Al Davis, the iconic owner of the Raiders who built a pro football team in his own image, moved it to Los Angeles and then back again, has died at age 82.
The club announced his death on its Web site with the statement:
JULY 4, 1929 _ OCT. 8, 2011
THE RAIDER FAMILY WILL ISSUE A STATEMENT LATER TODAY”
The Raiders are in Houston for Sunday’s game against the Texans. Although in failing health because of an undisclosed health issues, Davis attended the Raiders’ most recent game, a 31-19 loss to the New England Patriots.
He did not travel to a Week 2 game in Buffalo, only the second game he has missed since the team returned to Oakland in 1995.
Although the Raiders haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1983 and have just three seasons with records over .500 in 15 seasons since returning to Oakland, Davis achieved his goal of making his team one of the most recognizable franchises in professional sports.
Davis is survived by his wife Carol and son Mark. He said in previous interviews his wife and son would inherit the Raiders upon his death, although in keeping with the secrecy inherent in the organization, little is known about how the club will function in terms of day-to-day operations.
Inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992, Davis is the lone member to have been an assistant coach, head coach, general manager, owner and commissioner. His life’s work has been the Raiders, for whom he was the dominant figure for nearly 50 years.
With Davis in control the Raiders won 15 division championships, four conference championships and captured the Super Bowl following the 1976, 1980 and 1983 seasons, losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002.
The Raiders developed a reputation for bringing in renegades and misfits and were one of the most polarizing team in pro football, with a loyal, rowdy fan base and even more fans who considered them arch-enemies because of their penchant for penalties and intimidation.
Davis, with his black and white sweatsuits, 1950s hairstyle and unapologetic insistence on the bottom line, was the central figure.
“I’m a sore loser,’’ Davis said in an Oakland Tribune interview for a profile accompanying his selection as the most significant sports figure in Bay Area history by the publication.
In developing catch phrases such as “Commitment to Excellence’’ and “Pride and Poise,’’ and leaning heavily on tradition, Davis believed the name brand of the Raiders was rivaled only by the New York Yankees pinstripes and the green uniforms of the Boston Celtics in terms of fan recognition.
Davis spoke of the Raiders being known around the world, and said in a 2010 interview on Sirius Satellite Radio, “We’ve always wanted to be global, and we are global. You take that silver and black, that uniform, and you can go anywhere in the world and they know what you’re talking about.’’
Shortly after his selection to the Hall of Fame in 1992, Davis explained how he built the Raiders through the influence of his Brooklyn youth.
“I always wanted to take an organization and make it the best in sports,’’ Davis said. “I admired the New York Yankees for their power, intimidation. I admired the Brooklyn Dodgers under Branch Rickey for their speed and player development. I felt there was no reason the two approaches couldn’t be combined into one powerful organization.’’