Friday, January 27, 2006

Being a Cleveland sports fan...

"Cleveland ought to be ashamed to look herself in the face." -- John D. Rockefeller, 1914

Some people wonder "why the Cardinals?" Well, I am from Cleveland and it can't be worse than rooting for the Browns....or the Indians...or the Cavs.

Here is the MLB Misery Index and the NFL Misery Index.... not the kind of 1 - 2 punch that Cleveland needs.

Oh, and let's not forget the story about how George Steinbrenner wanted to buy the Indians...

As detailed in this article:

In an effort to interject some life and direction into the town, he organized a group of young up-and-comers, christened them Group 66, and set out to make something happen. Among the first things they did was to resurrect the defunct air show, a symbol of the city's better times.

Steinbrenner established a pro basketball team in the 1960s, composed of some of the best college players of the time. While both league and team failed, he was relentless in his quest to run a professional sports franchise.

His father, Henry, argued that his son's future was in the family shipping business, not sports. Occupants of the Rockefeller Building still speak of overhearing furious debates between father and son.

By 1973, Vernon Stouffer, who made his money in frozen foods and restaurants, was having financial problems. He was willing to sell one of his least promising holdings: the Cleveland Indians.

Stouffer had purchased the team largely as a civic gesture, and the beleaguered franchise floundered. There was talk of moving the Tribe to New Orleans.

Steinbrenner formed a group of local investors to buy the Indians. The asking price was $10 million. But when Steinbrenner and partner Dan McCarthy studied the financials, they found a team strapped with debt and concluded that its real value was around $6.3 million.

The group offered $8 million anyway, says McCarthy, since Steinbrenner and Stouffer were friends. Yet Stouffer was adamant; he wanted $10 million. To this day, some still wonder whether it was Stouffer's drinking or his dislike for Steinbrenner's Jewish partners that caused the deal to collapse, because what happened next made no sense.

Stouffer sold the Indians to Nick Mileti, a charming promoter who flashed across Cleveland like a shooting star. Mileti gave Stouffer $1 million in cash and a lot of paper. Paper to Mileti was like tissue to Kleenex.

Jack Torry, in his book Endless Summers: The Fall and Rise of the Cleveland Indians, wrote that Mileti "bought the Indians with nothing more than green stamps." He would eventually resign his role as general partner.

With his investment group intact, Steinbrenner learned that CBS wanted to sell the New York Yankees. For virtually the same amount of money, the band of Clevelanders purchased what would become the richest sports franchise in history, estimated by Forbes to be worth $832 million.

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