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Birth:
14 Jun 1940 1
Death:
02 Jul 2012 1
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Full Name:
Ben E Davidson 1
Birth:
14 Jun 1940 1
Death:
02 Jul 2012 1

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Obit Ben Davidson, a towering pass rusher who wore a handlebar mustache and terrorized Raiders opponents in the 1960s and early '70s, died Monday night of prostate cancer. He was 72. The 6-foot-8 defensive lineman was a three-time All-Star in the American Football League, playing 110 games with 70 starts for Oakland from 1964 to '71. In 1967 he helped the Raiders reach the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers 33-14. They fell a game short of the Super Bowl the next three seasons. "He was a tough, gutsy ballplayer, team oriented, with enough meanness in him to be feared and enough talent to be effective," former Raiders teammate Tom Flores told the Associated Press. With his enormous size and gravelly voice, Mr. Davidson epitomized the renegade Raiders of that era. He and teammate Tom Keating often took long-distance motorcycle trips, sometimes to Mexico and once to Panama. John Madden, the head coach during the final three years of Mr. Davidson's career, first reported his death Tuesday on his KCBS morning show. In Las Vegas, where many ex-Raiders gathered to celebrate the life of Al Davis, Raiders owner Mark Davis told CSNCalifornia that he had known Mr. Davidson since he was 8 or 9. "He was larger than life, a huge man with that big handlebar mustache," Davis said. Mr. Davidson parlayed his formidable physical presence into bit parts in movies, such as "MASH" and "Conan the Barbarian," and many TV shows. His biggest role, though, was as himself in 27 commercials for Miller Lite beer in a long-running campaign that featured pro athletes in humorous situations. He traveled extensively for corporate outings to promote the beer. "I'm not Catholic," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2010, "but sometimes when I say, 'Lite beer,' I make the sign of a cross. If I could have designed a job for myself post-football, it would have been exactly what I did." He added, with a laugh, "I hate to say this for print, but I'm 70 years old and I've never had a real job." Growing up in Los Angeles, he didn't play football at Woodrow Wilson High, just basketball and track, in which he was a hurdler, high jumper and shot-putter. His father was a police officer and his mother a librarian. His mother, he joked, would tell him, "Read, or I'll have you arrested." He finally went out for football at East Los Angeles Community College. Years later, he told an audience that an opponent clipped him from behind, and he reacted by reaching into the player's helmet and gouging his eye. "He screamed and ran off the field," he said. "That's when the light bulb went on in my head and I said, 'I can do this.' I think that's when I became a Raider." His tremendous size drew recruiters, including Al Davis, then a USC assistant. Mr. Davidson went to Washington instead and helped the Huskies win Rose Bowls in 1960 and '61. Although he started just two games in college, he was taken before any of his teammates in the 1961 NFL draft. The New York Giants picked him in the fourth round, then traded him to Green Bay in training camp. He played a limited role on the Packers team that won the 1961 NFL title, using the $5,000 winner's share to buy a three-unit Seattle apartment. He spent two unimpressive seasons with Washington before being cut. The Raiders claimed him, and his career took off. When he arrived at training camp in 1966, he had a full beard. Davis, then the head coach, wanted it shaved off, but the mustache emerged as a compromise. It became Mr. Davidson's trademark. "He was just a big, tall, skinny guy that Davis took a chance with," Flores said. "He was able to rush the passer and worked hard to get bigger and stronger, with the character and personality. He was always that way." In 1970 Mr. Davidson notoriously speared Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson after his long run appeared to lock up a Kansas City win in the final minute. Chiefs receiver Otis Taylor attacked the Raider in retaliation, and the offsetting penalties, under the rules at the time, offset Dawson's first down. The Chiefs were forced to punt, and the Raiders wound up with a 17-17 tie on a late field goal. Ultimately the play cost the Chiefs the AFC West title. At the time of his death Mr. Davidson was retired and living in San Diego. He is survived by his wife, Kathy, and daughters Jan, Dana and Vicki.

Ben Davidson, Defensive End for Renegade Raiders, Dies at 72


ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Ben Davidson, the hulking defensive end who starred for the Oakland Raiders in the 1960s before becoming a television pitchman, died Monday night. He was 72.

Davidson was being treated for prostate cancer. The former Raiders coach John Madden first reported Davidson’s death on Tuesday on KCBS radio in San Francisco.

Davidson spent 11 years in professional football, starting with the Green Bay Packers and the Washington Redskins in the N.F.L. before joining the Raiders in the American Football League in 1964.

That was where the 6-foot-8 Davidson became famous. With his distinctive handlebar mustache, raspy voice and physical play, Davidson helped personify Al Davis’s renegade Raiders on the 1960s.

“He was a tough, gutsy ballplayer, team-oriented with enough meanness in him to be feared and enough talent to be effective,” his former Raiders teammate Tom Flores said.

Davidson played in the second Super Bowl for Oakland after the 1967 season and then was on the team that lost the conference title game the next three seasons.

One of Davidson’s most memorable plays came on Nov. 1, 1970, against Kansas City. The Raiders trailed by 17-14 late in the fourth quarter when Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson ran for a first down to seemingly seal the win.

As Dawson was on the ground, Davidson dived into him with his helmet. In a rage, Chiefs wide receiver Otis Taylor jumped on Davidson, and a brawl ensued.

“Their attitude was, if you’ve got a shot at the quarterback, take it,” Dawson said in 2010.

The play was negated by offsetting penalties, and the Chiefs eventually had to punt. Oakland tied the game on a field goal by George Blanda with eight seconds remaining, and that proved to be the difference in the A.F.C. West race. The Raiders won the division with a record of 8-4-2; the Chiefs missed the playoffs at 7-5-2.

Davidson did not play football until going to East Los Angeles Community College. He went from there to the University of Washington, where he helped the Huskies win Rose Bowls in 1960 and ’61.

He was taken in the fourth round of the 1961 draft by the Giants, but he played his rookie season with Green Bay, winning the N.F.L. championship with the Packers in 1961.

He then spent two years in Washington before joining the Raiders in Davis’s second season as the coach. He spent eight seasons with the Raiders. He was a second-team Associated Press All-A.F.L. selection in 1965 and a first-teamer in 1967.

“He was just a big, tall, skinny guy that Davis took a chance with,” Flores said. “He was able to rush the passer and worked hard to get bigger and stronger, with the character and personality. He was always that way.”

After his playing career, Davidson became an actor with roles in films like “M*A*S*H,” “Conan the Barbarian” and “Necessary Roughness,” and he played himself in Miller Lite advertisements.

Davidson is survived by his wife, Kathy, and daughters Jan, Dana and Vicki.

Ben Davidson dies at 72; Oakland Raider, fixture in beer commercials

Ben Davidson, an iconic face of the 1960s-era Oakland Raiders and later a popular fixture in Miller Lite TV commercials, has died. He was 72.

Davidson, who had been receiving treatment for prostate cancer, died Monday night, former Raiders coach John Madden reported on KCBS radio in San Francisco.

If the late Al Davis was the creator of the renegade Raiders, then Davidson could be considered one of the founding fathers, cutting a larger-than-life swath with his handlebar mustache and intimidating 6-foot-8 physical presence at defensive end.

His 11-year professional football career started in Green Bay with the Packers. After one season there and two with the Washington Redskins, it took flight when he moved to the AFL and the Raiders in 1964. He was an AFL All-Star three times and played in Super Bowl II with the Raiders.

The career path for Davidson was rarely predictable. Born June 14, 1940, in Los Angeles, he didn't play the sport as a child growing up in Boyle Heights and would not give football a shot until his freshman year at East Los Angeles College.

"I think I just decided that I'd try it," he told The Times in a 2010 interview at his home in San Diego. "I didn't know the positions. I knew that center was probably in the middle, but I'd only been to one or two games."

Davis had had his eye on Davidson going back to when Davis was an assistant coach with USC. Davidson went from East L.A. College to the University of Washington and won two Rose Bowls with the Huskies in 1960 and 1961. Davis and Davidson were finally able to join forces in Oakland, after Davidson arrived a year after Davis.

"We had fun," Davidson said in the 2010 interview.

That was an understatement. Davidson's sense of fun and renegade football persona made him a natural TV pitchman after his football career, most prominently in the Miller Lite commercials.

His first movie role came in 1970 in Robert Altman's "MASH," in which he brought a slice of Raider Nation to the 4077th, playing in an intersquad football game.

"I hate to say this for print," Davidson said in the 2010 interview. "But I'm 70 years old and I've never had a real job."

His most notable moment of controversy on the field was in 1970. That was when he took out Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson late in a game, diving into Dawson with his helmet when Dawson was down on the ground. Chiefs wide receiver Otis Taylor retaliated, bringing on a bench-clearing brawl.

Ultimately a 17-14 Chiefs' lead turned into a 17-17 final and the Raiders would win the AFC West.

Many members of the Raiders organization learned of Davidson's death when they were in Las Vegas for a gathering to honor Davis, who died in October and would have turned 83 on Wednesday.

Davidson is survived by his wife, Kathy, and their three daughters, Jan, Dana and Vicki.

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