Dan Reeves (American football executive)

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Dan Reeves
Dan Reeves (American football executive).jpg
Born Daniel Farrell Reeves
June 30, 1912
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died April 15, 1971(1971-04-15) (aged 58)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Other names Daniel Reeves
Education attended Georgetown University
Occupation businessman, sports entrepreneur, sports franchise owner, philanthropist
Years active 1935-1971 (his death)
Known for Owner of the NFL's Cleveland/Los Angeles Rams, 1941-1971
Spouse(s) Mary Reeves (1935-1971, his death)
Children six children
For other people named Dan Reeves, see Dan Reeves (disambiguation)

Daniel Farrell "Dan" Reeves (June 30, 1912 – April 15, 1971) was the owner of the Cleveland/Los Angeles Rams from 1941 to his death in 1971. Reeves was founder of Dan Reeves Co. Inc., an investment firm, from which he began to build his financial fortune, which would include the Rams' franchise. In addition to the controversial move of the Rams from Cleveland to Los Angeles, Reeves is remembered for being the first NFL owner to sign an African-American player in the post World War II era (halfback Kenny Washington, Woody Strode also signed the same year) and the first to employ a full-time scouting staff.

Biography[edit]

Reeves was born of Irish American parents, the son of Irish immigrants James Reeves and Rose Farrell. His father and an uncle, Daniel, had risen from fruit peddlers to owners of a grocery-store chain, bringing wealth to the family. A graduate the Newman School in Lakewood, New Jersey, Reeves attended Georgetown University, but left before acquiring his degree. While attending Georgetown, Reeves met, courted and then married the former Mary V. Corroon on October 25, 1935.[1]

Boasting some of football's most glamorous stars, the Rams won four divisional titles in seven years and the NFL championship in 1951. The effect at the gate was astounding. Topped by a crowd of 102,368 for a San Francisco 49ers game in 1957, turnouts in the Los Angeles Coliseum surpassed 80,000 on 22 occasions during the Rams' first two decades in California. Reeves, with friend and business partner Robert Levy, purchased the Rams for US$100,000 in 1941 in Cleveland, Ohio, eventually relocating the franchise to Los Angeles in 1946, fresh off of an NFL Championship season the year before, in 1945.

Key contributions to pro football[edit]

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. Dan's 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. Ever the enigma, Reeves's tenure as principal owner was never seemingly without controversy, for example, during the 1962 season, a public auction was conducted to try to find a new buyer for the financially strapped Rams franchise, which estimated that it had been losing an average of US$300,000 a season for the past few years up to that date; with an unchallenged bid of about US$7.1 million, Reeves was able to secure 51% majority ownership of the team for the price of $4.2 million. An ecstatic Reeves immediately phoned his wife Mary, exclaiming, "We've bought the Rams! Can we afford it?" By the time of his passing in 1971, the team's worth was estimated at $20,000,000.

Relationship with George Allen[edit]

Another example was the hiring and the tenure of coach George Allen, whom Reeves had lured away from the Chicago Bears in 1965. Allen would proceed to make key trades and draft choices, which returned the team back to prominence within the next three seasons of his tenure. By 1968 though, Reeves had sought to go in a new direction as far as to find a new head coach for the team; at season's end, on Christmas Day 1968, he had fired Allen, but due to the wide public outcry of the Rams' fans over Allen's dismissal, Reeves finally relented and retained Allen as the head coach, at least for the next two years afterwards. After Reeves's death in 1971, Allen, who had already inked a deal to assume the head coaching job with the Washington Redskins in January 1971, just after the end of the 1970 season, would move on to coach the Redskins to their first postseason appearance since 1945, eventually leading them to the NFC title the next season, and a trip to Super Bowl VII, where they lost to the undefeated Miami Dolphins at the end of the 1972 season. Upon accepting the Rams job back in 1965, he had allegedly agreed on the deal with Reeves while still under contract with the Bears, with two years remaining on that contract; litigation in the courts ensued (that went as high as the Supreme Court), with Bears owner Halas threatening to sue on charges of breach of contract. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle had informed Halas in a written statement that the league "found no reason to interfere" with the Rams' attempt to sign Allen and that the league "hoped that the matter could be amicably resolved" between the two clubs. Halas then, not wanting to have to go through the lengthy process and costs of court litigation, and not wanting the situation with Allen, who served as the Bears' defensive coordinator at the time, to keep the Bears organization in bad standing with the NFL and commissioner Pete Rozelle, finally relented and gave his blessing to Allen to talk with Reeves for the Rams' job.[2][3]

Pro Football HOF enshrinement and death[edit]

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, as Reeves, who was also diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, would succumb to cancer, possibly due to the effects of smoking, in his New York City apartment on April 15, 1971.

After Reeves' death, Baltimore Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom assumed control of the Rams, spinning off the Colts to Robert Irsay in a swap of franchises between the owners and their investors.[4] Reeves was survived by his wife Mary, and six children.[5][6]

References[edit]

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