Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cleveland Hall of Fame

In the spirit of the following the World Wide Leader's run at awarding their major markets a hall of fame (i.e. LA, Boston and the like...you know the markets ESPN has a rooting interest in!) I decided to go ahead and fire one off for the city of Cleveland. Let me make this clear. This is for Cleveland's sports franchises, so don't be bringing me any of that Elliot Ness or Moses Cleaveland shit!

ANYWAY, before I get started, I know last year I did a post for Cleveland's top pro-athletes ever. This list will be different  because it could include coaches, owners, as well as focusing on what these people did while they were involved with Cleveland franchises. If you think I missed someone, feel free to comment away kids!

One last note. If you are expecting a hall of fame class with the same type of glitz and glamour as Los Angeles, then you sir are shit out of luck. You want botox and yoga? Go to fucking ESPN. We are a beer and shots kind of town. Corned beef and perogies. Tuesday nights at a shady strip club that let's you eat Taco Bell while getting a lap dance. This is our town!

In no particular order, here is the Kid Cleveland list for the initial Hall of Fame class in no particular order:

Larry Doby - Cleveland Indians (1947-1955, 1958)

This talented center fielder makes this initial class for reasons both on and off the field. Larry Doby was the first African American to play in the American League and made his first appearance with the Indians just eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson's debut with Brooklyn.

What often gets lost in history is just how great of a player Larry Doby was. Doby never posted an OPS lower than .857 as an Indians full time player from 1947 until 1955. Strangely enough, Doby's lowest OPS was .847 which occured in 1954 when Doby finished as MVP runner-up. Go figure. From 1950 till 1952, Doby posted consecutive WAR's (wins above replacement player) of 6.3 - third in the league, 5.9 - third again, and 7.3 - second in the league.

Doby also appeared in the All-Star game from 1949-1955 while also playing key roles on the World Champion '48 team, as well as the '54 pennant winners that set a league record for wins (111-43) that would stand for decades.

Paul Brown - Cleveland Browns (1946-62)

Paul Brown started off right away as part-owner, vice president, general manager and head coach for Mickey McBride's franchise in the brand new league known as the All-America Football Conference. He signed his contract February 8, 1945, while still in the Navy.

Brown's innovations were legendary. Wether it was player intellegence test, game film, radio transmitters, or the invention of the modern facemask, Paul Brown always seemed to be a step ahead of the competition for much of his time in Cleveland. He is also given credit for establishing the offense that would eventually be known as the West Coast Offense made famous by one of his assistants, hall of fame coach Bill Walsh.

As head coach of the Browns, Paul Brown won four AAFC championships and three more in the NFL. Brown's tenure with the Browns took a turn for the worse when Art Modell bought the team in 1961. Naturally,  Brown and the meddling Modell could not coexist as Brown was fired in January of 1963.

Bob Feller - Cleveland Indians (1936-41, 1945-56)

As a 17 year-old, Feller struck out 17 batters in a Major League game. Think about that for a second. The most dominant pitcher of his era retired with 266 wins and 2,581 strikeouts. He also threw three no-hitters and a record tying 12 one-hitters. Those numbers would be even greater if Feller hadn’t spent four years in the Navy during WWII...a war that he is damn proud to have served, even more so than his baseball career. Feller led the Indians to their last World Series victory in 1948 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962. Feller’s #19 is retired by the Indians and he is the only Cleveland athlete to be currently honored with a bronze statue. Feller spent his entire career with the Indians.

Otto Graham - Cleveland Browns (1946-1955)

Where do we start with Otto Graham? Is it the 5 total MVP awards in both the AAFC and NFL? What about the 9 combined All-Pro selections? For as impressive as those accomplishments are, Graham’s greatest achievement is winning. Hey, that's a rare acheivement in this town. Graham led the Browns to the championship game ten times in as many years and won seven of those title games. Oh, and he also led the league in passing in seven of those ten years to boot. Graham’s all-time record as QB for the Browns is 105-17-4. I don't care how many years were in the AAFC compared to the NFL. A winner is a winner and Otto Graham dominated both leagues. The Hall of Famer’s #14 (he wore #60 as an AAFC player) is retired by the Browns.

Jim Brown - Cleveland Browns (1957-65)

A Hall of Famer on and off the field
There is no doubt this is the greatest running back in NFL history. In his day, Brown played NFL seasons that only consisted of 12 and then 14 games (compared to 16 today) and most of his career records still compare to the numbers today’s players are producing as far as per-game averages are concerned. At the time of his retirement, Brown held the NFL career standard for yards rushing (12,312), touchdowns (126), and yards per carry (5.2). Brown won 4 NFL MVP’s. Named to 9 Pro Bowls and won an NFL title in 1964…which is the most recent in Cleveland sports history that matters. Brown's #32 has been retired by the Browns. Bonus points for getting the chance to make out with Raquel Welch onscreen in the movie 100 Rifles.

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