Last time, we were talking about the Oakland Raiders—not whether they actually will move to Las Vegas, but the time they played in Las Vegas.
It was August 29, 1964, a pre-season game against the Houston Oilers, another original American Football League franchise that is now the Tennessee Titans. The Review-Journal’s sports editor, Ron Amos, helped set up the game with Raiders boss Al Davis. Amos predicted they would “throw the pigskin faster than dice on a crap table.” The publicists for the two teams predicted a lot of passing, especially in light of their last game the previous season. The Raiders had won it, 53 to 49.
The Raiders won the exhibition game, too, 34 to 20, so there was plenty of offense. Oakland halfback Clemon Daniels scored on a sixty-eight yard run, and Raider quarterback Cotton Davidson ran twenty-one yards for another touchdown. Raiders defensive back Tommy Morrow intercepted a pass and ran it back thirty-two yards for a touchdown. One of Houston’s touchdowns came as a result of a pass by its quarterback, George Blanda, a future Raider and pro football hall of famer.
In fact, there were several hall of famers and legends on the field that night besides Blanda. The two coaches, Davis of the Raiders and legendary quarterback Sammy Baugh of the Oilers, as well as one of Davis’s aides, Ron Wolf, and Raiders center Jim Otto.
Showgirls from the Desert Inn and Stardust, where the two teams stayed, served as cheerleaders that night. Davis later remembered that they had to wear sweaters.
Cashman Field had to be reconfigured a bit, since football wasn’t its main sport. If you think of the current field, the stands wrap around the baseball diamond and there are no seats behind the outfield wall, which is parallel to Washington. In 1964, most of the seats were parallel to Las Vegas Boulevard North.
While Cashman Field supposedly could have accommodated up to fifteen thousand fans, the R-J reported that only about eighty-five hundred turned out, although another account says attendance was about twelve thousand. However many were there, the game became part of a long connection between Las Vegas and pro football and Oakland, and we don’t mean just because people bet on games here.
One of the more important figures in the history of Las Vegas sports had something to do with the Raiders at the time they played here: Bob Bloom. He was the radio voice of the Raiders at the time, and the team had just signed a three-year contract to air its games on KDIA, whose soul music programming aimed at Oakland’s black community. Blum later moved to Las Vegas and broadcast UNLV baseball, football, and basketball, and worked for the Las Vegas 51s. Interestingly, he recommended his successor with the Raiders, Bill King. In Las Vegas, Blum got to know Ken Korach, who broadcast baseball, football, and basketball. Korach later became King’s partner on Oakland A’s radio broadcasts, and succeeded him as the team’s voice … and still broadcasts in the O dot co Coliseum, where the Raiders play.
A couple of miles from where the Raiders play is an area of Oakland called Fruitvale. Its developer was Henry Blasdel, who moved to the Bay Area after serving as the first elected governor of the state of Nevada. That’s not the most obvious link between the Raiders and Las Vegas. That 1964 game, and some of the people involved in it, mattered more. But could we see an even bigger connection? Stay tuned.
Nevada Yesterdays is written by Associate Professor Michael Green of UNLV, and narrated by former Senator Richard Bryan. Supported by Nevada Humanities
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.