But on December 27, 1962, in a closed auction, the Rams may have begun their comeback.
With Rozelle acting as referee, Reeves and Pauley met to see who would buy out the other. Pauley submitted a sealed bid of $6,100,000. Reeves presented his high bid of $7,100,000. By the rules, Pauley would have had to bid 20% more, or $8,520,000 to continue. The most ever paid for a pro franchise had been $4 million for the Cleveland Browns in 1961. Pauley thought it over for 15 minutes, shook hands with Reeves and walked out of the room.
All it would have cost the Pauley group (which had grown to include Bob Hope) to get the Rams was $2,800,000, since Pauley already controlled two-thirds of the club. Reeves, who had one-third, had to produce $4,800,000. He did it by selling 49% to seven new owners—Gene Autry, Bob Reynolds, Leonard Firestone, Paul O'Bryan, Robert Lehman, J. D. Stetson Coleman and Joseph A. Thomas—for $350,000 each, a total sum of $2,450,000, and then raising the remainder on his own. Today the Rams are worth at least $12 million. A $350,000 share bought less than four years ago is now valued at twice that amount.
After gaining control, Reeves entered a troika scouting arrangement with Dallas and San Francisco and flew to Dallas to study the system Schramm had set up as the Cowboys' president and general manager. The Rams wallowed on for three more seasons under Svare, finishing sixth, fifth and seventh and inspiring Svare to become a Beverly Hills stockbroker. His replacement is George Allen, who was an assistant coach with the Rams in 1957 and then spent the next eight years with the Bears.
Nobody does anything in Los Angeles without some degree of splash. Allen could not come in until a lawsuit had been threatened by his old boss, George Halas. Like Halas, Allen has a reputation as a master spy. Any proper spy knows he is likely to be spied upon, and when the Rams moved their field headquarters to Long Beach, where they train in a baseball park (and where this week's cover photograph was taken of an intrasquad scrimmage), they set up a security system. They hired Ed Boynton, a 25-year veteran of the Long Beach police force, as chief counterspy. Boynton has nailed plywood over any cracks and draped the outfield fences with canvas. He patrols with binoculars and searches the trees beyond the fence. He even has the authority to inspect the teachers' rest rooms at Wilson High School, whose windows look out on the practice field. A couple of weeks ago a workman was drilling holes in the fence to install some equipment for Allen and found that Boynton, the counterspy, had filled in the holes as fast as they were drilled. When the workman began drilling again he heard Boynton yell, "Hey, look out! You almost got me in the eye!"
Such antics are more show business than serious business. Allen was defensive coach of the Bears and it is unlikely he has changed his style so much with the Rams. The Bears, in fact, got Allen his job by presenting him the game ball on television and singing a little song about him after they won the NFL championship in 1963. "That's how I spotted Allen," says Reeves. "I'm being half facetious about that, since we did have Allen on our staff in 1957. But it was such an unheard-of thing to give the game ball to an assistant coach, and it showed me Allen can get along with players. They like him. That's very important. Pro football players are just kids, after all. Allen always has time for them, talks to them as individuals as well as in meetings, always lets them know he's thinking about them."
That is certainly true. It often takes the 44-year-old Allen, author of four books on football, 45 minutes to walk the two blocks from the workout arena, Blair Field, to the coaching offices in a golf-course clubhouse. He is continually thinking of something more he has to say to some player or other. He is so thoughtful, so concerned, that it almost seems a suspicious quality. "Every time I see George Allen he asks me how is my wife and then writes me a note saying how great it was to see me. I don't trust guys who do that," says one NFL official. But if Allen's behavior is more like that of a college recruiter than a pro coach, his teams do play for him. And with Reeves running the Rams again, with the title of general manager, the organization appears to be getting stronger. "The general manager and the coach have to have complementary personalities," Reeves says. "But the general manager has to counterbalance the coach. The coach knows he must be objective in order to win, but a player can do something in a game that affects the coach in such an emotional way that he can never be objective about that player again. The coach must have the final word on personnel. But the general manager can stall for time, try to reason with the coach, hope for objectivity to return."
Whereas Svare had embarked on a long-term building program, Allen has adopted a policy of immediacy. He has traded off eight of the Rams' draft choices and several players and has come up with veterans like Maxie Baughan, Bill George, Earl Leggett, Myron Pottios, Dan Currie, Tom Moore and Irv Cross and talked Jack Pardee out of retirement. Of those, all but Moore are on the defensive unit, and it is there that the Rams are toughest. With Lamar Lundy at right end, Baughan at right linebacker, Cross at right corner back and Ed Meador at right safety, the Rams claim with justification that they have the best right-side defense in the game. The entire defense is good and experienced, as it needs to be in order to overcome the deficiencies of the Rams' offense.
Roman Gabriel has emerged as the quarterback with Bill Munson as his backup man. Gabriel, who at 6 feet 4 has been called the world's tallest Filipino, is a strong thrower, and the receivers as a unit are about average for an NFL team. Little Tommy McDonald caught 67 passes last year, his first with the Rams, and ranks among the leaders in NFL history. Split End Jack Snow has enough speed to have outrun Bennie McRae, a former Big Ten hurdles champion, for the last 40 yards of an 84-yard touchdown against the Bears two weeks ago. Tight End Marlin McKeever is a fine one, although he has been out for a long time after losing a finger in an auto accident. Bucky Pope, whose nickname, the Catawba Claw, puts him right up there with Crazylegs or Deacon Dan or Night Train, caught 10 touchdown passes and averaged 31.4 yards on 25 receptions as a rookie, but missed all of last season with a knee injury. He should return soon. But the Rams do not have the running game to make the pass effective. The most outstanding thing they do is get close enough for Bruce Gossett to kick a field goal.
Dick Bass, a good blocker and a squirming runner with good balance, is one of the best backs in the league. After Bass, the Rams are just routine. Their offense is patterned after Green Bay's—which would be grand if the Rams had Green Bay's players. That is the sort of players, and successes, the Rams must have if they are ever to regain their days of glory. However, that may be a vain hope no matter how good the Rams become. In those wonderful old days, those days of splendid memory when they drew 21 crowds of more than 80,000 from 1950 through 1958, the Rams did not have ticket competition with the Dodgers, the Angels, the Blades and the Lakers. And then the Coliseum held more people. Now it has been cut back to a seating capacity of 72,000—with customers who, in the early autumn, let out shouts at what seem odd times until one realizes they have transistor radios plugged into their ears and are listening to the baseball game.