The date and cause of death have not been announced, but relatives said Bass had been struggling with health problems for several months. He died in his Norwalk home, where he lived alone after his divorce from his second wife, according to his son, Ricki Bass.
A brother, Norman Bass, said, "He had not been in good health. He's one of them strong, prideful guys who won't let nobody know what's wrong. We knew that he was losing a lot of weight and that he was small."
Bass was a three-sport standout at Vallejo High School, where he scored 68 touchdowns and ran for 3,690 yards in 18 games. He went on to play at the University of the Pacific -- then College of the Pacific -- where as a senior he led the nation in rushing with 1,361 yards. He once told a reporter that his best sport actually was baseball.
The Rams drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick in 1959, and he played in Los Angeles from 1960 to 1969, finishing with 5,417 yards rushing and 34 touchdowns.
At 5 feet 9 and 205 pounds, Bass used his compact size to his advantage.
He told The Times in 1966, "I can get out of a lot of trouble, escape tackles, get an extra yard or so. That extra yard is the difference between retaining possession of the ball or punting. It is the big play any time, even with a pass receiver.... The big thing is to squirm for that extra yard."
Bass' hard-charging style and easygoing personality made him a favorite with fans and teammates. Although he played on poor teams early in his career, he was a bright spot for the Rams on and off the field.
Nicknamed "the Scooter," Bass led the team in rushing four times and twice gained more than 1,000 yards in a season. He also was a premier pass receiver, with 204 receptions for 1,841 yards and seven touchdowns.
"He was probably the best-blocking running back I ever saw," said Don Hewitt, longtime equipment manager for the Rams. "He was just an outstanding player who always knew how to keep the team loose. He always had everyone laughing when he would pull tricks on guys."
Ricki Bass said his father "was a unique guy with a language all of his own," and his former wife, Barbara Bass, said, "He just had the world's greatest sense of humor."
Barbara, his second wife, also recalled: "I met Dick during his final year playing. After he retired, we went to look for a place to live in Santa Monica. But when we tried to get the apartment that I liked, the manager told us that blacks don't live north of Wilshire Boulevard. But the manager told us that he would let us move in because he was Dick Bass. We lived there for 12 years."
After retirement, Bass was a radio analyst on Ram games for 13 years.
He later ran a restaurant in the Valley and became involved with the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce and the NFL Alumni Assn.
Norman Bass said he noticed a decline in his brother's health last year.
"We had a memorial for our dad on Nov. 17," he recalled. "We had family and close friends together, and you could see he had trouble getting off the couch.
"His knees were almost gone. You could see that he needed replacements, but he was trying to hide the pain."
In addition to his son and his brother, Bass' survivors include his brother and son; a daughter, Stephanie; and a sister Dorothy Bass-Atkins.
Funeral arrangements are pending.