Top five: books for LA Rams fans

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The Rams, who have resided for most of their existence in Los Angeles, have earned a few distinctions in pro football history. They were the first NFL team with a helmet logo, for example. Halfback and commercial artist Fred Gehrke painted the famous ram horns on their helmets in 1948. Second, their 1946 move to Los Angeles from Cleveland established the NFL on the West Coast for the first time.

Finally, as part of that move, their lease on the LA Memorial Coliseum required them to have an integrated team. The NFL at the time had been closed to black players since 1933. The Rams’ signing of Kenny Washington and Woody Strode reintegrated the league.

The Cleveland Browns played a role in driving the Rams west, and their early years in LA were dominated by a duel with the team from their former hometown. The Rams lost NFL Championship games to the Browns in 1950 and 1955 and defeated them in the 1951 game. That would be their last Championship until 1999, with one lost Super Bowl in 1979.

That win came with the team in St Louis, where they spent 20 years from 1995 until 2015. They have lost two more Super Bowls since 1999 – in 2001 and 2018, both to the Patriots – and, at the time of writing are trying to capitalise on a closing Super Bowl window.

Here are five books for Rams fans.

1The Cleveland Rams (2016) by James C Sulecki

The Rams’ origins in Cleveland are almost forgotten today. The team began life in the American Football League, which played in 1936 and 1937 (the second competitor to the NFL to bear that name), but switched to the NFL after one season. They played as the NFL’s Cleveland Rams until 1945. Sulecki’s book traces the history of those years and explains the reasons for the move, including the looming threat of the Cleveland Browns, who began play in the All-America Football Conference in 1946.
Buy the book: Amazon US | Amazon UK

2Lost Champions (2016) by Gretchen Atwood

The Rams’ move led to the reintegration of football, as mentioned above, following 13 years in which black players had been excluded. Months after the Rams signed Washington and Strode, the Browns signed Bill Willis and Marion Motley. Atwood explores the breaking of the colour line in pro football and sets it against the civil rights struggles of the 1940s. The book culminates in the 1950 Championship game showdown between the Rams and the Browns – two teams connected not only by the milestone of integration but also by the their city of birth.
Buy the book: Amazon US | Amazon UK

3Headslap (1996) by Deacon Jones and John Klawitter

Not many players are so effective that they become associated with a particular move or skill in the game. The Rams’ Deacon Jones was known for two. First, he’s credited with coining the term ‘sack’ to describe a quarterback being tackled behind the line of scrimmage. His speed as a defensive end changed the way defense was played in the NFL. Second, he became known for the ‘headslap’, a fearsome blow to an offensive lineman’s head that frequently left him dazed enough for Jones to blaze past. Jones didn’t invent the move but it became his trademark, which is why it gives the title to his 1996 autobiography, which looks at his career and the challenges faced by black players in the 1960s and 1970s.

4Fifth Quarter (2000) by Jennifer Allen

Though perhaps better known for his time coaching Washington, George Allen coached the Rams for five seasons in the 1960s and early 1970s, taking them to the playoffs twice and winning the Coach of the Year award once. Fifth Quarter is his daughter Jennifer’s book about growing up with a coach as a father. Considered one of the best books about football, Fifth Quarter looks at an area – the effect of a coach’s football obsession on their family – that is often mentioned but seldom examined. Intriguingly, Allen’s children, Roman and Deacon, share first names with two of her father’s Rams stars.
Buy the book: Amazon US | Amazon UK

5Player of the Year (1970) by Roman Gabriel and Bob Oates

Roman Gabriel’s diary of the 1969 season, in which he finished as the NFL MVP, as the title suggests, begins in chaos. George Allen is sacked as head coach in late 1968 and the franchise seems in chaos. Then, after Vince Lombardi passes on the job, Allen is re-hired and leads the Rams to an 11-3 season. Gabriel’s diary details the ups and downs of that year in a candid fashion.

Photo: GMO66

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