Bob Gain epitomized the rough-and-tumble days of the NFL during the 1950s and the former defensive tackle admits he has little affection for the hyped-up game the way it is played today.
He speaks enthusiastically, however, about his fond memories of "the good old days" that took place during his long career with the Browns. "We loved to play the game," he said. "And we came cheap, too."
The Browns made a great trade on Sept. 20, 1951, when they acquired the rights to Gain by sending end Dan Orlach, guard Church Schroll and backs Dominic Moselle and Ace Loomis to Green Bay. Gain, an All-American at the University of Kentucky, was the Packers' No. 1 draft pick in 1951, but could not agree on salary terms.
"I went to the Packers and they said what will it take to make you happy?" Gain recalled. "I said $8,000 a year. They said $7,000. I said, 'Then why ask me what would make me happy? Forget it.'
"I went to Ottawa in the Canadian Football League and scored 60 points or something on extra points, field goals, rouges and even a couple of touchdowns where I recovered fumbles. I played both on offense and defense."
Gain's original stay in Cleveland was short.
"Blanton Collier was a Browns assistant coach and knew me from Kentucky," Gain said. "So he told Paul Brown and they got me. I played in Cleveland in 1952, including the championship game and then Uncle Sam called. I went on active duty with the Air Force and was sent to Korea."
He missed the entire 1953 season and the first 10 games of 1954, but returned to help Cleveland win the championship.
"I caught a break to play in the championship game," Gain recalled. "You had to play in two games during the regular season to qualify to play. Well, the home opener at the Stadium that year was postponed from September to December because the Indians were in the World Series. I came back and played against Pittsburgh (a 42-7 win) and then against Detroit in the final game that had been moved back. Then we played Detroit the next week and clobbered them (56-10) for the championship."
Gain, now 78, played in five Pro Bowls and three other championship games. He was with the Browns when they won their last title in 1964, but on crutches along the sidelines. His right leg was broken during the Browns' 27-6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the Stadium on Oct. 4, 1964, when he was blocked at the line of scrimmage. He was replaced by Dick Modzelewski.
Later, defensive back Ross Fichtner suffered a concussion and was unconscious for 10 minutes. "That's the first time I saw two Browns carried off the field on stretchers in the same game," veteran team physician Vic Ippolito said at the time.
One of Gain's best memories came during that 1964 title game at the Stadium.
"The Colts were a fantastic team, but had clinched their division early," he recalled. "We had to battle the Giants down to the wire. We had a great game in New York (a 52-20 win) in the last game of the season and were on an emotional roll. It carried right over and no matter how good the Colts were, no football team can come into a game just thinking they can put their helmets out there and the other team is going to go away. We had a hell of a defense, a good game plan, and it all came together that day.
"The defense set the tone and then the offense started to click. We had a lot of offensive weapons, got three touchdowns by Gary Collins. Before the last one, Gary came over to me on the sidelines. I'm standing there on crutches and he said, 'This one is for you.' Then he went out, ran a post pattern and caught another touchdown pass, came over and said, 'I told you that was for you.'
"That was one of the most memorable feelings I ever had. I had a lot of good feelings, and some bad, too, over the years. But it was a nice career. I'll never forget the happy days. We may not have made as much money as these guys, but we have a lot more great memories. That's a fact because we shared things together. We loved the game together, worked together, grew together. Nobody can ever take that away."
Gain said that not playing was really tough, but he was able to make a contribution before the big win in New York.
"I had heard some grumblings from players and a couple of them called me and said, 'You've just got to come to New York.' So, I left the house and drove myself to the airport. I put my right leg and the cast up on the seat and hit the gas pedal with my left foot. I just left. My wife didn't even know I was gone.
"I got to the airport and got out of the car on crutches. The redcap there asked what I was going to do with the car. I had a brand new Cadillac. I told him, 'It's got a full tank of gas, it's yours for the weekend. Just be here Sunday night to pick me up.' "
Gain joined his teammates just before the game that would decide the Eastern Conference champion on Dec. 12, 1964.
"I remember sitting in Yankee Stadium and Blanton Collier came up to Frank Ryan and was reminding him to do this, watch out for that, be ready for this," Gain said. "Then Dub Jones came over, he was the backfield coach, and he started in on Frank. They left and Ryan turned to me and said, 'What do you think?'
"I said, 'Hell, just go out and play your game.' That's what he did, too. Played a great game. That's when the team started coming together. They played terrific. Everybody pulled together and we were all one big, happy family."
Gain is critical of the game today and admits the original Browns leaving town and old Cleveland Stadium being demolished left a bitter taste.
"My wife and I drove past the Stadium when they were tearing a section of it down and I have to admit there were a few tears," he said. "I wish they had just cleaned that place up, fixed it up, and kept the tradition.
"I still attend every game, but don't like watching these wahoos jump up and down like it is the greatest thing on earth just because they made a tackle. That's their job and they are paid well to do it. There's no more emotion in the game today than we had. The guy next to you made a good play, you smacked him on the back, said, 'Way to go,' and went back to the huddle.
"They talk about how important each game is, we had more pressure. You lost three games in a season, you could pretty much kiss it goodbye. You didn't see clubs going 8-8 and making the playoffs. The teams that made it were champions."
This article originally appeared in Bernies Insiders Magazine on 12/22/2002.