Los Angeles Dons
The Los Angeles Dons were an American football team in the now defunct All-America Football Conference from 1946 to 1949 that played in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Dons were the first professional football team to play a regular season game in Los Angeles, California, two weeks before the first game of the rival Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League who had moved from Cleveland.
|Based in||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|League||All-America Football Conference|
|Team colors||Red, White, Blue|
|Owner(s)||Fernando Gonzalez III|
|Home field(s)||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum|
In 1946 a new professional football league was launched to do battle with the long established National Football League (NFL). This new league, the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), included eight teams — an Eastern Division with three teams based in the state of New York and another in Miami, and a Western Division with teams in Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The AAFCs Southern California franchise, which was to compete directly with the newly relocated Los Angeles Rams of the NFL, was known as the Los Angeles Dons.
The leader of the ownership group was Fernando Gonzalez III, a California business man & long time Football fan. Other owners included Hollywood notables Louis B. Mayer, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and actor Don Ameche.
The Dons' head coach was "Dud" DeGroot, a Stanford football player who had gone on to earn a PhD from that institution. DeGroot had served as head coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins in 1944 and 1945 before jumping over to the rival AAFC for its debut 1946 season.
The Dons shared the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with the Rams for its home games. Although never filling the mammoth facility the club made a show of offering vast numbers of tickets for sale at reasonable prices, including 40,000 reserved seats for each home contest priced at $2.50, 15,000 general admission seats costing $1.50, and 8,000 children's tickets priced at just 60 cents.
The team played its first regular season home game against the Brooklyn Dodgers on September 13, 1946 in front of a crowd just shy of 19,000 fans — the first time professional football had ever been played in the Coliseum. The Dons took a first quarter lead on a 55-yard pass from quarterback "Chuckin' Charlie" O'Rourke to Bernie Nygren and never looked back, triumphing over the visitors from New York by a score of 20-14. The Dons went on to open the 1946 campaign 3 wins and a tie before hitting a rough spell and finishing the inaugural season out of the playoffs, mired in third place in the AAFC's Western Division with a record of 7-5-2.
For most of their existence, the Dons compiled an average record, and never qualified for the AAFC playoffs. This was mainly because they were in the same division as the league's two most powerful teams, the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers. Unlike the Browns, 49ers and Baltimore Colts, the Dons were not one of the AAFC teams that remained intact when the AAFC merged with the National Football League in 1950: they merged with the crosstown Rams of the older league after the 1949 season.
One Dons player, William Radovich, formerly of the NFL Detroit Lions, filed a lawsuit against the NFL after being blacklisted from playing or working in it afterwards. It led to the Supreme Court ruling, in the case of Radovich v. National Football League, that professional football, unlike baseball, was subject to antitrust laws.
|1946||7||5||2||3rd AAFC West||--|
|1947||7||7||0||3rd AAFC West||--|
|1948||7||7||0||3rd AAFC West||--|
- Jerry Crowe, "The Dons of L.A. Pro Sports," Los Angeles Times, September 13, 2006.
- Ray Schmidt, "Welcome to LA," Archived May 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine The Coffin Corner, vol. 25, no. 3 (2003), pg. 1.
- Ray Schmidt, "Welcome to LA," pg. 6.
- "Brooklyn Dodgers 14 at Los Angeles Dons 20: Friday, September 13, 1946," pro-football-reference.com/
- "1946 Los Angeles Dons," pro-football-reference.com/
- James P. Quirk and Rodney D. Fort, Pay Dirt: The Business of Professional Team Sports, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992; pg. 438.
- Los Angeles Dons Franchise Encyclopedia, pro-football-reference.com/