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Another Move for the Pillaging Raiders

Raiders Candlestick Park

If it’s true, and the Autumn wind is, in fact, a Raider, then the fate of the football franchise in Oakland makes perfect sense. Certainly, few teams in professional sports have come to personify their nickname quite like the Raiders, pillaging just for fun from city to city up and down the California coastline.

But the last twisting turn of this renegade club will take then out of the Golden State into the land of the Golden Nugget.

Barring any more dramatic game-changers—and with the Raiders, all bets are off (pardon the pun)—the team will call Las Vegas its home beginning in 2020.

But the Raiders calling anywhere home has always been a fluid concept. Prior to this latest impending move, the Raiders have called five different venues its home over the first 57 years of existence. Only two were actually located in Oakland, and the one stadium they’ve called home the longest was not a continuous stay, much to the detriment of the Raiders, its most iconic owner Al Davis and the NFL.

The strange saga of the Raiders began in 1960, in one of three stadiums the Raiders called home away from the city that bared its name. When the franchise began play in the American Football League, they split their home games between two stadiums–one old, one new–across the bay in San Francisco.

The first Raiders home game in franchise history was played at ancient Kezar Stadium on Sept. 11, 1960. Although the home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, the Raiders played their first four home games there before moving across the city to Candlestick Park, where they played three games in 1960 and their entire home slate in 1961. (The photo above shows the Raiders in action at Candlestick Park.)

It would not be another decade before the 49ers finally moved out of Kezar (perhaps most famous to non-Bay Area observers for its use as the setting for a dramatic scene in Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry”) and into Candlestick, making the Raiders the first professional football team to call Candlestick its home.

As both the Raiders and the AFL struggled to survive in the early 1960s, the team drew miserably in its full season at Candlestick, with a season attendance total of roughly 50,000.

Before Al Davis was even brought in as coach, the franchise was run by F. Wayne Valley, who was the first (but certainly not the last) managing partner to threaten to take the Raiders out of Oakland if a new stadium could not be secured in the city.

In this early case, while the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum was under construction, the Raiders moved to 18,000-seat Frank Youell Stadium, where the team played from 1962-65. In this era, Davis was brought in as head coach and the team settled on its permanent uniform color scheme of silver and black.

After the 1965 season, as the Raiders began to rise in prominence in the AFL, the team began play in the Coliseum, where it would remain for 15 seasons until 1981, the longest individual stretch in any one stadium in franchise history.

This first stint in the 56,000-seat Coliseum marked the greatest on-field success in Raiders history. The Raiders won their only AFL championship in its second season at the Coliseum in 1967, which earned them a spot in the second AFL-NFL World Championship Game, otherwise known as Super Bowl II. Although the Raiders lost to the Green Bay Packers 33-14, their entry into the merged NFL saw them establish themselves as a power in the newly created American Football Conference, winning the AFC West six times between 1970-80 and reaching the AFC Championship Game four times between 1970-75 before finally breaking through for the first of its two Super Bowl titles while calling the Coliseum home, in 1976 and 1980.

During this era, the Raiders played host to two of the most famous games in NFL history, staging a remarkable last-minute comeback against the Jets in November 1968 that most of America never saw in what became known as the “Heidi Bowl.”

In 1974, quarterback Kenny Stabler and running back Clarence Davis teamed up for a dramatic, last-second touchdown in a thrilling back-and-forth playoff game against the two-time defending champion Miami Dolphins that would go into the lexicon of NFL nostalgia as the “Sea of Hands” game.

But even as the Raiders were headed for that second Super Bowl victory in 1980, their future in Oakland looked dim and a longstanding feud between Davis and NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle exploded in an ugly court battle.

Davis, having taken over the Raiders’ front office in 1972, sought improvements to the increasingly obsolete Coliseum. When that effort failed, Davis signed a memorandum of agreement to move the team to Los Angeles, where it would play at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. But when the team failed to receive the necessary votes from other league owners to move the team, Davis, along with the L.A. Coliseum, which had recently lost the Rams to Anaheim, filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league.

Davis and the L.A. Coliseum won their case in 1982, and the Raiders moved to Los Angeles that fall, winning their third Super Bowl in eight seasons in 1983 after defeating Seattle in the AFC Championship Game played at the Coliseum.

But as the decade of the 1980s wore on, and the team’s on-field fortunes began to wane, Davis’ love affair with Los Angeles also soured, and soon the Raiders were looking at a return to Oakland.

The prodigal sons in silver and black made it official in 1995, returning to Oakland Coliseum as both the Raiders and Rams fled Los Angeles, leaving the city without an NFL team for the next 22 seasons.

The Raiders once again found success shortly after their move, reaching the Super Bowl in the 2002 season. But that proved the apex of their return to Oakland, and even after the death of Al Davis in 2011, his son Mark, also failing to secure funding for renovations to the Coliseum, began pursuing options that included another return to Los Angeles.

The NFL gave the Raiders permission to pursue such a move in early 2016, but when bids to move to LA and San Antonio failed, the Raiders finalized a deal in early 2017 to move the franchise to Las Vegas, beginning in 2020.

This article first appeared in the weekly Football Stadium Digest newsletter. Are you a subscriber? It’s free, and you’ll see features like this before they appear on the Web. Go here to subscribe to the Football Stadium Digest newsletter.

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August Publications