"Holy Toledo!"

July 9, 2015

Remembering Ken “The Snake” Stabler, Stories

Filed under: College Football, NFL, Oakland Raiders — Bill @ 8:23 pm

Remembering “The Snake”

Kenneth Michael Stabler

1945 – 2015

We lost one of our heroes today.

You will be missed, but never forgotten.

Every Raider fan from here to eternity is shedding a silver & black tear for one of our earliest heroes, Kenny “The Snake” Stabler. He was more than just a great football player to us, he was the poster boy of Al Davis’s rebel Raiders. He also happened to be the man who led us to our first Super Bowl championship.

What people often forget is that during most of Stabler’s career cornerbacks could jam a wide receiver all the way down the field. The passing game was far more difficult than it is under today’s rules. One of the things that made Kenny one of the best quarterbacks of his era was his accurate passes. When the window to complete the pass was barely open, his receivers could always count on the ball to be delivered in the opportune spot.

Ken loved corvettes. For years he would do promotional work for the Santa Rosa Chevrolet dealership. The last time I saw Ken he was riding on the back of a ’67 Vette while cruising down 4th St. in Santa Rosa, participating in the Peggy Sue All-American Cruise & Car Show.

I was just a kid when I visited the El Rancho Tropicana for the first time. It was the summer home of the Oakland Raiders, where they held training camp every year. I’ll remember this moment for as long as I live. The practice fields, surrounded by an eight foot fence, about a dozen feet away from the door to the locker room, separated by a small cement pathway, grass lining each side. As the player left the field you could hear the crackle of cleats on cements, and the yell of just a few fans voicing their love for certain players. As Kenny emerged through the gate and started down the path he was talking to someone, I didn’t notice who it was. He stopped, helmet in hand, wearing his red #12 practice jersey, and seemed to look right at me. I was probably standing there, mouth agape in wonderment when he said to me, “Hey kid, how are you?” I have no idea what my replay was, it all seemed like a dream to me. I will say this, I may have been a Raider fan before that moment, but after that I was a Raiders fan for life!

The Snake was fortunate enough to play for some of the all-time great characters in football. Paul “Bear” Bryant, John Madden, & “Bum” Phillips.

One of the things about Kenny that made him such a favorite to the everyday fan was his likability, he had a home spun appeal that made you feel like he was just like you. His southern drawl and casual manner put you at ease. Yet at the same time he had some indescribable charisma that made you want to follow him into either a football game or a bar room scrape. He was the lunch pail quarterback, you would loan him the keys to your nice pickup, know he would probably spill something in it, yet he would always park it exactly where you asked.

He was approachable, as Tom Brady is not.

Perhaps the first major moment in his NFL career that most fans forget to remember came when he raced down the sidelines of the 1972 AFC Divisional playoff game giving the Raiders a 7-6 lead with 2 minutes to go over the Pittsburgh Steelers. His miraculous touchdown, and date with fame would be delayed when a guy named Franco came up with the Immaculate Reception.

Stabler’s crowning career moment was best described by Bill King when in Super Bowl XI he proclaimed that “Jascha Heifetz never played a violin with more dexterity than Kenny Stabler is playing the Minnesota Vikings defense this afternoon in the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena.” Something no Raiders QB can ever do is what The Snake did, he brought home our first Super Bowl trophy. Nobody who own that ring will ever forget number 12.

A story I often hear from east coast fans is how they would finish watching their local team on Sunday’s, then turn to the other channel where more often than not the Raiders would be playing. While outside their house in the east it was dark and grey, yet at the Oakland Coliseum the sun would be shining off those cool silver helmets. The Raider team would fight and struggle thru three quarters, but in the end Kenny would stage a late surge to tie the game. The defense would usually create a late turnover, and The Snake would lead them downfield to a last second victory. It was almost predictable.

Whether you are a Raiders fan or not, if you grew up watching football in the 1970’s then you have a Ken Stabler story. It always starts with “I remember watching a Raiders game at…”

And it ends with, “then Stabler drove them downfield in the final seconds.”

We all have our personal Ken Stabler stories, our own memories of meeting him, watching him, and growing up with him. Tonight we are all mourning together as one family.

Please feel welcome to share your Stabler stories in the comments section, we all would love to hear them.


1 Comment »

  1. I do remember the run in the ’72 playoff game against the Steelers. At 30 yards, it had to have been the longest run of his career by about 20. Pittsburgh’s defense had dominated all day, but The Snake somehow broke containment and ran around the corner for a touchdown that was timed with a sundial it took so long. It seemed like for that one play the Steel Curtain just left the field. We here in the Bay Area were “treated” to the Immaculate Reception and the 49ers epic playoff collapse against all in the same day–a day I’ll never forget.

    His play against Miami in the Sea of Hands game is often overlooked other than that one play, but he refused to let the Raiders lose that game. Miami’s dynasty ended that day. RIP, Snake. I know Tooz had a drink ready up there when you arrived.

    Comment by Guy Lasky — July 14, 2015 @ 9:22 am

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