I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago that I had just finished reading an advanced copy of the book Father on the Line, a son’s dedication to his late dad, a guard for the LA Rams during some of the most historic moments for the franchise, the league, and especially the city. The book is now available for purchase as of today and I’ll throw up a link for Amazon and something not Amazon.
For example, the person pictured above is not author Jim Hock’s dad (John Hock, the aforementioned guard who is a one-time Pro Bowler for reasons that may surprise you) but quarterback Bob Waterfield and his wife Jane Russell, high school sweethearts who ended up becoming a Hall of Famer and one of America’s most well-known actresses and sex symbols.
Them and many more Rams-affiliated names other than Hock are detailed in Father on the Line. I asked Turf Show Times readers to send me some questions for Jim Hock about those players and then Hock sent me back some answers.
Can you tell me something about Dick “Night Train” Lane?
Jim Hock: Lane was born in Austin, Texas, and when he was three months old was abandoned by his birth parents, a prostitute and pimp. He was found, covered in newspapers, in a dumpster and adopted by Ella Lane. He grew up poor, busing tables and shining shoes. He went to a segregated high school and was a talented multi-sport athlete, even playing in the Negro baseball league for the Omaha Rockets. He still has the rookie NFL record for 14 interceptions and got the name from his teammate Tom Fears who played the record “Night Train” by Jimmy Forest. Lane would always dance anytime Fears would play the record.
What kind of a guy was Norm Van Brocklin?
JH: My dad would say he was a super fiery guy and he absolutely loved him. Like a flamethrower. He would tell you exactly what he was thinking at all times. When i talked to Art Donovan for the book, he said he and Van would be screaming at each other all the time before the ball was snapped. And then they would have beers and laugh about it after.
How common was it for players to have side jobs and what are some of the most interesting off-season careers you’ve heard about?
JH: Very common. They did not get paid very much. My dad basically made roughly the same as my mom did as a teacher.
The pads and helmets look practically “useless” compared to today. How effective were the pads or what were their intended purposes at that time?
JH: The pads were not very good at all. The helmets came into being in the early ‘50s and until then my dad would say that in college he could put his leather helmet in his back pocket. Much of the pads were just cloth and very soft foam.
What long term effects did NFL football have on John Hock in the decades after he retired, both physically and mentally?
JH: My dad’s body was a mess. He could not even throw a football to me when i was a kid because he could not lift his shoulders. His knees were huge balls and were frankly shot. And I believe that if my dad lived longer — he passed away from cancer at 72 — that he likely would have had CTE. Many of his friends that I interviewed for the book we found out later they had brain injuries.