THE RAIDERS: BACK TO OAKLAND : Lame-Duck Status Tough All Around : Moving: When a club has to play out the string in a city after announcing a move, reaction can range from violence to apathy.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In attempting to understand the plight of a lame-duck sports franchise, as the Raiders became Monday, one could dive into the numerous negative attendance figures and statistics.

Or just listen to Woody Woodward, a shortstop for the 1965 Milwaukee Braves.

"I'll never forget standing on the field one day that year with Eddie Mathews next to me at third base, and all of a sudden we hear this ringing and ringing," Woodward remembered. "We look at each other. Then look around the rest of the field. Then finally we look up and realize . . . the ringing was coming from a phone in the press box. The place was so dead, we could hear a phone in the press box."

Or to Reggie Theus, guard on the lame-duck 1984-85 Kansas City Kings.

"You notice it the most when you're walking around town, going to dinner, doing everyday activities," he said. "All of a sudden, people make you feel like an alien. They aren't happy that you are leaving and they tell you. You learn fast how to say, 'Man, I just work here.' "

Or even to former Raider receiver Bob Chandler. After all, if the Raiders remain in Los Angeles for two more seasons to fulfill their Coliseum contract before moving to Oakland, it won't be the first time owner Al Davis has been through this.

Chandler was part of the 1981 lame-duck Oakland Raiders, who played a full schedule, knowing they would be moving to Los Angeles in 1982.

"I was in a restaurant in Oakland one night. I had parked my Mercedes outside. When I came out after dinner I couldn't believe my eyes," Chandler recalled. "Both sides of my car had been kicked in. Somebody had jumped up and down on the hood. Somebody had taken a key and run it all the way around the car and then slit the convertible top.

"And all they left was a note, reading, 'Traitors.' "

By keeping the Raiders in Los Angeles even one more minute, Davis would seem to be inviting grief:

--In 1964, the Milwaukee Braves announced that they were moving to Atlanta, but a court restraining order forced them to remain at Milwaukee's County Stadium for one more season. During that season, attendance dropped from 910,911 to 555,584 even though the team finished 86-76.

"That winter, I would go to banquets and the first thing I would say was, 'Sorry if I seem nervous, but I'm not used to being around this many people,' " recalled Woodward, now general manager of the Seattle Mariners.

--On Jan. 21, 1985, the ownership of the Kansas City Kings petitioned the NBA for permission to relocate the club in Sacramento. The team finished the season at 31-51, seven defeats more than the previous year. Attendance dropped from 370,270 to a league-low 262,812.

"You could not pile enough money on a table to get me to go through another year like that one," said Joe Axelson, then the Kings' president and general manager.

--After the Oakland Raiders' Super Bowl victory in January of 1981, Davis announced that he was attempting to move the team to Los Angeles. During the 1981 season, for the first time in 13 years, the Raiders failed to sell out every home game. And after going 11-5 the previous year, they dropped to 7-9.

And former tight end Todd Christensen said that this Raider situation appears even worse.

"It's going to be a nightmare," he said. "You mean they are going to have a marketing situation where they say, 'Love us, love us . . . but only for a short period of time?' And this team has none of the old mystique. If they don't come out and get a couple of quick victories, it could be a very long season. How unenviable for those players."

Axelson, now an executive with the Sacramento Kings, talked in tangible terms of the effect.

"Everything for the Raiders is going to dry up," he said. "(Davis) will lose all sorts of promotional sales. He will lose advertising. He will lose all walk-up ticket sales. There will be no further civic support. People will no longer be buying tickets just because they think they should."

Theus, now a guard with the Orlando Magic, talked about the effect on the players' psyches.

"There is a definite connection between the energy given off by the fans and the energy exerted by the players," he said. "It becomes tougher to come out and play. Nobody cares, so it becomes like, just survive and try to have fun."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
63°