On Feb. 8, 1979, several members of the Oakland Raiders came to Solano County’s seat. They included wide receivers Morris Bradshaw and Cliff Branch, cornerback Willie Brown, defensive back/punt returner Neal Colzie, offensive guard Mickey Marvin, defensive end John Matuszak, safety Charles Phillips and offensive tackles Art Shell and John Vella.
All of the players had been members of the Raiders’ 1976 Super Bowl XI-winning team except Marvin, who was drafted in 1977. (He was on the XV and XVII Raiders championship teams, however.)
The Raiders didn’t come to Fairfield to play football, they instead came to accept the challenge from a local all-star team to play a charity basketball game at Armijo’s E. Gary Vaughan gymnasium. The event benefited the Big Brothers/Sisters of Solano County.
The Raiders had stomped the Fairfield All-Stars 81-60 the previous year. The 1979 local team included Fairfield High hoopster/Armijo Hall of Fame coach Jay Dahl, then-City Councilman later-Mayor Chuck Hammond and Armijo hoops standout/Fairfield-Suisun School District teacher and administrator Mark Dietrich, among others.
The Raiders squeaked out a win over the Fairfield squad 72-71. A picture in the Daily Republic showed 6-foot-9-inch Jay Dahl attempting to block a jumper by 6-foot-8-inch John Matuszack.
Many of the same Raiders made a return trip to Fairfield in April of that year. They played a softball game against locals to help raise money for the then-new Police Activities League Gals softball program.
The Raiders won 12-7 in the slow-pitch softball game at Lee Bell Park. Cornerback Neal Colzie had a big day hitting a single, a double and a two-run homer. One of Oakland’s players – who had two hits – was Mark Davis, now the owner of the franchise his late father Al Davis built.
In his Jan. 23, 1989, column, “Overtime,” then-Daily Republic sports writer Brad Stañhope gushed about the previous day’s dramatic 20-16 fourth quarter comeback victory by the San Francisco 49ers over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVIII played at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami.
Stañhope wrote: “If you have a videotape of Sunday’s game, save it. People will be talking about this one for years.” Of course, now you can just watch the entire game on YouTube. bit.ly/49ERS1989.
The 11-play, 92-yard drive that ended in a game-winning touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Montana to wide receiver John Taylor with 39 seconds left clinched the third of five championships for the Niners.
49ers Fever had been running hot in Fairfield. At H. Glenn Richardson Elementary, an estimated 800 children wore the 49ers’ red and gold to school the Friday before the game. Even a couple of children who usually rooted for other teams (the San Diego Chargers and the Los Angeles Raiders) showed solidarity by wearing 49ers shirts.
One child, though, showed his support for his family favorite the Bengals by wearing his father’s jersey.
H. Glenn Richardson Principal Jim Day jokingly said that the fact the young Cincinnati fan had not been harassed for his choice showed that just like President George H.W. Bush had urged in his inauguration speech that morning, “We’re already a kinder, gentler nation.”
Before the game, four local high school football coaches and one junior college football coach – specifically Greg Clark (Armijo), Jim Sykes (Fairfield), Kevin Luckey (Vanden), Tom Zunino (Vacaville) and Ron Beverly (Solano Community College) – unanimously picked the Niners to win.
Local places 49ers fans crammed to see the game included Ding’s Cocktail Lounge, Mac’s Club, the Peanut Patch, the Vista Club, Vic’s Pioneer Bar, Miss Bea’s Mint and Rod’s Pizza.
Going back to Stañhope’s column, he wrote about the final drive: “Anyone looking into Montana’s eyes as the drive began could see he wasn’t ready to panic and wouldn’t let his teammates panic either.”
It came out later that when the 49ers were about to start the final drive on their own 8-yard line with 3:20 left in the game and trailing by 3 points, Montana earned his nickname, “Joe Cool.”
As if unfazed by what was hanging in the balance, Montana calmed tackle Harris Barton down in the huddle by looking into the stands, spotting a familiar famous face and saying, “Hey, isn’t that John Candy?”