Daniel Farrell Reeves (June 30, 1912 – April 15, 1971) was an American sports entrepreneur, best known as the owner of the National Football League's Rams
franchise from 1941
to his death in 1971
Reeves is remembered for his move of the Rams from Cleveland
to Los Angeles
, where it became the first American major league sports franchise on the Pacific Coast.
He was also the first NFL owner to sign an African-American
player in the post World War II
era, inking deals with halfback Kenny Washington
and end Woody Strode
in 1946, as well as being the first to employ a full-time scouting staff.
Reeves was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Born in New York City
to Irish immigrants
James Reeves and Rose Farrell, Reeves' father and an uncle, Daniel, had risen together from fruit peddlers to owners of a grocery-store chain, bringing wealth to the family.
Dan Reeves Biography: Brought First Major Team To West Coast, Hired Coach George Allen, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments,"
Famous Sports Stars encyclopedia, sports.jrank.org/
Reeves was a graduate of the Newman School in Lakewood, New Jersey
, and attended Georgetown University
in Washington, D.C.
, which he left before acquiring his degree. While attending Georgetown, Reeves met his future wife, Mary V. Corroon. The couple were married on October 25, 1935 and would together have six children.
The Reeves family's grocery chain was sold to Safeway Stores
in 1941, generating capital and freeing the youthful Dan Reeves, age 29, to pursue his dream of owning a professional football franchise.
Purchase of Cleveland Rams
Together with his friend and business partner Robert Levy,
Reeves purchased the Cleveland Rams
franchise in 1941
from a local ownership group for $135,000.
"How Moving a Franchise from Cleveland to L.A. Benefited the Browns and Fostered Social Change,"
''Cleveland Plain Dealer,'' www.cleveland.com, Feb. 3, 2014.
The team was a comparatively young one, launched in 1936
, and finances were tight, with as few as 200 season ticket holders and no television revenue, forcing some players to work for as little as $100 per game.
The team did not operate in , and Reeves became the sole owner in December, while serving stateside in the U.S. Army Air Forces
Despite its financial woes, the previously unsuccessful franchise began to turn around in 1944
; the Rams won Western division title in 1945
and the championship game
behind rookie quarterback and league MVP Bob Waterfield
, a future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
["Bob Waterfield: Biography,"]
Pro Football Hall of Fame, www.profootballhof.com/
Move to Los Angeles
Immediately following the conclusion of the season, with its championship game
played in icy Cleveland before 32,000 fans on December 15, Reeves announced his intention to move his team to sunny southern California
, and the league approved the move on January 12, 1946.
On January 15, Rams team representatives went before the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission with a plan to lease use of the facility for home games — it was already the home venue for college football
for both UCLA
of the Pacific Coast Conference
["Rams to Go After Coliseum Lease,"]
''San Mateo Times,'' vol. 35, no. 13 (Jan. 15, 1946), pg. 7.
On January 23, the Coliseum Commission approved use of the 103,000-seat stadium for Rams' Sunday home games during the 1946
In moving to Los Angeles, Reeves became the owner of the first major American professional sports franchise to be located on the Pacific Coast
, preceding the 1949 entrance of the San Francisco 49ers
of the All-America Football Conference
into the NFL and, by a decade, the 1957 relocation of the New York Giants
and the Brooklyn Dodgers
[A.S. "Doc" Young]
"The Black Athlete in the Golden Age of Sports, Part VI: The Black Athlete Makes His Mark,"
''Ebony,'' May 1969, pg. 118.
The move did not immediately cure the team's financial woes, however, and in 1947, Reeves found himself in need of co-owners to share the mounting losses while attempting a turnaround. Reeves brought Levy back in for a one-third stake in the team. Another third went to Harold Pauley and Hal Saley.
Eventually, team proved to be extremely successful on the field, with quarterback Bob Waterfield helping the team to three straight league championship games from 1949 to 1951, culminating in another championship trophy.
Boasting some of football's most glamorous stars, the Rams drew extremely well at the ticket office. Topped by a crowd of 102,368 for a San Francisco 49ers
game in 1957
, attendance for Rams games in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
topped 80,000 on 22 occasions during the teams' first two decades in California.
The previous closeness between Reeves and Levy fell away, though, and soon Levy was siding with Pauley against Reeves on most significant ownership decisions. Pauley eventually assumed Levy's stake, giving Pauley two-thirds ownership of the team but that did nothing to resolve the constant battles between Pauley and Reeves. Finally in 1962, the NFL stepped in to resolve the situation by holding a closed auction to result in one partner buying out the other. Reeves outbid Pauley for the team, valuing the Rams at $7.1 million against Pauley's bid of $6.1 million. Reeves once again assumed sole ownership. He then raised the funds to support his bid by immediately selling 49% of the team to a group of minority owners that included Gene Autry
. By the time of Reeves' death in 1971, the team's worth was estimated at $20 million.
Reeves also owned one of Los Angeles' first ice hockey
teams, the Western Hockey League
's Los Angeles Blades
, which lasted from 1961 to 1967 and played nearby the Coliseum at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena
. Given the Blades' success, Reeves was an early favorite to get a National Hockey League
franchise during the 1967 NHL expansion
, but the league awarded the team to Los Angeles Lakers
owner Jack Kent Cooke
The innovative Reeves made several other significant contributions to pro football. He instituted the famed "Free Football for Kids" program that enabled youngsters to enjoy the game in their formative years and then, hopefully, become ardent fans as adults. His signing of the ex-UCLA great, Kenny Washington
, in the spring of 1946 marked the first time a black player had been hired in the NFL since 1933.
Reeves' experimentation in the early days of television provided the groundwork for pro football's current successful TV policies. He was also the first to employ a full-time scouting staff.
Relationship with George Allen
, Reeves lured away head coach George Allen
from the Chicago Bears
. Allen made key trades and draft choices, which returned the team back to prominence within the next three seasons of his tenure. Allen allegedly had agreed on the deal with Reeves with two years remaining on his contract with the Bears, and a protracted legal battle followed.
, Reeves had sought to go in a new direction as far as to find a new head coach for the team. On Christmas Day, Reeves attempted to fire Allen, but due to the wide public outcry of the Rams' fans over the dismissal, he finally relented and retained Allen as the head coach for the next two years, then fired him again after the 1970
Pro Football HOF enshrinement and death
Reeves was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame
in 1967. For his contribution to sports in Los Angeles, he was honored with a Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum "Court of Honor"
plaque by the Coliseum commissioners. A longtime smoker
, Reeves's health began to deteriorate by 1969. Reeves, who was also diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease
, succumbed to cancer
in his New York City apartment on April 15, 1971.
After Reeves' death, Baltimore Colts
owner Carroll Rosenbloom
assumed control of the Rams in July 1972
spinning off the Colts to Robert Irsay
in a swap of franchises between the owners and their investors.Los Angeles (Rams) Owner Dan Reeves dies of cancer, UPI Article for The Palm Beach Post, Apr 16, 1971, accessed April 11, 2012.
Pro Football Hall of Fame
- Dan Reeves
Category:Los Angeles Rams executives
Category:Los Angeles Rams owners
Category:National Football League general managers
Category:Georgetown University alumni
Category:Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees
Category:Sportspeople from Lakewood Township, New Jersey
Category:Businesspeople from New York City
Category:American people of Irish descent
Category:North American Soccer League (1968–1984) executives
Category:Cleveland Rams executives
Category:20th-century American businesspeople