On January 11, 1946, Dan Reeves announced he was moving his Cleveland Rams to Los Angeles. This was shocking news because, less than a month earlier, the Rams had won the NFL championship. Add to that, air travel was still in its early stages and Los Angels was 2,000 miles away from the nearest NFL city.
Most important, Reeves' fellow NFL owners were dead set against the move. But Reeves was just as determined. It took a sometimes-bitter fight and even a threat to withdraw from the NFL before Reeves could convince his colleagues he meant business.
Once the move was made, the Rams had to fight a life-and-death struggle with the rival Dons of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). Reeves had lost money in trickles in Cleveland but his initial losses in Los Angeles came in tidal waves. The AAFC folded in 1949 just as the Rams were embarking on a string of outstanding seasons on the field.
Boasting some of football's most glamorous stars, the Rams won four divisional titles in seven years and the NFL championship in 1951. The effect at the gate was astounding. Topped by a crowd of 102,368 for a San Francisco 49ers game in 1957, turnouts in the Los Angeles Coliseum surpassed 80,000 on 22 occasions during the Rams' first two decades in California.
The innovative Reeves made several other significant contributions to pro football. He instituted the famed "Free Football for Kids" program that enabled youngsters to enjoy the game in their formative years and then, hopefully, become ardent fans as adults. His signing of the ex-UCLA great, Kenny Washington, in the spring of 1946 marked the first time a black player had been hired in the NFL since 1933. Dan's experimentation in the early days of television provided the groundwork for pro football's current successful TV policies. He was also the first to employ a full-time scouting staff.