For the second time in Los Angeles Rams history, the Rams will depart the friendly confines of the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Only this time they will remain in L.A. and be proud owners of their new digs built specifically by their team owner, Stanley E. Kroenke.
The move, after four years of tenancy at the Coliseum, is a joyous one this time as the fruits of the move from St. Louis are about to come to fruition as SoFi Stadium already looks like the next great stadium to be constructed.
The Memorial Coliseum has been the jewel of coliseums, stadiums and arenas since it was built in time for the 1932 Olympics. It has hosted events from motocross to Evil Knievel, baseball, hockey and obviously football. The Coliseum was able to lure the 1945 NFL Champion Rams from Cleveland in 1946, which brought a major sports league team finally to one of the largest cities in the nation.
Factually speaking, the National Football League took an earlier foray into L.A. when they brought a team in, but that team never played a home game in Los Angeles, all of their games were on the road. Also the Los Angeles Dons began playing at the Coliseum in 1946 before later joining with the Rams prior to the NFL-AFL merger.
Rams owner Dan Reeves would also take another major step in sports history by signing Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, the first black athletes to play in the NFL after the league banned black athletes in 1932.
The Rams didn’t get off to a good start in their new home, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles 25-14 in Game 1 of the season. The Rams and head Coach Adam Walsh returned home three weeks later, on October 20, and defeated the Detroit Lions, 35-14 in front of 27,926 fans. Bob Waterfield and Jim Benton led the team to its first win in L.A., as Waterfield passed for 322 yards and three TDs; Benton had seven catches for 142 yards and a TD.
The team could not repeat as champions however, ending the season at 6-4-1. But as the story goes, it was a beginning to an illustrious era in football.
Over the course of 1946-2019 the Rams record in the stadium finished at 158-91-8, not including a 6-6 record in the playoffs. The team would win its only championship in Southern California, and during its tenure at the Coliseum, in 1951. It wasn’t for a lack of trying though.
The Rams and the Coliseum hosted the championship game in 1949 and lost to the Eagles 14-0, and again hosted the 1955 championship game where the home team was defeated by the Cleveland Browns, 38-14. They would also lose the 1950 championship game (away from L.A.), again to the Browns 30-28.
The Rams played their home games in the Coliseum until 1979, when they moved to Anaheim prior to the 1980 season. They hosted the NFC Championship Game in 1975 and 1978, where they lost each game convincingly to the Dallas Cowboys.
The 1979 season was a different story for the Rams, they once again returned to the championship game, now called the Super Bowl, as a result of the first AFL-NFL championship game in 1967, for the first time since the 1955 season. But because the Rose Bowl was named the site for any future Super Bowls in Southern California, the Rams played and lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in an epic Super Bowl XIV game, 31-19.
The Rams have had many stars play for them over the course of the years. The ’50s saw superb play from the likes Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin at quarterback, and receivers Tom Fears and Elroy Hirsch are all Hall of Famers. Fans were treated to an even greater set of players in the ’60s and ’70s with Roman Gabriel, Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Jack Youngblood. Many fans, especially those fans who only remember the team from Anaheim or St. Louis, probably weren’t even born when the Rams played in the Coliseum the first time around. But that’s okay, because this second version has produced some interesting times as well.
After much rancor, bad blood and extreme pressure, January 12, 2016 saw the NFL give permission to the St. Louis Rams to relocate back to Los Angeles. By September 18, 2016, the Coliseum hosted its first Rams regular season home game since 1979, against the Seattle Seahawks a 9-3 win before 91,046 fans, who had waited to see the Rams in a football game at the Coliseum after a 37-year absence, and was the largest attendance for a Rams game at the Coliseum since 1959.
The Rams have had such a rich history at the Coliseum, but it was a history they didn’t want to tarnish in their last game there on December 29, 2019. With division rivals Arizona Cardinals coming in, players like Robert Woods, Clay Matthews, Nickell Robey-Coleman, who all played pro and college games at the Coliseum, and those players that never played in St. Louis, wanted to go out winners.
“I love the Coliseum,” Woods told the Orange County Register in December. “We’ve got to play with pride, play for ourselves, leave our mark in that stadium,” Woods said. “We don’t want to leave a bad taste.
“But I’m ready for that new stadium. Having our own stadium, our own field, our own locker room. Being a real NFL team, having our own set-up here.”
No matter when you became a Rams fan, we all now can say we were around and got to see our beloved team play on the hallowed grounds called the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, whether it be in person or on the television. The Coliseum will always be a major story in Rams lore, and will continue to be a football iconic stadium as it still has the University of Southern California playing games there, with year number 97 possibly on the horizon. A bittersweet goodbye to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and an exhilarating hello to SoFi Stadium, the new home of the Los Angeles Rams.