By Rod Bluhm
In an ongoing series celebrating our growth, CLEsportsTalk.net will review past years in sports for the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers. The year reviewed will correspond to the number of followers we have. We have chosen to start with the year 1980 since we currently have over 80,000 followers. Thanks for your support and we hope that you enjoy these glances back at the teams we love.
The Cleveland Indians entered the 1980 season full of hope after finishing the 1979 season with 81 wins. Several trades and acquisitions changed the makeup of the team. Bobby Bonds was traded in a deal that brought John Denny to the Tribe, Jorge Orta was signed as a free agent and Miguel Dilone was purchased from the Cubs in May.
While the Indians finished the year in sixth place in the American League East at 79 – 81 under manager Dave Garcia, they had many bright spots. Joe Charboneau won the AL Rookie of the Year award, hitting 23 home runs. Miguel Dilone stole 61 bases while batting .341 and rejuvenating his career. Len Barker had perhaps the best season of his career with 19 wins. He also led the AL in strikeouts. The Indians drafted both Doug Drabek and Terry Steinbach. Unfortunately neither signed with Cleveland.
The Cleveland Browns hadn’t won a division title in nine years. That would change in 1980. Despite a 12 – 4 record, the year is most remembered for the three word play call, Red Right 88, which doomed the Browns chances of beating the Raiders in the playoffs. However, it should not be forgotten that the Browns had one of their best and arguably their most exciting season ever in 1980. This was the heyday of the “Kardiac Kids” and anyone who lived through the last minute victories and losses will never forget that team.
The Browns had an offensive line that had few rivals with names like DeLamiellure, Dieken and Riesen. Brian Sipe was named league MVP and head coach Sam Rutigliano won NFL Coach of the Year honors for the second year in a row. Linebackers Clay Matthews and R.L. Jackson were forces, while a special teams player named Bill Cowher was also on the team as a linebacker.
When punter Johnny Evans would trot up under center on a fake punt, the fans went wild. When Dino Hall returned kicks, the fans all barked. This was the beginning of the dog references to the Browns and the birth of the dog pound. This team had numerous stars and brought the city to life. It was an incredible season for the Browns regardless of how it ended.
The 1980-81 season was the eleventh in the history of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Ted Stepien became the owner of the team and Bill Musselman coached most of the season before being replaced by GM Don Delaney, who coached the last 11 games of the season. The record was not good at 25 – 46. This led to a fifth place finish in the NBA’s Central Division.
The Cavs had few stars. They were led by All Star Mike Mitchell who averaged better than 24 points per game. Bill Lambeer had been drafted in 1979 and played in Italy for a year. He averaged 9.8 points and 8.6 rebounds for the 1980-1981 Cavaliers.
The Indians gave the fans a lot to be enthusiastic about in 1980, but the year belonged to the Kardiac Kids, one of the most exciting teams we have ever seen in Cleveland.