In 1980, a huge shift in Southern California sports occurred when the Rams moved to Anaheim Stadium; the suburbs.
This left the Coliseum “vacant,” in a way. USC continued to play there, but UCLA moved to the Rose Bowl, leaving the Coliseum to SC and the Raiders, who moved to L.A. in 1982. Several games between the Raiders and 49ers at the Coliseum in the 1980s had strange overtones to them. Enormous crowd came out, but a gang element, centered on the Raiders “bad boy” image and silver-and-black color scheme, lent criminality to the proceedings. Watching the 49ers do battle on the Coliseum in games against a team other than the Rams was disconcerting, although they enjoyed their fair share of success.
But what was most disconcerting was the change in the Rams’ ownership structure. In 1979 Rosenbloom, an expert swimmer, went for a dip in mild Florida waters. He drowned, much the way a man might drown if scuba-geared assassins had pulled him under water.
His wife, a former Las Vegas showgirl named Georgia Frontiere, assumed control of the team. The rightful owner of the Rams was Rosenbloom’s son, Steve, but Frontiere manipulated the records and won a power struggle.
Nobody has ever proved that she killed her husband for his money, but throughout sports many suspect just that.
“Georgia will meet her Maker,” Rams star Fred Dryer said in 2000. “She will be judged for her actions.”
Frontiere immediately pulled up roots, leaving the venerable Coliseum, trashing 30 years of Ram tradition, glory and success, for the green pastures of Orange County. As if by divine intervention, the rivalry with San Francisco, which was barely even a rivalry when the team first moved to the Big A, switched gears. It become a rivalry again, then became something, like most everything the Walsh-Montana-Lott 49ers did in the 1980s, that was dominated by San Francisco.
The 1981 world champion 49ers could point to several turning points. After losing the opener to Detroit and game three to Atlanta, they found themselves beating Dallas handily and holding off Green Bay in Wisconsin, always a tough task. But their 20-17 win over the Rams marked the beginning of their wild ride, enthusing the Bay Area over their chances.
A home loss to Cleveland was followed by a 33-31 victory at Anaheim, and the team never looked back. As the 1980s developed, the 49er-Raider games began to take on more meaning, but by the decade’s end both the Raiders and Rams were in San Francisco’s shadow.
The nail in the coffin came on January 14, 1990 at Candlestick Park. In a 14-2 campaign, one of their losses had come at the hands of Los Angeles, 13-12 in San Francisco. The Rams were led by coach John Robinson, who presided over a successful running game in Anaheim just as he had at USC.
The Rams advanced to the NFC title game, but were embarrassed by Montana and his mates, 30-3. San Francisco went on to more Super Bowl glory, then made a successful transition to Steve Young, winning another Super Bowl and more divisions in another winning decade.
The Rams dropped deeper and deeper into a hole. Frontiere was a laughingstock, which was the best thing people had to say about her; “gold-digging femme fatale” being a more serious handle. Hated by an entire region, she packed up the Ram bags following the 1994 campaign and moved to St. Louis.
At first, it looked like a desperate move. Her team was desultory, fan acceptance lukewarm; the 49ers continued to dominate. Then in 1998, the world went topsy-turvy when her team won an improbable Super Bowl.
In the years since then, as the league has re-aligned divisions to match regions, the Ram-49er rivalry sadly is, for the most part, a thing of the past. “Beat St. Louis!” does not resonate with San Franciscans as “BEAT L.A.!” does.
The Rams, after dominating the 49ers for years, must have been chagrined to see Charles “Tree” Young, Wendell Tyler and Hacksaw Renolds – all former Rams – become stalwart Niners on Super Bowl champions. It all happened on Georgia Frontiere’s watch.
When the “Fat Lady” Sings
The December 1, 1989 Monday Night Football game at Anaheim Stadium, in which Joe Montana led San Francisco to an incredible 30-27 comeback win over the Rams, was in many ways the last straw, leading to the eventual, dismal loss of the team to St. Louis five years later.
Rams quarterback Jim Everett was supposed to lead the Rams to victory. Instead, despite great potential, the former Purdue star and his team continued to be patsies at the hands of the Steve Young-led 49ers. Talkshow host Jim Rome was merciless in his assessment of Everett, calling him “Chris Everett” in a de-masculating reference to women’s tennis player Chris Evert. In 1994 Everett had enough, physically attacking Rome during an in-studio interview.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism