With all systems seemingly go for the new American Football League, the unthinkable had happened. The National Football League, forty years established and fearing costly competition from this upstart, had found success in offering an NFL franchise to an AFL owner, Max Winter, and he and his Minneapolis franchise were bought away. Sensing he couldn’t compete with an NFL expansion team in the twin cities, Winter accepted an offer to join the NFL with his new club beginning play in 1961. The remaining seven AFL franchises needed a new home for number eight and by early January 1960, the new home had been narrowed to four possibilities: Atlanta Georgia, Oakland California, Miami and Jacksonville Florida. Having only three cities that enjoyed good weather in late fall, this new league was eager to add a fourth to compliment their four cold weather cities: Denver, New York, Boston and Buffalo.
Out west, the Oakland City Council wasted no time in endorsing efforts to bring professional football to their city and empowered Mayor Clifford Rishell to appoint a committee to propose ideas on building an Oakland stadium and investigate the availability of San Francisco’s new Candlestick Park while the Oakland facility was being built. City Councilman Dan Marovich reported the Port of Oakland had already made an offer of land for a new facility, which could be financed by revenue bonds to eliminate the financial burden from local taxpayers. This was seen as a major boom for the city as not only would it bring professional football to Oakland but make the area more attractive for other professional sports.
Time, however, was of the essence. There were concerns of other cities getting a head start on them by building a new stadium first, as was the case in Miami. Oakland had an advantage. Some AFL owners wanted a Northern California team to create a natural rivalry with its Los Angeles franchise, the Chargers. Another City Councilman, Robert Osborne stated that he was interested in joining a syndicate backing a club and pledged $200,000 of his own money in the venture and gave assurances to his fellow councilmen that he would be able to handle any financial requirements set forth by the new league.
Hopes for a temporary stadium were initially placed on the University of California’s Memorial Stadium. City leaders were optimistic they could persuade UC regents to allow them use of the facility on a temporary basis, in spite of a longstanding policy that disallowed professional events. Though conditional upon the team having its beginnings in the East Bay, Oakland industrialist Ted Hareer expressed his interest in obtaining the club.
Barron Hilton, owner of the Los Angeles Chargers and catalyst for the addition of a Bay Area team, suggested that if Oakland officials were only interested in playing at Memorial Stadium then perhaps another group should come forward, possibly putting the team into Candlestick Park, which was available to rent by a professional football team. In the coming days, Hareer softened his “East Bay only” stance, conceding it would be better to have an Oakland team in San Francisco than no team at all. A second syndicate was formed by Oakland auto dealers Bill Jackson and Ed Goldie. A $25,000 “faith payment” was submitted to the league accompanied by a formal application for the final franchise. Unless Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium was made available to them, this new group was intent on playing in San Francisco until a permanent home was built in Oakland. Arrangements were made to bring these two groups together, but the talks broke down over the issue of control.
San Francisco Mayor George Christopher did Oakland no favors by publicly questioning the wisdom of placing a second professional football team in San Francisco, which would be in direct competition with the 49ers. Oakland City Councilman Frank Youell reminded Christopher of how Oakland had opened its heart to San Franciscans during the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and appealed to the neighbor city to do Oakland a good turn by granting the use of either Kezar Stadium or Candlestick Park until a home was erected in the East Bay. Having no control over the rental of these two stadiums, Mayor Christopher relented slightly, urging serious study regarding the effects of a second football team in his city.
Y. C. “Chet” Soda, Councilman Robert Osborne and San Francisco contractor Charles Harney formed a third and final syndicate. All three factions were confident a stadium would be built in Oakland and accepted the team would have to play in San Francisco for its first season as UC regents refused to allow use of its stadium for professional, Sunday games. This third group had also made the necessary $25,000 “faith payment” to the AFL and submitted a formal application of their own. Ted Hareer refused to involve his camp in a battle over the team and withdrew.
To decide where the eighth and final franchise would be located, league owners held meetings at their headquarters in Dallas. With the elimination of Miami and Jacksonville, only Oakland and Atlanta interests remained and had their syndicates present. Support for the Atlanta franchise was remarkably strong. Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams was a strong supporter of the Atlanta franchise, wanting create a natural Eastern Division with Boston, New York and Buffalo, with his Houston team joining Dallas, Denver and Los Angeles in forming the western division. Adams argued that the southeastern United States was a top producer of football talent and Atlanta was a natural home base for the area. The possibility of an AFL club in the Bay Area began appeared remote as the owners voted 6-1 in favor of The Georgia capital. This issue wouldn’t be settled without a fight.
Jim McCullough is a researcher and historian. Pouring himself over thousands of pages of research to provide the most complete and accurate portrayal available of the early Oakland Raiders. He is 33 years old, single and resides in Stockton, Ca. This is his first book. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.