If you are an native of Cleveland, or just a big Cleveland sports fan, you may want to stop reading now. If you choose to keep reading, make sure there are no sharp objects within reach. OK. You've been warned.
We all know about the famous "cursed" teams. We've heard the heart breaking stories. The Billy Goat. 1969 and the Black Cat. The ball between Leon Durham's legs. The 8 run 8th. Steven Bartman. Mark Prior throws his arm out early in his career. So does Kerry Wood. You already know the team I'm talking about.
Or how about 1946 Game 7, Pesky holds the ball. 1975 the Armbrister play. 1978, the Collapse and Bucky Bleeping Dent. 1986 Game 6, two outs nobody on and a two-run lead, then the ball goes through Buckner's legs. The Curse of the Bambino. Pedro gets left in too long in '03. Aaron Boone. You know who this is.
I've lived through one of these curses myself. The Florida Gators have been a dominant program in both football and basketball in recent years, but go back before 1990. We would've given anything just to see an SEC Title ONE TIME before we died.
There was 1967 Georgia. There was 1976 "Fourth and Dumb." There were countless crushing losses to Auburn and Georgia when the elusive title was right there for the taking. Then the cruelest blows of all. The FIRST THREE SEC Titles we ever won on the field were stripped for violations.
But this Cleveland thing defies logic. Oh sure, Cubs fans and even White Sox fans can cry a river over the losing baseball in that city for the better part of a century. But, that city saw a decade where the Chicago Bulls won SIX World Titles. They are the home of THE greatest basketball player EVER!
So how sorry do we really have to feel for Chicago fans. Don't forget, the Bears also won a Super Bowl and a few NFL Titles back in the pre-Super Bowl days too.
Boston fans can boo-hoo about that Bambino thing they endured for 86 long years right? Well the Celtics during that stretch won 16 NBA TITLES! Then there was the Patriots three Super Bowl wins. And I'm sure the Bruins won a Stanley Cup or two in there somewhere. So how bad have they had it? Really?
But Cleveland. Poor Cleveland. They can't catch a break it seems in ANY sports. The Browns have never played in a Super Bowl. The Indians went from 1954 to 1995 without playing in a World Series. They still haven't won one since 1948. The Cavs one trip to the NBA Finals in history resulted in a sweep at the hands of San Antonio.
Futility like this does not come without some close calls. It doesn't come without some real frustration. Some just plain old rotten luck. And some bitter losses along the way. If there is one thing Cleveland can take heart in, it's that the Red Sox, White Sox, and of course the Gators all broke through. In Florida's and Boston's case, multiple times. So there is still hope.
Here are 20 of the most bitter disappointments since the last time Cleveland won one of sport's big three prizes, the NBA Finals, the Super Bowl, and the World Series.
These are in no particular order, as I cannot rank them. I am not a Cleveland fan. I did not feel the pain that fans of Cleveland felt. So maybe you Buckeyes can rank them. In no particular order they are:
1954 World Series. Giants vs. Indians. The Indians won a staggering 111 games that year. The Giants swept them in four games. You've seen the Willie Mays catch. The Giants have not won a World Series since. But don't cry for San Francisco. Remember the 49ers? Joe Montana? Jerry Rice? Bill Walsh? Steve Young?
1995 World Series. Indians vs. Braves. This series had five one-run games in it. It goes the other way, this article is about Atlanta. The Braves won the clincher 1-0 behind a gem by Future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. The lone run was on a homer by David Justice. It was the lone championship in a 14-year playoff run by the Braves. The Falcons have been blanked. So have the Flames and Thrashers. The Hawks did win a title. In St. Louis.
1997 World Series: Indians vs. Marlins. This was particularly bitter because of the way they lost it. They had a lead going into the bottom of the 9th in Game 7. The Fish tied it up. Then won it in the 11th on Edgar Rentaria's single that scored Craig Counsell. It was also bitter because of who they lost to. The Marlins were only in their sixth year. They were also the first Wild Card team to win it all.
2007 ALCS: Red Sox vs. Indians. The Tribe has a 3-1 lead. Former Cleveland hero Manny Ramirez is unimpressed. He seems particularly relaxed before Game 5 stating that if the Sox lose, the sun will still come up. He had reason to be confident. The Sox blew the Indians out in the last three games and then swept the World Series.
1998 ALCS: Indians vs. Yankees. Hard to say they blew this, because the Yanks were just awesome back then. They won the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000. 1998 was easily the best team in that stretch. The Indians however, did hold a 2-1 lead in the Series, then lost three straight.
2000: Manny Ramirez gets traded to Boston. Ramirez played in two World Series with the Indians. Monetary demands on small market teams being what they are, they lose him to Boston one year after he has 165 RBI. Boston then breaks its 86-year drought with Manny in the middle of the lineup. Then the Sox beat the Tribe in '07, go on to win another one. Ouch.
2008: Indians have to part with CC Sabathia. He leaves the Tribe for Milwaukee in mid-season and pitches them into the playoffs. He then signs a big money deal with the Yankees, and pitches them to a World Series in his first year. Ouch.
2009: Indians have to part with Cliff Lee. He pitches the Phillies into the World Series. He is actually matched up against Sabathia twice in the Series. Double Ouch.
May 1989: The Shot. Michael Jordan becomes Michael Jordan at the expense of the Cavs. His jumper over Craig Ehlo sends the Bulls on and the Cavs home in a best of five series. The Bulls win it 3-2, 101-100. Ehlo had just put the Cavs up with :03 to play. He went from hero to zero at Jordan's expense. Jordan then goes on to win six titles. The Cavs are still looking for No. 1.
Jan 4, 1981. Red Right 88. The Browns trail the Raiders by two with less than a minute to play. They have the ball on the Raider 13. All they have to do is kick a field goal. They throw a pass into the end zone. Mike Davis picks it off. The Raiders go on to win the Super Bowl.
Jan 11, 1987. The Drive. The Browns lead Denver 20-13 with 5:02 to play. The Broncos were pinned down at their own two. John Elway then earns his reputation as a two-minute drive expert by leading Denver down the field, tying the game on a TD pass to Mark Jackson with :37 to play, then winning it in OT 23-20.
January 1988. The Fumble. It looks as if the Browns will get sweet revenge for the year before. Trailing the Broncos in Denver 21-3, the Browns and hometown hero Bernie Kosar come storming back. They tie it up 31-31. Elway then leads one of his famous fourth quarter drives with 4 minutes to play. Sammy Winder scores the go ahead touchdown to put Denver up 38-31. Not to be outdone, Kosar leads the Browns back. Then it happened. The fumble. Earnest Byner fumbles the ball. He NEVER fumbles the ball. He was going in for a game tying score when he was stripped by a desperate Bronco defender at the two yard line. Browns lose 38-33.
The 1995 football season. The Browns move to Baltimore. Art Modell, frustrated by the city's inaction on getting a new stadium built for football and not to pleased that the Indians got one, moves his team to Baltimore. The Browns were once the signature franchise in the early days of the NFL, and now they were gone.
2000: Baltimore wins the Super Bowl. Art Modell holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy. This has to be particularly galling for Browns fans because they have never even appeared in a Super Bowl. Now five years after leaving, the Ravens win it all. And Cleveland again has a team that can barely make the playoffs on a great year.
2007 NBA Finals: Cavs vs. Spurs. The Cavs have arrived. They come back from down 0-2 to the defending champion Detroit Pistons and win it in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Surely they can take the Spurs out right? Wrong. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Co. dismantle the Cavs in a four-game sweep.
2009 Eastern Conference Finals. Magic vs. Cavs. The Magic do the Cavs a huge favor, knocking out the defending champion Boston Celtics in the previous round. Surely the top seeded Cavs can take the third-seeded Magic, right? Wrong. So much for that LeBron vs. Kobe matchup the shoe company was gearing us toward with their puppet commercials. The Cavs get a HUGE lift when LeBron hits an impossible three point buzzer beater to even the series 1-1. Cleveland fans were comparing it to Michael Jordan's shot over Craig Ehlo. What they forgot was, this shot didn't end the series.
2010. Eastern Conference Semifinals. Cavs vs. Celtics. The Cavs have the MVP in King James. James is to become a free agent at the end of the year. Already, big market teams are lining up to turn the Ohio native into the basketball version of Ramirez, Sabathia or Lee. This may be his last hurrah in Cleveland. The Cavs have the overall No. 1 seed for this playoff run. They hand the Celtics their worst home playoff lost ever to go up 2-1. Things are looking good. Then before the eyes of the nation, Rajon Rondo becomes a superstar. Celtics return the favor in game 5, blowing the Cavs out 120-88 in what many fear was LeBron's last home game in Cleveland.
There are 17 severely painful memories for fans of Cleveland's sports teams. To make it an even 20, let me give you the names of Kellen Winslow Jr., Brady Quinn, and Braylon Edwards.
None will be regarded as THE most painful if the Cavaliers cannot sign LeBron James. If he leaves, the sports fans in this town may just burn down the city.