Ken Stabler died July 9, 2015 in Mississippi at the age of 69. In 2009, then-PD columnist Bob Padecky came face to face with the former Raiders great at an Infineon Raceway event 30 years after an interview with the former MVP went very, very wrong.
From June 23, 2009:
"So, how you doing, Kenny?"
That's the question I asked Kenny Stabler on Sunday morning at a pressconference introducing him as grand marshal for the race at Infineon. I had noidea what would happen next. The last time I asked Stabler a question, he responded by using an action verb and the second-person pronoun and then walked straight past me on the Raiders' practice field behind El Rancho Motel in Santa Rosa.
Of course that was 30 years ago and times change, people change, events change people.
The dust-up Stabler and I had in Southern Alabama is ancient history for most people and I was curious if it would be the same for Stabler.
I mean, after all, I was the one thrown in jail, not Stabler.
During NASCAR race week, a Stabler representative had called Infineon and asked if the track's local paper, The Press Democrat, would do a story on the former NFL MVP. The very competent John Cardinale, Infineon's vice president of communications and marketing, who I bet could get an interview with Osama bin Laden if I asked real nice, said the reporter most likely to do the interview would be me.
Go check with Stabler first, John suggested. A few minutes later Stabler's representative called back and said the former Raiders quarterback would not be doing the interview.
In the interim, Cardinale had told me, Stabler was supplying nearly every Bay Area TV and radio station with interview upon interview, filling up every second with charming, insightful, humorous anecdotes and opinions about the Raiders and Al Davis.
That's the way I remember Stabler as well before Jan. 22, 1979.
I had flown from Miami, the site of the Super Bowl that year, to Pensacola, Fla., and then driven to Gulf Shores, Ala., to do an interview at Stabler's request. Three weeks earlier, I had been in Gulf Shores for a day and a half, interviewing local people for the Sacramento Bee on what they thought of Stabler's mediocre 1978 season.
I had wanted to talk to Stabler. He had stopped talking during the season, said he would talk after the season, and so there I was, ready to chat. I was naive, as I look back on it.
I thought he would.
Stabler said no thanks.
He also said he really wished I wouldn't go to his hometown. I did, writing a three-part series for The Bee as a result. I thought it was a fair treatment and not very inflammatory. His homies were disappointed, not happy, guessed he might have partied a bit much, but they weren't ready to send Stabler out of town in a pine box either.
Stabler was angry, however.
That's what he told me at the third restaurant in which I met him that day in Gulf Shores. He pounded the table, using a voice in a borderline scream, and said we would have to find another restaurant to do the interview.