Believeland: Cleveland a City of Childhood Dreams
As a kid from Cleveland; I recalled that cold, blustery day at the old Municipal Stadium on December 27, 1964, when the City of Cleveland rejoiced as the Browns won the N.F.L. championship against the Baltimore Colts by the score of 27-0. With the wind blowing across the lake into uncovered, wooden bleachers, I sat with 5 of my high school friends witnessing the last football championship victory of any professional team from Cleveland, Ohio.
It was there that I watched history made with my classmates from Collinwood High School. The first half of the game was a tug of war between the defenses, the only score came on a Lou Groza field goal. It was the defense that day that frustrated the Colts,it was Bernie Parrish and Walter Beach, who jammed the Baltimore Colt receivers at the line of scrimmage, and disrupted the receiver’s timing routes. . It should be noted that this tactic was the forerunner to the “bump and run “style of defense used today by many high profile defensive backs. Turnovers figured in the score, with two Baltimore fumbles and two interceptions. In retrospect, the Browns outplayed the Colts in every facet of the game and dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball; especially, in the second half of the game in winning 27-0.
In the locker room, I witnessed the presentation of the “Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy” awarded to the Champions of the N.F.L. from 1934-1969. It was presented to the Browns’ owner, Art Modell..
As I stood in the Brown’s locker room and watched with amazement the players removed their muddy socks and gear, I turned to see camera bulbs flashing and the awarding of the trophy. My friend, Bill Russell and I were captured in the photograph with Art Modell. He photo bombed the group by peeking over the group while the back of my head appeared to the extreme right of the composition. The photo appeared on the front page of the Cleveland newspapers the next day. The photograph recorded, N.F.L. Commissioner, Pete Rozelle as he presented the trophy.
Ironically, forty years later, the city and the team held a reunion at Severance Hall in commemoration of the Browns’ championship. Just as I had cheered with my close friend, Bill Russell many years ago, we stood together and cheered the players entering the hall for the celebration. As Gary Collins, former M.V.P. and wide receiver who caught three touchdowns walked past, I stopped him with a comment he long remembered, “ Hey Gary, do you remember the kid that first told you about your winning a Corvette sports car as a result of being the most valuable player?” Oh, yeah, I do, if fact you look a lot older now,” he chuckled.
Two young boys, who morphed into two mature men forty years later, shared their dream of the Browns’ championship in a renewal of their friendship.
P.S. See the video linked.