Golden Football Magazine
NFL Championship Games
1945: Washington Redskins @ Cleveland Rams
This series covers the history of the NFL through the prism of its yearly championship games.
Note: The gray boxes contain asides that provide interesting material but could be skipped without losing the conti­nuity of the article.





NFL Commissioner Elmer Layden
Elmer Layden


Eagles RB Steve Van Buren
Steve Van Buren

Redskins Coach Dudley DeGroot
Dudley DeGroot

Redskins QB Sammy Baugh
Sammy Baugh

Rams QB Bob Waterfield and his wife, movie star Jane Russell
Bob Waterfield and
his wife, Jane Russell

Rams E Jim Benton
Jim Benton

Rams RB Fred Gehrke
Fred Gehrke

Broadcaster Harry Wismer
Harry Wismer


Cleveland Rams Owner Dan Reeves
Dan Reeves
1945 NFL Championship Game Program

With the fall of Nazi Germany in May and Japan's surrender in August, the country began to return to normal just as the '45 football season began.
  • A total of 638 men with NFL experience served in the military, and 21 of those were killed.
  • Many former players were furloughed in time for the new season, but others had to wait a while.
    The return of so many former players allowed veterans like Don Hutson, Arnie Herber, and Mel Hein to retire after the '45 season at ages 32, 35, and 36 respectively.

Some changes in franchises occurred before the 1945 NFL season.

  • The Steelers returned to independent operation in Pittsburgh after merging with the Philadelphia Eagles for the '43 season and the Chicago Cardinals in '44.
  • However, the Brooklyn Tigers and the Boston Yanks joined forces for '45. The combined team played half their home games in each city.
  • The first postwar season attracted a record attendance of 1,918,631 fans, 28,636 per outing including exhibition games.
  • During the war, the national anthem had been played before each game. Commis­sioner Elmer Layden decreed that the practice would continue. "It should be as much a part of every game as the kickoff. We must not drop it simply because the war is over. We should never forget what it stands for."

Major rules changes for 1945 included several dealing with the popular T formation.

  1. The roster limit was raised back to 33 to accommodate the returning servicemen.
  2. The hashmarks were moved closer to the center of the field, 20y from the side­lines.
  3. A player extending his arms under the center must receive the snap, or the offense incurs a false start penalty.
  4. When a snap is muffed by the receiving player and the ball touches the ground, it is a fumble.
  5. A team scoring a touchdown may opt to place the ball at the two or further from the goal line. (This rule is still in place but almost never used.)
  6. A punt that crosses the line of scrimmage and touches a member of the receiving team may be recovered by the kicking team.
  7. Wearing socks was mandatory.
As in 1944, the Eastern Division again came down to the Redskins and Eagles.
  • Philadelphia, energized by Coach Greasy Neale and second-year RB Steve Van Buren, who led the league in rushing with 832y, finished 7-3. They split with the Redskins, each team winning at home, and beat Western Champion Cleveland at home, but a loss at Detroit in Week Two cost them a chance to tie the Red­skins.
  • Washington coach Dudley DeGroot installed the T-formation when he took over the year before. Since no one had played the T in college, the team had trouble adapting. But by 1945, QB Sammy Baugh and his mates had the system down pat. Slingin' Sam, who didn't take as much of a beating in the T because he didn't have to run, led the league in completion % (70.3), was second in passing yards (1669), and had the lowest interception rate (2.2%). (He estimated that the switch to the T lengthened his career 7-8 years.)
    Baugh had spent the '44 season commuting back and forth from his Texas cat­tle ranch to play on weekends. His draft board deferred him so that he could over­see the production of beef that was essential to the war effort. Baugh's "man-in-motion" play, as Washington Post writer Shirley Povich dubbed it, rankled many citizens. A War Department official told Povich, "We got thou­sands of pro­testing letters from fathers and mothers of boys in the service asking how Baugh could be permitted to use essential transportation to fly more than half way across the country for the Redskins' games. They were hard to answer." That situation and similar ones led to the War Department instructing draft boards not to give prominent individuals special treatment without approval.
  • The Redskins began the season with a shocking loss to the Yanks in the rain at Boston. But the Skins won the rest of their games except for the 16-0 loss No­vember 25 in Philly.
  • Washington benefitted from a favorable schedule that didn't include Cleveland and Detroit, the two best teams in the West.
  • The balanced Redskins led the NFL in total offense (3549) but also allowed the fewest points - 121 in ten games.

The Cleveland Rams came out of nowhere to win the West.

  • Only two years removed from sitting out the '43 campaign, the Rams jumped from 4-6 in '44 to 9-1 in '45, the first of their eight seasons in which they broke .500.
  • When coach Aldo Donelli enlisted in the military after the '44 season, GM Chile Walsh appointed his brother Adam as the new coach. An All-American center on Knute Rockne's Four Horsemen team (1922-24), Adam amassed an uninspiring 80-85-11 record as a college coach before answering his brother's summons.
  • But GM Walsh's best move had occurred a year early when he drafted QB Bob Waterfield of UCLA in the fifth round while Bob served in the army. When a knee injury led to his discharge, Waterfield played for UCLA in 1944 before joining the Rams in '45.
  • The 25-year-old rookie attracted the public's attention because of his marriage to glamorous movie star Jane Russell, whom he had known from Van Nuys (CA) High School.
  • But Bob delivered on the field, becoming the first rookie to win the MVP award. Even veterans responded to his quiet leadership. He completed 52% of his passes for 1,609y and 14 touchdowns, which led the league. In the first Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit since 1938, Waterfield threw ten times to E Jim Benton, who set an NFL record of 303 receiving yards in the 28-21 win that clinched the division title. (Benton's record lasted until 1985 and still ranks third all-time.)
  • Cleveland led the league in rushing with 1714y and finished just 3y behind the Redskins in total offense (3,459-3,456).
The oddsmakers made the Rams a four-point or 5 to 8 favorite, which made sense since Cleveland had compiled a better record than Washington against a stronger schedule.
  • Newspaper coverage centered on the quarterbacl duel: the new gunslinger from the West Coast vs. the Southwest veteran.
  • Just as Waterfield had Benton, Baugh favored HB Steve Bagarus, a 26-year-old rookie from Notre Dame. (1945 rosters included many older rookies who served in the military before starting their NFL career.) "Opposing gridders say he can be stopped only by grabbing him around the neck or chest, because you can't get a grip on his legs," wrote the Associated Press's Sid Feder. Bagarus led the Skins in catches with 34, twice as many as the next receiver (Doug Turley).
  • Redskin Joe Aguirre, who led the NFL in field goals with seven, might decide a close game with his toe.
  • Backing up Waterfield in the Rams' T backfield were the "G-whiz" gallopers: Fred Gehrke, Jim Gillette, and Don Greenwood. The first two averaged better than six yards a carry during the season.
  • A Cleveland victory would break the four-club "monopoly" on the championship held by the Bears, Packers, Giants, and Redskins since the first title game in 1933. Washington had copped the crown in '37 and '42.
  • In case of a tie, the teams would be declared co-champs and split the 70% share of the gate receipts that would go to the players.

Neither team reported a significant injury.

  • However, Baugh had bruised several ribs two weeks earlier. He hadn't told any­body except the Redskins' trainer.
  • Still in pain, Sam told DeGroot and assistant coach Turk Edwards Saturday night before the game.
  • Earlier in the day after the Redskin cortege arrived by train two hours late, De­Groot had refused to confirm rumors that Baugh's "back injury" might reduce his effectiveness.

The sun shown in Cleveland Saturday for the first time in a week.

  • The forecast for Sunday called for "cloudy, windy, cold and light snow" with the temperature "below 15°." However, the thermometer dropped to 3° at midnight Saturday with every prospect of falling even further by dawn.
  • Cleveland's 82,000-seat Municipal Stadium, on the shore of Lake Erie, would receive the brunt of any Arctic blasts. Tiny islands of ice were visible floating in the lake.
  • 35,000 tickets had been sold, but how many would stay home and listen to Harry Wismer's broadcast on the Blue network (forerunner of ABC)? If the weather warmed up, Cleveland could break the record attendance at a championship game of 52,700 for the '38 clash between the Packers and Giants in the Polo Grounds.
  • The city employed 130 men and 75 boys to remove the snow that had fallen for several days.
  • Stadium Groundskeeper Emil Bossard gathered 275 men to help him prepare the field for the game. Many of the workers were vagrants and drifters along with returning servicemen looking for work, and 100 high school youths. Each worker would receive $6, a lunch, and a seat for the game. Several days before the game, Bossard directed his crew to cover the playing field with 9,000 bales of hay to create a 4' blanket of insulation, then pull the tarpaulin over it. The hay cost 33-year-old owner Dan Reeves a small fortune ($7,500) since farmers were not inclined to part with hay in the winter for the sake of pro football.
    The pioneering Bossard was one of the first pair of inductee into the Major League Baseball Groundskeeper Hall of Fame in 2012.
1945 NFL Championship Ticket
Cleveland Municipal Stadium
Cleveland Municipal Stadium, unaffectionately known as "The Mistake by the Lake"
1945 Washington Redskins
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
00 Steve Bagarus HB 6-0 173 Notre Dame 1
11 Cece Hare B 5-11 195 Gonzaga 3
13 John Koniszewski T 6-3 243 George Washington 1
14 Tom Miller E 6-2 202 Hampden-Sydney 3
16 Ev Sharp T 6-1 223 Cal Poly-Pomona 2
17 Fred Davis T 6-3 244 Alabama 3
18 Frank Akins HB 5-10 208 Washington State 3
19 Joe Aguirre E 6-4 225 St. Mary's (CA) 4
20 Bob Seymour FB 6-2 205 Oklahoma 6
22 Doug Turley E 6-2 215 Scranton 2
26 Al Lolotai G-T 6-0 224 Weber State 1
27 Earl Audet T 6-2 252 Georgetown 1
29 Bill deCorrevont HB 6-0 186 Northwestern 1
30 Frank Filchock QB 5-10 193 Indiana 6
31 Larry Weldon B-E 6-0 198 Presbyterian 2
32 Sal Rosato FB 6-1 228 Villanova 1
33 Sammy Baugh QB 6-2 182 TCU 9
34 Michael Micka HB 6-0 188 Colgate 2
35 Wilbur Moore HB 5-11 187 Minnesota 7
37 Jim Watson C 6-0 205 Pacific 1
38 Les Dye E 6-1 181 Syracuse 2
39 Zip Hanna G 5-10 218 South Carolina 1
40 Wayne Millner E 6-1 189 Notre Dame 7
41 Dick Todd HB 5-11 172 Texas A&M 5
42 John Adams T 6-7 242 Notre Dame 1
44 Merle Condit HB 5-11 187 Carnegie Tech 5
45 Alex Piasecky E 6-2 197 Georgia 3
46 Joe Ungerer T 6-0 243 Fordham 2
48 Marv Whited G 5-10 208 Oklahoma 2
51 Reid Lennon G 6-0 232 None 1
53 Al DeMao C 6-2 214 Duquesne 1
55 Ki Aldrich C 6-0 207 TCU 5
61 Robert DeFruiter HB 6-0 190 Nebraska 1
1945 Cleveland Rams
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
7 Bob Waterfield QB 6-1 200 UCLA 1
10 Steve Nemeth QB-HB 5-10 174 Notre Dame 1
11 Riley Matheson G 6-2 207 Cameron 7
12 Harvey Jones FB 6-0 175 Baylor 2
15 Roger Harding C 6-2 217 California 1
16 Walter Zirinsky HB 5-11 187 Lafayette 1
17 Sonny Liles G 5-8 188 Oklahoma State 3
18 Fred Gehrke HB 5-11 189 Utah 2
19 George Koch HB 6-0 200 St. Mary's (TX) 1
20 Ralph Ruthstrom B 6-5 212 Sam Houston St. 1
22 Dave Bernard BB 5-10 194 Mississippi 2
24 Jim Gillette HB 6-1 185 Virginia 3
26 Albie Reisz HB 5-10 175 SE Louisiana 2
27 Milan Lazetich G 6-1 211 Montana 1
30 Steve Pritko E 6-2 209 Villanova 3
31 Art Mergenthal G 5-11 215 Tennessee 1
32 Bob Shaw E 6-4 226 Ohio State 1
34 Tom Colella HB 6-0 187 Canisius 4
35 Joe Winkler C 6-1 200 Purdue 1
36 Pat West FB 6-0 201 Pittsburgh 1
38 Floyd Konetsky E 6-0 197 Florida 2
39 Mike Scarry C-T 6-0 214 Waynesburg 2
40 Eberle Schultz T-G 6-4 252 Oregon State 6
41 Les Lear T 5-11 225 Manitoba 2
42 Gil Bouley T 6-2 235 Boston College 1
43 Roger Eason G 6-1 227 Oklahoma 1
44 Ray Hamilton E 6-4 212 Arkansas 4
48 Rudy Sikich T 6-1 220 Minnesota 1
49 Jim Benton E 6-3 200 Arkansas 7
53 Red Hickey E 6-2 204 Arkansas 2
64 Len Levy G 6-0 256 Minnesota 7
65 Bob deLauer C 6-1 218 USC 1
66 Don Greenwood B 6-0 190 Missouri 1
1945 Washington Redskins
1945 Washington Redskins
  • Sunday dawned sunny but frigid.
  • The famous 110-piece Redskins band led the contingent of Washington rooters in a parade to the stadium in sub-zero weather.
  • An hour before kickoff, the thermometer read -2° as the players warmed up – or tried to. The mercury rose a few degrees above zero by kickoff but never got higher than 6° all afternoon. A "wild and wooly" wind made the cold worse.
  • During warmups, Baugh's passes had no zip because he couldn't grip the ball well and his ribs ached. When DeGroot suggested that backup Frank Filchock start in his place, Sam said he wanted to try. "Maybe it'll warm up, and I'll feel better."
  • Waterfield had gotten up before dawn to study his playbook. He worried about making a critical mistake. "I never thought about the weather." Before the game, he signed a three-year contract with the Rams that would make him the highest-paid player in the NFL in 1946 at $20,000.
  • The players noticed the bales of straw around the field. Bossard had turned on the floodlights at 6:30 AM so his crew could clear the field, a job they completed just minutes before the teams came out for pregame exercise.
  • Despite Bossard's best efforts, patches of ice covered the field, especially in the part of the field that served as the infield during baseball season. Baugh recalled: "It was like trying to play on a paved surface. Like we were out in the street." Others likened the playing surface to a hockey rink.
  • The Redskins brought sneakers to give them better traction on the frozen field. However, the Rams had only cleats. Cleveland coach Adam Walsh appealed to Dud DeGroot, Washington's head man, and DeGroot agreed that his squad would play in the traditional football shoes. He refused to reconsider the decision even after his players found the footing treacherous during pregame warmups. That would turn out to be the decision that swayed the outcome of the game against his team.
  • The press box could hold only 50 reporters. The rest of the media corps were issued seats in the stands. A fireman on duty in the press box constantly wiped frost off the windows to give the newspapermen clear views of the action.
  • The officials bundled up like the players. Just before kickoff, umpire Harry Robb hurried into the dugout for a pair of gloves. He had played for the Canton Bulldogs 20 years earlier. "But I'd forgotten how much your nose and ears and hands hurt. It all came back to me that day."
  • Fifteen minutes before kickoff, no more than 1,500 Eskimos inhabited the stands in the mammoth horseshoe stadium that seated 82,000. But by kickoff, 32,178 hardy souls showed up in all sorts of cold weather gear: blankets, parkas, earmuffs, stadium boots, flying suits, ski troop uniforms. Many coped with the cold the old fashioned way. "A veteran of attendance at football games ... said he had never seen so many inebriates in crowds even three times as large ... Some of the blanket-shrouded spectators who tried to obtain internal warmth curled up and went to sleep in the bitter cold, and a canvass of the stands had to be made to awaken a few of them lest they freeze when the warmth wore off." (Cleve­land Plain Dealer)
  • Vendors peddled hot coffee in the stands. When one clumsy vendor attempted to apolo­gize for spilling coffee on a fan, he was told, "Never mind. The pleasure is all mine."
  • The police arrested 14 for imbibing too much anti-freeze. Several had to be ferried home in police ambulances because of chills.
  • Many tickets were turned in at the stadium gates for possible resale. None were resold because practically no business was done at the windows.
  • One of the celebrities in attendance was Cleveland Indians' star RHP Bob Feller, who reported his wife and new son were both doing very well.
  • Another notable braving the cold was Les Horvath, Ohio State All-American of 1944 who was an officer at Great Lakes Naval Station. Horvath was under contract to the Rams when he finished his military enlistment.
Rams huddling on sidelines. Rams huddle on their sideline behind bales of hay.

Fans expected a passing duel between Washington's wily veteran and their hometown hero from sunny California. The game would be decided in their heroes' favor on a pass by Baugh that nobody caught.

  • Quarter 1
    Following Pat West's kickoff, Redskins FB Frank Akins hit the line for 8y but picked up a broken nose from the hit by Rams G Riley Matheson. But Frank refused to leave the game. After Akins was thrown for a 4y loss, Baugh punted on fourth down, Gillette re­turning to the Ram 21.
    Gehrke sped 16y on a crossbuck. Then Waterfield started attacking rookie DB Robert DeFruiter, hitting Benton twice, the second time for 30y to the 14, where DeFruiter pulled him down. The Redskins tried to counter by having veteran Dick Todd, a former top running back who was converted to safety, lend a hand. But the Redskins stiffened, no great feat in the icy weather. Gehrke, trying to run wide right, was nailed by E Wayne Millner for a 6y loss. Greenwood hit the center for 6y before a flat pass from Waterfield to Benton put the ball on the eight. On fourth down, Gillette drove into tackle but just missed the first down at the five.
    Baugh dropped back to the end of the end zone in what appeared to be punt formation. But Sammy planned to pass. However, he dropped the snap, picked it up, and heaved it toward the sideline to avoid a safety, earning an intentional grounding penalty that moved the ball to the 2 1/2. On second down, he called for a quick crossing pattern to either Millner or Bagarus. So Baugh took the snap in the same formation, bent down as if to punt, then threw the ball on a high arc toward the left sideline in the direction of Mill­ner, who recalled: "Everyone expected Sam to punt because we were backed up to the goal line. There was no one within a mile of me when I broke into the clear. But as Baugh threw the ball, the wind shifted and blew the ball into the goalpost." The players assumed the pass was incomplete, including Baugh, who fell on the ball just in case. But the officials invoked a little-known rule that said that a pass thrown from the end zone that hits the goal post results in a safety. So Cleveland led 2-0 after 9:20 of play.
    "I had a damn touchdown," Baugh recalled. "Wayne was clear out there, but I couldn't get as much on the ball as I usually did. ... 'Damn!' I said as soon as the ball hit the post. I was upset about not completing the pass. I had no idea about a safety until the referee made the signal, but even then I still was more damn mad at missing a touchdown than at Cleveland getting two points."
    The Rams were back in Washington territory as the period ended.
1945 NFL Championship Game Action
L: Baugh takes fateful snap in end zone. R: Gillette runs on his way to 101y on the day.
  • Quarter 2
    Waterfield booted a bulls-eye corner kick out of bounds on the four.
    Since Baugh was obviously not at his best, Filchock took over under center with Merle Condit handling the punting. With the Ram line bottling up the Skins' infantry attack (just 35y on 34 attempts for the game), the six-year veteran's right arm would have to move the ball. Baugh would see little action the rest of the day and finish with only one completion for 1y in six attempts.
    The Redskins missed Baugh on defense as much as offense. He was an excellent safety, a sure tackler and a defensive quarterback who could read the opposition's offense as though he were operating it.
    The tide turned later when LB Ki Aldrich intercepted a Waterfield throw intended for Steve Pritko and returned to the Skin 48. Filchock's pass fell incomplete, but Cleve­land was penalized 15y for roughing to the 38. On the next play, Frank threw down the right sideline to Bagarus, who shook off Waterfield at the 12 and pranced into the end zone. When Aguirre booted the PAT, Washington led 7-2 with 5:31 left in the half.
    In the 12th minute, the Rams regained the lead, marching 70y in six plays. A flat pass to Gillette gained only a yard. Jim then ripped off 19 over tackle to the Washington 46. On the next play, a mix-up in the backfield left Waterfield uncovered, and he was thrown back to the Ram 49. But Bob came back with a 14y pass to Benton near the sideline in front of new DB Les Dye to the 37. Then Benton ran a post pattern from left end and grabbed a Waterfield pass 3y behind Dye and raced to the end zone to complete a 37y play. Rams 9 Redskins 7.
    Waterfield recalled marveling at his receivers' performance. "It was so cold I remember thinking at the time, 'How do these guys hold the ball?' I didn't have any trouble with the ball, but then I didn't have to catch it."
    The Rams' second weird break came on the PAT attempt. Several Redskins broke through, and T John Koniszewski got a hand on Waterfield's kick. But the ball was deflected just high enough to strike the crossbar and bounce over it to make it 9-7 Rams. In the broadcast booth, Wismer, who had already explained the odd safety to his audi­ence, said: "It's certainly a strange day. I can't remember ever seeing that one, either." "That extra point would make all the difference in the outcome," Shirley Povich wrote in the Washington Post: "To this point, the goal posts have been the twelfth man in the Rams' line-up."
    LB West gave the Rams another sterling opportunity when he intercepted a pass and ran 24y to the 12 with a minute to go. But Aldrich intercepted again to spoil the chance.
1945 NFL Championship Game Action - 3
Waterfield's PAT kick bounces over crossbar.

Cold or no cold, the Redskins' band performed at halftime although they had to thaw out their reeds and brass. They formed a W, then presented a Christmas tableau. The bandsmen spelled out XMAS while a rotund Santa Claus was pulled onto the field by six other Santa Clauses, and Jack Horwitz's band, which provided music at all Rams home games, played "White Christmas."
  • Quarter 3
    The Rams took the kickoff and marched 81y to their second touchdown. Gillette made 6y and Gehrke 5y for a first down on the 30. Jim added two more, and Waterfield passed to the reliable Benton for 8y to the 40. After an incompletion, Gillette broke loose for 14y. Two more runs put the ball on the 39, but an offside penalty set the Rams back to the 44. On the next play, Gillette darted down the center of the field past Al­drich and caught Waterfield's beautiful pass over his shoulder in stride at the nine just beyond two defenders. One dove and got a hand on Jim but didn't prevent him from scoring. Bob's kick sailed wide to leave it 15-7 Rams.
    Later, Bob hemmed in the Redskins with another "coffin corner" punt to the five. But the gold-shirted defense couldn't keep the enemy bottled up, and the Redskins started mov­ing.

    Gillette scores as Dick Todd (41) and Reid Lennan (51) chase in vain.
    With time winding down in the third period, the Redskins started moving. DeFruiter dashed 15y to the 43. Filchock took the next snap, faded back, and, just before the rush got to him, looped a pass down the middle to Bagarus who jumped and grabbed it at the Ram 45. The Fighting Irishman eluded a grasping tackle and ran free until Gehrke roared up and, fighting off a stiff arm, pulled Steve down from behind at the six. T Gil Bouley threw Filchock for an 11y loss. Plunges by Merlyn Condit and Sal Rosato made it 4th-and-goal at the nine. Veteran HB Bob Seymour loped in as a substitute, and the Rams apparently didn't see him. So Filchock took the snap, stepped back looking down the middle, then turned left and spotted Seymour running all alone. Bob took the pass in the end zone with no Ram within shouting distance. Aguirre's conversion made it 15-14 Rams. The scoring had ended but not the excitement.
1945 NFL Championship Game Action
Don Greenwood runs in his makeshift facemask.
The crowning blow to stadium officials came midway through the half when a large water main directly over a ramp on an upper level of the stadium sprung a large leak. Almost as fast the water fell, it froze and formed a toboggan slide with a couple of right angle turns. While no one was hurt, a number of people fell on the ice, and exiting the stadium took considerably longer.
  • Quarter 4
    Filchock and Dye teamed up on a 44y pass play to the Ram 31 midway through the period. Three rushes gained 7y, and Aguirre, whose ironic nickname was "Hot Toe," came on to try a go-ahead field goal. On a frozen field with a frozen ball, kicking was more challenging than passing and catching. The wind that had gusted so strongly stopped as he lined up for the kick. But as soon as his toe struck the ball, the wind whipped up, pushing the ball just wide of the uprights.
    A little while later, Aguirre got another chance from 10y further out. That try didn't come close.
    In the final minute, Filchock chucked the ball from deep in his territory, but Albie Reisz intercepted and ran it back 16y to the Washington 29. Waterfield didn't risk a handoff, pushing into the line himself until the clock ran out.
    Owner Reeves, as was his superstitious custom, sat by himself away from his wife. As the clock wound down under five minutes, he got so excited he had to keep on the move. He could barely bring himself to look at what was happening on the field. He explained afterwards: "I've been used to losing for so long I wasn't counting on anything until it was over."
1945 NFL Championship Game Action - 2
Aguirre launches one of two missed field goals in fourth quarter.


Piece of Crossbar from 1945 Championship Game
Piece of "Waterfield's
Crossbar" in Pro Football
Hall of Fame

A minute before the end, fans started swarming to the sidelines.
  • A few even raced across the field from the north to the south side to be near the Rams' bench.
  • When the final gun sounded, some of the more jubilant fans ripped up a goal post, college fashion.
    More than a half-century later, a man living in Naples, Florida, donated a piece of the crossbar that played such a distinctive role in the game to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
  • Another group set paper on fire in the bleachers, and still a third set set fire to straw that had covered the field. Chemical extinguishers took care of the blazes.
  • A few fans trying to leave the stadium found they had difficulty walking because their feet were frozen.
  • John Dietrich wrote in the Plain Dealer: "It was a triumph not only for the Rams ... but also for professional football. When more than 32,000 fans ... will struggle through zero weather to see a football game, there is no longer any question. The pros have arrived to stay."
Final statistics:
  • First downs: Rams 14 Redskins 8
  • Yards rushing: Rams 44-180, Redskins 34-35
  • Passing: Rams 27-14-2/192, Redskins 9-20-2/179
  • Return yardage: Rams 131, Redskins 155
  • Fumbles-Lost: Rams 1-1, Redskins 1-0
  • Penalties: Rams 6-60, Redskins 4-29

The Rams were more subdued than previous champions. One player spoke for everyone. "Who wants to celebrate? I just want to defrost."

  • Walsh told his team: "You were great all the way." He wandered through the group, shout­ing praise to one and all as he clasped each player by the hand to deliver his personal thanks. He called Waterfield "the greatest T-formation quarterback in the country."
    "They overshifted a bit at times, and that's why we made such good use of Gillette." Jim ended with 17 carries for 101y, almost three times as much as the entire Redskins team gained on the ground.
    Walsh also revealed that regular FB Don Greenwood had received a shoulder injury in the last regular season game that greatly reduced his effectiveness. So West played much of the game at fullback.
    Adam expressed disappointment that the Baugh-Waterfield duel didn't materialize. "We wanted Washington to have its best for us because we know we can beat anything they have."
  • Waterfield, who never endured anything close to these conditions at UCLA, said kicking was tougher than passing. "It's just so tough to get the ball up. The air is so heavy." On his missed PAT: "I just made a bad kick. Maybe my concentration wasn't good. I don't know."
  • Gillette: "Tomorrow's my birthday. But I feel like I got my present today." Jim said the footing was better than it looked and "it only hurt when you hit the ground."
  • One discordant note was the fact that C Mike Scarry, the team captain, hurt his left knee in the final 20 seconds and had to be helped to the dressing room where medical aid was administered.
Rams' Locker Room after Game
Coach Walsh, Greenwood, Waterfield, Benton, Backfield Coach Bob Snyder

Few in the Redskins quiet locker room were in a mood to talk.

  • After leaving his second straight championship game because of injury (the other being in '43), Baugh tried to hide his face as he wept. But a photographer spotted him and snap­ped a picture. Filchock accosted the intruder. "Have you no compassion? It has been a very tough day for us all. Leave us alone.
  • Sammy spoke briefly. "I couldn't grip the ball too good. But Frankie and Waterfield seemed to do fine in the same conditions. Waterfield's going to be a great one."

Many spectators needed medical attention.

  • The police dispatched special details to the Union Terminal and Hotel Cleveland to handle frozen fans who stopped at the first warm building they reached after leaving the sta­dium.
  • Frozen or not, hardy fans celebrated the city's first football championship.

Despite the weather, the gross gate and the players' pool broke records.

  • The players received $95,261 of the $164,542 total, which included a record $15,081 for radio rights.
  • Each Ram took home $1,408.74, $20 more per man than the winning Giants pocketed in '44. The Redskins made $902 apiece.
  • The second place teams in each division, Philadelphia and Detroit, got $4,763 each to split up.
1945 NFL Champion Cleveland Rams
  • Before the 1946 season, the NFL revised the rule that gave the Rams a safety. In the future, any pass hitting the goalpost from in front or behind would be incomplete.
  • Despite winning the championship, Rams owner Dan Reeves still lost money for the '45 season. So he asked the league for permission to move his team to Los Angeles and its 92,000 seat Memorial Coliseum. When the owners voted against him, he threatened to get out of pro football altogether. A settlement was reached that allowed him to take his team to the West Coast for the 1946 season. This remains the only time an NFL champion played its next season in another city.
References: Championship: The NFL Title Games plus Super Bowl, Jerry Izenberg (1970)
NFL Top 40: The Greatest Pro Football Games Ever Played (1988)
Pro Football’s Greatest Moments, Jack Clary (1989)
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