Tag Archives: League Park

St. Louis Rams Video Highlights Team’s Brief Tenure At Cleveland’s Shaw Stadium

The St. Louis Rams delightfully acknowledge a bit of their founding history with this recently posted video. Seems especially helpful in educating a big chunk of the Rams’ current fan base who believe the team originated in Los Angeles.

It’s a bit of an exaggeration to say the team played a season at Shaw Stadium, though. As I’ve written elsewhere here at the Flying Lombardi, the Rams played only two games at Shaw before returning to League Park in anticipation of increased attendance. They just had upset the Detroit Lions, NFL champions three seasons before, and thought their fortunes were on the up and up.

Also, playing at Shaw Stadium was not as quaint and homespun as one might think either. As I’ve written in the draft of my upcoming book on the Rams:

The team’s decision to play in Shaw Stadium, if only briefly, made good sense. First, Shaw just had been renovated and enlarged and was lavishly maintained, off limits to high-school practices but available for game-day use by colleges and other high schools. Second, Shaw was “one of the best equipped lighted fields in the state,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. It was “flood lighted by the finest equipment developed by the General Electric Co.,” whose world-class NELA Park electrical research facility – one of the nation’s earliest, if not first, planned industrial research parks – was just a mile-and-a-half away in East Cleveland, a symbol of the region’s industrial might at that time. Third, the stadium’s new capacity of 15,500 was well suited to the team’s small but growing fan base, whose strongest home showing the previous season was not much more than 10,000.

Compliments nevertheless to the Rams organization for digging into its archives in this, the 70th-anniversary year of the franchise’s first NFL championship.

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The Last (And Only) Attempts To Make Old Cleveland Stadium Hospitable For Football

Cleveland Municipal Stadium 1964

Cleveland Stadium in its usual gridiron configuration, with vast acreages of empty space separating the sidelines from the stands, save for two short-lived experiments: one in 1937, the other in 1941.

The Cleveland Indians just have reduced capacity and reconfigured Progressive Field to make it more accommodating to smaller crowds than it originally was intended for. But it’s not the first time a pro sports team in Cleveland has done this.

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“The Perfect Football Face”: Dutch Clark, Cleveland Rams Head Coach (1939-1942)

Dutch Clark

THE PERFECT FOOTBALL FACE: Dutch Clark in gladiatorial profile,1934. (Photo courtesy LIFE magazine)

Imaging missing play in an NFL Championship Game so you can tend to your offseason job — then, decades later, being inducted into the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Lewis and Clark

LEWIS AND CLARK: Cleveland Rams head coach Dutch Clark (left) and assistant coach Art “Pappy” Lewis in 1941, probably at training camp in Berea, Ohio. (Photo courtesy Cleveland Press Archives at Cleveland State University)

Impossible, you say?

Not for Earl “Dutch” Clark.

For a time in the 1930s Clark was the highest-scoring and best-paid player in the National Football League, quarterbacking the Portsmouth Spartans and (after the team had moved to the big city) the Detroit Lions.

In December 1932 the Spartans and the Chicago Bears tied for first place, so a playoff game was arranged — indoors, at Chicago Stadium, due to inclement winter weather. No one, least of all Clark, anticipated the NFL season was going to extend an extra week. Can’t make it, Clark told Portsmouth coach Potsy Clark. Have to get back to my offseason job as head basketball coach at Colorado College. 

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Glamour Comes to Cleveland

Waterfield and Russell
The December 17, 1945, cover date of this LIFE magazine profile of Cleveland Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield and his motion-picture starlet wife Jane Russell was propitious if not completely coincidental: Waterfield — a triple-threat quarterback, placekicker and punter — led the Rams to the NFL Championship the previous day by defeating the Washington Redskins, 15 to 14. In the background: the third-base grandstand of Cleveland’s League Park, then home of the Rams as well as the Cleveland Indians. (Photo: LIFE magazine)

 

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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.

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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.

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