MUSIC - Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Photographed in 1976, 1987 and 1991 using film.
Cleveland Stadium "the mistake by the lake" - Opened July 1, 1931, closed December 17, 1995. The stadium was demolished in 1996 and the site is now new Cleveland Browns Stadium. Cleveland Browns Stadium opened September 12, 1999 and is still standing.
Location - 1085 West 3rd St. Cleveland, Ohio -- Bounded by Erieside Ave., and Lerner Way Official name was Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
"The mistake by the lake." That was often used in describing Cleveland's municipal stadium. It was originally called Lakefront stadium, however that name lasted only one year. After 1932, it was renamed Cleveland municipal stadium, which it retained during rest of the parks life. Located on the shore of Lake Erie, Cleveland stadium could bring you to your knees with bone chilling winds and snow. And that was for Indians games! Browns games in December were even worse. Such was the description of old Cleveland stadium. It was cursed, maligned, laughed at and basically hated by most visiting teams. BUT, it was home for both the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns for 63 fun packed years.
Located literally on the Lake Erie shoreline, Cleveland stadium was located at 1085 W 3rd Street, just north of downtown Cleveland. Ground was broken for the massive structure on June 24, 1930, and thirteen months later, the stadium was open for business. The first event was held on July 3, 1931, which was a heavyweight fight between Max Schmeling and Young Stribling. Schmeling won on a 15th round TKO to retain his heavyweight title. The myth that the stadium was built to attract the 1932 summer Olympics is false. Los Angeles had already been awarded the games prior to the construction of the stadium. In 1936 the Donald Gray gardens were planted on the stadium's north side. These were added in conjunction with the 1936 Great Lakes Exhibition. The gardens would remain just north of the stadium up until demolition in 1995.
About a year later, on July 1, 1932, the Indians played their first game at the stadium. The Philadelphia A's, led by Lefty Grove, shut out the Indians 1-0 before a record crowd of 80,184. For the next fourteen years though, the Indians would alternate between antiquated League park and Cleveland stadium. Finally in 1947, the Indians permanently moved into the stadium. They would remain here thru the 1993 season. In 1994, they settled into their new grounds just up 3rd Street at Jacob's field. The Indians won pennants in 1948 and 1954 with one Worlds championship in 48. Up until the mid 60's, the Indians always had a good club. Then came the "curse of Rocky Colavito." Just before opening day in 1960, the Indians traded Colavito to Detroit for Harvey Kuenn. The blockbuster traded the home run champ in Colavito for the AL batting champ in Kuenn. Colavito would go on to make 3 all star teams for Detroit, while Kuenn lasted only one year in Cleveland. Also in 1960s, the Indians traded future stars Tommy John, Luis Tiant and Lou Piniella, getting very little in return. Thus began the 30 plus year slump in Cleveland. Attendance was as bad as the Indians. The team would draw 20,000 in the monster stadium, and it looked empty. Faced with a bad club and a decaying stadium, the Indians began to turn things around. First with building from the farm system, then moving to their new park in 1993.
The only Cleveland stadium championship was won in 1948. The Indians were led by the big 3 pitching staff of Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia and Bob Feller. They also had a powerhouse lineup of Joe Gordon, Ken Keltner, Al Rosen and the league MVP in Lou Boudreau. Boudreau was also the manager of the tribe that season. The Indians were battling for the pennant when on July 9, 1948, a Negro league legend took the mound for Cleveland. Bill Veek had signed legendary hurler Satchel Paige. Paige claimed to be 41 but rumor has it he was much older than that. Nonetheless, the Indians met the Boston Braves in the 1948 series. They beat Boston 4-2 to claim their only World Series at Cleveland stadium. And to this date, it was their last world championship. Next to the Chicago Cubs, the Indians have had the longest championship drought in baseball.
1993 was the swan song season for baseball at the old yard. The Indians were on the upswing, however the playoffs and world series were going to happen in the new park. It was a celebratory season in Cleveland. The final game took place on October 3, 1993 when the Indians hosted the Chicago White Sox. A huge crowd of 72,390 went away disappointed, as the White Sox shut out the tribe 4-0. Jason Bere got the win for Chicago while Charles Nagy took the loss. The last home run hit at Cleveland stadium was on October 2nd as Albert Belle of the Indians slammed a Jose De Leon fastball over the left field wall. All to no avail, as the Tribe dropped that game to the White Sox also. Unfortunately, the Indians lost the last three games played at the stadium. The team's last victory came on September 26, with a 6-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Jeremey Hernandez picked up the win in relief. After thousands of games and thrills, the Indians finally said goodbye to the old park. The green grass was inhabited by hall of famers and near hall of famers. From Rapid Robert Feller to Jim Thome to Lou Boudreau to Larry Doby, the stadium saw it all.
The other resident of the mistake by the lake took advantage of the God awful weather conditions. The Cleveland Browns were the kings of Cleveland and the stadium. All told, the Brownies won 4 NFL championships in Cleveland. The last one coming in 1964. Fierce winds, lake effect snows and a rowdy fan base made life miserable for visitors. Temps hovering around 0 were not uncommon. The turf saw hall of famers Otto Graham, Lou 'the toe" Groza, and the legendary Jim Brown play their careers in Cleveland. The last hurrah happened in 1995. On December 17, the final game was played. The Browns were leaving for Baltimore after the season, and the mood was somber. Fires were set in the dawg pound, and the cops had to try and quiet things down. Seats were ripped out, and the old girl was bloodied. The final score was meaningless, although the Browns did beat the Cincinnati Bengals 26-10. After the mayhem, the stadium was basically left damaged. Eleven months later, the wreckers ball came in and did what the howling winds and snows could not do. Systematically, the stadium came down, section by section. Once the edifice was gone, work was begun on the NEW Cleveland Browns stadium. The new park is very nice, and state of the art, but I would be willing to bet that most Browns fans would like to go back in time and see at least one more game at the old girl.
Looking at the stadium from the 3rd Street bridge. 10/95
Cleveland stadium on a hot humid July evening. 7/76