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Relocated NFL Teams: The Cleveland Rams

The Cleveland Rams were an American football team that played in the NFL from 1937 to 1945. Today the team is known as the St. Louis Rams. In 1937, the city of Cleveland, Ohio was granted an expansion franchise which would be held by Businessman Homer Marshman. Marshman also owned an AFL team in 1936 that was also known as the Rams. Marshman decided to abandon the AFL owing to mismanagement issues and concentrated on running his new team. He, alongside other owners paid $10,000 to be awarded the franchise and an additional $55,000 as capital for the new club. He named the franchise Cleveland Rams after his disbanded AFL team, during their time in Cleveland, the Rams were based at three different stadiums; the Cleveland Stadium (1937, 1939-1941, 1944-1945), the Shaw Stadium (1938) and the League Park (1942).

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The Rams were placed in the league’s western Division for their first season. Their very first game came against the Detroit Lions and it was played on September 10, 1937. They lost 28-0, a sure bad omen for their future in the league. They recorded their first win 11 days later, a 21-3 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. They would not win another game that entire season. And they finished the 1937 season with a dismal 1-10 record. They improved a bit the following season, recording a 4-7 record. In 1939, the Rams had their first winning season, managing a 5-5-1 record but they took a step back in 1940 with a 4-6-1 record. They looked to be on the right course at the beginning of the 1941 season as they started with two straight wins, but they collapsed and lost all the remaining games to end the season with a 2-9 record. In 1942, Cleveland improved slightly to post a 5-6 record.

They missed the 1943 season as they suspended operations due to hard financial times as well as the ongoing war. When they returned in 1944, the team posted a 4-6 record. In 1945, the Rams drafted rookie quarterback Bob Waterfield, Pat West and back Fred Gehrke to mold a formidable team worthy of competing with league powerhouses such as the Bears, the Lions, the Giants and the Packers. They were barely recognizable as they bulldozed themselves to a 9-1 record that earned them their first Conference title. Led by the unstoppable Waterfield and wide receiver Jim Benton, a combination that posed a major aerial threat to other teams’ defense setups, the Rams then went on to clinch the NFL Championship. Benton became the NFL’s first player to receive 300 yards when he caught 10 passes for 303 yards in a game against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. This broke the record of 237 yards set by Don Huston of the Green Bay Packers two years earlier and went on to stand for 40 years. The 1945 NFL Championship win would however prove to be their last act during their days in Cleveland as they moved to Los Angeles shortly after.

Why the Cleveland Rams were Relocated

With the exception of the 1945 season, the Rams were either average or mediocre in play, and that is never a big draw for fans. Fan turnout remained low and the owners suffered huge financial losses which did not seem to abate even with the 1945 NFL title. In 1941 Marshman sold the team to Daniel Reeves and Frederick Levy for around $100,000. In 1943 Reeves and Levy, who were serving in the military requested the league to be allowed to suspend operation for that season. Upon resumption to operation, Reeves purchased Levy’s share in the team. Levy was convinced that there was no future for the Rams in Cleveland and had his eyes set on relocation to a city with a large market. Los Angeles had one of the top three television markets but the city did not have an NFL team. This made LA a very promising prospect and the Rams requested the league for approval to relocate there. The league obliged and a new chapter for the franchise opened as they headed west and took up the name Los Angeles Rams. Today the Rams are based in St. Louis but the hunger for a team in LA has triggered talk of a return to the City of Angels.

Cleveland Rams Notable Players

Bob Waterfield QB 1945

Jim Benton WR 1938-1945

Parker Hall QB 1939-1942

Johnny Drake FB 1937-1941

Johnny Wilson RE 1939-1942

Gaylon Smith WB 1939-1942

Dante Alfred Magnani HB 1940-1942

Chet Adams T 1939-1942

Riley Matheson G 1932-1942

Ted Livingston T 1937-1940

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