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L.A. GOES MARCHING BEHIND GEORGIA

Aug. 13, 1979
Aug. 13, 1979

Table of Contents
Aug. 13, 1979

Baltimore
L.A. Rams
25 Years
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

L.A. GOES MARCHING BEHIND GEORGIA

Having inherited control of the Rams from her husband, Georgia Rosenbloom is ready to assume the role of general and straighten out the feuding top brass of Carroll's Army, which includes her stepson Steve

You'll find Carroll's Army right there on page 3 of the Los Angeles Rams' 1979 Media Guide—70 soldiers in marching order, an army put together by the team's former owner, the late Carroll Rosenbloom. You can learn a lot from media guides; they're full of subtleties. You can learn when a player falls from grace, when a starting middle linebacker, for instance, is suddenly projected to No. 3 on the outside. "Oh, it doesn't mean a thing," the coach will say. "We're gonna be juggling everything around in camp." But you know different. It's right there in the media guide, and it's there because the coach told the PR man to put it there.

This is an article from the Aug. 13, 1979 issue Original Layout

You can learn when someone has been subtly dishonored—when a coach who has been ranked as a "Coordinator" drops to "Special Assistant," and, taking it a notch higher, when a "Vice-President" becomes a "Special Consultant."

Page 3 of the L.A. Guide tells you that the Rams plan to attack the 1979 NFL season out of a wing formation, a 1-1-3 that has Carroll's 42-year-old widow, Georgia Rosenbloom, positioned in front. Georgia is President and Majority Owner, the majority consisting of 70% of the club, under the terms of a will that raised a few eyebrows when it was read.

Georgia is blonde and pretty, and she has her lighter moments. She wouldn't mind being called G.R., as Carroll was called C.R. She has an operatic background, and she would like to take a shot at the national anthem before one of the games—"But not a cappella. They suggested I do it a cappella, and I told them, 'At least give me a trumpet for the harmony.' " She is into levitation. And she plans to pilot her own helicopter from her home in Bel Air to the Rams' new office in Anaheim.

But Georgia has a tough side, too, and she has made it clear that those around her will be aware of it in weeks to come. Last Saturday night in Los Angeles, an hour after the Rams had beaten the Raiders 20-14 in sudden death in an exhibition game at the Coliseum, she was not caught up in the magic of it all. She was putting the finishing touches on a position paper that would be presented to all Ram department heads on Monday. The thrust of it was that Georgia is the boss, and she wants to know what's going on.

"Right now we don't have much leadership," Georgia says. "Oh, they played well—they're trying to earn their positions—and I'm not talking about the coaching. We have good coaching. I'm talking about the top. There are some things that have to be ironed out."

Which brings us to the second "1" on the Rams' 1-1-3. This is Steve Rosenbloom, 34, Carroll's son by a previous marriage. Popular around the league, popular on the club, Steve stands in the middle of the formation as Executive Vice-President. Last year he was Assistant to the President, a job that has not yet been filled for '79. Steve is one of four Ram vice-presidents, the other three filling the rear rank of the formation—Don Klosterman (General Manager) and Harold Guiver (Operations) on the wings, Jack Teele (Administration) at center.

Below them, in agate type, is a block of 65 names, beginning with Ray Malavasi, the head coach, going on down to Gabe Bartold's entertainment staff and ending with the office aides. But all the action is up there at the top.

The first stirrings were felt when Carroll Rosenbloom's will was disclosed in April, shortly after he had drowned off Golden Beach, Fla., where he was vacationing. The bulk of Rosenbloom's estate, guessed to be worth as much as $100 million, went to Georgia. The remaining 30% of the Rams was divided equally among the five children: Steve, Danny and Suzanne by his first wife; Lucia and 15-year-old Chip from his marriage to Georgia. And Georgia was to oversee the entire operation.

A double slap to Steve, his friends said. He was the one who had learned the football business from the ground up, who had spent five years in the equipment room in Baltimore, when Rosenbloom owned the Colts, helping Freddy Schubach sort through the dirty socks and jocks.

"This business of working in the locker room is really overdone," Georgia says. "I told Steve he should stop saying that he picked up dirty socks and jocks. Everyone knows it. When his first bio appeared in the press book, I asked him to change it. It's not dignified."

Sure enough, the "dirty socks" in Steve's bio in the Rams' 1978 Media Guide has been changed to "dirty towels" in the '79 book. But any way you dirty it, he had spent more than 20 years working with his father, and his friends felt he should have been rewarded with at least a slightly larger share than was given to the other children.

"Carroll treated his children equally," says attorney E. Gregory Hookstratten, an executor of the will. "In law it's called pari passu."

Steve says, "I told my father, 'It's your money and I don't care what you do with it. Flush it down the toilet if you want to.' The things I have the happiest memories looking back on are the things money couldn't get you. I remember the family feeling we all had in those old Colt days. Money couldn't buy that. We used to refer to each other by names out of Damon Runyon. Bert Bell Jr. was Blackie. I was Hymie the Mink. The Colt veterans used to yell over at me, 'Hey, Mink!' There were rookies who were in and out so fast they never even knew my name. They called me Mr. Mink.

"I see people lose their whole perspective because of money. This is a people business. When you get caught up in ego, then you're strictly in the entertainment business, just like Hollyweird."

Carroll Rosenbloom hated the city of Baltimore. Steve loved it. When Carroll traded the Colts' franchise for the Rams' in 1972, Steve waited a year to follow him to Los Angeles. He didn't trust the place. He had taken part of his father's wedding gift to him and invested it in a dog-boarding business in Baldwin, Md., and he stayed out of football.

"I had a year to think about football while I was hosing down dog runs," he says. "I'd taken a lot of crap in my life, but hosing it down is a little different."

Eventually, Steve went to Los Angeles, and the rift that had been growing between him and Klosterman in Baltimore widened. The Duke of Del Rey, as Klosterman is known, had knocked around AFL outposts—Kansas City, Houston—and gained a reputation as a crafty guerrilla fighter when the new league and the NFL were warring. Then, in 1970, Carroll Rosenbloom hired Klosterman as his general manager in Baltimore, and two years later he was back in his beloved Southern California.

The Duke is a survivor. He survived a severe spinal injury that should have left him paralyzed. He survived three coaching changes under Carroll. He survived an attempt by Tampa Bay to lure him to Florida with a contract that would have guaranteed him lifetime security. But that deal didn't have Bel Air or Malibu written into it. No, Tampa Bay, the Duke would stay where he was, thank you, on $50,000 a year, a salary Carroll seemed to fix onto his executives; former Ram Coach Chuck Knox' original contract was for $50,000, and until very recently Steve Rosenbloom's salary was $50,000.

Then last year Carroll brought in Guiver, a former players' agent and a Life Master in bridge who broke Tommy Prothro in at championship-level competition, to handle contracts, Klosterman's old area. Trading, though, still was Klosterman's department, at least for the record, but then a few days before the NFL draft in May, a league-wide TWX went out from the Rams' office that stunned many people. It said that any trade discussions with Los Angeles should be addressed to Dick Steinberg, the Director of Player Personnel. And at the draft Klosterman was moved from his familiar post at the head table to the junior varsity bench. He was unofficially awarded the title of Overseer and Consultant. Once again his survival instincts were being tested.

"Steve wanted to make a change," Klosterman says. "I really don't know what he has against me. In his opinion Dick Steinberg could do a better job. I know I have confidence in my ability. I don't think he ever asked Dick about it—or Georgia. I doubt whether she even knew about it."

Georgia is a powerful ally. The news of Klosterman's demotion shook her.

"When I first heard about it, it didn't dawn on me what had happened," she says. "It was less than a month after Carroll had died. I was still in the closet, so to speak. It was never fully explained to me, but when it was, I realized what a dreadful thing it was. It was something Carroll would have abhorred. It was finessed through, that's all.

"It took me a while to realize what was going on. The media called me. 'What's this hatchet job on Don?' they asked. I didn't even know what they were talking about. I began to find out more things. There was an entire group in the organization that wasn't even speaking to Don. He'd go to his office and they wouldn't even say hello to him. How would you like that?"

Georgia's first reaction was to draft a very strong statement—To All Parties Concerned. Then she thought it over and made her views known privately. The message was clear: if Dick Steinberg was to have the first word on trades, then Don Klosterman was to have the last word.

"If both factions on this club want the same thing, the success of this organization," she says, "then they should be able to work together. If not, then no amount of pleading can help. But I'm going to take a very long look at this problem and do what has to be done if it isn't solved."

It's tough to figure whether any of this will affect the team on the field. The Rams have won six straight NFC West division titles, and on track record alone they have to be considered a Super Bowl contender. They looked competent in Saturday night's exhibition. Under Malavasi's low-key direction, the Rams have had a relatively peaceful camp. Linebacker Isiah Robertson, the textbook malcontent, has been traded to Buffalo. And for once the quarterback position has not been a daily controversy. Pat Haden is the man. "The players are happy, the coaches are happy," John Sevano wrote in the Orange Coast Daily Pilot. "Old-timers are having a hard time trying to remember when things have gone smoother."

But then Left Tackle Doug (Bubba) France, twice a member of the Pro Bowl squad, walked out of the camp at Fullerton, claiming racial injustice—white players getting preferential treatment by the coaches and media, non-mingling of black and white players in the dining room and in the beer joints.

Malavasi shrugged it off. Big guy sweating through two-a-days; postoperative elbow that's had him worried. Hot summer madness. Five days later France was back.

"A lot of guys had pointed the stuff out to me," France says, "and then when I walked out, I was on my own. Now some guys are making a joke out of it. O.K., if it's for the good of the team, I'll go along with that. If getting to the Super Bowl means being a phony, then let's be phonies."

So the Rams have their problems, and right now they have to wonder about Georgia Rosenbloom's ability to provide direction at the top. "So far she's had a high profile, she's been visible," says Defensive End Fred Dryer. "What you have to ask is, can she stand the test of time in a man's world?"

"Carroll shared every thought, every club matter with her," Hookstratten says. "Sometimes it's eerie, talking to her on the phone. Every answer she gives is something Carroll would have said. Don't sell her short. She's a very tough lady."

"Carroll always wanted the Rams to be fun for me—fun and profitable," Georgia says. "That's why he was in it; that's why he gave me the club. I should be having fun. I don't know why I'm not. I know that blind items have gone out all over the country about me—hatchet-type things. I feel that I have to be alert and aware every second. Carroll wanted this to be a wonderful, wonderful thing for me. It hasn't been.

"I can't really say I've gotten over his death. I don't cry anymore, but I can't sleep more than four hours a night. My brain keeps flashing back to that beach in Florida where he drowned. It comes at the damnedest times. I try to be kind to everyone I deal with, but kindness should not be mistaken for weakness. I gather information. I remember the people who have hurt me. If it's someone I like, I can forget about it. If it's not, then I can deal with him in such a manner that I can probably do worse to him than he's done to me.

"I have a good memory."

PHOTOPHOTOAt long last, Pat Haden is firmly entrenched as the Rams' No. 1 quarterback.PHOTOBubba France (77) briefly left camp after claiming the Rams were racist.PHOTOSteve Rosenbloom put a block on Klosterman...PHOTO...but the Duke now has Georgia in his corner.PHOTOMalavasi, says Georgia, is a "good coach."