The field of Cleveland Municipal Stadium is as brown as dry, dead leaves, as brown as any ground has a right to be, as brown as any ground on which men play professional sports. On sunny days it is a yellow, sandy brown, but the first time I ever see it, during a dispirited 6–2 Browns loss to the Dallas Cowboys, it is a wet, muddy brown in a thick stripe down the middle of the field. The game is longtime coach Blanton Collier’s final home game, and the uneventful loss means more than I have any way of knowing at the time …
The day Cleveland came back, I was sitting in my bathrobe sucking on some coffee and trying to wake up. Then the telephone rang. “We are calling from National Public Radio’s ‘Morning Edition’ program,” a nice young man from the East said. “We wonder if you will let us interview you. Cleveland has come back, you know.” “I know,” I told him. “I read it in USA Today. They had a front-page story saying we were back, so we must be back.” The young man assured me that we were. “The only trouble is, I’m not sure I’m the right person to interview about it,” I said. “I don’t feel as if I’ve ever been away. I’ve been here all the time.”
“Out of all the movies I’ve ever done,” says Rene Russo, who catapulted from Major League into a fantastic Hollywood career, “that’s the one that more people come up to me to talk about. It really is a cult classic. Not even cult, really. Everybody just loves that film.” The movie has become part of baseball’s life cycle. As the snow begins to melt in late March, fans gather in rec rooms and basements and replay the movie in a cherished ritual that indicates a new baseball season is about to begin.
We weren’t so concerned with winning because we were football-starved and just happy to have our team back. Tailgating was a spectacle. Some fans had also painted their vehicles. Many set up tailgate camps with tents and Browns flags, devoting the day to grilling, playing cornhole, throwing a football, dancing on top of RVs and buses, visiting with old friends, making new ones, and celebrating that our Browns were finally back. That phrase “Browns fans never lose a party” was never so true.
With the possible exception of the 1954 Marilyn Sheppard murder, Cleveland boasts no bigger or better “signature” crime phenomenon than the baker’s dozen of “Kingsbury Run Torso slayings” that terrified Clevelanders and puzzled lawmen during the latter part of the 1930s. It is Cleveland’s greatest and most malevolent mystery and hardly a year goes by without a renewal of media interest in this serial saga of Depression-era killings.
Late in 1962, in the dark depths of Cleveland’s coldest and snowiest winter in 100 years, the management of Cleveland television station WJW (Channel 8) asked journeyman announcer Ernie Anderson to host a late-night horror-movie show planned for early in the new year . . .