Photo Credit: RetroCards

By Zane Miller

On Sunday, December 4th, 1960, the Los Angeles Rams played host to the San Francisco 49ers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with the Rams looking to avenge their 13-9 loss at the hands of the 49ers from earlier in the season.

The 1960 edition of the Rams were unimpressive to say the least. Although they were an improvement from the 1959 team, which were the worst team in the NFL’s Western Conference at a 2-10 record, they still left much to be desired as they stood at 3-5-1 coming into their matchup against the 49ers, well outside of playoff contention.

As for the 49ers, their recent play was a bit more uplifting, as they were looking to finish with yet another winning season after ending up with a 7-5 showing in 1959. At this point, San Francisco not only was in solid position to achieve this goal at 5-4, but also had a chance to reach the postseason for the first time since 1957 as they sat right behind the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers in a dogfight for the Western Conference title. Not only that, the 49ers were also geared up to complete the season sweep against the Rams after beating them 13-9 in San Francisco two months earlier.

Starting at quarterback for the 49ers would be hometown hero John Brodie. Although Brodie had been a backup to future Hall of Fame quarterback YA Tittle for his first three seasons in the league, after Tittle was hampered by an early-season groin injury it was now Brodie’s turn to take the reins. Although Brodie struggled early on in his first season as the team’s primary starter, including an abysmal performance against the Packers in which was unable to complete a single pass in 13 attempts in a blowout loss, he had begun to turn his fortunes around in recent weeks, including the week prior against the Colts as he passed for 207 yards and a touchdown in a 30-22 victory.

Rams starting quarterback Billy Wade was in a similar boat as Brodie, as he too struggled to find his footing early in the season. After a poor outing against the Bears where he threw for only 86 total yards, Wade was benched for the next several weeks. Wade regained his starting spot just a week before this game against the 49ers and made the most of the opportunity, passing for three touchdowns and 162 yards as the Rams squeezed out a 33-31 victory over the Packers. With that, it was time to get the 49ers-Rams matchup underway.

The 49ers would end the 1960 season with the #1-ranked defense in the NFL, and showed why in the first half as they held the Rams scoreless. While the Rams defense was able to keep pace in the first quarter by also holding San Francisco off the board, this would unravel as the 49ers went up 10-0 at halftime thanks to a touchdown run from rookie fullback CR Roberts and a 9-yard field goal from Tommy Davis, a distance which is impossible to occur today with the goal post moving to behind the end zone rather than in front as it had been in the 1960’s.

The 49ers added a more conventional 27-yard field goal at the top of the third quarter, before putting what what ultimately be the dagger in Los Angeles’ hopes of a comeback as Brodie found veteran end Clyde Conner for a 65-yard touchdown pass, putting themselves ahead 20-0 heading into the fourth quarter.

The final frame would indeed be more of the same, as San Francisco tacked on yet another short field goal, this time just seven yards long, before the Rams finally ended the shutout bid. Backup quarterback Frank Ryan, who had been put into the game as Wade had been benched at this point, ran for a short touchdown in the game’s waning minutes, although it would be far from enough as the 49ers eventually took home the 23-7 win. Although Brodie played well, passing for 164 yards and the aforementioned 65-yard touchdown, the real star for the 49ers was defensive back Dave Baker, who made four interceptions on the day. Despite Wade being pulled after throwing the first two picks, Baker continued his masterclass against Ryan to claim the game’s other two interceptions to tie to set the franchise record for most interceptions in a single game, a mark which stands to this day.

Baker’s performance came just two weeks after Jerry Norton of the St. Louis (now Arizona) Cardinals became the first NFL player in history to secure four interceptions in one game. This league record has still not been broken more than 60 years later, although it has been tied eight more times, including by Norton himself. This only added to the painful showing by the Rams’ quarterbacks, as Wade threw for just 58 yards while Ryan did not fare much better with 101 yards through the air.

In the end, though, the 49ers would join the Rams on the outside looking in, as despite a valiant effort in the second half of the season, San Francisco would miss out on the playoffs with a 7-5 finish, losing the Western Conference to the Packers by just one game. The Rams eventually finished at a disappointing 4-7-1, though they did avoid finishing as the worst team in the conference as the expansion Dallas Cowboys failed to win a single game, becoming the first team since the 1944 Brooklyn Tigers to do so. Both the Rams and 49ers found themselves in rough shape over the next few seasons, with the Rams ending up dead last in the standings in 1962, before the 49ers wound up there themselves in 1963. However, the Rams rebounded in the late 1960’s, qualifying for the playoffs twice, while the 49ers found similar success in the early 1970’s by reaching the playoffs in three straight seasons.