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The St Louis Rams – A Little History Part I

The (Cleveland) Rams joined the NFL in 1937 under the leadership of Hugo Bezdek. To this day Bezdek holds the distinction of being the only man to coach both a pro baseball and a pro football team. A fullback in college, most of his career was spent coaching college football. Bezdek lead 3 different teams to the Rose Bowl (Oregon 1916, Mare Island Marines 1917, and Penn State 1922) with 2 victories (Oregon 1916, Mare Island Marines 1917). Bezdek achieved an overall 127-58-16 record. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954. Unfortunately, he had little success leading the Rams. The 1937 Rams had a record of 1-10. The following season the Rams lost their first three games and Bezdek was let go. The Rams went on to a 4-7 season.

The Rams stayed in Cleveland until the end of the 1945 season. Every single season was a losing one except for 1945. In 1945, they beat the Washington Redskins in the NFL Championship game by the score of 15-14. Quarterback Bob Waterfield passed for 2 touch downs (he also kicked the PATs) and running back Jim Gillette rushed for 101 yards. 1945 was legendary coach Adam Walsh’s first season with the Rams (He won NFL coach of the year honors). He stayed with the Rams through their move to Los Angeles in 1946. Afterwards, he returned to coach at Bowdoin College and continued in what was a very successful collegiate coaching career.

Over the next 10 years the Los Angeles Rams had only 1 losing season (4-8 1956) and 5 playoff appearances (including the 1951 NFL Championship). The Rams had 5 head coaches during this period. Most of the on-field leadership came from Quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. Van Brocklin was an All-American selection in 1948, the same year he finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Drafted by the Rams in 1949, the very next year in 1950 he shared quarterbacking duties with Bob Waterfield. That year Van Brocklin and Waterfield finished 1-2 in NFL passer ratings. The next year they again shared the QB position. In 1951, the Rams won the title (re)match against Cleveland, 24-17. Waterfield (9-24, 125 yards) took most of the snaps, but Van Brocklin (4-6, 128 yards) threw the game winner of 73 yards to receiver Tom Fears. Van Brocklin never had a losing season with the Rams. (Van Brocklin also lead the 1960 Philadelphia Eagles to a NFL Championship.)

Unfortunately, this was the last Rams championship until 1999. The 1955 championship defeat to the Cleveland Browns ushered in an error of losing that would not be destroyed until 1966 (except for the 1957 Rams who went 6-6). It was a tough time for the Rams and for Rams fans. They looked forward to future leaders and stars who would bring them back to football glory. They looked forward to coach George Allen and quarterback Roman Gabriel who would usher in Rams greatness for the next 20 years.

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