Last Saturday night, for the first time ever, the Cleveland Browns performed at Jacobs Field. I know. I was there. I watched it with my very eyes. If I hadn't been, I never would have believed it.
Yet right there, for the first time in the history of the decade-old stadium which is home to the Cleveland Indians, the Cleveland Browns were playing their third exhibition game of the 2004 season.
Of course, there was a catch … and a few great runs as well.
The Browns' preseason game against the Chiefs, which was being played in Kansas City, was being shown on the Jacobs Field Jumbotron, the largest free-standing scoreboard in North America.
For those of us in the stands waiting for the rain-delayed game between the Indians and the White Sox to get under way, the sight of the Browns-Chiefs game on the scoreboard was welcome relief from the torrential downpour that had already delayed the start of the baseball game by nearly an hour.
In fact, as game time got closer for the Browns, there was a debate amongst those of us huddled under an umbrella in the center field Market Place Pavilion, as to whether the Indians, who had tried to entertain the crowd by switching back and forth between various baseball games, would show the Browns game?
"No way," I said.
"Why not?" came the reply from a Tribe fan who had driven in from Chicago for the game. "Why wouldn't they?" inquired a young lady who had driven in with her husband from Buffalo and had actually arrived for her first-ever game at Jacobs Field more than six hours before the scheduled first pitch.
When she had bought her tickets for the game, it was listed as a 1 p.m. start. At some point in the ensuing months, television dictated a change to 7 p.m. Apparently they didn't get the message, thus they spent the day roaming around the city.
The reason I told them there was no way we would see the Browns game was based upon the many years of friction between the Indians and Browns, friction caused in part by the city's two top pro sports franchises never-ending battle for the fans' limited entertainment dollars.
There also was Art Modell's ownership of the Cleveland Stadium Corporation, which controlled old Cleveland Stadium. Modell was the Indians' landlord for many, many years and, as is the case in a lot of business relationships, hard feelings developed in regards to revenue.
Those memories are what led me to say there was no way the Indians would show the "competition" on the scoreboard.
So, when a shot of Browns head coach Butch Davis standing on the sideline suddenly appeared on the screen, I might very well have been the most amazed, and happy, fan in the stands.
The good-natured ribbing I took for being wrong (I think it was only the third time in my life) was well-deserved.
I was so amazed by the Indians' decision to show the game that I went to Indians vice president Bobby DiBiasio, who was witness to all those years when there was a great deal of animosity between the two teams, and asked "Why did you do it?"
"Steve Warren (ballpark productions manager) came up to me and said we have two minutes until the Browns start," DiBiasio said. Bobby D quickly thought of the loyalty the fans have shown the Indians over the years; to the 455 straight sellouts; to the fact thousands of fans had lined up two hours before the game in order to guarantee they would get one of the limited-edition 1954 tribute baseballs being handed out that evening.
He also knew it would be at least another hour before the Indians would get under way.
He didn't know about the couple from Buffalo that arrived more than six hours before the start of the game, or the guy from Chicago who was making his twice-monthly visit to watch his favorite team.
But the decision he was about to make would probably leave a positive (or negative) influence on their ball park experience. Of course, it also could keep them in the stands where they would be purchasing beer, hot dogs, peanuts and souvenirs, instead of giving up on the weather and driving home to try and catch the Browns game on television.
"I told him (Warren) to show it … but no commercials!," DiBiasio said. Oh darn! A football game with no commercials. That's almost as bad as a hot dog with no Ballpark Mustard, but, hey, it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.
Now, instead of negative attention being paid to the black clouds, rumbles of thunder, flashes of lightning and increasingly heavy rain, we were able to enjoy the thunder and lightning provided by the Browns.
Defensively, cornerbacks Daylon McCutcheon and Anthony Henry both stepped up big time and made key plays that helped limit Kansas City's powerful offense to just two field goals when the first-teamers were on the field.
But the loudest cheers arose when the Browns' running game went wild.
William Green's 42-yard burst brought cries of "Run, William, Run," from the crowd. For the one or two of you who don't remember, those were the now-famous words screamed by Browns radio play-by-play man Jim Donovan when Green broke loose on a long run in 2002.
Two plays later, Lee Suggs took the ball on a draw play and, behind several excellent blocks, skirted around the left side for a 28-yard touchdown. "Run, Lee, Run," came the chant from the rain-soaked, but elated, crowd.
The Browns wound up winning the game, 21-19, with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns. But by that time, the nearly-three hour rain delay had ended, the Indians and White Sox were doing battle, and the 37,000 –plus fans who had braved the weather had a story to tell.
They were the first ones ever to watch the Browns play at Jacobs Field. I know. I was there. Forty years from now I will have been joined by 200,000 other fans, just a few less than now claim to have been at Lenny Barker's perfect game.