Georgia Frontiere, the owner of the National Football League’s Rams for nearly three decades and the first woman to take control of a league franchise, died Friday January 18th. She was 80. Her death was announced by the Rams on their Web site. She had been hospitalized with breast cancer for several months, her children said in a statement posted there.
Frontiere, an occasional night-club singer and chorus line performer who hoped to become an opera star, was thrust into the pro football world in April 1979 when her husband, Carroll Rosenbloom, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams, drowned in the ocean while swimming near his Florida home.
Rosenbloom had groomed his son from a previous marriage, Steve, as his successor, but he left 70 percent of the Rams’ ownership to his wife, evidently to minimize estate taxes. She quickly asserted control, firing Steve Rosenbloom and replacing him as the team’s top executive with Don Klosterman, the general manager.
She bristled at what she apparently perceived to be snickering from the news media and the football world at a woman running an NFL. team. “There are some who feel there are two different kinds of people — human beings and women,” she said at her first news conference.
The Rams went to the 1980 Super Bowl, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Frontiere was in the spotlight, appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated kicking a football and with Rams players in an American Express commercial, “Do You Know Me?”
But she soon turned over most of the financial and football decisions to team executives. In July 1980, she married her seventh husband, Dominic Frontiere, an award-winning composer. Then came troubling times. Her husband was indicted in 1986 on tax charges relating to his involvement in the scalping of more than 2,500 tickets to the 1980 Super Bowl. Georgia Frontiere said she had given the tickets to her husband to be given away, and she was not charged in the scheme. She divorced Frontiere in 1988, a year after he was released from prison.
Georgia Frontiere put her stamp on the Rams’ franchise when she moved the team to St. Louis in 1995, obtaining a lucrative deal for a domed stadium. “St. Louis is my hometown, and I brought my team here to start a new dynasty,” The St. Petersburg Times quoted her as saying about moving the Rams, who had been in Southern California for nearly a half century. “In my early days, I thought I’d become a big opera star in Europe. Now, by bringing the city an N.F.L. team, I’m doing something that truly will make St. Louis proud.”
The Rams won the Super Bowl in 2000, defeating the Tennessee Titans, and appeared in the 2002 Super Bowl, losing to the New England Patriots. Frontiere became a high-profile figure in St. Louis; she made extensive charitable donations and was a patron of the arts. But she had a reputation as something of an eccentric, at least by the standards of N.F.L. club owners. She was often on the sideline during games and planted kisses on players who had turned in an outstanding effort. When Cabbage Patch dolls first came on the market and proved hard to get, she bought one for each of her players. She pursued astrology and drew up charts for some of the Rams’ stars.
Frontiere, as a youngster, appeared with her mother, Lucia Pamela Irwin, a blues performer, and her brother, Ken, in a singing group, the Pamela Trio, performing at state fairs and ballrooms. In the late 1950s, she was a talk-show host in Miami and she made appearances as part of NBC’s “Today” show cast when Dave Garroway was the host.
She met Carroll Rosenbloom, then the owner of the Baltimore Colts, in 1957 at a dinner given by Joseph P. Kennedy at his Palm Beach, Fla., estate. They were married in 1966, shortly after Rosenbloom was divorced from his wife, Velma. At the time, Georgia and Carroll had had two children together.
Carroll Rosenbloom became the owner of the Los Angeles Rams in 1972, in a franchise swap, and Georgia became a part of the Hollywood social scene as a hostess in their Bel Air mansion. But in recent years, she gave few interviews and had faded from the public eye.
She is survived by a son, Dale; a daughter, Lucia Rodriguez, from her marriage to Carroll Rosenbloom; six grandchildren; and her companion, Earle Weatherwax. At her death, Frontiere, the Rams’ chairman, owned 60 percent of the team. The remaining interest is controlled by Stan Kroenke, the vice chairman.
As a woman in the NFL, Frontiere expressed a determination to succeed. On the eve of the Rams’ appearance in the 2000 Super Bowl, she told USA Today: “From the time my late husband died, it has been a constant effort to do what he expected me to be able to do. He said: ‘If anybody can, you can. You always stick to your ideas. And nobody pushes you around.’ ”
Source: New York Times.com