Artifact of the Game: 49ers at Raiders
49ers Listen to Tony Bennett After Clinching First NFC West Title at Oakland
By Joe Hession, 49ers Museum historian
Civic pride is at stake whenever San Francisco and Oakland meet on the gridiron. In the first regular season game between the 49ers and Raiders, an NFC divisional championship also was on the line.
San Francisco needed a win over the Raiders in the final game of the 1970 season to clinch its first NFC West title. Quarterback John Brodie, the NFL’s Player-of-the-Year that season, came out firing. He silenced the Oakland crowd by throwing three touchdown passes in the 49ers 38-7 win. Brodie spread the ball around hitting tight end Ted Kwalick, wide receiver Gene Washington and running back Bill Tucker for scores.
Brodie’s offensive line was the key to the 49ers attack. Nicknamed “The Protectors,” they established an NFL single-season record (since broken) by allowing just eight quarterback sacks. Offensive line Coach Ernie Zwahlen melded together a top-notch crew consisting of center Forrest Blue, guards Randy Beisler, Elmer Collett and Woody Peoples, and tackles Len Rohde and Cas Banaszek. The superb pass protection allowed Brodie to throw for a league- high 24 touchdowns as the 49ers topped the NFL in scoring.
Head Coach Dick Nolan’s rugged defense did its part against Oakland, forcing nine turnovers, a team single-game record that still stands. Every starting player in the secondary, which included Jimmy Johnson, Mel Phillips, Bruce Taylor and Rosey Taylor, recorded an interception. Johnson, a future Pro Football Hall of Famer, picked off a pass and returned it 36 yards to score. Linebacker Dave Wilcox, who was enshrined at Canton, Ohio in 2000, contributed a fifth interception.
Afterward in the jubilant 49ers locker room, players, coaches and staff celebrated the club’s first NFC West title. An overjoyed Brodie announced to 49ers President Lou Spadia, “We’re going to have a team party at the Fairmont and if you don’t pay for it, I will.”
Team members arrived on Nob Hill and unexpectedly found Tony Bennett performing at the Fairmont Hotel’s Venetian Room. Bennett welcomed the players with his signature song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” to the uproarious delight of the pro-49ers crowd.
There’s no record of Brodie picking up the tab.
To see artifacts from the club’s 1970 NFC West Championship season, including interactive film highlights, visit the 49ers Museum presented by Sony. Memorabilia from Gene Washington, Jimmy Johnson, “The Protectors” and Tony Bennett also are on display. For more information on Museum tickets, hours and content, visit levisstadium.com/Museum. For group pricing call 415-GO-49ERS.