By Jeremy Feador, Host Committee member
Sports run through the veins of Cleveland. Not long after the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first professional baseball team, Cleveland responded with her own club. Football was born an hour south of Cleveland in Canton (site of Pro Football Hall of Fame) and the Browns are a beloved franchise. At one point the Browns played in 10 championship games in 10 years! Seriously! It happened! Look it up! LeBron James has reinvigorated interest in Cleveland’s youngest pro sports team, the Cavs and nearly brought home the first title in Cleveland since 1964. (Hey, there’s always next year!)
When you find yourself in Cleveland for SAA this year, there are several sites relating to Cleveland’s sports heritage that you must check out.
First Energy Stadium
100 Alfred Lerner Way
Home of the Cleveland Browns, First Energy Stadium is located on the Lakefront across from the Rock Hall and can be seen out the window of the Convention Center. If you feel like catching a pre-season game, the Browns will host the Buffalo Bills on Thursday, August 20th and will be featured on ESPN. As dreary as the Browns have been since they returned in 1999, they do have a very proud history (see Cleveland Memory’s “The Glory Days of the Cleveland Browns“). Legendary Coach Paul Brown guided the club to 10 straight championship games in a ten year span (1946-1955). The team was relocated to Baltimore after the 1995 season and this stadium was built in an effort to have professional football return to Cleveland. Browns stadium is built on the same ground where Cleveland Municipal Stadium once stood.
Lexington Ave & East 66th Street
In 2014, Cleveland’s League Park, “the oldest existing ball park in the world,” reopened after a million dollar facelift. Located in the Hough neighborhood, League Park is perhaps one of the most historic ballparks still in existence. League Park was the setting for many historic moments: Babe Ruth’s 500th home run, Joe Dimaggio’s 56th hit in his hit streak, the Indians 1920 World Series Title. Players such as Ty Cobb, Bob Feller, Nap Lajoie, Hank Greenburg, Lou Gehrig, and the Negro League Cleveland Buckeyes all played at League Park. When the Indians moved to Municipal Stadium full-time in 1947, League Park gradually fell into disrepair. However, due to efforts of the City of Cleveland, the field is now open for visitors and baseball teams. Located inside the original ticket house is the Baseball Heritage Museum. Cleveland Memory has a great online exhibit.
2401 Ontario Street
Home of the Cleveland Indians, Progressive Field just turned 20 years old last year. The ballpark has hosted two World Series and an All-Star Game. Walking around the ballpark, make sure to check out the Bob Feller, Jim Thome, and Larry Doby statues. Feller, considered one of the best right handed pitchers in baseball history, was born in Van Meter, Iowa and joined the Indians when he was 17 years old. He served in the Navy during WWII and when the war was over, helped the Indians capture the 1948 World Series. The Larry Doby statue will be unveiled later in July and commemorates Doby’s Hall of Fame and barrier breaking career. He was the first African American to play in the American League. (The Indians are out of town during SAA.)
1 Center Court
Home of the LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Q also hosts rock concerts, arena football games, and other family friendly events.
Devoted to History
Cleveland Public Library’s Sports Research Center
Louis Stokes Wing, 525 Superior Avenue
CPL is a must stop for any library enthusiast. It is also home of the Sports Research Center. As the website notes, it “showcases the best of Cleveland sports history all in one convenient location. The Center houses more than 25,000 books, magazines and primary research materials, including archival photos, scrapbooks, autographs, clippings, oral history recordings, correspondence and more. The Center is free and open to the public year-round.” If you love baseball, the library is also home to the Mears Collection. Can’t make it to CPL? No problem, the library also has wonderful digital collections, such as this one on the history of baseball.
Cleveland State University’s Michael Schwartz Library Special Collections
1860 E. 22nd Street
Another archival repository worth checking out for sports fans is CSU’s Michael Schwartz Library. Home to the Cleveland Press Collection, Special Collections contains a vast photographic history of Cleveland sports. Many of these photographs are online in Cleveland Memory.
Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage
2929 Richmond Road, Beachwood
If you can make the trip to Cleveland’s east side, the Maltz is currently hosting the traveling exhibit “Chasing Dreams: Baseball & Becoming American.” Organized by the National Museum of American Jewish History, it “explores the central role our national pastime has played in the identity of Jews and other minority communities.” See the museum’s Current Exhibitions for more information on it and special events related to the exhibit.
Jessie Owens Statue
Corner of West 3rd and Lakeside
Although Jessie Owens was not born in Cleveland, his family moved to the city when he was only a child. Jessie attended Ohio State and then competed in the 1936 Olympics. He is most remembered for winning four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics while Adolph Hitler was in attendance.
And, a café…
2529 West 10th Street
If you happen to be in Tremont (a few minutes south of Downtown) stop at Hotz Café. The bar has hosted such legendary names as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig. See Cleveland.com’s “Hotz Cafe: Legendary Cleveland bar hosted Babe Ruth, tossed Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep”