(Tom LaMarre is a native of Oakland who covered the Silver and Black for the Oakland Tribune during the 1970s, and has written about the Raiders for more than 60 years, including now with Sports Illustrated's Raider Maven.)
My father took me to my first Oakland Raiders game on Nov. 13, 1960, their first season of existence and also that of the American Football League, against the Buffalo Bills at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.
That was nothing new since he had taken me to watch the San Francisco 49ers at Kezar, plus baseball games involving the Oakland Oaks and San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, and then the San Francisco Giants when they moved west from New York.
The Raiders beat the Bills, 20-7, that day but there were fewer than 10,000 fans in the stands at Kezar, which had a seating capacity of 59,942 and probably had more spectators for the game that season between arch-rival high schools St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart.
In my 60-plus seasons following the Raiders, I have seen them play home games at Kezar and Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Frank Youell Field in Oakland, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Memorial Stadium at the University of California in Berkeley, and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The only home stadium I have missed is Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, where the Raiders played for the first time in 2020.
In addition, while covering the Raiders for the Oakland Tribune, I saw them play in such stadiums as Mile High Stadium in Denver, Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, Memorial Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Foxboro Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Shea Stadium in New York, Rich Stadium in Buffalo, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the Houston Astrodome, the Louisiana Superdome, the Orange Bowl in Miami, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
The last one was the most memorable, as I covered the Raiders’ 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI on Jan. 9, 1977.
In the locker room afterward, quarterback Ken Stabler, who earlier asked me to co-author his book, Ken Stabler’s Winning Offensive Football, told me: “You’re a part of this.”
My love for sports came from my Dad, Lt. Col. W.O. “Frenchy” LaMarre, who crossed France with the 5th Armoured Division in Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army during World War II.
When I was young, I would grab the Oakland Tribune off the front porch, run upstairs to sit on his lap, and read the sports page with him as he sipped an Old Fashioned or Tom Collins to relax before dinner.
My Dad also was instrumental in me becoming a sportswriter.
I turned 17 on Sept. 14, 1963, and my Dad bought me a Corona portable typewriter for my birthday, but I could never thank him enough because he died suddenly of a heart attack one month later at the age of 53.
With my typewriter in front of me, I would watch football games on television in our rumpus room and then pound out game stories on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, without taking notes.
My Mom showed the stories to our friend, Lonnie Wilson, who was a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the Tribune, and he brought them to Sports Editor George Ross.
On Jan 31, 1964, during my senior year at Skyline High, I went down to the Tribune for an interview with Ross in the Sports Department, and not only did he hire me on the spot, but he had also me stick around that evening to take phone calls from high school stringers and write stories on the games played that day.
With my first paycheck from the Tribune, I bought 1964 Raiders season tickets.
I remember the first game the Raiders played at the Oakland Coliseum, which was built specifically for them, on Sept. 18, 1966, against the Kansas City Chiefs. But, I wasn’t there because I was in the U.S. Army Reserve on active duty at Fort Lewis, Wash., so I watched the game on TV.
However, my future wife, Cheryl, was there and she was on the field with her pom-poms as a member of the Skyline High song girl troupe, as the Raiders invited the spirit squads of the six Oakland Athletic League high schools to take part in the opening day festivities alongside the Raiderettes.
When I came back from active duty in the Army three months later, Ross offered me a job as a full-time sportswriter with the Tribune, and early in 1971 I was honored to become the Raiders beat writer.
Clem Daniels, the Raiders’ great running back, was our physical education teacher at Skyline during his off-season, and he would drive me to work at the Tribune on Tuesday and Friday evenings when high school sports were played.
“You have it in you to cover the Raiders for the Tribune,” he told me constantly during our drives, and when I did get the Raiders beat, the first thing I did was drive to Clem Daniels Liquors to tell him.
Said Clem: “Mister, I might have been the first one to tell you that you were capable of doing that, but you’re the one who made it happen.”
What it meant was that I covered the Raiders every day from the start of training camp in Santa Rosa through the last game of the season, and wrote about any Raiders news that happened during the offseason.
My sons, David and Brian, would stay with me at training camp at the El Rancho Motel. They had the run of the place, became friends with the players and are huge Raiders fans to this day.
Not only that, using some of what they learned at camp, both David and Brian are high school football coaches, and my 17-year-old grandson, Jackson Thomas LaMarre, is one of the biggest Raiders fans in Florida.
(David and Brian are pictured with me above after one of Brian's games for Hart High School at College of the Canyons Stadium in Valenica, Calif., in 1988.)
The Tribune had the first four seats on the front row of the Coliseum press box at the 50-yard-line, right next to the glass booth where Bay Area legends Bill King and Scotty Stirling broadcast the games over Raiders Radio.
As sports editor, George had seat No. 1, while I had No. 2, and for me, it was the best seat in the house.
From there, I watched some of the greatest games and players of the era, and for the Raiders that included Hall of Famers Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Willie Brown, Kenny Stabler, Fred Biletnikoff, Ted Hendricks, George Blanda, Dave Casper, and Ray Guy.
This is where the Raiders beat Joe Namath and the New York Jets in the famed “Heidi Game,” and where Stabler threw the “Sea of Hands” touchdown pass to Clarence Davis that ended the Miami Dolphins’ two-year reign as Super Bowl champions.
And then there were all those playoff games, including victories over the New England Patriots and reigning Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers in 1976 that led to the Raiders winning their first world championship in Super Bowl XI.
In the Coliseum, there was “The Black Hole” behind the South end zone, Biletnikoff’s corner on the right side of the same end zone, and Cliff Branch’s corner in the opposite end zone, with the homemade “Speed Kills” signs hanging down from the stands.
And those Raiders would drink with their fans in the parking lot after games, most often celebrating a victory.
There were other bigger than life Raiders characters such as owner Al Davis, head coaches Davis, John Madden and Tom Flores, linebackers coach Don Shinnick, Big Ben Davidson, John “The Tooz” Matuszak, Kenny “Snake” Stabler, Ted “Mad Stork” Hendricks, “Marvelous Marv” Hubbard, Jack “The Assassin” Tatum, Phil “Foo” Villapiano, Marcus Allen, Bill Romanowski, Bo Jackson, and Sebastian “Seabass” Janikowski.
Since then, I have also written about the Raiders for the Los Angeles Times, Pro Football Weekly, The Sporting News, College, and Pro Football, The Sports Exchange, and now Sports Illustrated's Raider Maven.
In good times and not-so-good, I have enjoyed every moment of my 60-plus years with the Raiders.
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