The Cleveland Browns won seven world championships in their first ten years as a team, but never had a trophy to show for it. That is until now.
Earlier this week, Browns alumni director Tony Dick travelled to North Carolina to escort back to Cleveland a trophy from the 1946 AAFC Championship team.
“For years, we’ve been going through newspaper clippings, articles trying to find a picture of any of our trophies,” Dick said. “That’s one of the unique things. We’ve got eight World Championships that we’ve won, and we do not have a single trophy for any of our championships.
“For us, it’s pretty special that we actually have something physical that you can look at and it says, ‘We won a championship.’”
Although the trip from North Carolina to Cleveland takes just over nine hours by car, the journey for the Browns to attain the trophy took many months.
Gary Cole, the grandson of one of the Browns’ former minority owners, Daniel Sherby, was preparing for a move from Raleigh to Wilmington, N.C., and agreed to let the television program Garage Gold on the DIY Network go through this garage and take items to auction.
“They took it to a local appraiser, who, luckily for us, happened to be a Cleveland native, and from what the producers told me, the minute he saw the trophy, he got kind of teary-eyed,” Dick said. “He appraised the value for the family, which was considerable, and from that point, they had three options: auction the trophy off and keep the proceeds for the family, keep the trophy in the family or turn it over to the Browns.
“It was really nice to talk to them because they have a deep appreciation for the history of the team. They still follow the current team. It was neat to spend time with them because Gary pulled out a DVD he had and it was basically a highlight film from this ‘46 team. It was pretty special.”
The trophy was commissioned by the players for the owners of the team at the time, Mickey McBride and Sherby.
Back in the early days of professional football, the players received a dime-sized lapel pin, instead of the diamond-studded rings given to today’s Super Bowl winners. The owners did not receive anything, but the 1946 Browns pooled their money together so that McBride and Sherby could have constant reminders of the team’s success.
The scores of each game, including the 14-9 win over the New York Yankees in the championship game played on Dec. 22, 1946, and the names of the players on the team are hand-stamped onto the trophy. On it are the names of six Hall of Fame players and one Hall of Fame coach, and of the 38 players that comprised the team, 31 served in the United States military.
“We’re pretty offensive heavy on our Hall of Famers, and this team was an amazing defensive team,” Dick said. “With a 14-9 score, it was a defensive struggle (for the title). A real interesting fact about this game was it was won on a (Dante) Lavelli touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. The victory was sealed when Otto (Graham), who was playing both offense and defense, intercepted a pass at the end of the game.
“In that season, I’ve read where the team had 67 takeaways. From the sources that I have, they say it still stands as a record for a professional football team. Otto’s quarterback rating was 112.1, which was a record for professional football that stood until Joe Montana broke that record in 1989.”