"My first big thrill, really big thrill," said Shanley, "was when we played the Giants at Yankee Stadium." Shanley was a Yankee fan as a boy. "I couldn't wait to get to the Stadium and stand in the batters box," said Shanley. Yankee Stadium was set up for a football game that day but home plate was still there and when Shanley found it he stood in the left-handers batter's box. "Oh my God," he said to himself. "Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig stood here. I looked out into the outfield and just imagined."
Blanton Collier was the head coach of the Browns from 1963-to-1970. Shanley liked him. He liked him a lot. "Before his first game I went to wish him good luck," said Shanley recreating the scene, "Blanton put out his left hand and said to me your left hand is closer to your heart. He was that kind of man."
When Collier retired, Shanley and a few others got the coach a plaque. It showed two left hands shaking.
On Monday mornings during the season, Shanley would always go to Collier's office to record the upcoming week's radio shows and he remembers being greeted in one of two ways. "If the Browns won on Sunday," Shanley said, "Blanton would always say Good Morning! If the Browns lost, he would only say Morning." Why? "Well," shrugged Shanley, "I suppose in his mind there was nothing good about it."
Gib Shanley called four NFL Championship games in his career. The NFL Championship was the Super Bowl before there was a Super Bowl so Shanley got to work his craft at the highest possible level.
Here are some of his memories of each championship game:
December 27th, 1964, Municipal Stadium in Cleveland
Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Colts
"I wasn't exactly optimistic about the game," remembered Shanley. "The Browns were 13 point underdogs and the Colts had Johnny Unitas at quarterback." The Browns and Colts were tied 0-0 at halftime. In the second half, Browns Quarterback Frank Ryan threw three touchdown passes to wide receiver Gary Collins and the Browns won the Championship 27-to-nothing. "That was my most memorable game," said Shanley. "It stays with you because we won and because it (a championship) doesn't happen very often." Today, Shanley still wears the ring that the Browns gave him following the 1964 Championship Season. Why? "Well, for one," he said, "I wouldn't know what else to do with it" and then he laughed out loud. "Really," he added, "I look at it every once in awhile. It's sports history and it brings back good memories."
January 2nd, 1966, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Cleveland Browns vs. Green Bay Packers
It was the day after New Years in Green Bay. The field was dry when the teams went to bed the night before the game. "Overnight, a blizzard hit," Shanley recalled. "We woke up to snow everywhere. Everybody was late getting to the game because of the snow. They brought in helicopters to hover over the field hoping to dry it out. It just made it mud." The Browns lost 23-to-12 to the Packers.
December 29th, 1968, Municipal Stadium in Cleveland
Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Colts.
The Browns lost 34-to-nothing to the Colts in front of 80,628 fans at the Stadium.
"It was never close," Shanley simply said.
January 4th, 1970, Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota
Cleveland Browns vs. Minnesota Vikings
"The field was completely frozen," said Shanley. "Walter Johnson got frost bite on his hands." Johnson was the Browns starting left defensive tackle. "There was nobody tougher than Walter Johnson," said Shanley. "It was so bad though, when we got to the airport to go home, you could hear Walter screaming. They were afraid he was going to lose his fingers." The Browns lost to the Vikings 27-to-7.
The Kardiac Kids
Close your eyes and listen for the building, pulsating sound that a crowd makes when a football game hangs on one play. Now hear Gib Shanley's voice as he says "Oh boy, here we go again."
Welcome to the fall of 1980. Brian Sipe is at quarterback, Dave Logan and Reggie Rucker are split out wide to the right and left and Newsome is tight at right end. The Pruitt's are in the backfield and Sam Rutigliano is on the sideline.
"The most fun I ever had," said Shanley about the 1980 season. "Every game, practically, was decided in the last two minutes or in overtime." Thirteen of the 17 games the Browns played during the Kardiac Kid season went down to the final moments. "They never quit," said Shanley. That Browns team lived on the edge and died on the edge. Shanley has always been a simple, straightforward man and his call of the final play that season, when Sipe was intercepted in the endzone by Oakland Raider defensive back Mike Davis was true to form. "That's it, it's over" were his words. "It was such a letdown," remembered Shanley. "We were all holding on, waiting for the climax and then it was over."
Gib Shanley was born and raised in Shadyside, Ohio, a small town along the Ohio River. Today, he's 71-years-old and over the years, through all the glory, all the big-time settings, Shanley has never forgotten where he's from. "You've never been to Shadyside have you," he asked. Then he chuckles. "That's why I go back often. I'm just a little town bumpkin and some of that never gets out of your system."
Just like your calls Gib. Browns fans all over the world can never get them out of their system either.