Tag Archives: Cleveland Stadium

This Pins the 1945 Cleveland Rams As NFL Champs

Rams pin

Press pin from the 1945 NFL Championship Game, which the Cleveland Rams won over the Washington Redskins, 15-14. (Courtesy Donald Gries Collection)

It may not be the Lombardi Trophy, but seventy years ago this was about as close as you got to NFL-championship swag and bling. This is a press pin issued by the Cleveland Rams, who won the 1945 NFL Championship Game over the Washington Redskins in a near-zero-degree nail-biter at Cleveland Stadium.

The pin belongs to Donald Gries, who is an avid collector of Rams (and Cleveland Browns) memorabilia who also happens to be a grandson of founding Rams owner Robert H. Gries. Don generously provided me access to his collection as background for my forthcoming book about the Rams.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , ,

Put A Historical Marker On This Patch Of Cleveland Land

CLE Stadium Then and Now

The old Cleveland Municipal Stadium (left) and, today, on the very same site, First Energy Stadium.

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?

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cleveland Football: Leading the League in Management Meddling Since 1937

Cleveland Rams president Edward Bruch

Cleveland Rams president Edward Bruch (far right) at Cleveland Stadium in 1940, the last season the team was held by local ownership. Bruch had his own management meddling moment a few years earlier while wintering in Arizona: He stepped on a practice field at the University of Arizona to evaluate a Rams prospect personally and was ejected “bodily, and with scant ceremony” from the campus. (Photo courtesy Cleveland Press Archives at Cleveland State University)

Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer has drawn headlines (and the threat of league penalties) for texting plays to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan — during games!

Unprecedented, right?

Well, maybe it was unprecedented in the use of technology. But the NFL’s tenure in Cleveland has an inglorious history of management meddling, and it didn’t start with Jimmy Haslam and the drafting of Johnny Manziel, or even Art Modell and his firing of Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Myths About the NFL in Cleveland: It’s Not Quite the Football Town You Think It Is (Or Was)

1948 AAFC Championship Game.CLE

See those empty seats in the background? This is a Browns championship game. A scant 22,891 at the 1948 AAFC title game in Cleveland watch as Marion Motley and the 14-0 Browns down the 7-7 Buffalo Bills, 49-7. Three years earlier the supposedly less-liked Cleveland Rams drew 50% more fans to a taut 1945 NFL Championship Game, in arctic weather that was nearly 30 degrees colder and as servicemen were returning from World War II.

Historical facts often are no match for the selective memories of football fans and the relentless myth-making machine of the National Football League. Think Cleveland is a football town nonpareil, conceived by a sainted Browns playoff juggernaut of long ago? After debunking these 5 myths about the NFL in Cleveland you may think the real story is a little more…uh, complicated.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

But For the Snow and Cold, the Cleveland Rams’ 1945 Title Game Could’ve Been a Record-Breaker

Rams sideline 1945 championship game

Cleveland Rams bundle up under parkas and straw, otherwise used to insulate the Cleveland Stadium playing field, during the 1945 NFL title game. (Photo courtesy NFL / Pro Football Hall of Fame.)


In the days leading up to the epic Cleveland Rams-Washington Redskins 1945 NFL
Championship Game, the pundits were widely agreed: Attendance would be a record-breaker, well surpassing the headcount for the league’s dozen previous playoff games. And why not. The league’s popularity was surging, servicemen were coming home, America was ready for some entertainment, and the game would be played in 80,000-seat Cleveland Stadium.

Then a funny thing happened: Cleveland weather.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

This Once Was an NFL Stadium, Pt. 3: League Park

League Park and Cleveland skyline

League Park and football fieldWith Cleveland’s downtown skyline on the horizon, vestiges of historic League Park and its freshly restored ticket office (above, right) are prepared for a grand reopening this summer as a public baseball facility — though with nary a mention of the pro football history that was made here.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Rare Video of the 1945 Cleveland Rams

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 6.56.53 AMDid you know the Rams won the 1945 NFL Championship two months before departing Cleveland for L.A.? If so, you’re in the vast minority. I still recall asking numerous St. Louisans in the mid-1990s, shortly after Georgia Frontiere moved the Rams there, where their team had originated. To a man (and woman) they said “Los Angeles.”

Wrong. If you’re going to have an NFL franchise, know its history.

As a modest step toward setting the historical record straight, here’s vivid archival evidence of that Rams championship, won 15-14 in the frigid cold of Cleveland Municipal Stadium on December 16, 1945. To this day the Cleveland Rams remain the only NFL champions ever to play the following season in a different city.

Tagged ,

Johnny Manziel’s Link to Cleveland Sports History

Manziel.Waterfield
The Browns’ hotly debated drafting of Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel sounds a distant echo to an often forgotten chapter of Cleveland’s colorful sports history.

Manziel jerseyExactly seventy years ago last month the Cleveland Rams — yes, there was another NFL team in the city before the Browns — drafted high-profile rookie quarterback Bob Waterfield and signed him to a lucrative rookie contract. Though Waterfield too had been a college star, leading UCLA to the Rose Bowl in 1942 (then spending several years in wartime military service), howls of protest rose from some Cleveland sportswriters. Waterfield isn’t worth the attention or the money, they said. The Rams were more interested in getting publicity than a quality back, they said.

Waterfield went on to have the kind of rookie year Browns fans can only pray Manziel will replicate. In a glorious 1945 season, in home games at the Indians’ League Park and at Cleveland Municipal Stadium and with “Big Jim” Benton as his primary receiver, Waterfield went on to win Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards.

Even better, the Rams — who like the current Browns had posted years of non-winning seasons — stunned the football world by capturing the NFL Championship over “Slingin'” Sammy Baugh and the Washington Redskins in the title game, 15-14, at Cleveland Stadium.

Two months later, Waterfield and the Rams were gone — moved to Los Angeles as the first major-league sports teams on the West Coast in the postwar era. But the allure of a rookie player coming in and instantly reversing a mediocre team’s fortunes remains in Cleveland.

Tagged , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: