Received an e-mail from the 49ers during a weekend off with a headline worthy of “The Onion.”
“EDWARD J. DEBARTOLO JR. TO BE INDUCTED INTO
EDWARD J. DEBARTOLO SR. 49ERS HALL OF FAME”
Al Davis wasn’t in the first class of inductees, although maybe he should have been. (Now that would have made for a great headline).
Al has regaled the media more than once with the story of how he helped broker the deal that allowed DeBartolo the elder to purchase the 49ers from the Morabito family, with Eddie Jr. yipping at his father’s heels, saying, “Can I have it? Please Dad, can I have it? Please!”
So maybe those weren’t his exact words, but I doubt Davis would mind if that’s the way it was portrayed.
That’s a long way of pointing out the 49ers are opening their own Hall of Fame, while the Raiders, who kicked the idea around in public upon their return to Oakland in 1995, still don’t have one.
Nor do they have a “Ring of Honor” or anything else for a with a team that considers tradition such an important part of its existence. With the original AFL teams being recognized this year in “legacy” games, it would have been a perfect year for the Raiders to have their own introductory class.
I wrote about this back in 2005, but I’ll take another crack at the first 10 enshrinees, with one stipulation for the first class of players:
Only true “Raiders” go in first. That means you were either drafted by the Raiders or became a star with the Raiders. And it also means George Blanda (a cast of thousands), Ted Hendricks (Colts, Packers), Jim Plunkett (Patriots, 49ers) and Art Powell (New York Titans) become eligible next year.
Before getting to the players, four men enter the non-player’s wing:
Al Davis, coach, owner: The architect of a brand name that has fallen on hard times, but in its prime played with a singular style and purpose which placed it alongside the Yankees and Celtics.
John Madden, coach, 1969-78: Record was 112-39-7 overall, and only the Pittsburgh Steelers prevented Madden from more than one ring.
Tom Flores, coach, 1979-1987: Twice as many rings as Madden and was the last Raiders coach with the ability to operate effectively while in a true partnership with the boss.
Bill King, radio play-by-play: 1966-1992: If you grew up in the Bay Area and followed the Raiders during the days when sold out home games were blacked out, your memories are even more vivid than if you saw the games on television. Unless you experienced it through King’s voice, you’d never understand.
Jim Otto, center, 1960-74: The only All-AFL center the league ever had, Otto sacrificed his body but not his spirit and remains a Raider to the core. If he’s not the toughest man who ever lived, he’s in the top five. Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980.
Gene Upshaw, guard, 1967-81: Before he started running interference for the players as the union chief, Upshaw was one of the greatest pulling guards in NFL history. Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.
Art Shell, tackle, 1968-82: Entire career distilled into a single afternoon when he made Jim Marshall disappear in the Raiders’ first Super Bowl win, Shell remains the standard by which his position is judged. Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989. (No need to make mention that whole second coaching go-around in 2006).
Willie Brown, cornerback, 1967-78: Acquired from Denver along with quarterback Mickey Slaughter for defensive tackle Rex Mirich and a third-round draft pick, Davis thought Brown perfect for the bump-and-run defense. Brown played it as if he invented it. Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
Dave Casper, tight end, 1974-80, 1984: If he’s not the best tight end of all time, he’s in the conversation. Dominant as blocker and receiver, participant in two plays which should be shown in an endless loop somewhere in the imaginary Hall of Fame facility “The Ghost to the Post” and the “Holy Roller.” Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
Marcus Allen, running back, 1982-92: Before he committed the cardinal sin of a Raiders player by publicly feuding with Davis over money, Allen was the dominant running back in franchise history and without peer as an all-around back (running, receiving, blocking), saving his best game for the last Raiders’ win in a Super Bowl. Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
Fred Biletnikoff, wide receiver, 1965-78: Did Biletnikoff ever measure off a pattern so that he came up an inch shy of a first down? Not that I remember. MVP of the Raiders first Super Bowl win and one of the great route runners and possession receivers of all time. Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
Howie Long, defensive end, 1981-93: Didn’t matter whether Long was aligned as an end in a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense, whether teams went at him or away from him, whether they run or passed. Few players consistently whipped the man in front of him as consistently as one of the last throwback defensive linemen. Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
Cliff Branch, wide receiver, 1972-85: This is what Davis was thinking about when he drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey. One of the byproducts of the team superiority of the Steelers over the Raiders was that they put both Lynn Swann and John Stallworth in the Hall of Fame, when neither man had the impact Branch had on the Raiders. Will never get a sniff at Canton, but he goes in with honors here.
Jack Tatum, safety, 1971-79: The personification of the intimidation factor the Raiders used to live by in their glory years, Tatum’s Super Bowl blow-up on Minnesota wide receiver Sammy White remains an NFL Films classic. Still among the standards by which hard-hitting safeties are judged, Tatum was so feared the league slowly legislated his style of play out of the league through rules changes.
Ken Stabler, quarterback, 1970-79: OK, we’ll make it 11. Inadvertently edited Stabler out of my initial list, and wasn’t willing to take anyone else out . . . no-brainer as the quarterback who finally delivered a Super Bowl win in addition to being the master of the two-minute drill.
ORGANIZED TEAM ACTIVITIES
The Raiders will hold the first of their organized team activities this week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Media access will be Wednesday following a 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. practice.