A pioneer in pro football left this world in God’s friendship today. Georgia Frontiere, the St. Louis native who became a hometown hero when she brought the NFL's Rams from Los Angeles in 1995, died Friday. She was 80. Frontiere had been hospitalized for breast cancer for several months, the Rams said in a statement posted on their Web site.
The one-time nightclub singer was married seven times, starting at age 15. Her sixth husband, Carroll Rosenbloom, owned the Los Angeles Rams at the time of his drowning death in 1979. The Rams moved twice under Frontiere's leadership, first relocating from the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1980 to Anaheim, 35 miles away.
St. Louis' original NFL franchise, the Cardinals, had left for Arizona in 1988. After the city failed to land an expansion team, civic leaders built a $260 million, taxpayer-financed domed stadium anyway, in hopes of luring another team.
Frontiere, born in St. Louis, agreed in January 1995 to move, causing her to be demonized in Southern California but heralded in her hometown. At a downtown rally soon after the move was announced, thousands chanted "Georgia! Georgia!"
"You take my breath away," Frontiere told the crowd. "It's so good to be back in St. Louis, my hometown."
The Rams won the Super Bowl in 2000. John Shaw, president of the Rams, said Frontiere was a "loyal, generous, and supportive owner who was totally committed" to the team. Shaw continues to run the club from Los Angeles. Frontiere left day-to-day operation of her team to Shaw, both when the franchise was in Southern California and after the move to St. Louis.
The Rams were the first major sports team to arrive in California when then they moved from Cleveland in 1946. They became the first football or baseball team to leave the state with the move to St. Louis.
Frontiere was born Georgia Irwin on Nov. 21, 1927, and attended Soldan High School before moving to California at age 15. She wed that year, though the marriage was eventually annulled, according to published reports. Her second husband was killed when hit by a bus. She left her third husband to try to make it as a showgirl in Las Vegas. Her fourth marriage -- to a stage manager of the Sacramento Music Circus -- ended in divorce after three years. Husband No. 5 was a Miami television producer.
She married Rosenbloom in 1966, shortly after he took over the Baltimore Colts. He eventually swapped that franchise for the Rams, which his wife took control of after he drowned. Frontiere remarried again after Rosenbloom's death. Her seventh husband, Dominic Frontiere, was an award-winning composer. They divorced in 1988 upon his release from prison after serving time on tax charges related to the scalping of more than 2,500 tickets to the 1980 Super Bowl in Pasadena. The team has missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
Frontiere became involved in several philanthropic efforts in St. Louis after moving the team, including the creation in 1997 of the St. Louis Rams Foundation. According to the team's Web site, the Rams and the foundation have contributed more than $5 million to charities in the St. Louis area. Frontiere also committed $1 million to the Fulfillment Fund, an organization that helps needy high school students pay for college. Frontiere was a fixture at Rams games during the heyday of the "Greatest Show on Turf" teams that made the playoffs five out of six seasons from 1999 through 2004. Led by quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk and receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, the Rams won the 2000 Super Bowl 23-16 over Tennessee in Atlanta and lost the Super Bowl two seasons later on a last-second field goal to the New England Patriots in New Orleans.
She has served as a member of several boards, including the United Way of Greater St. Louis, Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club, Saint Louis Symphony, Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America and the American Foundation for AIDS Research. In addition to her two children, she is survived by six grandchildren, and Earle Weatherwax, her companion of 19 years.
While I disagreed somewhat estactically with her moving the team to St. Louis, I think her legacy will be one of class and dignity, despite all her personal problems in the past. If the Rams do not petition to put her in the Hall of Fame and the Rams Ring of Honor and soon, there will be a great miscarriage of justice.