When Al Davis came to the Raiders 50 years ago this season, he had a vision of what he wanted the team to become. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native envisioned the best qualities of the New York teams he grew up watching, the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
"As a young guy, I had a dream that someday I would build the finest organization in professional sports," said Mr. Davis. "I had a lot of thoughts on how I would do it. I had the inspiration of two great organizations when I was growing up. The Yankees to me personified the size of the players, power, the home run, and intimidation and fear. The Dodgers, under Branch Rickey, were totally different in my mind. They represented speed. They represented development of players, a way of playing the game, the Dodger way of playing the game. And I always thought that someone intelligent could take all the qualities, the great qualities of both, and put them together and use them."
Mr. Davis was inspired by the team that gave Jackie Robinson a chance, a move that changed the face of professional sports forever, the same way Mr. Davis changed the look of professional football forever. "The Dodgers…were different," said Mr. Davis during a 1991 luncheon at which the National Football League Players Association presented him with its first Award of Excellence. "They believed in speed and development and were willing to take chances. They had poise."
The other half of Mr. Davis' inspiration came from the Yankees. "The Yankees represented power and put fear into the opposition," Mr. Davis said during the luncheon. "Their uniforms signified pride, and they were intimidating even in batting practice by hitting balls into the stands."
Seeing a trend here?
Mr. Davis was able to combine the best aspects of his hometown teams to create the organization sports fan know around the world for its Commitment to Excellence and Pride and Poise.