"Holy Toledo!"

July 5, 2009

Al Davis Interview – Part 1

Filed under: NFL, Oakland Raiders — Bill @ 9:23 am

Raiders managing general partner Al Davis doesn’t prefer to be interviewed much these days. His public speaking in recent years have been limited to special occasions, such as when former 49ers coach and close friend Bill Walsh passed away or a coach is hired or fired. However, Davis agreed to a one-on-one interview with Raiders play-by-play man Greg Papa on the eve of Davis’ 80th birthday, which is today. Here is a transcript of the first segment of the two-hour interview that aired on Comcast SportsNet (the rest of the interview will be aired later):

Greg Papa: Let me be one of the first to wish you a happy birthday, sir.
Al Davis: Well, it’ll be happy when we win. But it’s a milestone, obviously, 80. Usually at this time of the year, or every fifth, from 75, 80, I’ve held a nice party in Las Vegas. But I felt this year, predicated on the economy and all, we would just whittle it down to a few friends for dinner and hold off, because we didn’t want to flaunt it whenever everyone else is having trouble financially. I thought it was best to do it that way. In any event, thank you very much.

Papa: My wife and I were thrilled to be at your 75th. It was a tremendous function. You showed a lot of generosity to us and the people close to you. Let’s start at the beginning. We’re going to tell the story of one of the most fascinating lives in the history of not just pro football, but all of American sports. July 4, 1929, Brockton, Mass., the home of Rocky Marciano, the great champion, and you, sir. How old were you when you left Brockton to move to Brooklyn?
Davis: We came to Brooklyn, New York when I was 5 years old. My dad was a manufacturer. He was an entrepreneur. He manufactured rain coats and he was in real estate. He was moving the raincoat business in those days to the south, because of the cost of labor and things like that. Some of the factories stopped in Baltimore, some stopped in North Carolina. But my mother felt we ought to stop a little bit further north, so we chose Brooklyn, N.Y. The memories are great. I lived there until I was about 16. My dad had a home in Long Beach, Long Island. We were moving from Brooklyn to Long Beach to Brooklyn to Long Beach. At the time I was ready to go to college, which was about 17 years old, they had already committed to moving to Long Beach, so I went on to college.

Papa: Tell me about Brooklyn and those days. You’ve mentioned some of the names to me; the great Don McMahon, who went on to pitch in the major leagues with the Braves, was a childhood friend of yours. The Torre family, and I think you were closer to Frank (Torre) than Joe. Some of the people, before you got to Erasmus Hall even, that you knew just growing up in Brooklyn.
Davis: Let me make the point to you, Brooklyn was a very diverse place. We had all the ethnic groups you could possibly think of. It was great street learning. Right next to my house was a park called Lincoln Terrace park. It was a tough park. It really was. Whoever played in that park, you had to be a survivor. I can only tell you this story. I did the eulogy for Sugar Ray Robinson when he died in Los Angeles. One of the other eulogists who spoke was Mike Tyson. Mike Tyson and Don King were there. We were talking, and I told Mike, who was about 20 years younger than I was, ‘Mike, I played in Lincoln Terrace Park and I tell you what, it was tough.’ He said, ‘What do you mean you played there?’ I said, ‘I played there every day, day and night, unless I went to practice, baseball, basketball and football.’ And I said, ‘I owned that park, Mike.’ He turned to Don King and said, ‘This guy is an S.O.B. He’s a tough S.O.B. If he can come out alive of that park, he must be a tough S.O.B.’ I remember it so vividly — my public school, my junior high school was called Winthrop Junior High School. We had to march when we were in school to our classes. We had to wear a white shirt and a red tie. Anyone who went to Winthrop will remember that. And then we were being recruited to go to high schools. I went to Erasmus Hall High School with the idea of playing basketball. That was the dream, to play for Al Badain at Erasmus Hall High School. The memories are great. I made a lot of friends. Yes, as you mentioned, Don McMahon was on the baseball team. I wish he were alive today. We’d laugh like all heck. The Torre brothers were big. They played for Madison. Joe played for, I think, Brooklyn Prep. There are so many great ones that went to Erasmus. Let me start with Bob Tisch, who owned the Giants; Jerry Reinsdorf, who owns the White Sox and Chicago Bulls; Sam Rutigliano, who coached the Cleveland Browns; Sid Luckman, a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Chicago Bears; Barbra Streisand, you have to throw Barbra in because she probably is the No. 1 celebrity from that school; Lainie Kazan. We just had a litany of great performers, great people.

Papa: You mentioned you played for the great Al Badain and played all the sports. But football was the one. You stated when you were 18 you had a deep understanding of football. Why do you feel, Al, that you saw football better than the other sports?
Davis: Well, I don’t know that I saw it better, but it interested me more. When I was 18, I was already in college. I went to college when I was 17 years old. At Erasmus, we ran a single wing. At Syracuse, we ran a single wing, and then Ben Schwartzwalder came, and we ran the wing-T, an unbalanced line. I just understood there was more to it than just running the football. There was a passing game. I saw it. I believed it. A lot of people, a lot of people, Luke LaPorte was one of our teammates, we were taking a class in football in the summer, Luke came over to me after the class and looked at some passes I had put on the blackboard for coach Schwartzwalder’s assistant coaches, who were teaching the classes, to see. He said to me, ‘Can you run that in high school?’ I said, ‘High school? You can run this in pro football!’

(*Source: Raider Beat.com)

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