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Questions for Jim Hock, author of ‘Father on the Line’

A book about the original Los Angeles Rams, the milestones they set for the NFL, and a Pro Bowl guard

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Elroy Hirsch - Los Angeles Rams - File Photos Photo by Vic Stein/Getty Images

What questions might you have for someone who played with the 50s Rams or at least knows quite a few people who did? That’s what I’m looking for from you this weekend if you’d be interested to participate.

I was recently sent an advanced copy of a new book called “Father on the Line” because I wanted to become more familiar with the Rams of decades past; reading the comments here at Turf Show Times, I’m often reminded of how adept the knowledge of the old school pre-St. Louis teams is among many of you and I could use more context on Hall of Fame names like Norm Van Brocklin, Bob Waterfield, Tom Fears, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch (pictured above), Andy Robustelli, Pete Rozelle, and more.

That context is available in this book, as well as plenty of additional information about Los Angeles of the Fifties, the politics, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Disneyland.

What is “Father on the Line”?

John Hock would forever consider himself a Los Angeles Ram, and his playing days are lyrically chronicled in the new book by his son Jim Hock “FATHER ON THE LINE” (Rare Bird, August 11, 2020), a rare literary view of the National Football League from the line of scrimmage. Hock was one of a close-knit group of linemen who played through the pain, sacrificing their bodies well before the big paydays of the modern game. In the 1950s, when the NFL was no more than a small neighborhood of twelve teams, these entertainers crouched in their three-point stances and shared the repeated violent intimacy of weekly collisions. And loved every moment of it.

These Rams were innovative and forward thinking. They were the first major professional sports team to move west of the Mississippi River. They were the first to integrate—roughly a full year before the Brooklyn Dodgers played Jackie Robinson. They were glamorous, playing where Hollywood and pro football intertwined—performing for the performers—and in front of some of the largest crowds of the era at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. And most of all, they were exciting. Everything in Los Angeles was so new—booming in population, innovation and imagination—and so impossible to predict. Each day was so full of promise.

Obviously you can’t read the book until August 11 (a pre-order is available here) but you may have some pre-loaded questions for author Jim Hock about the Rams of the 40s and 50s. It was his father John who played in the NFL and who is the subject of the book, but Jim’s knowledge of the sport and the Rams comes not only from an insider’s perspective as a family member, but from a researcher’s perspective.

Rather than me throwing him questions based on the book, I figured it would be a great opportunity to give TST readers a chance to ask him questions about former Los Angeles guard John Hock and playing offensive line back at that time, or any of his more famous teammates, or his dad’s sole Pro Bowl appearance, or Van Brocklin, Sid Gillman, Hampton Pool, Pete Rozelle, how the Rams moved from Cleveland to LA, the marriage between Waterfield and Hollywood star Jane Russell, growing up in LA, and plenty more.

Here are more stories from the book that may help generate a question:

  • How the Rams arrived from Cleveland in 1946 already “married” to Hollywood
  • The story of how the Rams integrated professional football
  • Hock’s role in the 1950 Orange Bowl against Bear Bryant’s Kentucky team
  • How Angelenos became the first fans in the country to watch their NFL team play home games on TV
  • John Hock’s charming courtship of his wife, Micki
  • The significance of the opening of Disneyland in Southern California in the summer of 1955
  • The Walt Disney-esque inventiveness and optimism that became the hallmarks for L.A. in the 1950s
  • Sid Gillman’s arrival as coach of the Rams in 1955
  • The memorable final regular season home game of 1955 versus the Packers in front of 90,000 spectators
  • The forgettable 1955 NFL Championship versus the Cleveland Browns
  • Councilwoman Roz Wyman’s quest to change Los Angeles’s sports future
  • The attempt to leverage out principal owner Dan Reeves because of his drinking problem
  • John Hock’s odd inclusion in the 1956 Pro Bowl Game
  • Hock’s long plight with knee injuries that would eventually force him to retire
  • The “shuttle guard” strategy that would eventually create a schism on the dynamic Rams offense
  • The elevation of young public relations man, Pete Rozelle, to the Rams’ front office
  • How the Rams were the first professional franchise to draw a million fans in 1957.

Send me any questions you may have and I’ll send some over to Jim Hock, with answers coming next time!