Will it be deja blue for the Rams and LA, 70 years later?

BY Sam Gardner • January 12, 2016

A Rams return to Los Angeles appears imminent as NFL's owners prepare to vote on the team's relocation from St. Louis this week, but if the franchise was truly looking for a homecoming, it would have considered moving to Ohio instead.

That's because long before their first occupancy in LA, the Rams originally made their home in Cleveland, where they debuted in the short-lived American Football League -- a different organization from the predecessor to the current AFC -- in 1936.

The following year, the Rams joined the NFL, and they competed as the Cleveland Rams for the next nine years, save for 1943, when the team suspended operations for a season due to a shortage of players during World War II.

During the Rams' stay in the Buckeye State, the team was sold to grocery store magnate Dan Reeves, and on Jan. 12, 1946, 70 years ago Tuesday, Reeves finally got permission from the league to move the franchise to Los Angeles, some 2,000 miles from the nearest NFL team at the time.

The move didn't come without pushback from fellow owners, but once it was ratified, the Rams became the first major pro sports team to move to the West Coast, fulfilling a decade-long dream for the owner.

"The reason I'm moving to Los Angeles," Reeves said after the move was approved, "is that I believe it will become the greatest professional football town in the country."

The following season, the Los Angeles Rams took the field at Memorial Coliseum, and they stayed in the LA area until April 1995, with Reeves, a 1967 Hall of Fame inductee, remaining as the owner until his death in 1971. However the team didn't say goodbye to Cleveland without first making a little noise.

In 1945, the club's final year in Cleveland, the Rams posted the first winning season in franchise history, setting up a date with the Washington Redskins in the NFL championship game. The Rams went on to win that game 15-14 on a frigid day at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, with a fluke play ultimately proving to be the difference.

Early in the first quarter of the game, Redskins quarterback Sammy Baugh attempted a pass out of his own end zone, but the throw hit one of the goal posts, which were located on the goal line at the time. The ball ricocheted back into the end zone, where Baugh fell on it, and the referees awarded the Rams a two-point safety.

Soon after, the rule was changed so that such a play would result in an incomplete pass -- the goal posts eventually returned to the back of the end zone in 1974 -- but the Cleveland Rams still headed west as champions. If only St. Louis could have been so lucky in its final season before losing the franchise, too.

You can follow Sam Gardner on Twitter or email him at samgardnerfox@gmail.com.

 



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