70 Years of NFL Relocations
Football fans are once again reminded they don’t own their home teams. The Oakland Raiders’ planned move to Las Vegas marks the 11th time since the 1940’s that an NFL franchise is packing up for “greener” pastures.
The Cleveland Rams uprooted to Los Angeles in January, 1946, barely a month after winning the NFL championship. Battling persistent financial woes and unforgiving Midwest winters, the lure of California was too tempting for owner Dan Reeves. It didn’t hurt either that Rams QB Bob Waterfield was married to Hollywood glamor star, Jane Russell.
The Rams became California’s first professional sports franchise.
The Bidwill family moved the Chicago Cardinals to St Louis in 1960 on a losing note- the team had lumbered through a dismal decade and were overshadowed by George Halas’ dominant Bears. Initially, the nearly bankrupt Cardinals couldn’t afford the NFL’s hefty relocation fee but the league softened its terms, fearing startup rival AFL would grab the St Louis market.
In 1988, Bill Bidwill picked up the Cards again and headed for the sunbelt in Arizona, leaving behind an aging stadium and a mediocre playing record.
The search for upgraded facilities and luxury boxes devolved into legal morass for Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. The inveterate businessman transplanted his team to Los Angeles in 1982 but not before filing an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL to clear the way.
Two years later, drama unfolded in the east coast when the Baltimore Colts departed for Indianapolis with an eminent domain threat on their tail. Under the cover of darkness on March 29, 1984, fifteen long-haul trucks loaded the team’s possessions and hastily drove for the state line.
Lawsuits reached the Supreme Court but owner Robert Irsay prevailed and the Baltimore Colts were reduced to a sentimental relic- the team’s Super Bowl V trophy stayed in the city.
Baltimore acquired a new franchise twelve years later when Art Modell replanted the Cleveland Browns’ personnel as the Ravens. The move was a replacement, not a relocation- the Browns’ name, logo and history remained in Cleveland.
By 1995, the Raiders’ and Rams’ fortunes were sagging and southern California was mired in recession. With public funds short for stadium improvements, including for earthquake damage repairs, both teams left- the Raiders back to Oakland and the Rams to St Louis.
The second largest media market in the country was effectively deprived of an NFL team for the next 21 years.
In Texas, Houston Oilers Bud Adams locked horns with the city over renovations to the Astrodome and eventually took off for Tennessee in 1997. House Majority Tom Delay even introduced a Bill in Congress to block the move though it failed to garner support.
A generation on and the quest for dollars and new stadiums remains unchanged. In 2016, the Rams made their way back to Los Angeles, which also picked up the San Diego Chargers for the 2017 season.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
FOOTBALL October 12, 2008 The Arizona Cardinals beat the Dallas Cowboys 30-24 in overtime. The Cards started off the game with a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and ended it with a blocked punt recovery for 3 yards. They wrapped up the season 9-7 and eventually made the Super Bowl, but were taken down by the Steelers 27-23 for the crown.
BASEBALL October 14, 1998 The San Diego Padres defeat the Atlanta Braves 4-2 to win the National League title. They went on to face the NY Yankees at the World Series but lost the championship after being swept 4-0. Founded in 1969, the Padres never won a World Series but were National League champs twice, in 1984 and 1998.
HORSE RACING October 13, 1988 Jockey Mike Venezia is killed in an accident at Belmont Park after he is thrown off his horse and trampled by a trailing horse. Venezia rode 2,313 winners in his career and was President of the Jockeys’ Guild from 1975-81. In December, 1964, he won 6 races in just a single day at Aqueduct Racetrack.
AUTO RACING October 8, 1978 American race car driver Mario Andretti wins the F1 Driver’s World Championship. Andretti claimed 6 of the 16 Formula One races that season and today remains the last American to lift an F1 trophy. The Italian-born racer is only one of two drivers to have won the F1, Indycar, NASCAR, and World Sportscar Championship.