Okay, quick quiz.
The patch of lakefront land you see in the two photos above is the current home of a benighted football franchise that habitually fails to reach the NFL playoffs. Before that it was a pile of bricks and twisted steel, remnants of a historic stadium reduced to rubble when its petulant landlord mismanaged his own finances and civic standing, failed to secure improvements to same-named stadium, and so paradoxically ended up destroying the very things he reputedly had set out to save—Cleveland Stadium, the Cleveland Browns, and the pride of an already beaten-down municipality.
(Not that I’m bitter.)
But even given all this . . . here’s the quiz:
Which of the following localities has hosted more NFL Championship Games: the site of Cleveland Municipal Stadium and now First Energy Stadium, or (say) the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum?
If you said the sunkissed L.A. Coliseum, you’re absolutely . . . wrong. Five NFL title games have been played there. But a remarkable six NFL championships were played on Cleveland’s lakefront in a short twenty-three-year span:
- 1945: Cleveland Rams 15, Washington Redskins 14
- 1950: Cleveland Browns 30, L.A. Rams 28
- 1952: Detroit Lions 17, Cleveland Browns 17
- 1954: Cleveland Browns 56, Detroit Lions 10
- 1964: Cleveland Browns 27, Baltimore Colts 0
- 1968: Baltimore Colts 34, Cleveland Browns 0 (the winner faced the AFL champion in Super Bowl III)
Many Hall-of-Fame players took part in those half-dozen games including Bob Waterfield, Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham, Jim Brown, Lou Groza, Marion Motley, Bill Willis, Crazylegs Hirsch, Tom Fears, Norm Van Brocklin, Bobby Layne, Johnny Unitas, Leroy Kelly, and Paul Warfield (who, incidentally, I once served in a restaurant; he ordered a cheeseburger). But even before them, the Cleveland Rams hosted on these same shores such early football legends as Sid Luckman, Don Hutson, Clarke Hinkle, Alex Wojciechowicz, and Clyde (Bulldog) Turner.
What’s more, this site hosted the very first Monday Night Football game—transforming televised sports forever.
And that’s just football. I’ll leave it to the baseball historians to recount all the greats who roamed this pasture when the Cleveland Indians played their many seasons here: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Feller, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lou Boudreau . . .
It’s quite a heady history. So whaddya say, Cleveland? Aren’t we well overdue for a historical marker somewhere on this hallowed thirty-acre patch of land . . . ?