The Autumn Wind

By Gary Norris Gray BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: July 10, 2012

Gary Norris Gray BASN Staff Reporter

OAKLAND, CA. Autumn Wind

By Steve Sabol

The autumn wind is a pirate

Blustering in from sea

With a rollicking song

He sweeps along

Swaggering boisterously

His face is weather-beaten

He wears a hooded sash

With a silver hat about his head

And a bristling black moustache

He growls as he storms the country

A villain big and bold

And the trees all shake

And quiver and quake

As he robs them of their gold

The autumn wind is a Raider

Pillaging just for fun

He’ll knock you ’round

And upside down

And laugh when he’s conquered and won.


RAIDER NATION is wearing Black without the Silver this past week because another one of the great men who wore Silver and Black traveled north to the heavens to play football on God’s team.


The Autumn Wind lyrics and melody played in my head each night. The low bellicose voice of John Facenda of Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV and NFL Films echoing the words, The Autumn Wind, The Raider National Anthem.


The Oakland Raider Family lost the handlebar mustached gentleman named Ben Davidson number 83, who passed away after a long battle of illness…


Many Raider fans would love to see this number 83 retired as many other Raiders who have donned the Silver and Black. These men need to have a place of honor a place of rest where new Raider fans can view the historical past of this great franchise.


The Oakland Raiders created the foundation of the old American Football League. (AFL)

Former Owner, the late Al Davis explains it this way. Al stated many times, “Son, I think highly enough of you to give you so-and-so’s number, now honor it.” Many Oakland Raiders did just that with three Super Bowl victories.


It could also be that by taking the sentimentality out of the number, he attempted to say that no Raider is any better than any other; we’re all one. It has worked for 60 years.


The Oakland Raiders appeared in five Super Bowls winning three. The Raiders have 15 Division Championships and competed in 14 AFL/AFC Championship games. This is the mark of a champion. Now it’s time to honor the warriors on the field that have put on the Black and Silver with the famous eye patch.


Here are the numbers from 0-30:

00 – Jim Otto- Center – this number will always be remembered because he was the first American Football League (AFL) player to use it (The Houston Oilers’ WR Ken Burrough was the other). Otto played his entire professional career in Oakland, California. Otto was a 9 time AFL All Star and 3 time Pro Bowl selection. He never missed a game in 15 years wearing the Black and Silver. Otto never won a Super Bowl but he was in 5 AFL/AFC Championship games. Nobody has ever donned this number in Silver and Black.


3 – Darryl Lamonica – Quarterback- “The Mad Bomber”. Lamonica implemented the Al Davis stretch offense with long down field passing to Warren Wells. Lamonica lead the Raiders to their first Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl II. Rick Mirer wore this number in 2003 Mirer was nowhere near the status of “The Mad Bomber”. Nobody should ever wear number 3 again.


8 – Ray Guy- Punter- Guy was the first punter to be drafted in the first round 1973. Al Davis knew what he was getting because Guy could pin an opponent inside their own ten yard line 75 % of the time or he could kick the ball out of bounds, what they called “the coffin corner”, so nobody could return it. This gave the Raiders the defensive advantage. Ray Guy perfected the position and now punters in the NFL copy his style. Marc Wilson wore the number in the late 80’s early 90’s but never lived up to the standards of Ray Guy. Al Davis insisted that Marc Wilson would come around and become a great Raider quarterback. It never happened.


9 – Shane Lechler- Punter-This young man is on pace to break all of Ray Guy’s records. Once again, Al Davis beat out the other owners by drafting Lechler. His legacy is still being made. Drafted in 2000, he played in 9 Pro Bowl and was named to the NFL All-Decade Team. Lechler has the record for the longest punt 80 yards last year.


11- Sebastian Janikowski- Field goal kicker- “Sebass”, is re-writing the field goal record book. Last year Sebass passed George Blanda in Oakland Raider scoring. Lechler and Sebass entered Raider Nation together in 2000. Al Davis continued the motto that kicking wins football games. These two kickers continue to prove Mr. Davis correct. Janikowski was the third kicker to be drafted in the first round. He has an 80% field goal rate and has a 63 yarder to his credit tying him for the NFL record. He also has nine more NFL records. No other Raider should ever wear this number.


12- Ken Stabler- Quarterback-“The Snake”- Stabler made the Raiders an offensive force with his unorthodox south paw antics on the field. The Snake would get the Raiders’ Western Titles only to lose to the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers. He was on the team that lost to the “Immaculate Reception” in 1973 to Franco Harris as the Steelers moved on to the Super Bowl.; We cannot forget “The Holy Roller” and the “Ghost to the Post” to Dave Casper for Raider touchdown victories. In 1999 Rich Gannon wore the number and that was a dishonor on the Raiders part. Stabler created the 2 min. drill which all NFL teams uses today.


15- Tom Flores- Quarterback- A man of many first. He was the first Latino starting quarterback in the old AFL. He became Head Coach and guiding Raiders to two Super Bowls. The First Latino head coach and the first minority to win a Super Bowl. Also Flores is a coach to win a Super Bowl as an assistant coach and then as a head coach. A feat only matched by Mike Ditka of the Chicago Bears.


16- George Blanda (QB/P/PK) stood the test of time playing in four decades. He made Al Davis’s offense work with passing precision the four time AFL All-Star, two time All Pro started the Raiders on their path to glory. In 1970 he took the Raiders on a five game winning streak kicking five game winning field goals at age 40. In 1981 Blanda went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


16- Jim Plunkett- Quarterback- The Stanford graduate and Heisman Trophy winner had a rough beginning in his professional career. Plunkett took the mantle of number 16 and did what Al Davis wanted him to do, honor the number 16. This player is one of my hero’s drafted by the New England Patriots in 1971 leading the lead in sacks for two years straight and just surviving before coming to Oakland. Plunkett would finally get an offensive line to protect him. Plunkett guided the Raiders to two Super Bowl victories. The Son of two disabled parents continues to contribute to the Oakland Disabled Community with charity work. Andrew Walter wore this jersey in 2003. Nobody should ever wear this jersey again. Next question, why is this man not in Pro Football’s Hall of Fame?


21-Charlie Smith- Running Back- was the key player in the Heidi Bowl game scoring the winning touchdown against the New York Jets. At the start of the 4th quarter the Jets were leading by 17 points with only 3 mins. left in the game. The Raiders made a remarkable comeback which most of the nation did not see because NBC-TV switched to Walt Disney’s Sunday Night show which was the story of Heidi. Smith played for the Raiders 8 years rushing for over 1,500 yards. The game has changed so much now.


21- Cliff Branch- Wide Receiver- fits the mold of Al Davis’s philosophy of stretching the defenses with long down field pass patterns. Branch was the perfect player with speed and grace. Branch has the record for the longest pass in Raider history 99 yards. He is one of three Raiders to be a member of all three Super Bowl victorious Teams. The last player to wear this number is current Philadelphia Eagle Nnamdi Asomugha cornerback defensive safety.


22- Mike Haynes- Cornerback- was named Rookie of the Year in 1976 and a 9 time Pro Bowler drafted by the New England Patriots. Haynes gave the Pats the first ever touchdown on punt returns, which he did twice that year. Haynes played out his option with New England 1982 traveling to Los Angeles to join the Black and Silver in 1983. He teamed up with Cornerback Lester Hayes and they became the most feared men in the secondary on defense.


23- Roger Bird-Safety- Punt Returner- in the middle 60’s Bird was always in the top ten in punt returns giving the Raiders the needed start to the quick striking offenses. Bird was one of the last players to play both sides, defense and offense.


24- Willie Brown- Cornerback- The godfather of the defense from HBCU-Grambling State University was drafted by the Houston Oilers and cut. This just fueled his ambition to play professional football. Brown did not quit and signed with the Denver Broncos in 1963. Brown still holds the team record for interceptions with 39 in a single season and also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Most Raiders fans will remember Willie running down the sidelines after he intercepted a Fran Tarkenton pass in Super Bowl XI while looking back to see if anybody would catch him before entering the end zone for a 75 yard Oakland Raider Touchdown.


25- Fred Biletnikoff- Wide Receiver- the best tight rope artist to ever wear the Silver and Black. He would drive a defender down the field then make a left or right turn and the ball would be in his hands. Freddie would step out of bounds for a first down and there was nothing the defender could do but watch. This number has been worn many times the last two were Charlie Garner and Justin Fargas.


28-Clarence Davis- Running Back- In the Raider first Super Bowl victory against the Minnesota Vikings there was an AFC playoff game before and Davis was in the middle of it all. Davis caught the ball in the 4th quarter in what they call “The Sea of Hands” catch. Davis out wrestled two Miami Dolphins defenders for a Raiders touchdown and a trip to the Super Bowl. Davis helped the team earn the record for most rushing yards in a Super Bowl with 429 yards.


©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod