Today, there’s no question about it: being a Cleveland Browns fan is tough. In fact, most Cleveland teams have disappointed us for more than a generation. The city’s only championship since President Johnson was against the Cavaliers in 2016. However, gray-haired grandparents, grandmothers, aunts and uncles can remember a time when Cleveland was a city of champions.
My hometown Browns haven’t won a world championship since 1964 when the Jim Brown and Frank Ryan-led Browns crushed John Unitas and the Baltimore Colts 27-0 at Municipal Stadium. That was almost 54 years ago and I barely remember that fateful day of ’64. Yet every year hope springs eternal in Cleveland. We pray that the draft is finally finished. Today, I live in Southern California, but still have a passion for the Browns, Cavaliers, and Indians 2,000 miles away.
Cleveland was “Browns Town” during the 1940s, ’50s and’ 60s. The game began for the Browns at the old stadium at 46 in the newly formed All-America Football Conference, rivals of the NFL. Behind the rule of coach Paul Brown and led by the game of Graham, Groza, Lavelli, Motley and Speedie, the Browns created one of the great dynasties of football. The Browns completely dominated the AAFC by winning every title in the league’s existence from 1946-1949. Cleveland ruled alone. After the demise of the AAFC in ’49, the Browns and two other teams migrated to the NFL. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Browns played in 10 incredible NFL championship games. They won three titles between 1950-1955 and consecutive crowns in ’54 and ’55. The 1950s were a glorious decade for Cleveland sports. The Browns rolled their opponents. We were a city of champions. The team’s regular season. The winning percentage of 746 in the 1950s was dominant. For the next several decades, no team has matched Cleveland’s winning percentage, not the Packers (.721) in the 60s, not the Steelers (.692) or the Cowboys (.729) in the 70s, not the 49ers in the 70s. decade of the seventies. 80s (.695) or 90s (.706).
The Indians were also excellent in the late 1940s and 1950s: they won the Series in 48 over the Boston Braves behind the team managed by Lou Boudreau, but fell short in the Series of 54 against Willie Mays and the New Giants. York. Cleveland had great pitching in those days, starring hall of famers Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, and Satchel Paige. Third baseman Al Rosen and his shortstop counterpart Boudreau helped spark the offense. Rosen would go on to win the AL MVP at 53 at batting. 336, hitting 43 home runs and driving 145 RBIs.
During the 1960s, my father collected some of my best memories after Sunday School at University Circle and made my way to Municipal Stadium, in time, for the 1:00 pm kickoff. M. Upon entering the old stadium you could feel the electricity in the air; a sense that the Browns could not lose. And usually they didn’t. Even after their last NFL championship in ’64, the Browns played three more NFL title games in ’60: losing to the Packers in ’65, the Colts in ’68, and the Vikings in ’69. That period from 1965 to 1969, the Browns’ overall record in the regular season was 49-20-1; close to the best in the game.
Fast forward two decades and the Browns came within yards of reaching the Super Bowl by losing three AFC championships to the Denver Broncos in the 1980s. “The Drive” and “The Fumble” still shake our souls.
Today, the Browns are dumb. They live in NFL purgatory and seemingly have an endless escalation. The team’s record over the past two seasons is 1-28 for an abysmal .034 winning percentage. Every week jokes about them are made all over the country. The ghosts of browns’ legends of the past are now taking antacids. Our prayers for a championship have been derailed and frankly unanswered since ’64. I just hope the Browns can get out of this hellish mess so my contemporaries and I can enjoy at least one more Cleveland Browns championship in the next 54 years. After that, all bets are off.