Browns Scrapbook: A Fond Look Back at Five Decades of Football, from a Legendary Cleveland Sportswriter

Overview

Hall of fame football writer Chuck Heaton looks back at his 47 years covering the Cleveland Browns.

Heaton spent an incredible five decades covering the Browns—the “old Browns” teams that fans still miss. He reported on the Browns for the Plain Dealer from 1946 to 1993—nearly the entire history of the original Cleveland franchise.

In this series of memoirs, written shortly before his retirement, Heaton reminisces about the great players he got ...

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Browns Scrapbook: A Fond Look Back at Five Decades of Football, from a Legendary Cleveland Sportswriter

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Overview

Hall of fame football writer Chuck Heaton looks back at his 47 years covering the Cleveland Browns.

Heaton spent an incredible five decades covering the Browns—the “old Browns” teams that fans still miss. He reported on the Browns for the Plain Dealer from 1946 to 1993—nearly the entire history of the original Cleveland franchise.

In this series of memoirs, written shortly before his retirement, Heaton reminisces about the great players he got to know, like Jim Brown, Otto Graham, and Leroy Kelly; masterful head coach Paul Brown; colorful characters like equipment manager Morrie Kono; even notorious Browns rivals like Oilers’ coach Jerry Glanville and Steelers’ owner Art Rooney. He recalls the relaxed atmosphere of training camp at Hiram College, and shares tales of life on the road with the team (including some memorably bad hotels).

If you’re a Browns fans who remembers the old teams, you’ll fondly recall the glory days in these old-fashioned, personal stories. If you’re a younger Browns fan, you’ll find out why everyone still longs for them.

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Editorial Reviews

Cleveland Magazine - Meredith Valko
An insider’s tale of training camps, terrifying plane rides, hopeful Hall of Fame nominations, emergency stitches, an emotional locker room when JFK was shot, kind words about former Steelers owner Arthur Rooney and more . . . A perfectly packaged read for Browns fans who think they know all the ins and outs of the franchise . . . A front-row seat to a team history that stretches back more than half a century.
Morning Journal - Laura Kennelly
These readable short essays, each complete in itself, are fun for people who remember the old team and people who wonder what all the fuss is about . . . Readers can also learn what it was like to travel with the Browns.
CoolCleveland.com
Fans of football (or any other sport, for that matter) as it used to be will particularly enjoy the piece on page 157, titled “The Year Sports Lost Its Innocence”. It’s enough to make a grown person cry!
Cuyahoga Falls News Press - Michael Leonard
Heaton’s work is an easy read, as he colorfully describes the building of the franchise which Paul Brown wanted to become “the New York Yankees of pro football” . . . It gives great insight into the team that captured the hearts of Northeast Ohio sports fans.
Cuyahoga Falls News Press
Heaton’s work is an easy read, as he colorfully describes the building of the franchise which Paul Brown wanted to become “the New York Yankees of pro football” . . . It gives great insight into the team that captured the hearts of Northeast Ohio sports fans.
— Michael Leonard
Cleveland Magazine
An insider’s tale of training camps, terrifying plane rides, hopeful Hall of Fame nominations, emergency stitches, an emotional locker room when JFK was shot, kind words about former Steelers owner Arthur Rooney and more . . . A perfectly packaged read for Browns fans who think they know all the ins and outs of the franchise . . . A front-row seat to a team history that stretches back more than half a century.
— Meredith Valko
Morning Journal
These readable short essays, each complete in itself, are fun for people who remember the old team and people who wonder what all the fuss is about . . . Readers can also learn what it was like to travel with the Browns.
— Laura Kennelly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781598510430
  • Publisher: Gray & Company, Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/14/2007
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 204
  • Sales rank: 975,827
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Chuck Heaton was honored with a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980 when he received the prestigious Dick McCann Memorial Award, awarded to one journalist each year for a lifetime of excellence in football reporting. Heaton began writing as a city reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1942 and stayed with the paper for 51 years. In 1946 he eagerly accepted a job writing in the sports department and in 1954 began covering the Browns as a football writer. Heaton was one of the first electors to the Hall of Fame in 1963 and served in that role for thirty years. In 1990 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cleveland Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He was elected to the Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame in 1992. He retired from The Plain Dealer on October 1, 1993. He was chosen by Leroy Kelly to be his presenter when Kelly was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.
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Read an Excerpt

Spirit of Togetherness Permeated Camps at Hiram

“Not even a beer joint in this town.”

That was the comment of Preston Carpenter in 1956 to a woman standing next to him as they looked out the window of a sitting room in the Centennial Dormitory at Hiram College.

Katie Brown just smiled in reply. She probably never told her husband—coach Paul Brown—about this initial reaction of the running back, the first draft pick from Arkansas.

The Browns spent 26 summers in that bucolic, beerless spot, and I was with them for 24 of those years. It all started for me on a warm Sunday afternoon in 1954 after a drive down Route 82 from Cleveland.

My car radio was tuned to an Indians doubleheader against the New York Yankees from the Stadium. The Tribe had been my first sports love since joining the Plain Dealer eight years earlier.

The club was on its way to win 111 games and the American League pennant. But my assignment had been changed and I was being tried out as the Browns beat writer.

In assigning me to the Browns beat a few days earlier, Plain Dealer Sports Editor Gordon Cobbledick warned: “We’ll see what kind of a job you do. This is a very important beat.”

Never did I think that it would be so much fun, or that this would become an assignment that would occupy most of my working days for 24 years.

Memories of those summers at Hiram College and Kent State University flood back each year as Cleveland’s pro football team prepares for another training camp.

Hiram College and the quiet town at the intersection of Routes 82 and 700 turned out to be a second home. The media people were housed with the players in those days and usually went home only on weekends.

Nothing ever will quite duplicate the togetherness that was prevalent at Hiram.

It probably started with the people at the college. Bill Hollinger was athletic director and basketball coach. But during many of those summer months, he was the unofficial host of the Browns.

One of the fine people in athletics, he worked closely with Paul Brown and then with Blanton Collier and Nick Skorich, the head coaches of the team during that tenure. He did all in his power to make the days glide by smoothly, whether it was by lining the field or hosting a social hour.

His daughters even pitched in as hostesses. They often worked in the cafeteria.

Dr. Elmer Jagow was president of the college during most of those years. A pleasant, interesting man, he could be found on the sidelines at practice for some part of almost every afternoon.

It was at Hiram that the two greatest players in the history of the team—quarterback Otto Graham and fullback Jim Brown—trained. Graham came out of a brief retirement to rejoin the club at Hiram in 1955 for his last season.

Graham hadn’t practiced or played for more than a year when he returned that August, but he stepped back in as the starter immediately. As I stood behind the offense and watched him throw that first morning in that first practice, I noted only one sign of age. There was a faint bald spot beginning to show at the back of his head.

Jim Brown arrived on the scene two years later and also after practice was well under way. He drove up in a fire engine red convertible after an all-night trek from Chicago, where he had played in the College All-Star Game. Brown also immediately became the starting fullback.

Nature took care of watering the solitary football field for the most part. It occasionally became rock hard, however, and if the players complained enough, trainer Leo Murphy and equipment manager Morrie Kono solved the problem by buying the Garrettsville firefighters a few drinks. The volunteers would drive their trucks to Hiram and do some late-night watering with hoses attached to the two fire hydrants near the field.

The menu has changed considerably through the years, but one characteristic of all camps from Bowling Green to Berea has been excellent food. Preparation always has been by the school cafeteria workers, but top-drawer products always have been purchased without regard to cost.

The kitchen at Centennial Hall was not a large one, so on “steak night,” the T-bones or porterhouses were char-broiled outside.

“One of my best memories of Hiram is walking up the hill from the field and smelling those steaks,” former all-pro offensive tackle Dick Schafrath said. And Schafrath, now a state senator, was one of those who could down two or three of them for dinner.

Hiram did have the Hub, where a player could get ice cream or a soft drink and listen to a juke box, as well as a barber shop and post office. But beer was available not too far away. Practices usually were followed by caravans of cars to Garrettsville, a mile down the road, where alcohol was available. There also was the Aurora Inn to the west and the Welshfield and the Red Horseshoe Inn to the north. The coaches didn’t encourage the beer runs, but they privately admitted that replenishing the body fluids after a long, hot workout was not a bad idea.

Leo and Morrie were up early and about their jobs. The days sometimes ended for them late in the afternoon when after practice they would drive over to nearby Garretsville, G-Ville as it was called by the players, to have a beer or two before dinner. Then they would return to work if needed, and they usually were.

Paul Brown was an early to bed guy. His meetings with the assistant coaches finished promptly at 9 p.m. and he was tucking up the covers before 10. That’s when his aides, usually accompanied by some of the media, would tiptoe by his door at the end of the corridor and relax with a beer or two.

The late Ralph Hunter was the primary mover in bringing the Browns to Hiram College for summer workouts. A friend of Paul Brown, he heard that the team was thinking of leaving their training quarters at Bowling Green.

The Browns had worked there since the team was formed in 1946, its first year in the All-America Conference. Bowling Green seemed an ideal spot with it dormitories, classrooms and fields.

There was one drawback. The distance from Cleveland was about 100 miles of country roads, and few fans saw the club until the start of the season.

Brown wanted a spot about an hour away from Cleveland proper—close enough to visit but too far for his charges to sample the delights of the bright lights. He found Hiram, smaller than Bowling Green but with all the other requirements.

The team went to the new training site down Route 82 for the first time in 1952 as a test. It stayed for 23 summers.

Eventually, when rosters were expanded, more room was needed for practice and housing, and the Hiram dorms weren’t air conditioned. So the club moved on to Kent State University.

The summers at Hiram are remembered fondly by many, even by some of the players. They also are recalled as a spot of successful preparation for the season. The team had just two losing seasons in those 23 years.

[Excerpted from Browns Scrapbook, © Chuck Heaton. All rights reserved. Gray & Company, Publishers.]

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Table of Contents

Foreword

Editor’s Note

PLACES:

Spirit of Togetherness Permeated Camps at Hiram

Kids Were Part of the Camp Scene

Green Hotel Was Lacking in Amenities

Travel Incidents

Trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma Was Anything But Dull

Trips West Always Special

Rickey’s Motel an Oasis in Northern California

ON AND OFF THE FIELD:

Paul Brown, Legendary Coach, Dies

Brown Remembered as Pioneer, Innovator

Paul Brown Gave and Expected Loyalty

Trading Bobby Mitchell

Sipe’s Legacy Likely Will Be Red Right 88

Publicist Knew How to Find the Beef

Talent, Grit Made Graham the Best

Sense of Humor Served Modell Well

Brown Had Winning Look on Sideline

On the Trail of a Coaching Change in ’77

Kono, Murphy Brought Good Times to Browns

Ippolito Devotes His Career to Browns

Green Filled a Need and Lasted

Hickerson, Kelly Await Ultimate Christmas Gift

RIVALS:

Browns-Bengals Rivalry Arranged in a Hospital

Browns Lost to Steelers in 1954 and 1964 Title Seasons

Steelers’ Rooney Unforgettable

Bum Phillips Was a Class Act

Glanville’s Humor Was Oilers’ Trademark

Noll’s Love for Football Shared with Hobbies

Lambert Stood Out on Dominant Steelers

Beating Lions Was Never Easy for Browns

Namath Memorable in Victory or Defeat

Browns-49ers Rivalry Dates to Pre-NFL Days

BIG MOMENTS:

Browns Beat Colts for Last Title

Browns Shocked Eagles, NFL in 1950 Opener

Loss in ’58 Finale Was a Giant Pain

Cowboys Were at the Stadium the Day Ruby Shot Oswald

No Browns Loss Hurt as Much as ‘The Drive’

In 1965, It Really Was a ‘Road’ Loss

Firing of Brown Was a Shock

Browns Played Amid Tragic Events

THE GAME:

Media Remained Mum About Plum

NFL Draft Has Had Many Changes

The Year Sports Lost Its Innocence

NFL Doesn’t Break for Christmas

HALL OF FAMERS

Jim Brown, 1971

Lou Groza, 1974

Dante Lavelli, 1975

Bill Willis, 1977

Bobby Mitchell, 1983

Paul Warfield, 1983

Mike McCormack, 1984

Frank Gatski, 1985

Leroy Kelly, 1994

POSTSCRIPT:

The All-Time Greatest Browns Team

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