Early days of Raiders Fan chronicles the team's AFL years


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Jan 22, 2006
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Early days of Raiders Fan chronicles the team's AFL years
Column by Carl Steward
Inside Bay Area

WHEN JIM McCullough was a student at Fremont's Robertson High in the mid-1980s, his principal was an icon of early Oakland Raiders lore, Wayne Crow. Already a devout Raiders fan as a teenager, McCullough was transfixed by the firsthand tales Crow told about the team's grassroots infancy.

Little did McCullough realize that he would be detailing the Raiders' birth and chronicling the fascinating events of the franchise's first decade some 20 years later in a new book to be released this month.

The 35-year-old McCullough wasn't even born when the Raiders came into being and established themselves as one of the preeminent teams in the old American Football League from 1960-69. He wanted to learn more about how it all started, but in searching for information on the Internet and in libraries about the genesis of "the greatness of Raiders," he came away frustrated by the lack of a coherent single source.

As a result, Raiders fans everywhere will soon be treated to a remarkable labor of love titled "Pride and Poise: The Oakland Raiders of the American Football League." It's a book that should have been written years ago about the team's compelling early history, but for some strange reason, other than a rudimentary publication the Raiders produced through the NFL, nobody picked up the ball and ran with it until McCullough hit on the idea five years ago.

"I got frustrated looking for the book I wanted to read, so I just went out and wrote it," he said.

The cover alone, with a photo of a young Al Davis patrolling the sideline at Frank Youell Field with an even younger Jim Otto kneeling next to him, is stunning enough that any self-respecting Raiders fan will want to pick it up and thumb through it. Once they do, they won't be able to put it down.

Here's the really good part, though. McCullough, who now lives in Stockton, isn't a professional writer. He's an on-call stagehand for theater companies and concert events, and thefrom Sports 1

most ambitious writing he'd ever done before taking on the Raiders project was a letter to the editor of his local newspaper.

He doesn't look the part of budding author, either, even though he is easily spotted at Raiders' games dressed up as his alter-ego, Krunch. Yes, he's one of those dressed-up fans with the spikes and skulls and face-paint, but there's an intellectual side that comes through even when he's decked-out. For starters, he wears glasses.

Those anticipating an exhaustive book on the order of the Vince Lombardi biography or a David Halberstam-type examination of the early Raiders will be disappointed. Sorry, it's not a tell-all, either. Nonetheless, McCullough has produced something wondrous — a clean, straightforward, captivating account of the Raiders' first 10 seasons that fills a major historical void until something better comes along ... if it ever does.

The book is as grassroots as the Raiders' 1960 beginning when, as McCullough recounts, players were actually dispatched into Oakland and other East Bay neighborhoods trying to sell season tickets door-to-door. He spent three years in the Oakland Public Library scouring the microfilm of the Oakland Tribune collecting information on training camps, drafts, pregame preparations and accounts of the games, as well as pertinent data about the fledgling AFL and 1960s Oakland itself. He scoured for photos wherever he could find them, and the brilliant cover shot was taken by longtime Trib photographer Ron


Even in his matter-of-fact compilation of the events as they transpired in the daily newspaper, he uncovered rich historical details lost or forgotten. The very first years are filled with absorbing facts about a ramshackle operation that went 3-25 in the first three seasons, nearly went bankrupt and sought to stay solvent by moving to Portland, Ore., or New Orleans.

Those early teams were horrible, but they initiated the "pride and poise" performance ethic adopted and developed by Davis when he arrived on the scene in 1963. The book is dedicated to the team's first coach, Eddie Erdelatz, and the players who gave breath to a dream that culminated with the Raiders winning an AFL championship, playing in a Super Bowl and going 37-4-1 before the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. All of those great games and events are reexamined as well.

McCullough didn't interview many people and to this day, has never talked to Davis or many of those early Raiders. But it hardly matters for this kind of effort because just through an organized examination of each year from 1960 through 1969 through newspaper accounts, a great story tells itself.

McCullough sent out queries and samples to publishing houses but was met with polite rejection. Then he learned more about the burgeoning world of self-publishing and hooked up with a company called AuthorHouse, which for a reasonable fee brought the book to reality. It will soon be available on the

www.authorhouse.com Web site, and McCullough himself is taking order requests at [email protected].

After reading a galley copy online, I will be shocked if this book isn't a huge hit with Raiders fans, both old-timers and newcomers. Hopefully, it will be because McCullough is already contemplating a sequel — the Raiders of the 1970s.

But it's this 1960s stuff that really needed to be retold properly. At long last, someone who is nothing more than a devoted fan got it done. In some way, that makes it even better.

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