Georgia Frontiere dies at age 80

--St. Louis Rams owner Georgia Frontiere died yesterday at the age of 80 from breast cancer. As a Los Angeles Rams fan growing up, I have to admit that I have few positive memories of her. Apparently, Christine Daniels doesn't hold her in high regard either.

First Frontiere moved the Rams from Los Angeles to Anaheim because of a dispute over luxury suites. When the Raiders filled the Rams' vacancy at the Coliseum, Frontiere's team evolved from a Los Angeles team to an Orange County team. No matter what one might say about the Coliseum, it was a dramatically better place to watch a football game than the old Anaheim Stadium. Then, from 1990-1994, the team suffered five consecutive losing seasons and saw an understandable dip in attendance. Yet, Frontiere publicly chided fans for their lack of support and openly threatened to move the team.

Back then, the Rams boasted an uninspiring roster led by a clearly hobbled Chris Miller at quarterback and a well-past-his-prime coach in Chuck Knox. Jerome Bettis, who today is considered one of the nicest guys in pro football, was unhappy in the Rams environment and seemed to be constantly at odds with the organization. At the same time, the Raiders had an exciting team that regularly competed in the playoffs. In 1994, most football pundits thought the Jeff Hostetler-led Silver & Black would reach the Super Bowl. They underachieved after Napolean McCallum suffered brutal knee injury in a Monday Night opener, but they still had the attention of LA's NFL fans.

The Rams had become almost an afterthought by that point, ceding virtually all of its LA market share to the Raiders. The local fans had grown tired of Frontiere's mismanagement and her threats to move the team, first to Baltimore and then to St. Louis, so only 26,000 people attended the team's last game in Anaheim. (A few months later, the Raiders shockingly turned down a new Hollywood Park stadium to move to Oakland, but that's a story for another day). At the time of the move, the St. Louis Rams became one of the most valuable properties in the NFL due to a very friendly stadium deal. Today though, the franchise is just the 22nd most-valuable team in the NFL, still worth $908 million, but it could be a $1 billion+ property if they were the only NFL team in Los Angeles. While I'd love to see them move back, it appears to be only a matter of time before billionaire Stan Kroenke wrests control of the team away from Frontiere's children. Korenke owns numerous sports properties, including the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, the Pepsi Center, a share of Arsenal in the English Premier League, and 40% of the Rams.

The Rams have a rich history in Los Angeles that Frontiere helped to end. They were the first professional sports team in Southern California, and over the years featured Hall-of-Famers like Bob Waterfield, Norm Van Brocklin, Crazy Legs Hirsch, Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, Jack Youngblood, Jackie Slater, and Eric Dickerson (who Frontiere famously traded). Regardless of any Kurt Warner-Dick Vermeil luck that Frontiere ran into later, I will always remember her as the woman who ruined the Los Angeles NFL legacy.

In the meantime, I'm not completely sure if this is true, but I believe she maintained possession of the Baltimore Colts' Lombardi Trophy from Super Bowl V in the sun room of her Bel Air mansion. Frontiere inherited the trophy from her late husband Carroll Rosenbloom who owned the Baltimore Colts before trading them for the Rams in a famous franchise swap. The city of Baltimore has been begging to get that trophy back for years. It will be interesting to see what happens to it next.

January 19, 2008 8:54 AM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor

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