117

Bye, George

“Waiting for the snap . . . fourth down . . . here it is . . .snap! spotted down! It’s kicked. That’s got a chance. That is — good! It’s good — Holy Toledo! Holy Toledo! This place has gone wild. I don’t believe it! I do not believe it! There are three seconds left in the game. If you can hear me, this place has gone wild . . . the Oakland Raiders 23! . . . the Cleveland Browns 20!

“George Blanda has just been elected king of the world! I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it! Holy Toledo! It went 53 . . . no 52 yards! George Blanda has just been elected king of the world!”

That was Raiders radio announcer Bill King’s call of George Blanda’s 52-yard field goal to beat the Cleveland Browns at the Coliseum on Nov. 20, 1970.

I remember it all, and not just because I’ve heard the replay dozens of time since as well as thousands of times in my mind. King’s inflection . . . “that’s got a chance . . . told listeners something truly remarkable was happening, and happening a week after Blanda pulled out a 17-17 tie with the Chiefs in Kansas City with a 48-yard field goal.

If you’re old enough to remember rollling your eyes when your parents told you stories about huddling around the radio as if it were a television set, you may remember that at the time Blanda was in his five-week streak of miracles, the NFL blackout rule was even more ridiculous than it is today.

Home games were blacked out. Period. Didn’t matter if it was a sellout or not. I watched the 17-17 tie with Kansas City on television (while at the same time listening to King on the radio, of course). The Cleveland game was for ears only, yet remains one of the most memorable moments in my mind in club history.

It was the quintissential Bill King call corresponding with the perfect Blanda moment. It happened when I was 12 years old, but thinking about it can bring chills to the spine, one of those instances that lets me know that although I haven’t been a fan for years, I remember what it’s like.

I was delighted when my dad eventually go a chance to get season tickets, even if they were only for half of the games for the first year or two.

I eventually met King, having covered a lot of baseball when he was the A’s radio announcer. I met Blanda only in passing, saying hello when introduced by a Raiders employee.

He had a reputation for being difficult with reporters, so I figured it was best if I didn’t mention to him that I remembered the time the Raiders practiced in my neighborhood at Chabot College in Hayward. My dad had heard about it somehow, and I rounded up a few friends to go watch.

We stood in the end zone as Blanda, square-toed shoe and all, practiced kicking field goals while a bunch of kids _ me included _ shagged balls. I don’t remember who the holder was, but the center was Jim Otto. Two future Hall of Famers getting in some work and entertaining some kids in the process.

Those are my most vivid Blanda memories.

A few more Blanda links:

My Blanda obituary for the Bay Area News group.

Monte Poole’s column on Blanda.

Jeff Faraudo’s story and interview with Blanda last month regarding his longevity.

A sampling of what people are saying about Blanda and his legacy.

A look back at the five-game run that made Blanda famous in 1970.

A MediaNews editorial which calls Blanda “one of a kind.”

A slide show tribute to Blanda.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • http://blackhillsphoto.com/sturgis-weddings/black-hills-weddings.jpg Dakota

    ghosttothepost Says:
    September 28th, 2010 at 7:41 am
    C’mon guys … I think Cable is a tool, too … but, check previous post … Bill Walsh could not win with this team … avg QBs, young WRs, crappy O line … poor special teams … porous run defense … heck, God would have trouble winning with this team
    _____________

    Coaching matters.

  • ghosttothepost

    there are signs of life … I believe that … but it takes a top QB to win the super bowl in the NFL, almost without exception … we had our chance at that … we picked JaWalrus … game, set, match … then we trade for Can of Soup … pinch me I must be dreaming … now we have Grads. He’s OK, big heart, but never, I repeat never, a Super Bowl QB

  • ghosttothepost

    And the truth
    shall set you free !

  • http://raiders.com A.B. Paine III

    A good coach and GM could win with both Campbell and Gradkowski.

  • ghosttothepost

    Jordan fades back. Swoosh !
    And that’s the game !

  • ghosttothepost

    iffy, at best Paine … neither are as talented as say, Cutler and Rodgers … and those two aren’t even elite QBs

  • ghosttothepost

    maybe a good coach could win with them … but win the big one … whole new ball game

  • bcz24

    Rodgers has to be considered an elite QB at this point. He may not be on an elite team quite yet, but he is definitely a great qb

  • http://blackhillsphoto.com/sturgis-weddings/black-hills-weddings.jpg Dakota

    A.B. Paine III Says:
    September 28th, 2010 at 7:57 am
    A good coach and GM could win with both Campbell and Gradkowski.
    ______________________

    Coaching matters, but not that much!

    A good coach with those guys could make the playoffs, but would never win the SB. Brad Johnson and Dilfer are probably the worst two QBs talent wise to win the SB, but they both had brains and didn’t take chances. It would be a miracle if a team won the SB with Garbageman or Campbell.

  • guest123

    I am not delusional to think we have a team to make it the superbowl.

    I just want my team to compete, improve. Maybe beat some heavyweights along the way, and have a chance at a wildcard near the end of the season.

    Of course we don’t have the coach/QB/etc…
    to go to the SB.

    Stop killing yourself over it. We are what we are.

  • http://raiders.com A.B. Paine III

    Dakota Says:
    September 28th, 2010 at 8:02 am
    A.B. Paine III Says:
    September 28th, 2010 at 7:57 am
    A good coach and GM could win with both Campbell and Gradkowski.
    ______________________

    Coaching matters, but not that much!

    A good coach with those guys could make the playoffs, but would never win the SB. Brad Johnson and Dilfer are probably the worst two QBs talent wise to win the SB, but they both had brains and didn’t take chances. It would be a miracle if a team won the SB with Garbageman or Campbell.
    ————————–
    With the right team, Campbell is better than Johnson and Dilfer. The Steelers are 3-0 with QBs equal to Gradkowski.

  • http://blackhillsphoto.com/sturgis-weddings/black-hills-weddings.jpg Dakota

    Like I said, they could win some games with those guys, but it would take a miraculous set of circumstances for a team to win the SB with either of those guys. Just common sense.

  • RaiderfanNY

    I tend to think that Gradkowski could be a playoff QB with a decent O line and B-plus receivers.

    But we have a patchwork O line and D-plus receivers.

    The Cable question is almost moot if Davis would replace him with another guy who couldn’t get another job in the NFL.

    It only matters if Davis would give big money to Bill Cowher (my choice for a truly desperate franchise) or Jim Harbaugh or someone else he would have to cede some power to.

  • guest123

    Regard the great George Blanda. He played the game when football players were football players. Not just specialists. He was a leader of men, what I feel Gradkowski is.

    I don’t remember the Blanda days, although I am sure I have seen a couple of his games when I was a toddler.

    Hope Jano’s kick wasn’t what put Blanda over the edge.

  • post ghost

    Great story Jerry. I remember going to a MNF game against the Cowboys. Marvyn Gaye sang the national anthem and the Raiders were looking pretty lethargic until George came in for Stabler, his first play he throws a TD to Branch.

    …That might slightly be revisionist history but that’s the way i remember it

  • http://www.tube8.com NoLuv4Hoes

    Pitos

  • popcicledrip

    hh