Former equipment manager Dick Romanski is credited with introducing the…
ALAMEDA. — Equipment manager Bob Romanski has been working for the Oakland Raiders longer than head Coach Dennis Allen or any of his players have been alive. Yet that's only good for second place on the family list when it comes to service time with the team.
Romanski's father, Dick, 84, who still reports to work as something of an equipment manager emeritus, joined the team a half-century ago at the invitation of an old Army buddy named Al Davis. And although the feisty, combative Davis went on to become the man behind the Raiders and their outlaw image, Dick Romanski might actually have been the face of the franchise.
Shortly after taking over as coach and general manager of the Raiders, Davis changed the team colors to the now-familiar silver and black and added the iconic logo — crossed swords behind a pirate in an eye patch — to the sides of the helmets. And though actor Randolph Scott is widely believed to have been the inspiration for the original logo, Romanski suggested to friends that Davis used him as a model when he updated the team's look in 1964.
Because of Davis' death last year, that story is impossible to prove. But there's another chapter in the Raiders' colorful lore that definitely sticks to Romanski. He was the one who introduced the team to a gooey, brownish-yellow adhesive known as Stickum, making it easier for players to hold on to the football and their opponents.
Soon wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff and cornerback Lester Hayes were smearing so much of the sticky stuff on their uniforms that it became difficult to read their numbers — and even more difficult to clean them off.
"It was the worst thing," says Romanski, who would use a stick-like device to put gum in players' mouths to keep it from adhering to their fingers. "Wherever they would touch anything, it got on their hands. The worst thing was the pants. They had areas in the pants where they'd put Stickum."
Biletnikoff, known for his sure hands, went on to become a member of the Hall of Fame. Hayes, who was so covered in Stickum players would get their supply simply by swiping their hands anywhere on his body, earned a reputation as one of the greatest shutdown cornerbacks in NFL history. Hayes became so synonymous with Stickum that the 1981 law that banned its use in the NFL became known as "the Lester Hayes Rule."
"I was so happy," Romanski, the longest-serving Raider employee, says of the rule change. "Just the helmets and the shoes, it took half a day to [clean] them."