Thanks for your response, Penny......I enjoyed your Bay Area memories as well. Those were good times to grow up, in a good place to be. Especially for sports fans, which most of us were back in the Fifties and Sixties....one way or another.
Wil McDaniel and Rich Noble added some of their own experiences, including their attendance at Kezar Stadium. Rich told me the place seated only about 10,000 people, which sounds about right. That's tiny for pro sports by today's standards. He recently took his Encinal/Alameda track team there for an invitational meet.
And you're right, the seating was terible.....long, narrow benches with seat numbers stamped into the wood every couple feet or so. No backs, no armrests, no real space for comfort. Top grade entertainment on the field though.....the Bay Area's first taste of major league sports.
The Giants brought big league baseball to Seals Stadium, at 16th and Bryant, in 1958.....and moved into newly built Candlestick Park for the 1960 season. The Oakland Raiders formed in 1960, along with the entire AFL.....and they are the answer to a unique trivia question (who was the first pro football team to play a home game in Candlestick Park?)
The Raiders started up without a home field and played their games in Kezar and Candlestick. Since the Niners were still playing home games at Kezar in the early 60s, the Raiders were the first to host a pro football game in Candlestick. Their home games were road games until they secured Oakland City College's (now Laney College) field as their home site. That was Frank Youell Field.
A contest conducted by the Oakland Tribune to name the new AFL team in 1960 produced "Oakland Senors" as the winner. No kidding. The club changed it's own name to Raiders.....and I don't know if that was the runnerup suggestion in the balloting or their own concoction. Either way, it turned out a little better than the Oakland Misters.
The team's colors for those first three seasons were black and gold, by the way. They had black helmets with a gold stripe down the middle and their uniforms were exact copies of the Chicago Bears uniforms, except black and gold instead of navy blue and orange. Al Davis was hired as head coach for the '63 season and he changed the colors to black and silver, 'cause he was color blind and saw the gold as reddish or greenish, depending on the lighting.
The Raiders were winless in one of those first three seasons and won only one or two games the other two years. When Davis used to call 'em the "winningest organization in pro sports" he left off the 3-30 record established before he arrived in order to make that claim. It's never been a true claim and the league made him stop saying it (one of the many grudges he still holds against the NFL).
I still have game programs for every home game during that '63 season. It was my first year out of the Army and I developed a keen interest in a pro football team playing nearby in the East Bay. I later got to cover Raider and Niner games for the Independent, but it wasn't nearly as fun as attending their games as a fan in those earlier years.
I saw Tom Flores quarterback the Raiders, after Cotton Davidson and before Darryl Lamonica. I think I remember Larry Sheppard having a cat or a dog that he named after Lamonica. Frank Youell Field was fun. Me and my Dad, or my wife, or both, walked up on game day and bought 40-yard line seats. Clem Daniels was a memorable running back and Jim Otto their first outstanding lineman.
The Oakland Coliseum was built in time for the 1966 season and the Athletics came from Kansas City to share the Coliseum with the Raiders in 1968. They wore sleeveless yellow uniforms (or white or mint green) and were the first team decked out entirely in white shoes. It looked garish, almost softball in style. Charlie Finley brought a mascot mule, named after himself (Charlie O.), with his team and installed a mechanical rabbit that popped up from underground with new baseballs for the umpire.
I couldn't stand the circus atmosphere and never identified with 'em.......like I had with the Oakland Oaks in the Forties and Fifties. We had a classmate, Billie Sue Hamrick, who's Dad, Ray Hamrick was an infielder on that team. And Billy Martin played for the '48 and '49 Oaks, outta Berkeley High.....before he was promoted to the Yankees in mid-1949.
Lloyd Christopher was a Richmond High grad who also played for the Oaks, as an outfielder. And Brooks Drive-In, over on Cutting, just a block down from San Pablo Avenue, belonged to Oaks outfielder Brooks Holder. Casey Stengel managed that '48 team to a PCL Championship in 1948.
We were just completing our junior year at RUHS when the Giants played the first big league game in our area, in April of '58.....at Seals Stadium, where Willie McCovey used to line singles off that right field wall in his rookie season of 1959. I recall what a thrill it was to watch Willie Mays play centerfield in person, when I finally made it out to Candlestick in 1963. The Army kept me away 'til then.
You mentioned Roller Derby at the Richmond Auditorium, which I also remember. The Bay Bombers were the home team, with Charlie O'Connell and the like. Ann Calvello was the visiting villain on the womens' teams in those days. And I spent a day bar-hopping in Oakland with Georgie "Run-Run" Jones, who frequented the bars on San Pablo Avenue in Oaktown. He advised me, a young man at the time, to get into Roller Derbv......or wrestling. "That's where the big money is," he said.
And, yes, I remember wrestling at the Auditorium.....with Ben and Mike Sharpe, Leo Nomellini and the like. Gorgeous George even visited the Richmond Auditorium. I only went as a kid, so I missed Pepper Gomez and Ray "Pencil Neck!" Stevens in the later years. Run-Run wound up as the Raiders equipment manager, a post he held for years.
Anybody wanting to relive some of those experiences should visit Lefty O'Doul's bar and hof-brau on Geary Street in the City.....or the Double Play, a tavern right across the street from the Seals Stadium site, at 16th and Bryant. Both are bedecked with photos and artifacts from Pacific Coast League baseball.
I saved some game programs and team photos from most of those sports and I enjoy revisiting those memories.....mostly on the garage walls, since "too much sports" is not allowed inside the house. My room has a lot of PCL stuff displayed, however. It provides the warmth of the old home area that I sorely missed when I first moved outta down there.....and it brings back the sunny memories of game day in the old ball park, as one happy little boy.
I can also imagine David sitting in the aisle, next to your end-of-the-row seat at Kezar, Penny. Even if there wasn't room for both of you on that bench, it sounds memorable. I know there was plenty room for my skinny lil' self....in those days. But one thing I don't miss, is the knees in my back from the row behind.
Whole different story at the ballparks today, if you can afford it. I'm comfortable in front of my Sony, 46-inch, flat-screen, Hi-def teevee. Feels like I'm right there with 'em on the field. I'll settle for that, at this age.
Thanks again, Penny....you took me back one more time.
Root, root, root for the home team,
That's us.....and we win every time!
Conrad, most people don't remember this, but, oakland was not supposed to be one of the original teams in the AFL. St. Paul, Minn. was to be an original team, but, at the last minute the NFL decided to add a team there. So the AFL gave the team to Oakland. I won a bet at the local sports bar in town. I bet 3 guys that they could not name all the original teams in the AFL.