Logo History*The Raiders move to Los Angeles and become the Los Angeles Raiders
**The Raiders return to Oakland and become the Oakland Raiders
The Minneapolis franchise of the AFL withdraws and elects to play in the National Football League instead. Barron Hilton, owner of the Los Angeles Chargers of the AFL, gives the league an ultimatum that unless the Chargers have another franchise on the West Coast, he would withdraw from the AFL. Oakland becomes the eighth city to gain an AFL franchise, January 30. The franchise is owned by an eight-man syndicate headed by Y.C. (Chet) Soda and including Ed McGah, Robert Osborne, and Wayne Valley. Oakland inherits the Minneapolis draft list, but, because of the lateness of its entry into the league, also is allowed to select five players from each other AFL team. Dons and Senors each are given consideration as the team name, which ultimately becomes Raiders. Eddie Erdelatz of Navy is named the team’s head coach. The regents of the University of California refuse to approve the use of its stadium for the Raiders’ games, which instead are played at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, the home of the rival 49ers of the NFL. Only 12,703 fans watch the Raiders lose to the Houston Oilers 37-22 in their first game. The Raiders boast two good quarterbacks—Tom Flores and Babe Parilli—while center Jim Otto and guard Wayne Hawkins anchor the offensive line, but the Raiders have little else and finish with a 6-8 record.
The Raiders’ home games are moved to Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Ed McGah, Robert Osborne, and Wayne Valley buy out their five partners, and McGah is named president of the club. The team loses its first two games, to Houston 55-0 and San Diego 44-0. “I don’t know what to do about it,” Eddie Erdelatz says. He is fired as coach. Marty Feldman, one of Erdelatz’s assistants, is given the job, but he doesn’t fare much better. The Raiders score the fewest points in the league, allow the most points, play before mostly empty seats, and win only two games. The only bright spot is the play of Tom Flores, Jim Otto, and cornerback Fred Williamson. Osborne, discouraged by the turn of events, sells his interest in the club.
Wayne Valley tells Oakland City officials, “Either buy us a stadium or we move.” A much–discussed Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex is still in the planning stages, so until further action can be taken on it, Frank Youell Field (named after a local undertaker and sports booster) is designated for the Raiders. It is a small high-school facility. Temporary stands are built and boost its seating capacity to 20,000. Before the season begins, a special draft of veteran players is held to help Oakland and Denver. But with Tom Flores out with a lung infection, the Raiders are still in bad shape and continue to struggle for victories. Marty Feldman is replaced by Bill (Red) Conkright after two games. On the final day of the season, after having lost 19 in a row over two years, the Raiders finally win, beating Boston 20-0.
After refusing their offers on several previous occasions, Al Davis, an assistant coach for the San Diego Chargers, accepts a three-year contract as the Raiders’ head coach and general manager. “What I want is enough time and money to build the Raiders into a professional football team,” Davis tells Wayne Valley and Ed McGah. Davis immediately begins reorganizing the franchise. He hires a new business manager, director of player personnel, and ticket manager. He signs split end Art Powell, who had played out his option with the Titans, gets quarterback Tom Flores back from his extended illness, and signs several other useful players. Halfback Clem Daniels, a former tight end, rushes for 1,099 yards, an AFL record. The Oakland defense also prospers under Davis. After a 2-4 start, the Raiders rally to win their last eight games and finish one game behind San Diego. The last three games in particular, establish Oakland in its wide-open style. Trailing 27-10, the Raiders rally in the fourth quarter to beat the Chargers 41-27. Then they edge Denver, 35-31, and outscore Houston, 52-49, in the highest-scoring game in AFL history.
Tony Lorick, the number-one draft choice from Arizona State, signs with Oakland. He also signs with Baltimore of the NFL and, after a long hassle, winds up playing for the Colts. Al Davis’s team slumps at the start, losing five straight, but comes back to score four wins and a tie in the final five games, including victories over Buffalo and San Diego, the teams headed for the AFL title game. Two new acquisitions, 6-foot, 7-inch, 265-pound end Ben Davidson, and middle linebacker Dan Conners, help fortify Oakland’s defense.
Construction officially starts on Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Al Davis continues to stockpile talent, acquiring such rookies as flanker Fred Biletnikoff, defensive back Kent McCloughan, linebacker Gus Otto, and tackles Harry Schuh and Bob Svihus. But an inability to beat Buffalo and San Diego—the Raiders lose all four of those games—kills the Raiders’ title chances, and they again finish second to the Chargers in their division, with an 8-5-1 record.
Al Davis is named commissioner of the American Football League, succeeding Joe Foss, in April. Johnny Rauch is named Raiders head coach. The AFL and NFL agree to a merger, June 8. David resigns as AFL commissioner and returns to Oakland as managing general partner. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum opens, and in the first game there the Kansas City Chiefs defeat the Raiders, 32-10, before 50,746, September 18. The Raiders slip to a 1-3 mark but late-season victories over Kansas City, Houston, and San Diego help produce another 8-5-1 season, again good for second place.
Al Davis trades Tom Flores and Art Powell to Buffalo for quarterback Daryle Lamonica and split end Glenn Bass. The Raiders also acquire split end Bill Miller from Buffalo, cornerback Willie Brown from Denver, and quarterback-kicker George Blanda, who had been released by Houston. Rookie guard Gene Upshaw, from Texas A&I, immediately establishes himself as one of the league’s best blockers, and fullback Hewritt Dixon as one of the most efficient runners. The Raiders smash Denver 51-0 in the season opener, and, after a 27-14 loss to New York in the fourth week, they win 10 straight games to capture the Western Division title with a 13-1 mark. Blanda wins the AFL scoring championship, Lamonica leads the league in passing, and the defense gives up the second-fewest points in the league. Lamonica also is named AFL player of the year, having thrown for 3,228 yards and 30 touchdowns. In the AFL Championship game at Oakland, the Raiders storm by Houston 40-7 for the right to meet Green Bay in the second AFL-NFL World Championship Game. Oakland is too young and too inexperienced, and the Packers win 33-14.
The Raiders are hit with an unusual number of injuries, but find two new stars on offense, split end Warren Wells and running back Charlie Smith. Wells averages 21.5 yards per catch and Smith 5.3 yards per carry. The Raiders play the New York Jets at Oakland and trail, 32-29, with 1:05 to play when the NBC television network switches from the game to begin the regularly-scheduled movie, Heidi. The network’s switchboard lights up with angry protests as the viewers miss the game’s ending, and the Raiders’ two-touchdown rally, for a 43-32 win in what comes to be known as “The Heidi Game.” Oakland rolls to a 12-2 record, but it isn’t enough for undisputed first place in the Western Division: they are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs. Oakland routs the Chiefs 41-6 in a playoff, as Daryle Lamonica throws five touchdown passes. In the AFL title game in New York, the Raiders and Jets play a dramatic game, with Joe Namath finally pulling it out for New York, 27-23.
John Rauch becomes head coach of the Buffalo Bills. John Madden, a 32-year old Raiders assistant, replaces him, becoming the youngest head coach in pro football. Daryle Lamonica continues as one of the game’s most effective passers, again, leading the AFL in that category. He throws six touchdown passes in the first half on the win to a 50-21 win over Buffalo, October 19. One week later, the Raiders beat San Diego to equal the AFL record for consecutive unbeaten games at 15. The streak ends the following week with a 31-17 loss to Cincinnati, but Oakland wins its remaining six games and finishes first in the Western Division with a 12-1-1 mark. Lamonica ends the season with 34 touchdown passes. Oakland routes Houston, 56-7, in the first round of the playoffs. Kansas City, the second-place team in the division, upsets Oakland, 17-7, in the last AFL Championship Game.