The Browns this year are celebrating the 60th anniversary of their birth in 1946 and the heritage and tradition that followed.
Sadly, they lost a strong tie to all that history when Ed Ulinski passed away Sunday night at the Heather Hills Nursing Home in Chardon, Ohio, where he had been suffering with Alzheimer's disease. He was 85.
Save for a four-year period (1950-53) when he served as an assistant coach at Santa Clara (on the staff of former Browns assistant Dick Gallagher) and then Purdue, Ulinski was with the Browns from their inception in 1946 through '84 as a player, coach and film coordinator. That 36-year stay makes him one of the longest-tenured employees in club history, and his experience in so many different fields makes him one of the most well-versed and valuable people the Browns have ever had.
Ulinski was a lineman with the original Browns in 1946 and played through the '49 season, their last in the All-America Football Conference before moving to the NFL in '50. He was a two-way guard in 1946 and '47, weighing less than 200 pounds when he reported to training camp for that inaugural season, and was an offensive guard in '48 and '49.. Ulinski knew nothing but success with those teams, as the Browns captured the AAFC title all four years.
When a vacancy was created in 1954 when Weeb Ewbank left to become head coach of the Baltimore Colts, Ulinski returned as an assistant coach just as the Browns were about to begin a two-year reign as NFL champions. He was also an assistant with the 1964 title-winning club, making him a part of seven of the eight league crowns the Browns have earned.
Ulinski continued as an assistant coach and then an administrative coaching aide before taking over as the club's film coordinator in 1971. He worked in the latter capacity until his retirement 13 years later.
"Eddie was a very intense player and a good player, a very intense coach and just a very good man," Leo Murphy, who served as Browns trainer from 1950-89, said from his home just outside Medina, Ohio. "He did a lot of things for the team, and he helped a lot of players. He was someone you were happy to have as a friend
"He was the type of guy who was a credit to the organization. He didn't bother anybody. You didn't know he was around."
Ulinski was born on what would later become Pearl Harbor Day -- Dec. 7 -- in 1920 in Pittsburgh. He was a tackle at Ambridge (Pa.) High School and went on to star at three positions -- end, blocking back and guard -- at Marshall College, now Marshall University. He served four years in the Army during World War II, leaving as a captain in 1946.
Though the NFL's Detroit Lions were interested in landing him when he got out of the service, Ulinski opted instead to sign with the brand-new Browns in the brand-new AAFC. Little did he -- or anyone else, for that matter -- know at the time that he would become nearly a lifelong employee, spending all or parts of the next five decades with the team.
Ulinski's wife, Gerry, preceded him in death. He leaves a daughter, Karin Ann, and a son, Kevin.
Calling hours will be Thursday from 4-8 p.m. at the Schulte-Mann-Murphy Funeral Home, 5250 Mayfield Rd., Lyndhurst, Ohio.
A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Gesu Catholic Church in University Heights, Ohio.