Sports in Cleveland

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Cleveland's professional sports teams include the Cleveland Indians (Major League Baseball), Cleveland Browns (National Football League), Cleveland Cavaliers (National Basketball Association), Cleveland Monsters (American Hockey League), and the Cleveland Gladiators (Arena Football League). Local sporting facilities include Progressive Field, FirstEnergy Stadium, Quicken Loans Arena and the Wolstein Center.

Historically, the city's failure to win a trophy in any major professional sport from 1964-2016 earned a reputation of being a cursed sports city, which ESPN validated by proclaiming Cleveland as its "most tortured sports city" in 2004.[1] In addition, changes in the Cleveland sports landscape have led to further heartbreak and resentment among local fans, the most notable instances being Art Modell's relocation of the Browns to Baltimore after the 1995 season (that franchise became the Ravens, with the current Browns team starting play in 1999), and Akron native LeBron James' decision to leave the Cavaliers in 2010 for the Miami Heat.[2] (James later returned to the Cavaliers in 2014.) The curse is seen as having ended in June 2016, when the Cavaliers won the NBA Championship against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.[3] Shortly before the Cavaliers' victory, the Monsters also defeated the Hershey Bears to become AHL champions, the first time a Cleveland hockey team had won the Calder Cup since 1964.

The Indians last reached the World Series in 2016, and have not won the series since 1948. Between 1995 and 2001, Progressive Field (then known as Jacobs Field) sold out 455 consecutive games, a Major League Baseball record until it was broken in 2008.[4]

Cleveland Browns games attract large crowds to FirstEnergy Stadium.

Notable Cleveland athletes to win top individual accolades include boxer Johnny Kilbane, U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame inductees Jesse Owens and Harrison Dillard, mixed martial artist Stipe Miocic, and snowboarder Red Gerard. Kilbane had a 12-year reign as World Featherweight Champion and is an International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee. Owens, who grew up in Cleveland after moving from Alabama when he was nine, participated in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, where he achieved international fame by winning four gold medals: one each in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump, and as part of the 4 x 100 meter relay team. Cleveland native Dillard is another four-time Olympic gold medalist, having won his medals during the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics in various track and field events. In 2016, Cleveland State University alum and area native Miocic won the UFC World Heavyweight Championship at UFC 198 with a first round knockout. During the 2018 Winter Olympics, area native Gerard won a gold medal for snowboarding.[5]

Cleveland facilities have hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game five times, the NBA All-Star Game twice, and the United States Figure Skating Championships four times. The city hosted the Gravity Games, an extreme sports series, from 2002 to 2004, and the Dew Action Sports Tour Right Guard Open in 2007. In 2013 the city hosted about 11,000 male and female athletes at the National Senior Games. Cleveland hosted the 2014 Gay Games.[6]

Past teams[edit]

The city has been home to several additional professional sports franchises, including a women's basketball team, multiple soccer teams, and a past incarnation of the Cleveland Browns now known as the Baltimore Ravens. Cleveland has also been home to several ice hockey franchises, beginning in 1937 with the AHL member Cleveland Barons.[7] The original Barons, although having been the most successful team in AHL history at that point, moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where they subsequently folded after one season.[8] The salient cause of the Baron's move came from Nick Mileti's short-lived WHA franchise, the Cleveland Crusaders, which shared the old Cleveland Arena with the Barons in beginning in 1972.[9] The new league ultimately created a financial disparity that the Barons could not compete with.[10] Local philanthropist George Gund III facilitated the relocation of the NHL's California Golden Seals to Cleveland in 1976 and renamed them the Barons. However, this latest incarnation was short lived, with the team merging with the Minnesota North Stars following the 1977–78 season.[10] In 1992 the Cleveland Lumberjacks, of the also now-defunct IHL, began play and lasted until 2001. Later in 2001, a third incarnation of the Barons was established, this time having returned to the AHL. The Barons moved to Worcester, Massachusetts following the 2006 season.

In 1997, Cleveland was awarded one of the original eight franchises in the WNBA, the Cleveland Rockers.[11] Although the Rockers finished first in the WNBA Eastern Conference on two occasions, they never made an appearance in the WNBA Finals. The team folded in 2003 after the league was unable to find a new owner. Previous owner Gordon Gund had dropped the team from operation, citing financial losses and poor attendance.[12]

From 1978 to 1988, Cleveland was home to the Cleveland Force of the MISL. After the Force folded in 1988 they were replaced by the Cleveland Crunch of the NPSL and MISL, who played from 1989 to 2005. The Crunch won three league championships in the 1990s, being the first Cleveland sports team to win a championship since the 1964 Cleveland Browns. They re-adopted the Force name in 2002 before ceasing operations in 2005.

Outdoor soccer has also been represented in Cleveland via the Cleveland Cobras (1972-Cleveland Stars, 1973–1981 Cobras) of the ASL and the Cleveland Stokers (1967–1968) of the North American Soccer League.

The Cleveland City Stars played in the United Soccer Leagues from 2006 to 2009, winning the USL Second Division championship in 2008 before folding after the 2009 season.

College sports[edit]

The headquarters of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) are located in Cleveland. The conference also stages both its men's and women's basketball tournaments at Quicken Loans Arena.

In NCAA Division I, Cleveland State University fields 16 varsity sports playing in the Horizon League. The Cleveland State Vikings men's and women's basketball teams play their home games at the Wolstein Center. The university has periodically considered forming a non-scholarship Division I FCS football program.[13][14][15]

In NCAA Division III, Case Western Reserve University fields 19 varsity sports playing in the UAA. Most notably, in both present day and in Cleveland pastime, is the Case Western Reserve Spartans football team, who boasts a history of football dating back to 1890.[16] Home games are played at DiSanto Field in University Circle.

Although there is no Division I college football team based in the city itself, Cleveland is nationally known for its support of Ohio State Buckeyes football. This is due to the team playing occasional games in Cleveland throughout the years, the large fan base of the Buckeyes (including many Ohio State alumni in the Cleveland/NE Ohio area), and numerous Cleveland area high school standouts playing for OSU (such as Glenville High School alums Troy Smith, winner of the 2006 Heisman Trophy, and 2014 National Championship winning quarterback Cardale Jones).[17][18][19] Cleveland's devotion to Buckeyes football has been documented by fan surveys,[20] television ratings,[21] and even the Terminal Tower being lit up in scarlet and gray during OSU's 2014 National Championship run.[22]

The most notable college football win for Cleveland was the city’s only college football bowl game victory--the 1941 Sun Bowl--where the Western Reserve Red Cats, now known as Case Western Reserve University, defeated the Arizona State Bulldogs, now nicknamed Sun Devils, 26–13.

Major Events[edit]

Event Number Venue Years
MLB All Star Game 6 Cleveland Municipal Stadium
Jacobs/Progressive Field
1935, 1954, 1963, 1981
1997, 2019
NBA All Star Game 1 Quicken Loans Arena (then Gund Arena) 1997
International Gay Games 1 Quicken Loans Arena, multiple venues 2014
Ultimate Fighting Championship 1 Quicken Loans Arena 2016 (UFC 203)
U.S. Figure Skating Championships 4 Cleveland Arena
Quicken Loans Arena
1940, 1964
2000, 2009




Club Sport League Venue Est. in CLE Championships
Cleveland Browns Football National Football League FirstEnergy Stadium 1946 8
(4 AAFC, 4 NFL)
Cleveland Cavaliers Basketball National Basketball Association Quicken Loans Arena 1970 1
Cleveland Indians Baseball Major League Baseball Progressive Field 1900 2
Cleveland Monsters Ice Hockey American Hockey League Quicken Loans Arena 2007 1
Cleveland Gladiators Arena Football Arena Football League Quicken Loans Arena 2008 0


Club League Venue First season
(in Cleveland)
Last season
(in Cleveland)
Fate of team Championships
(in Cleveland)
Cleveland Barons National Hockey League Richfield Coliseum 1976 1978 Merged with Minnesota North Stars 0
Cleveland Blues National League Kennard Street Park 1879 1884 Absorbed into the Brooklyn Dodgers 0
Cleveland Indians/Bulldogs National Football League Dunn Field 1923 1927 Moved to Detroit 1
Cleveland Rams American Football League
National Football League
League Park
Cleveland Municipal Stadium
Shaw Stadium
1936 1945 Moved to Los Angeles 1
Cleveland Indians/Tigers Ohio League
American Professional Football Association
National Football League
League Park 1916 1922 Team folded 0
Cleveland Indians of 1931 National Football League Cleveland Municipal Stadium 1931 1931 Team folded 0
Cleveland Spiders American Association
National League
League Park
National League Park
1887 1899 Team folded 0
Cleveland Rosenblums American Basketball League Cleveland Public Hall 1925 1931 Team folded 3
Cleveland Barons American Hockey League Cleveland Arena 1937 1973 Moved to Jacksonville 9
Cleveland Rebels Basketball Association of America Cleveland Arena 1946 1947 Team folded 0
Cleveland Pipers American Basketball League Cleveland Public Hall
Cleveland Arena
1961 1962 Team folded 1
Cleveland Crusaders World Hockey Association Cleveland Arena
Richfield Coliseum
1972 1976 Moved to Saint Paul[23] 0
Cleveland Force Major Indoor Soccer League Richfield Coliseum 1978 1988 Team folded 0
Cleveland Crunch/Force Major Soccer League
National Professional Soccer League
Major Indoor Soccer League
Richfield Coliseum
Wolstein Center
1989 2005 Team folded 3
Cleveland Thunderbolts Arena Football League Richfield Coliseum 1992 1994 Team folded 0
Cleveland Lumberjacks International Hockey League Richfield Coliseum
Gund Arena
1992 2001 Team folded 0
Cleveland Rockers Women's National Basketball Association Gund Arena 1997 2003 Team folded 0
Cleveland Barons American Hockey League Gund Arena 2001 2006 Moved to Worcester 0
Cleveland Crush Legends Football League Quicken Loans Arena 2011 2013 Moved to Toledo 0


Club Sport League Venue Location
Cleveland State Vikings 16 Varsity (7 men's, 9 women's) NCAA Division I (Horizon League) various - including:
Krenzler Field (soccer)
Wolstein Center (men's and women's basketball)
Woodling Gym (wrestling and volleyball)
Case Western Reserve Spartans 19 Varsity (10 men's, 9 women's) NCAA Division III (University Athletic Association) various - including:
DiSanto Field (football, soccer)
Veale Athletic Center (men's and women's basketball)

Current venues[edit]

Facility name Year opened
FirstEnergy Stadium 1999
Progressive Field 1994
Quicken Loans Arena 1994
Wolstein Center 1991
DiSanto Field 2005


Championship Champion Number Years
World Series Indians 2 1920, 1948
AAFC Championship Browns 4 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949
NFL Championship Bulldogs
1950, 1954, 1955, 1964
Calder Cup Barons
1939, 1941, 1945, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1957, 1964
NBA Championship Cavaliers 1 2016
NPSL Championship Force 3 1994, 1996, 1999

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Darcy, Kieran (July 13, 2004). "Mistakes by the Lake". Archived from the original on October 13, 2004. Retrieved October 11, 2005
  2. ^ Walker, James (July 13, 2010). "Take your pick recap: LeBron vs. Modell". Retrieved July 27, 2010.
  3. ^ Lee, Edward (June 22, 2016). "Cavs End the Curse in Cleveland". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on July 10, 2016. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  4. ^ Burt, Bill (September 9, 2008). "Sellouts! Record 456 and counting for Sox". Eagle Tribune. Retrieved September 10, 2008[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Red Gerard: The Cleveland Pride Picture You Have To See -
  6. ^ Maag, Christopher (October 1, 2009). "Forget Chicago: Cleveland Gets the Gay Games". Time. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
  7. ^ "Cleveland Barons (1976–1978)". Sports E-cyclopedia. Retrieved August 1, 2007.
  8. ^ "Encyclopedia Of Cleveland History". Case Western Reserve University. Retrieved March 28, 2011.
  9. ^ "Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:CLEVELAND CRUSADERS". 1997-06-20. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  10. ^ a b "Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:CLEVELAND BARONS". 2008-09-23. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  11. ^ "Rockers divvied up in dispersal draft". USA Today. January 6, 2004. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  12. ^ "Cleveland Rockers". Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Case Western Reserve University. September 28, 2006. Retrieved June 19, 2010.
  13. ^ "Board of Elections". Cleveland State University. 2008. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved June 19, 2010.
  14. ^ Turner, Karl (October 14, 2008). "Cleveland State considers a new name and a new football team". Retrieved June 19, 2010.
  15. ^ Lubinger, Bill (April 15, 2010). "Poll shows Cleveland State students want football team, but costs dampen enthusiasm". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved November 10, 2010. The survey was the next phase in a process that began in late 2008, when then-outgoing CSU President Michael Schwartz floated the idea of a Vikings football team to enhance the college experience and campus atmosphere.
  16. ^
  17. ^ | Best of Cleveland 2013 | Sports & Recreation | Cleveland Scene
  18. ^ "OSU Pride in Cleveland!!" - O-H-I-O - The Ohio State University
  19. ^ New Browns owner: ‘I’d love Ohio State to play’ in Cleveland | CollegeFootballTalk
  20. ^ College Football Fan Map - NY
  21. ^ College football semifinals ratings - ESPN Media
  22. ^ Terminal Tower in scarlet and gray -
  23. ^ The Complete Historical and Statistical Reference to the World Hockey Association, 1972-79. Scott Adam Surgent. Tempe, AZ: Xaler Press

External links[edit]