When the Cleveland Browns Were Champions but Not on TV
Cleveland sports teams have been in many playoff games; they just can’t quite win the final game. But they did it on December 27th 1964. The Browns were expected to lose by 7 to 10 points to the great Baltimore Colts team behind quarterback Johnny Unitas. But it was Cleveland’s QB Frank Ryan who threw three touchdown passes to Gary Collins.
Radio clip “Collins is out 6 at right end, Ryan back to throw, pumps, throws a long one to Collins. He’s wide open, he’s got it at the 8, touchdown for the Browns! “
The Colts had the 1964 Coach of the Year, a young man from Painesville, Don Shula. But the author of the book “Brownstown 1964,” Terry Pluto, says Cleveland’s victory might best be credited to its coach, soft-spoken and well-liked Blanton Collier, who took over from the Hall of Famer, Paul Brown.
“Collier was like Paul Brown only nicer. Paul Brown had become sort of a grump in his older age and the players didn’t frankly like him. He had become conservative and stern. Collier was his top assistant. Collier was the master of having an idea in mind, talking to you about it for 15-20 minutes and you start to think it’s your idea.”
The game had the 2nd largest crowd ever for a title game yet the team owner blacked out the game in Cleveland.
“Because Art Modell – who had the option of whether you want to have this on live TV because it was a Friday sell-out - and so he didn’t allow it to be broadcast live within like a 70 mile radius."
Jim Brown ran for 114 yards, Lou Groza kicked two field goals and the Browns won 27-0. But the city’s last major sports championship was broadcast in Cleveland on tape the following day. An exhibition on the ‘64 Browns is now on display at the Western Reserve Historical Society. It includes a locker from the old stadium and the shoes that Jim Brown wore that day.