“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.