With the Los Angeles Rams offseason in full force, the fanbase will be anxiously awaiting the start of training camp at the end of July. During a slow period in the NFL offseason, finding things to write about are especially challenging when headlines are hard to come by. That’s when my attention shifted to other sports, namely the MLB.
For anyone who isn’t paying attention to what’s going on in baseball right now, LA Angels star Shohei Ohtani is breaking records on a nightly basis. He’s quickly giving Aaron Donald a run for his money as the greatest athlete currently playing in Hollywood. At this rate, Ohtani is quite possibly the best in the world at his craft.
Ohtani won the AL MVP award in 2021 and was a runner-up last season. His two-way abilities are unlike anything ever before seen in professional baseball and he’s become must-watch TV every time he steps onto the field. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Ohtani won his second career MVP award or makes a strong push for the Cy Young this year.
The guy is just that freaking good. He has to be if I’m mentioning him on a football site. Ohtani’s production is absurd and it feels like nothing is going to slow his greatness down any time soon.
Shohei Ohtani is truly one of a kind. pic.twitter.com/XvVpYUrFJX— DraftKings (@DraftKings) June 30, 2023
14+ home runs and 4+ stolen bases just in June:— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) June 30, 2023
Ryne Sandberg, 1990
Shohei Ohtani, 2023
That's it. No one else in MLB history has done it. pic.twitter.com/WSrimYIFSi
Unlike in baseball, two-way players are a thing of the past in today’s NFL. Back in the old days however, it was common for players to line up on both offense and defense. Stars like Jim Thorpe, Red Grange and Chuck Bednarik excelled at the numerous positions they played in their respective eras. When thinking of the Rams’ version of Shohei Ohtani, one name comes to mind: Hall of Famer Les Richter.
The Rams traded 11 players in a deal that sent them Les Richter. Of those 11 players, 1 played more than 4 years & half of them didn't make the team.— Goodspeed (@d_goodspeed) March 7, 2023
Richter went to the Korean War after the trade. He returned in 1954 after 2 years away & began a string of 8 straight Pro Bowls. pic.twitter.com/uE73ldrlTh
That’s right, LA traded 11 players to acquire Richter, the second-largest deal ever made for a single player. While the Rams had to wait two years for the California product to serve in the Korean War, Richter proved that he was well worth the wait. The HOFer earned the reputation of being one of the best linebackers of his era. His pure physicality and toughness was the key to his rugged style of play. Richter never sat out due to injury once in his 112-game career despite some pretty close calls.
Players then were a different breed. Some who played in the 50’s did storm the Normandy beaches. After that, not much was going to faze them. Just ask Les Richter of the Rams, after the Colts Don Joyce ripped off Richter’s helmet and beat the hell out of him pic.twitter.com/YllZF0Z4id— Hired goons (@OwensFmzrow) July 2, 2022
The 1954 Colts’ Don Joyce’s attack on Les Richter of the Rams as covered the day after in the LA Times, and Richter the day after! pic.twitter.com/Jr8Gly8mF6— Keith Olbermann↙️ (@KeithOlbermann) November 16, 2019
According to his profile on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, Richter led the Rams in interceptions on defense in 1957. Richter was quite the athlete on offense as well as he also saw time at center and placekicker. From 1955-56, Richter led LA in scoring and totaled 193 points in his career. He had ice in his veins kicking clutch field goals which boosted the Rams to an 8-3-1 season and a Western Division title in ‘55. Even though LA got demolished by the Browns in the championship that year, Richter’s placekicking led to some pretty unbelievable finishes.
Not sure if this is the only time it's happened in #NFL history, but it must be rare. #Rams HOFer Les Richter (67) boots a 33-yard FG on the final play -- OVER HIS OWN FACESHOT! -- for the winning points in a 27-26 victory over the #Steelers in 1955. From the @latimes: pic.twitter.com/b0jjqtu963— Dan Daly (@dandalyonsports) July 8, 2022
The game of football has changed considerably since Richter roamed the gridiron. He played in an era when the sport was far more violent and ruthless. Back then, players truly left everything they had on the field, and then some. They weren’t playing for a paycheck or recognition but simply for the love of the game. Thanks to big money in professional sports, we’ll likely never see that exact level of commitment again. Once a commonality, players like Richter are now a rarity.
Last month marked 13 years since Richter passed away at the age of 79. Players may come and go but legacies are eternal. I’m going to leave you with a quote by Richter on his Hall of Fame profile that summed up his legendary career in only the best way he knew how:
“Sure, I play rough. But that’s what the Rams pay me for, and that’s what the fans pay to see.”
Boy, did he deliver on that or what?
Les Richter is a member of three Halls of Fame:— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) June 14, 2023
-Pro Football Hall of Fame
On the 13-year anniversary of Richter's passing, we celebrate his greatness, which was apparent in everything he touched. #HOFForever pic.twitter.com/wA25F2R0Vr