Al Davis dies at 82
Posted on October 8, 2011
Owner Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders watches his team warm up before a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California in 1990. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame owner Al Davis died at his home in Oakland this morning at 82. I learned of the news shortly after I woke up today as my Twitter feed was going nuts with posts about the breaking news. This is national news in the sports world, and Page One news here in the Bay Area.
I am not going to recount all the facts about his life as a scout, coach, commissioner and owner. You can get all of that from numerous news stories like this one. I want to talk about how this guy effected my life as a fan and photographer who has spent my entire life in the Bay Area.
Growing up in the Mangin House in Fremont in the 1970’s we rooted for both the 49ers and Raiders. I know this sounds nuts, but my dad Al had ties with both teams dating back decades. My dad’s college roomie and basketball teammate at College of Pacific in Stockton was Clyde Conner. Conner went on to play tight end for the 49ers at Kezar Stadium from 1956-1963. During this time my mom and dad attended many of the 49ers home games and became big fans of the team. By the time I was old enough to know the difference between first down and second down I realized that not only did our family root for the 49ers because of Clyde (whose family we regularly hung out with), but we also rooted for the Raiders. Why? One reason was because my dad worked the scoreboard for all home games at the Oakland Coliseum for the Silver and Black, and even did game in the early 1960’s when they played at Frank Youell Field. For his efforts my dad received $25, all the Kentucky Fried Chicken he could eat in the press dining room and all the beer he could drink. I can still remember waiting for my dad to come home at 4:30pm after a Raider home game with that days issue of PRO that I would spend the next few hours devouring.
I saw many great Raider games on television. I still remember watching the “Sea of Hands Game” in 1974 against Miami in the playoffs. I attended many Raider home games with our neighbor Bob Donovan in his sweet season ticket seats on the 25 yard line in the portable football bleachers behind the visitors bench. I was sad when Al Davis moved the team to Los Angeles in 1982 and happy when he moved them back in 1995. I was happy for many reasons, the most important being that as a photographer I would have the chance to shoot Raider games on Sundays. This all became reality in a bizarre press conference in 1995 when the move back to Oakland became official (see above).
Few people knew Davis as well as my good friend, sports writer Bill Soliday. Soliday covered the Raiders for five decades, and today’s news caused him to reflect on the life of Davis with his friends on Facebook. “Al Davis was The Godfather of the NFL. He inspired fear and respect. He took a certain pride in realizing/thinking nobody knew what wave length he was on. The 46 years I knew him, he always treated me well and, I think, fairly — a favor I tried to return within journalistic reason. It won’t be the same without him. Sad day,” said Soliday.
I first photographed Davis during an exhibition game against the 49ers at Candlestick park in 1990 when I was working for The National Sports Daily. After their return in 1995 I shot pictures of him during games in Oakland, training camp in Austin and Napa, and mini camp in Alameda. His expressive face, crazy hair, and fashionable sunglasses always made for a good picture.
As I finish writing this blog entry I look forward to the many tributes that will be in tonight’s newscasts and tomorrow’s newspapers. What I want most right now is a book about Davis written by Soliday. Whattaya say Bill? We need to drink some beers and talk about this.