidelines, or radio transmitters in the helmets. Quarterbacks actually did call their own plays. From Stabler to John Madden, to Ron Wolf to Al Davis; they all told the media the same thing. We don’t care what the other team does; we are going to do what we do and they can’t stop us. Supreme confidence with results.
Players often have wondered how someone as great as Stabler could not be in the Hall of Fame. My friend Tim Casto who I really enjoy; founder of Raiders Homeport; reminded me of a nasty situation between Stabler and quality sports writer Bob Padecky. There were rumors of a drug set up and most writers supported Bob and turned on Snake. Writers around the country helped ruin Stabler’s reputation and tried to keep him out of the hall of fame. They said they did not want to be intimidated into writing fluff pieces on athletes. Ken Stabler is still the only Super Bowl winning QB of the 1970’s not in the HOF. He’s also the only all decade QB not to be elected into the hall. Travesty.
I rarely get into twitter wars but I got into 2 of them yesterday. Two clueless east coast writers said Stabler wasn’t all that talented. Are you kidding me? Bear Bryant, the Alabama coaching Icon called Stabler the greatest quarterback he ever coached. John Madden said the same thing and said even today if he needed to have one quarterback for one drive, he’d pick Ken Stabler to run that drive. Raider hater and Denver Bronco great Tom Jackson said Stabler was as good as any QB to ever play the game.
We fans are too young but what about the 1967 “Run in the Mud” Stabler did to beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl when he was at Alabama? His 53 yard run was the longest of the season and is a Crimson Tide legend. The Sea of Hands game; the Holy Roller; Ghost to the Post and the countless other games that he lead comebacks in. In fact if the call were reversed, Stabler would have won the game in the Immaculate Reception fiasco with his long run for a touchdown against the Steelers.
Some say Snake didn’t have the numbers but it was a different game then. The rules allowed defenders to do anything they wanted to quarterbacks and wide receivers and passing wasn’t a huge part of the game. It got so crazy with the violence that Chuck Knoll once called the Oakland Police Department to arrest Jack Tatum and George Atkinson for assault. It isn’t like today where Wide Receivers roam free skipping over the middle like school kids while QB’s can’t be touched. The numbers you see now are comical and the passing game is much easier.
Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton reiterated that yesterday on KNBR. “In fact a rule change changed the NFL. After the 1979 Season, the NFL stopped allowing players to hit Wide Receivers after 5 yards down the field. This literally was directly attributed to George Atkinson and Jack Tatum. This made the game much more wide open and easier for quarterbacks.”
The 70’s also was the most talented era of all time. The Steel Curtain; the Doomsday Defense; The Orange Crush; the Purple People Eaters; the No Name Defense; no era was dominated with so much talent in NFL history. There was no salary cap and teams were loaded. In one game in the 70’s between the Steelers and Raiders there were 21 future hall of fame players, owners and coaches on the field. Try naming 10 hall of famers in a game today. I usually don’t hold grudges but I will always hold a grudge against the Hall of Fame Voting Committee for not voting the Snake in while he was still alive.
Someone close to my heart; my friend Mike Yokum; has lead a valiant effort to try and get Kenny Stabler into the Hall of Fame. Anyone reading this article hopefully will take one minute to sign his petition.
“It may sound corny”, Mike said, “but Kenny’s effect on my childhood was profound. Just this week I received some signed merchandise from him. He thought of me even though he was dying. I didn’t even know he was sick. He was so giving. A man’s man to the end.”
Tim Casto also gave light on what he thought would happen in regards to the hall of fame. “He was born to be a Raider. I think this finally will be the year that he gets into the Hall of Fame. People forget that Ken was the 3rd fastest to get to 100 wins taking only 150 games. If you look only at his statistics as a Raider, they are pretty amazing. People also overlook what a kind man he was. He was very giving and did a lot through his great foundation and many other charities that he helped. The Steelers and Rooney family; the Raiders hated rivals; are actually pushing for Ken to be in the hall of fame and they have a lot of pull”.
After I sat for a few hours and just kind of wondered about things I thought to myself, what would the Snake tell me now if he were here. I then imagined Ken Stabler’s voice; a cool guy with his smooth southern accent say,
“Jim I’ve had a wonderful life; I had 3 amazing daughters that are the light of my eye and the beat of my heart; I have grandkids that make me proud every minute of the day; I played for the greatest organization and college in sports in front of the greatest fans in the world. I have loved and lived hard. I had fun every step of my life and now I’m with my maker with no more pain or worries. So get up and go live life to the fullest and don’t worry about me. Live it with a wink in one eye and a twinkle in the other. I’m fine.”
All of a sudden I smiled broadly, quickly got up and I felt like a million bucks. I walked half way up the hill, stopped and then looked up into the sky into the lights across the water. For some reason I took a picture although it was pitch black, and said out loud, “Thanks Kenny. For everything.”
Like I said. A leader and true southern gentleman to the end.
“Bob Wilkins Blazed Trails and Helped Introduce Anime to the U.S. and Made Creature Features an Institution”
I write this in memory of the great Bob Wilkins who was the host of a Sacramento and San Francisco Bay Area television institution, Creature Features. Most areas in the country had shows like this but none were as influential as the great Bob Wilkins version. He had a massive following which included fans like Tom Hanks, George Lucas, & Vincent Price who he would occasionally interview. It was shown on Saturday nights after the news.
Creature Features was created by Bob and it was originally shown in Sacramento KCRA television, until he was wooed over to Oakland’s KTVU in 1971. KTVU was a hip station that liked to try new and different things and the match was made in heaven. Every 70’s and 80’s kid loved it and creature feature reruns were very popular in the 80’s and 90’s.
Bob Wilkins Interview with William Shatner
Creature Features on KTVU regularly had higher ratings in the bay area than the wildly popular Saturday Night Live which was in its heyday. In time, Mr. Wilkins was credited with introducing Anime to the US television and movie viewer, showing things like Ultraman and other Japanese productions. He was famous for his Godzilla and monster movie genre that he liked to show as well, along with Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robots.
The other networks laughed when Bob started showing the Original Flash Gordon series from the 1930’s in between the movies and he even showed the first Batman Series from the 1920’s called the Bat-Man or Dark Knight which was actually silent. From Ed Wood movies to campy horror films, Bob would fearlessly show them all and his eager audience gobbled it up like freshly buttered movie popcorn.
Bob’s famous saying was, “Watch Horror films; keep America Strong!” The funny thing was every nutcase would call Bob. Many people claiming to be zombies, witches, warlocks and even a vampire would contact Bob.
A man claiming to be a real life Vampire once called him at the station and asked if he could be interviewed. Bob agreed and told him to meet him at the studio the next day at 2 pm. The vampire agreed. Bob said, “Aha! I’m not going to interview you. How is it that you are a vampire and you want to meet in the middle of the day?”
Bob also would “warn” his fans if there was a bad movie. In the promo’s for some of the bad movies he showed, he would literally say, “get some sleep tonight and don’t stay up late and watch our movie. We have a real schlocker (bad) of a movie tonight with Billy the Kid versus Dracula.” He would hold up signs showing the ratings of the bad movies with the letters PU. Of course the more he ripped on the movie, the more viewers had to watch. After the end of Jessie James meets Frankenstein’s daughter, he wiped tears from his eyes saying, “There isn’t a dry eye in the studio; that was a real tear jerker; or the worst movie ever seen on television!”
Bob’s sarcasm was way before it’s time, and he would show films that no station in their right mind would run. Classics like Ed Wood’s Planet 9 From Outer Space and the Japanese cult classic, Attack of the Mushroom People were fan favorites. Attack of the Mushroom people was barely released in the U.S. and he gained many Japanese movie fans for showing it.
Bob once said the movies were getting so bad that he was going to quit and start an ant farm which had more of a future. He would also threaten to quit unless people stopped watching. Of course the ratings went through the roof.
Bob was soon at every convention and gathering and was adored by his fans. His big cigar and soft spoken, humble nature made him even more loved. His wit was dry and he was always the coolest guy in the room.
Creature Features also had great movies in between the “schlockers”. The amazing Planet of the Apes movies, Night of the Living Dead, The Fog, Vincent Price’s House of Wax and so many others were great films. Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts was a huge hit as well. He was the first person to give Trekkie news before it was a term and the fans listened intensely with Spock ears fully opened.
If you get a chance, look him up on Youtube. He was a great interviewer and people called it a badge of honor to sit with Bob on Saturday nights. He interviewed the likes of Vincent Price, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ray Harryhausen, and Christopher Lee just to name a few.
Wilkins was so popular that the 10 o’clock news on KTVU begged him to be their weatherman. He did so but quit after 2 years saying he was kind of bored of it and it didn’t give him the freedom he wanted. He did win an Emmy though due to a stunt he did when he was bored.
He did a ski report from South Lake Tahoe and put in footage of James Bonds skiing scene from the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service without telling management. The newscasters could not stop laughing and the station couldn’t keep up with the phone calls of people saying how much they loved it. The news at that time was very dry and straight forward on other networks but it was never a dull moment with him around.
Creature Features was the first television show to ever show the original movie “Night of the Living Dead” and John Carpenter’s classic “The Fog” on television. KTVU got clearance to show Night of the Living Dead at the delight of the loyal bay area audience. It was actually filmed in the bay area and it used regular people as extra’s. The movie is a total classic. It had come out in theaters 3 years earlier and it was unheard of to have a movie shown on television that quickly.
Bob was a loyal guy to the local sports teams and KTVU had a real bias towards the Oakland Raiders. He also wouldn’t be above giving a jab or two or ripping on a Raider opponent when the Raiders won, which was most of the time.
Bob’s last bay area Creature Features show was in 1987 when he came back to show The Fog. It was like old times when Wilkins was given a piece of paper in the middle of the show saying that President Reagan had a really important message to give to the people of America and that it was directly from the White House. Of course it was about 12:30 am in the morning and Reagan was probably either sleeping or on vacation somewhere.
It ended up being a commercial Reagan did years ago for Boraxo hand cleaner. It was during the Iran Contra scandal, and after Reagan washed his hands and the commercial ended, Wilkins thanked the president for this important message commenting that it was the first time President Reagan had come clean about anything all year!
Bob also did a daytime show called Captain Cosmic geared towards kids and the Star Wars craze. He dressed up in a space suit type outfit with his trusty side kick robot 2T2.
Bob launched even more Anime productions with the hugely popular Ultraman series, and in the end, some of the highest rated segments were the 103’s Flash Gordon episode. He liked to show Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. After two years he ended the show because he literally did everything he wanted to do.
Sadly on January 7, 2009 it was announced that at the age of 76, Bob Wilkins had passed away quietly in Reno, NV from complications of Alzheimer’s. It ended the life of one of the most beloved men in bay area entertainment history.
Thank you Bob for all you did. My dad worked hard and he used to work nights and it was a Saturday night ritual to mingle with him while he got ready for work during the start of Creature Features.
My mom and I had great memories of staying up late watching the good and bad movies late on Saturday nights right before he left. A snack, Creature Features and Bob Wilkins was a guilty pleasure that even today makes me smile. Rest in Peace my friend. The joy you gave others will never be forgotten, and always be treasured.
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