The Washington Redskins and St. Louis Rams first began playing each other in 1937.
When the Rams moved to Los Angeles in 1946 the Redskins were holding their training camp in San Diego. For the next 15 years the teams played each other in the Times Charity Game. An exhibition held in the Los Angeles Coliseum to benefit charities in the Los Angeles area.
According to the Redskisn 50th anniversay yearbook the idea for the game came from the Los Angeles Times newspapers. They sponsored the game through its existence until 1960. The idea of NFL teams playing exhibition games for charity was nothing new. The annual Chicago College All-Star game between college All-Americans and the NFL champion was a charity event. One could not imagine NFL teams donating proceeds from gate receipts to charity today.
The market for a Redskins-Rams exhibition game existed from the moment the two teams arrived in California. Before the Rams moved the two had met in Cleveland to decide the 1945 NFL championship. The Rams won that game 15-14 and headed west as the NFL champions. The Redskins were the league’s number two team so selling the game to the public was easy.
In 1951 the two teams drew a crowd of 95,985 fans to the Coliseum. By this time the Rams were riding high as defending National Conference Champions. They would win it all that season. Meanwhile Washington was on the decline as their 3-9 record in 1950 would attest. The team would somewhat rebound to finish 5-7 in 1951.
The Rams won that charity game and the next three as well.
In 1955 the Redskins ended the Rams four year winning streak by beating them, 31-28. The headline in the Los Angeles Times reads,
’77,935 See ‘Skins Upset Rams, 31 to 28’
Underneath is a picture of Rams end Bob Boyd catching a touchdown pass over Redskins defensive back Bert Zagers. In the right corner of the picture is the word “TOUCHDOWN.’ By the diving Zagers is his name and under Boyd’s feet is his.
Two things that are interesting about the picture are that the ball is white with black stripes and a photographer is actually standing in the end zone while the action is going on. White footballs were used in night games in the early fifties. And photographers were always near the action and on the field.
The game program from the 1956 meeting has an image of a player painted gold with his leg extended as if following through on a punt. Stars decorate the cover and the date says August 17, 1956. The Redskins won that year 39-21.
The Times Charity Game came to an end in 1960. Three years later the Redskins decided to move their training camp back east to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Pro football was turning into a big money industry and charity games were becoming a thing of the past.
In all, the Times Charity Games raised more than a million dollars. The biggest one game net was $117,284.69 in 1959. The monies collected from all of the games helped to build three boys clubs in the Los Angeles area.
For 15 years the Redskins and Rams gave the fans in Los Angeles a competitive, preseason football game in which both teams played hard and fans turned out in huge numbers.
All of which helped an entire community prosper along the way.