After years of speculation, public posturing, and political wrangling, the NFL has approved Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s stadium project at the site of the former Hollywood Park Race Track (the league’s Web site has already updated the Rams listing to reflect the team’s relocation). The NFL made the right decision: of the three franchises vying to call Los Angeles home (the Oakland Raiders, the St. Louis Rams, and the San Diego Chargers), the organization opted for the one with the greatest claim to local history. The Rams, of course, played in Los Angeles from 1946 to 1979 (and then in Anaheim from 1980 to 1995), but several critics immediately pointed out that the Rams weren’t moving to Los Angeles—they were moving to Inglewood, which, while located in Los Angeles County, is its own individual city. “WE’RE GOING TO HOLLYWOOD!! (Actually, Inglewood),” joked TMZ; “Network bumpers shouldn’t show the Hollywood sign or the Capitol records building,” wrote USA Today’s Chris Chase. “It [sic] should show The Forum or that big donut or a Jonas brother getting slimed at the Nickelodeon Awards.”
This argument is stupid for several reasons, most notably that the league itself is referring to the team as the Los Angeles Rams, not the Inglewood Rams. On top of that, let’s not forget all of the other league teams whose stadiums are a hike from their home towns: The Dallas Cowboys play in Arlington, Texas; the New York Giants and the New York Jets play in East Rutherford, New Jersey; the San Francisco 49ers play in Santa Clara (Santa Clara!).
While the Rams’ L.A. roots are being celebrated, there has been scant a sentence connecting the team to the site where they will begin playing in 2019. But Inglewood has its own links to the Rams, as does Hollywood Park itself. Here are a few particularly interesting ones:
- Dick Hoerner, who was a member of the famed “Bull Elephant backfield” and who played fullback for the Rams from 1947-1951, lived in Inglewood. In the off-season, Hoerner worked as an usher at the Hollywood Park Racetrack, the site of the Rams’ new stadium.
- Kenny Washington re-integrated the NFL in 1946 when he signed with the Los Angeles Rams—one year before Jackie Robinson integrated major league baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Washington was at the tail end of his football days at the time and went on to have a distinguished career with the Los Angeles Police Department. The day before he died, he called his son Kenny Jr. to visit him at UCLA Medical Center and gave him instructions about which horses to play at—you guessed it—Hollywood Park.
- Jack Youngblood, who would come to be known as “the John Wayne of football,” woke up one day in 1981 and noticed that his arm had swelled to 30 percent more than its usual size. The arm had been a problem since three years prior, when he pinched a nerve in his arm after a brutal collision with Browns back, Calvin Hill. In his 1988 biography, Blood, Youngblood describes picking up two six-packs and heading down the 405 to Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, where team doctor Toby Freedman quickly diagnosed him with a major blood clot next to his heart. Youngblood had consumed six to eight beers by the time they wheeled him into the operating room for emergency surgery.
- Tank Younger was part of Dick Hoerner’s famed Bull Elephant backfield and went on to have a storied career as a Ram. He was the first NFL player from a predominantly black college to play in the NFL, the first black player to play in an NFL All-Star Game, and the first to become an NFL front-office administrator (scout and executive with the Rams until 1975). After a long illness, Younger died on September 15, 2001, in Inglewood and was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery.
- During his playing days, Deacon Jones was perhaps the greatest pass rusher who ever lived. Years after his retirement from the game, he co-founded The Deacon Jones foundation with his wife, Elizabeth. Created to assist young people and the communities in which they live, the foundation awarded two Inglewood high schoolers with $100,000 college scholarships in 1999.
Joshua Neuman is a Los Angeles-based writer and the author of the Los Angeles Rams Tumblr Greatest Show on Grass.