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GOD LOVE A CLEVELAND FAN. FOR A BASEBALL TEAM THAT HASN'T WON A World Series since 1948, you filled the park a record 455 times from 1995 to 2001. For an NBA club that had never made a serious title run, you turned out at a rate of 20,436 per game last season. And for an NFL team that hasn't won it all since '64, you fought like hell to keep its name, at least, from leaving town. To learn what drives such devotion, we asked theclevelandfan.com to query citizens: What is your most powerful memory as a fan? Here's what some of you said.
NOTHING COULD surpass watching three Cleveland pro sports teams win their respective championships in one year. The 1948 Indians won the World Series; the Cleveland Browns were champs and went undefeated that year as well; and the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League went unbeaten in 27 games en route to winning the Calder Cup. Every person on the planet called Cleveland the championship city of the world.
THE EVENT that sticks out in my life as a Cleveland sports fan was when Frank (Trader) Lane dealt Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn in 1960. The Cleveland media and fans were in total shock; it seemed as if the city had shut down. I was amazed how one stupid trade could upset so many people. It was a disappointment of major proportions. Cleveland had a love affair with Rocky. He arrived in 1955 and gained popularity very quickly. The media and fans looked up to Rocky as a hometown hero. It's been 47 years since he left Cleveland, and I still feel very uneasy thinking about that horrible day he was traded.
IT WAS December 1964, and the Browns were going to be in the NFL Championship Game. If you were not a season-ticket holder, you could mail in a request for tickets to The Plain Dealer and hope to be selected in a lottery. My father was not much of a sports fan, he hated the cold and the crowds. It was going to be hard to persuade him to spend his day off and his hard-earned money sitting in the old refrigerator on the lake. I drove him crazy until, with Mom's help, he put in for four tickets. None of us expected to be selected, but four tickets came in the mail.
Our seats were in the middle of the bleachers and halfway up. They were excellent seats. Two of the touchdowns came our way, and the Browns dominated the heavily favored Colts 27-0. What a high. I will never forget taking the Shaker Rapid Transit going home. We had just won the NFL championship with an incredible victory over Johnny U and the Colts. The car I was on was absolutely silent. I do not know whether everyone was cold and tired or whether these people were used to championship games from Paul Brown's teams. Maybe it was just a different era. I wanted to scream in delight, but I kept silent. My dad was just happy to be warm.
THE MOST powerful moment for me was the night the Tribe clinched its playoff berth in September 1995. We weren't at the game but at the hospital, as my wife was giving birth to our first son, promptly named Jacob Pishotti after Jacobs Field. On a side note, we had another son born in 1997. Oddly enough Cleveland made it to the World Series both times a Pishotti boy was born! Coincidence? I think not.
WHEN I LEFT for boot camp in the summer of 2000, the Indians were locked in a tight pennant race, and watching them play ball was the only thing that really kept my mind off my upcoming "vacation." I rode the bus into Chicago and felt sorry for myself, with no idea how the next few months would play out. My favorite correspondence was from my mother, who would cut out sections of The Plain Dealer sports page detailing the Indians games. It was the only way I could keep up with the Tribe. I would stay up late at night in my bunk with a flashlight and pore over the box scores and hope the Indians could miraculously pull it out and win the American League Central crown. They lost that year by five games to the White Sox, ending the playoff run of the '90s. It was heartbreaking, but following the team really kept me from feeling too homesick or left out. I still have those newspaper clippings in my correspondence folder from boot camp.
JUNE 2, 2007: Daniel (Boobie) Gibson rains threes on Detroit as though they were a plague of frogs. Rasheed Wallace goes nuts and gets the boot. And 20,000-plus Cavs fans come to the realization that, damn it, they are going to go to the Finals for the first time in team history.
So the Browns were in need of a bolt of lightning. Enter Kosar, a local boy—if you call an hour-and-a-half ride on the highway local—who grew up idolizing the Browns in a border town that was often torn between the Steelers and the Browns. It didn't take long for Cleveland to gain credibility with Bernie behind center. From 1986 to '89 the feeling that went through the air in this city was remarkable: Watching the Browns on Sunday just seemed to wash away all our troubles. There was rarely a five-minute period during the week in which my thoughts were not completely dominated by Bernie and the Browns. The hope they gave me has not been matched in my sports world yet.