As another decade ended, a friend asked me what are the most exciting sporting events I have attended either as a fan or a member of the media. I started thinking about it and the overwhelming thought that came to mind is I have been very lucky to have made a living doing pretty much what I really love to do. So let’s start at the beginning, which is pretty much a good place to start.
• In October 1954, my father somehow came up with two tickets for Games 3 and 4 of the World Series between the Cleveland Indians vs. the New York Giants. The Indians got swept in four games and lost Game 4, the game I attended, 7-4.
Think of the Hall of Famers who played in that game, led by pitcher Bob Lemon, Larry Doby, Hal Newhouser and manager Al Lopez. The Giants had Willie Mays, Monte Irvin and Hoyt Wilhelm. Other significant players included Al Rosen, Bobby Avila, the last batting champ for Cleveland that year, and Don Mossi and Ray Narleski, who changed the game forever as a lefty-righty bullpen combination. Bobby Thompson, who hit maybe the most famous home run in history, played third base for New York.
• I was fortunate to see every home World Series game in 1995, 1997 and 2016. I saw Sandy Alomar hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning of the 1997 All-Star Game to give the American Legaue a 3-1 victory.
• I saw Alomar hit a ninth-inning home run off Mariano Rivera to help the Indians win an American League Division Series game.
• I witnessed the 1994 opening of Jacobs Field when Randy Johnson flirted with a no-hitter until the eighth inning. Feller is the only pitcher to open a season with a no-hitter and he was sitting about 15 feet from me in the pressbox, pacing back and forth.
• Before there was LeBron James, there was the “Miracle of Richfield” in 1976. Those Cavaliers games were the loudest sporting events I ever attended. My friend, Larry, got two tickets in the first row at the baseline, right behind the hockey boards. Jimmy Cleamons caught a Bobby “Bingo” Smith air ball and barely beat the buzzer with the put-back for a 92-91 win over Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals for a 3-2 lead. I was screaming my lungs out and then I looked down. I was standing on the hockey board and have no recollection of how I got there.
• The LeBron James Era pretty much runs together, but the Cavs-Golden State Warriors battles were epic, culminating with the 2016 NBA Championship. I had the good fortune to do the postgame show for the final game on 92.3 The Fan. I also emceed the championship parade, which reportedly was attended by 1.3 million people.
• From a broadcasting standpoint, the Cleveland State University 83-79 upset over No. 3 Indiana University and coach Bobby Knight stands well above anything I have done in the business. I packed for the NCAA first-round game in Syracuse for 1 1/2 days. Two days later, CSU beat St. Joseph’s University, 75-69, to advance to the Sweet 16, where David Robinson’s Navy team got a controversial call with seconds left in the game to win 71-70 and end what would have been an unbelievable Cleveland sports story.
• As for the Browns, I have been going to games since the mid-’50s and I saw every game Jim Brown played, with the exception of the 27-0 victory in the 1964 NFL championship game over Baltimore. The game was not shown on local television due to league blackout rules, so we drove to our cousin’s house in Youngstown to watch it.
• But the granddaddy of them all was the Rose Bowl game after the 1968 season when The Ohio State University played the University of Southern Caliornia. USC’s O.J. Simpson opened the scoring with an 80-yard run. Woody Hayes yelled at defensive coordinator Lou Holtz, asking how he could run 80 yards, and Holtz reportedly said, ‘They gave him the ball on the 20. The undefeated Buckeyes, who were loaded with sophomores, won, 27-16 .
That trip was more than a great game for me. It included my first plane ride, a trip to Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, a New Year’s Eve party in Pasadena, Calif., with a 3-mile walk to the Rose Bowl Parade and at least an hour nap on the golf course adjacent to the Rose Bowl – the most beautiful venue I have seen for a sporting event.
It’s been a pretty good run for me. I still need a Browns’ Super Bowl championship and an Indians’ World Series win to complete
the lifetime reward for a Cleveland sports fan. I know I am not alone in this quest.