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tBBC Will the 52 Year Drought For Cleveland Finally End?

Michael Smith

Will the 52 Year Drought For Cleveland Finally End?
Michael Smith
via our good friends at Buckeye Battle Cry
Visit their fantastic blog and read the full article (and so much more) here


Hello everyone and welcome as I tell you very sad tale. Its a tale most of you know. Its the story of the sports history in the city of Cleveland.

I am from Northeast Ohio. I’ve been a Cleveland sports fan all my life. I’m as passionate as a Cleveland sports fan as I am an Ohio State fan. I’m old enough to have lived through many of the heartbreaks of Cleveland sports.

As I write this article — Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors is hours away. As you can recall last year, the Warriors beat the Cavaliers in 6 games to win the NBA Championship. If you listen to the experts and sports media across the nation the Warriors will have even an easier time beating the Cavs this year.

If that happens it will continue a 52 year drought in which no Cleveland sports franchise has won a championship. It’s the longest streak in the nation. In fact — only one city with at least three major sports franchises has failed to win a championship the last 50 years, and its Cleveland. Recently ESPN even did a 30 for 30 special called “Believeland” about it all.

Not only has Cleveland gone so long without a championship, they have been so close so many times only to have some historic blunder or shot cost the city the championship we so desperately want. In this article I’ll give you a history of each Cleveland sports team and how time and time again they’ve managed to snap defeat out of the jaws of victory. I’ll then give you my prediction for the NBA Finals. Will the drought finally end?

Even though Cleveland is “All in” with the Cavs, this city is a Browns town. It always has been. So I’m going to start there.

The Cleveland Browns

The Browns were formed in 1946 and were named after the man who created them and was their first coach. The legendary Paul Brown famously coached high school football and went on to coach the Ohio State Buckeyes to their first ever National Championship in 1942.

The Browns didn’t join the NFL right away. The Browns were part of another professional football league called the All-America Football Conference. The Browns dominated the AAFC, winning all 4 championships the league was active for. In 1948 the Browns went undefeated, the last professional football team to do so until the Dolphins in 1972. The AAFC only lasted four years before closing down. It was then that the Cleveland Browns joined the NFL. The NFL hated the AAFC and has held on to that disrespect up to the present day. The NFL refuses to acknowledge any records or stats from the AAFC. The NFL does for other leagues though.

When the Browns joined the NFL in 1950, the NFL wanted to show everyone how bad the AAFC was, and how the Browns were just a bush league team. The Browns NFL debut was against the defending NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles on their home turf. What followed was a 35-14 rout in favor of the Browns.

The Cleveland Browns went on to win the NFL World Championship in 1950, 54, 55 and in 1964. Little did anyone know that the ’64 Championship would be the last Cleveland has seen. With all-time great running back Jim Brown — the Browns defeated the favored Baltimore Colts 27-0 in 1964 to win the title. The Browns made it back to the World Championship game in 1965 but lost to the Green Bay Packers 24-12. Another crushing blow was after the ’65 season, Jim Brown retired after only 9 years in the NFL and at age 29. In 1966, the NFL World Championship game was replaced with the Super Bowl.

It took the Browns years to recover from the early retirement of Jim Brown. Bad trades and drafts left them down until the late 1970s. In 1979, the Browns started a 2 year run of miracle comebacks and wins. They won so often in dramatic fashion they were nicknamed the Cardiac Kids. In 1980 the Browns went 11-5 and were set to play the Oakland Raiders in the NFL divisional playoff game. It was one of the coldest NFL games in history. The temp at game time was -15 with wind chills near -40. Late in the 4th quarter, down 14-12, the Browns started to drive down the field. Like they had done so many times they were ready to win the game late. Inside the Oakland 20 with less than a minute to go the play call was Red Right 88. As QB Brian Sipe threw a pass into the end zone intended for TE Ozzie Newsome, Oakland Safety Mike Davis stepped in front of it for the INT. The Browns lost 14-12 and the Raiders would go on to beat the Eagles and win the Super Bowl.

After a few years and a major turnover in players the Browns again were great in 1986. They went 12-4 and were the best team in the AFC. The Browns hosted the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game in Cleveland. Trailing 13-10 at the start of the 4th qtr the Browns scored 10 straight points to take a 20-13 lead. Then as the Browns kicked off with just over 5 minutes remaining in the game the Broncos fumbled the ball, but managed to recover at their own 2 yard line. Victory seemed so assured the NFL took the AFC Championship trophy into the Browns locker room and NBC sent their reporters as well to cover the “winning team” What followed has been known as “The Drive” John Elway took the Broncos 98 yards and with less than a minute to go threw the game tying touchdown. Denver then kicked a FG in overtime to win 23-20.

The following year the same 2 teams again met for the AFC Championship game. This time the Browns had to travel to Denver to play the Broncos. The rematch at first seemed anti climatic as the Browns kept making mistake after mistake leading to a huge Broncos lead at halftime. However, the 2nd half the Browns made a dramatic comeback and with 1:12 to go in the game, the Browns had the ball inside the Denver 10 yard line trailing by a touchdown. Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar saw a hole in the Denver defense and quickly called an audible to a run play for Browns running back Ernest Byner. Byner had an amazing game for the Browns and was the main reason for the comeback. As Byner got the ball he ran to the goal line and it seemed he would easily scored the tying touchdown. However, Denver defensive back Jeremiah Castille made the only play he could — he stripped the ball from Byner at the 2 yard line. The Broncos recoverd the fumble, took a safety to end the game. The Browns had lost in dramatic fashion again 38-33. Castille started the season on the Oakland Raiders and was cut after week 8. The Broncos signed him just before the start of the playoffs due to injuries.

The Cleveland Browns again played the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game in 1989 but this time it was just a beat down as Denver won easy 37-21. The Browns made a couple more playoffs in the early 90s but never came as close as they did in 1986 and 87.

Then in 1995 the unthinkable happened. Angry that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians were built new stadiums Art Modell the owner of the Browns moved the team to Baltimore. The city of Cleveland made a deal with the NFL that the team would be changed and that the Browns would remain in Cleveland become an expansion team in 1999.

The Baltimore Ravens were born and in 2000 won the Super Bowl. Cleveland fans had to watch Art Modell win the Super Bowl and get handed the Vince Lombardi trophy.

Since the Browns came back in 1999 as an expansion team, they have been the joke of the NFL. Bad owners, terrible front office hires, and extremely poor drafting has led to only two winning seasons in 16 years.

Only four NFL teams have failed to make it to the Super Bowl. Jacksonville, Houston (Texans), Detroit, and Cleveland.


The Cleveland professional baseball franchise went thru many names in the early years. My personal favorite is the Spiders. However, to honor a real native american on the team, they changed their name for the last time to the Indians in 1915. The Indians have won 2 World Series titles — their first in 1920 versus the Brooklyn Dodgers — which was the first every World Series to ever be broadcasted on the radio. The second came in 1948 vs the Boston Braves, which is the last one they won.

In 1954 the Cleveland Indians set a major league record with 111 wins,. They went on to play the New York Giants in the World Series. In game 1, it was tied at two in the 8th inning when Cleveland’s Vic Wertz sent a drive to deep center field of the Polo Grounds — Brooklyn’s home field that was known for it’s strangest dimensions. It was 483 feet to dead center, but just 258 feet down the lines. Giants CF Willie Mays ran down Wertz’s blast and caught it just before the wall in center. The estimated distance of Wertz’s blast ranged from 460-470 feet, yet it was an out. The game went into extra innings when Monte Irvin, a utility player for the Giants, hit a walk off HR that barely went over the right field wall. The Indians couldn’t recover from the short long ball that went an estimated distance of 259 feet. The Giants swept the Indians to kill another run with championship hopes.

Following that run, the Indians became the laughing stock of the American league for years following the 1950s. The Indians were famously picked by Sports Illustrated to win the World Series in 1989, only to lose 105 games that year.

It wasn’t until 1994, and the building of a new stadium, did the Indians finally become good again. With great trades, free agent signings, and home grown talent, the Indians were only one game out of first place when the baseball strike of 1994 hit. The following year in 1995, the Indians went 100-44 (the season was shortened by the strike). They went to the World Series (first time since 1954) where they played the Atlanta Braves — losing the series in 6 games. It was the only World Series the Braves won during their run of being in the World Series.

The Indians then had a magical run in 1997. Down 2 games to 1 in a best of a 5 series to the hated New York Yankees, the Indians trailed 2-1 with 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th inning. Manager Joe Torre went to his closer Mariano Rivera. Rivera had never blown a save in his career in the playoffs up to that point. Indians catcher Sandy Alomar Jr hit a game tying HR off Rivera and the Indians went on to win the game. The Indians also won game 5 and beat Baltimore to get back to the World Series

The 1997 World Series had the Cleveland Indians vs the Florida Marlins. The Marlins were a paid for team. They had signed a bunch of star players to huge contracts. Sorry, just my bias showing there. The Indians and Marlins had an epic world series, going back and forth. Finally it all came down to Game 7, winner take all. The Indians had a 2-1 lead going to the bottom of the 9th. Jose Mesa, the Indians closer, blew the save. The Marlins tied the game at 2. Then in the 11th inning, helped by an error by the Indians 2nd baseman Tony Fernandez, the Marlins scored and won the World Series.

The Indians have made the playoffs a few times since. Their best chance at going back to the World Series came in 2007. In the ALCS, the Indians were up 3 games to 1 vs the Boston Red Sox. Boston would come back and win 3 games in a row winning the series. The Red Sox would then sweep the Colorado Rockies to win the World Series.

The only MLB team that currently has gone longer without winning a World Series than the Cleveland Indians are the Chicago Cubs.


The Cleveland Cavaliers were an NBA expansion team in 1970. For the first 20 years of the franchise they didn’t do much. Their lone bright spot from 1970-1988 was the “Miracle at Richmond” In 1975-76 the Cavaliers made the playoffs and beat the Washington Bullets 4 games to 3 in dramatic fashion. However, they lost the Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics.

Because of poor ownership and bad trades, the Cavs were mostly a joke in the NBA for many years. The NBA rule that you can’t trade draft picks in back to back years was created because of the Cavs. It wasn’t until the late 80s that the Cavs were starting to get really good. They finally drafted well and had a good coach in Lenny Wilkins. The 90’s seemed like the Cavs were destined for greatness, so much so that Magic Johnson actually said the Cavs would be the team of the 90s. However, there was this one player, maybe you’ve heard of him, Michael Jordan, who would change all that.

The Cavs made the playoffs in 1989 and faced the Bulls in the 1st round in a best of 5 series. The series was tied at 2 games each with game 5 in Cleveland. With just 3 seconds to go Cavs SG Craig Ehlo made a layup to give the Cavs a one point lead. What followed has been forever called “The Shot.”

The Bulls and Jordan would beat the Cavs in the playoffs 4 times from 1989-1995. Michael Jordan averaged more points per game vs the Cleveland Cavaliers than he did vs any other team in his career.

The Cavaliers took years to recover. It wasn’t until a lucky bounce of a ping pong ball did they came back as a winning team in the NBA.

Of course I’m talking about winning the draft lottery in order to draft LeBron James. As you all know, Jame is from Akron and he seemed to be the player and person Cleveland needed to end the long drought.

James became the best player in the NBA and led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their 1st NBA Finals in team history in 2007, However, they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. In the following years the Cavs would be beat in the Eastern Conference playoffs by Orlando and Boston. Then as Lebron became a free agent in 2010, the entire area just knew he wouldn’t leave. He promised us a championship, he promised he would never leave.

Well you all know what happened, he did leave. LeBron went on national TV on ESPN and announced he would leave to play in Miami. James would win two NBA Championships while in Miami. Meanwhile, the Cavs became the laughing stock of the sports world. In 2011 the season after James left the Cavs tied a sports franchise record by losing 26 games in a row.

However, we also know what happened four years later. Again, James was free agent and he choose to come back to Cleveland. He came back to win the championship he promised to the city of Cleveland.

Last season the Cavs made it to the NBA Finals vs the Golden State Warriors. However, the curse that is Cleveland sports the Cavs were destroyed by injuries to two of their key players, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. The Cavs lost the series in 6 games.

Which leads us all back to now. In a few hours (as I’m writing this) the Cavs will play the Warriors in game 1 of the NBA Finals. Will this finally be the year the city of Cleveland gets its championship?? I’ve already told my wife and friends if they do win it, I’ll cry like a baby. I want to pick the Cavs, I want to have hope and faith. I’ve been snake bitten one to many times.

Warriors in 5.

The post Will the 52 Year Drought For Cleveland Finally End? appeared first on The Buckeye Battle Cry: Ohio State News and Commentary.

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