EDITOR'S NOTE: Page 2, along with ESPN2's "Cold Pizza," counted down the 15 Most Tortured Sports Cities in America. This week, we crown Cleveland as the most tortured of the tortured. Congrats, Cleveland, and be sure to see what Graham Hays predicts for the next 100 years But first, the 10 most tortured Cleveland moments.
10. Indians, vs. Giants, Sept. 29, 1954
The Indians, who had won an AL-record 111 games, were swept by the New York Giants in the 1954 World Series. But one moment from the Series lives on forever. In the top of the eighth inning at the Polo Grounds, Giants center fielder Willie Mays made his famous over-the-shoulder catch of a 460-foot drive by Vic Wertz, which preserved a tie game. Then, Dusty Rhodes won the game for the Giants with a pinch-hit home run in the 10th.
9. Cavaliers vs. Celtics, May 19, 1976
The Cavaliers' first season was in 1970 -- and in the first five seasons, the team never finished above .500. But suddenly, in 1975-76, the Cavs became contenders for a year. Cleveland fans dubbed it the Miracle of Richfield. The Cavs finished 49-33 in the regular season under head coach Bill Fitch, then beat the Washington Bullets in a thrilling seven-game series to advance to the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics. That's when their luck ran out. Two days before Game 1 against the Celtics, center Jim Chones, the team's leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, broke his foot in practice and had to miss the series. The Cavs fought hard, but eventually succumbed to the Celtics, losing 94-87 at home in Game 6 to end the series.
|THE 15 MOST TORTURED SPORTS CITIES|
15. Tampa Bay
14. Kansas City
11. Washington, D.C.
9. San Diego
8. Indians vs. Braves, Oct. 28, 1995
The Indians rolled to the majors' best record in 1995 at 100-44, and led the AL in both hitting and pitching. But Atlanta's only World Series win during their current era of success came against Cleveland. The Indians lost Games 1 and 2, both by one run. They trailed 3-1 in the series before winning Game 5 to send the series back to Atlanta. But Tom Glavine and Mark Wohlers held Cleveland to just one hit, a bloop single by Tona Pena in the sixth inning. All Atlanta got was a solo home run by David Justice off Jim Poole in the bottom of that inning -- but that was enough for a 1-0 win. The Indians batted .179 in the series.
7. Cavaliers vs. Bulls, May 29, 1992
In 1992, the Cavaliers advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the second time in their history. They faced their nemesis, the Chicago Bulls. The teams split the first four games of the series. The Bulls won Game 5 at home. Game 6 in Cleveland was tight. Michael Jordan was just 5 of 20 from the field in the first three quarters. But he came alive in the fourth, pouring in 16 of his 29 points. His three-point play with 37.8 seconds left broke a 93-93 tie, and the Bulls went on to win, 99-94, and advance to the NBA Finals. That was as far as those excellent Cleveland teams, led by Mark Price, Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance, ever got.
6. Browns vs. Raiders, Jan. 4, 1981
Cleveland quarterback Brian Sipe had a fantastic year in 1980, with 30 TDs and just 14 INTs (he was named the MVP). The Browns went 11-5, won their division, and earned a first-round bye in the playoffs. Then they hosted the Oakland Raiders, on a day where the wind chill was 35-below. Neither team could get much going offensively. The Browns trailed 14-12 in the fourth quarter when Sipe drove his team to the Raiders' 13-yard line with 49 seconds left.
Sipe wanted to call a running play, to set up a game-winning field goal attempt. But head coach Sam Rutigliano preferred to attempt a pass, since kicker Don Cockroft had missed two field goals and two extra points in the game, and had a bad knee. The famous play? "Red Right 88." Sipe dropped back to pass ... the Raiders blitzed ... Sipe lofted a wobbly pass to tight end Ozzie Newsome ... and Mike Davis picked it off. The Raiders went on to win the Super Bowl.
5. Cavaliers vs. Bulls, May 8, 1989
No one will ever forget the way this game ended -- with one of the most famous shots in NBA history. It was a deciding Game 5 in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Bulls had come back, courtesy of a 16-3 fourth-quarter run, and took a 99-98 lead with six seconds left, thanks to a Michael Jordan pull-up jumper. But a Craig Ehlo lay-in off an inbounds play gave Cleveland the lead with three seconds to play. Coming out of the timeout, Jordan was double-teamed by Ehlo and Larry Nance. But he got free anyway and nailed a double-clutch foul-line jumper while hanging in mid-air at the buzzer to give the Bulls a 101-100 victory. Jordan finished with 44 points. It was the Cavs' second consecutive Game 5 loss to Chicago.
4. Modell moves the Browns, Nov. 6, 1995
On this date, Browns owner Art Modell announced he was moving the team to Baltimore. Cleveland fans were outraged. The team lost seven of its last eight games that year, finishing with a record of 5-11. But they did win their final game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on Dec. 17 against the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-10. Their head coach, Bill Belichick, went on to win two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.
In 1996, the city and the NFL struck a deal to return the Browns to the league in 1999, with the same name, colors and history. But Modell remains Public Enemy No. 1 with Cleveland fans, and the city will never forget.
3. Browns vs. Broncos, Jan. 17, 1988
For the second year in a row, the Browns and Broncos hooked up in the AFC Championship game. This time, instead of The Drive (see below), it was The Fumble. The Browns fell way behind, but made a spectacular comeback, scoring 30 points in the second half, led by quarterback Bernie Kosar. They still trailed 38-31 late, but were on the verge of scoring a game-tying touchdown with just over a minute to play. Running back Ernest Byner, who'd already notched two touchdowns on the day, took a handoff from Kosar -- and he appeared to have the room to reach the end zone. But Jeremiah Castille was able to strip the ball away from him and recover it at the 3-yard line, sealing the win for Denver (which took a safety to make the final score 38-33).
2. Browns vs. Broncos, Jan. 11, 1987
In 1986, the Browns led the AFC with 12 wins. Then they had to rally from 10 points down with two minutes left to beat the Jets, 23-20 in OT, in the playoffs. In the AFC Championship game, they hosted the Broncos -- this time Cleveland had a 20-13 lead late in the fourth quarter, with the Broncos pinned all the way back at their own 2-yard line. That's where John Elway started The Drive. Elway maneuvered the Broncos 98 yards in 15 plays, including a 3rd-and-18 conversion at one point. He connected with Mark Jackson with 37 seconds left to tie the game at 20. Then Rich Karlis kicked a game-winning 33-yard field goal in OT to send the Broncos to the Super Bowl.
1. Indians vs. Marlins, Oct. 26, 1997
In the 1997 World Series, the Indians faced the Florida Marlins, who'd only existed for five years. The series went the full seven games. In Game 7 in Florida, Cleveland got an excellent start from rookie Jaret Wright, who gave up just one run and two hits in 6 1/3 innings. They took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning, three outs away from a championship -- the franchise's first since 1948 and the first for the city of Cleveland since the Browns won the 1964 NFL championship in the pre-Super Bowl era.
But closer Jose Mesa blew the save, and the game went to extra innings. After a crucial error by second baseman Tony Fernandez with one out in the bottom of the 11th put runners on first and third (instead of being a potentially inning-ending double play), Edger Renteria's two-out RBI single off Charles Nagy won the World Series for Florida..