Dad (Murray "Moe" Franklin) was originally from Chicago and played football briefly at the University of Illinois and hated it and went on to play baseball there and later signed a contract with Detroit and eventually reached the big leagues. So the Bears had been his team and were a notoriously rough and sometimes dirty bunch, once hailed as “Monsters of the Midway,” with beasts like Bill George and Fred Williams and big Doug Atkins and were coached by the legendary George Halas. Chicago had a quarterback named Ed Brown who could heave a spiral 80 yards and hit a receiver like tall lanky very speedy Harlon Hill on a dime. Even faster than Hill and perhaps the fastest man in the league was their sleek black halfback, Willie Galimore.
Dad and I arrived at the Coliseum 2 hours before game time so we could check the players out from our program, read their bios, and study them with our binoculars as they warmed up, doing calisthenics, stretching, running wind sprints, and best of all watching them run plays and follow the high booming spirals of punters come down to a Willie Galimore who settled under it, caught it, and took off like a flash in zigzag patterns.
Watching Galimore, Dad said, “He’s so smooth he doesn’t even look like he’s running. He glides, like his feet skim the grass. White guys don’t run like that, not even Arnett. He reminds me of Jesse Owens.”
Then Dad related to me a story of Owens when he was playing his first year of minor league baseball in Beckley, West Virginia. At that time Owens was running exhibitions after his miraculous feats in the Olympics at ball parks, taking on the fastest man on all white teams and giving them a ten yard head start at 100 yards. Since Dad was the fastest guy in the league and described in local papers as “Grease Lightning,” he took on Owens.
“Dell, I got a hell of a start, and I was ahead, and I couldn’t hear him, because he was so light on his feet, I thought I might beat him, and then, with about ten yards to go, he flew by me like I was standing still. Afterwards he shook my hand. A very gracious man.”
Watching Galimore take handoffs from Brown and burst through holes in practice drills, he was an arrow cutting through wind.
At game time, the Bears were introduced and ran onto the field from the tunnel at the end of the stadium, and then the Rams congregated at the tunnel, lined up, and the starting line-up was announced, each Ram sprinting onto the field, and then the PA announcer boomed, “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, YOUR LOS ANGELES RAMS!” And the team burst onto the field and you felt goose bumps and Dad nodded at me and smacked my shoulder. “You ready, boy?”
Oh yeh. It was an amazing game, with oodles of offense and vicious tackles. Just as in practice, Ed Brown hit Harlon Hill with an 80 plus yard touchdown, Hill catching it over his shoulder on a dead run while the Ram defensive back trailed by half a yard and lunged at him and missed. All afternoon Brown assassinated the Ram secondary. Meanwhile, John Arnett returned several punts, zig-zagging, Cutting sharply, reversing field, his balance so exquisite he’d reach down and touch the ground in some instances, a puma. Half the game Dad and I were standing and shouting. Folks around us flashed looks of shock at our rabid behavior. Since the stadium, which held 100,000, was not even half full, Dad and I moved down several rows for a better view and witnessed a maniac named Ed Meadows continue to rush the passer after the ref called the Rams for movement on the line and threw a flag and blew his whistle. Meadows grabbed unsuspecting quarterback Norm Van Brocklin by the head and threw him to the ground, Van Brocklin’s helmet flying off, and Van Brocklin was livid, pointing, screaming, and they penalized Meadows for roughing the passer but didn’t kick him out of the game, and Dad said, “These guys are animals, Dell. betcha they’ll retaliate in five minutes. You watch.”
Sure enough, a few minutes later, after Galimore was corralled on the sidelines and taken down around the Ram 20 yard line, Les Richter, a middle linebacker known for his dirty tactics, piled on, and lay upon Galimore, squashing him, and little George Halas, in suit and tie, sprinted down the Bear sideline and began beating on Richter’s helmet with his clipboard before the refs pulled him off and then Halas began berating the refs for not calling a penalty on Richter, who was engaged in shoving matches with Bear players before refs broke that up.
Dad was up and screaming. “Look at that old man sticking up for his players. Hot damn!”
The Rams lost in a high scoring, exciting game full of spectacular plays. Hill scored 3 touchdowns. Arnett wowed the crowd over and over again on kickoff and punt returns during which there occurred several blindside blocks and we were angry he wasn’t used as a running back, cussing the Ram head coach. At the end we were both drained and nearly voiceless. We walked out of the stadium and Dad commented on how gifted these athletes were, how they were the “cream of the crop.” There were so many great plays I urged Dad to get home so we could catch highlights on the 5 o’clock sports section of the local news. But the traffic was heavy and we didn’t get home until 6. Dad said I could stay up for the late news at eleven o’clock and watch highlights even though I had to go to school the next morning, because he was going to watch them too and knew I’d be miserable if I couldn’t relive those moments with him.
We both wanted to see the Hill catch and Arnett and Galimore’s runs one more time before they disappeared forever. Exhausted as we were, our bodies and minds were still reverberating with the excitement of a great NFL football came—cream of the crop.