George Blanda dead at 83.
George Blanda dead at 83.
I remember Blanda when I was young kicking for the Raiders. He was in his 40's and I thought he was so ancient to be playing football at that age. he retired at 48 which is a year older than I am at the present. He played his college ball at Kentucky. I think he played under Bear Bryant at UK but not sure about that.
For a couple of plays last Sunday, it looked like the old sorcerer had lost his touch. He had been called upon to perform what in recent weeks had become a familiar miracle: saving the Oakland Raiders from certain defeat in the final seconds. The Raiders had just fallen behind the Broncos 19-17 with four minutes and a second to play and after the Denver kickoff they had the ball on their 20-yard line. Daryle Lamonica had been the quarterback for Oakland all afternoon, but in circumstances so dire, and with Lamonica having apparently reinjured his shoulder, Raider Coach John Madden knew what he had to do. He sent in George Blanda, 43 years old, 21 years in pro football and imperturbable.
I hate to hear of his death. Blanda was only about six months or so older than my dad (who died in 1992). I was a big Raiders fan and I can still recall Blanda's magical season in 1970 at age 43 when for six straight weeks he rallied the Raiders to victories or ties (there was no overtime in the regular season then), either with his arm as QB or with his toe as placekicker. IIRC he first quarterbacked them to a win over the Steelers, then he kicked a 48 yard field goal to tie the Chiefs 17-17, he QB'd a win over the Browns which I think also had a 52 yard FG, and so on. When Lamonica got hurt in the AFC title game against the Colts Blanda rallied the Raiders from a 10-0 deficit to a tie score before Oakland finally lost 27-17.
I can also recall his very last play for the Raiders. In the 1975 AFC title game against Pittsburgh, Oakland was losing 16-7 with probably 25 seconds or so left. Since they needed two scores, John Madden had the 48 year old Blanda try a 41 yard field goal. Blanda hadn't made a kick of that distance all season and the iced over field made footing next to impossible. No problem-old man Blanda nailed the clutch kick to bring the Raiders to within a score 16-10. Oakland then recovered an on side kick and Ken Stabler completed a long pass to Cliff Branch, but Branch was unable to get out of bounds and the game ended.
Blanda was reportedly a gruff old bird, tough as they come. He lead the Houston Oilers to the first two AFL championships and at one time held the record for most TD passes in a season with 36. R.I.P.
I typed the above post before reading the SI article WOY had posted a link to. I thank WOY for the article and I was glad to see my memory of the 1970 season was pretty good. I wish I could remember what I did yeaterday as well as I can recall sports events of 40 years ago!
Blanda was awesome.