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Misc General General Archive The 10 Greatest Cleveland Sports Books I've Ever Read
Written by Jonathan Knight

Jonathan Knight

While Cleveland sports fans may not always be provided with the finest on-field talent to root for, we’ve been lucky enough over the years to be blessed with thebook_photo passions of a handful of talented writers with the ability to capture the glory and/or agony of Cleveland sports on the page in an entertaining and meaningful fashion.

And I can tell you from experience that it isn’t always easy writing about Cleveland sports. Writing about perpetual winners is easy. Writing about the New York Yankees, for example, is easy. Similarly, writing about the Steelers of recent years would be easy, were anyone from Pittsburgh capable of reading beyond a second-grade level.

In short, anybody can write about a champion or successfully put together a yarn that essentially tells itself. It takes a true storyteller and wordsmith to weave a good tale out of suffering and/or unrequited sports love.


While I haven’t read every book about Cleveland sports that’s ever been written, I think I’ve consumed enough to be able to effectively separate the wheat from the chaff. Hence, I present my list of the best 10 Cleveland sports books:


10. Our Tribe: A Baseball Memoirour-tribe-a-baseball-memoir

By Terry Pluto

Simon & Schuster, 1999

Far more personal and emotional than Terry Pluto’s other works, this book intertwines an overall history of the Indians with the love he and his father shared for this star-crossed franchise. Particularly powerful were the stories of Pluto’s father, suffering from the aftereffects of a serious stroke and unable to communicate, watching his beloved Indians’ magical run through the 1997 playoffs and its ultimate tragic ending.



9. Glory for Sale: Fans, Dollars, and the New NFLGlory_for_Sale

By Jon Morgan

Bancroft Press, 1997

Though it reads like a horror novel, this is an essential work for anyone who remembers where they were the day Art Modell announced the Browns were moving to Baltimore. Jon Morgan carefully traces the origins of the move and doesn’t mince words in his criticisms of Modell, but also explains things from Baltimore’s point of view, outlining how that city was not only robbed of the Colts but also rooked by the NFL when it expanded in the early 1990s.



8. The Best Show in Football: The 1946-1955 Cleveland Browns – Pro Football’s Greatest Dynastybest_show_in_football

By Andy Piascik

Taylor Trade Publishing, 2007

While much has been written about the dominating early Browns teams, Andy Piascik brings them and that era to life like never before, verbally colorizing the grainy black-and-white mental images we have of Otto Graham & Co. He makes – and subsequently supports –  a handful of interesting proposals, the most pertinent expressed in the subtitle, along with a case for the legitimacy of the oft-dismissed All-American Football Conference and the candidacy of Browns’ WR Mac Speedie for the Hall of Fame.


7. Cavs: From Fitch to Fratello – The Sometimes Miraculous, Often Hilarious Wild Ride of the Cleveland Cavalierscavs

By Joe Menzer and Burt Graeff

Sagamore Publishing, 1994

Published to coincide with the franchise’s 25th anniversary, this book does a wonderful job of telling the winding tale of the Cavs from their inception through the end of the Richfield Coliseum era, deliciously delving into topics generally glossed over by other writers and fans alike. Particularly interesting were the stories of the haphazard early days of the franchise and unbelievably horrific tales from the Ted Stepien era.


6. The Pitch That Killed: Carl Mays, Ray Chapman, and the Pennant Race of 1920pitch_that_killed_2

By Mike Sowell

Collier Books, 1989

Brilliantly researched and carefully written, this book not only examines the tragic day when Tribe second baseman Ray Chapman died after being hit in the head by a pitched ball, but delves into the effect it had on his teammates, particularly how it emotionally crippled Tribe manager Tris Speaker and how it ravaged the life of Carl Mays, who threw the ball that killed Chapman. It also illustrates the incredible tale of how the Indians overcame the loss of one of their most popular players to win a tight pennant race and triumph in a memorable World Series.



5. Epic Season: The 1948 American League Pennant Raceepic_season

By David Kaiser

University of Massachusetts Press, 1998

You can’t truly appreciate the Indians’ last world title without reading this, which takes the reader on an incredibly detailed journey through arguably the greatest pennant race in baseball history. While not focusing exclusively on the Indians, the book’s impartial perspective further underlines the incredible achievement of that Tribe team, also illustrating the colorful characters – Bill Veeck, Satchel Paige, Joe DiMaggio, and Ted Williams, for example – that made 1948 such a special year.



4. Endless Summers: The Fall and Rise of the Cleveland IndiansEndless_Summers

By Jack Torry

Diamond Communications, 1995

Far more organized and thorough than its subject matter, this book examines the woeful Indians of the second half of the 20th century from a business/front office perspective, delving into the numerous issues and characters that plagued the franchise for four decades. Far breezier and more enjoyable than you’d expect, this serves as a great companion piece to Terry Pluto’s more fan-centric views of the Indians’ long drought.


3. Sam, Sipe & Co.: The Story of the Cleveland BrownsSam_Sipe_Co

By Bill Levy

J.T. Zubal & P.D. Dole, 1981

Originally published in 1965 as Return to Glory following the Browns’ last NFL title, this book was updated and renamed to cash in on the cottage industry of the Kardiac Kids following the 1980 season and remains today the most thorough and complete account of the first four decades of Browns’ history ever written.



2. Forty-Eight Minutes: A Night in the Life of the NBA

By Terry Pluto and Bob Ryan48_minutes_good

Macmillan, 1987

Perhaps the most underrated basketball book ever written, it breaks down one NBA game (a surprisingly thrilling contest between the young Cavs and the defending world-champion Celtics at Boston Garden in January of 1987) play-by-play and provides an incredible account of everything that goes into one night in pro basketball. From game plans to play diagrams to on- and off-court dialogue, this book is simply amazing – and includes an intriguing subplot illustrating all the behind-the-scenes drama that went into the Cavs’ pickup of unheard-of castoff Craig Ehlo that week.


1. The Curse of Rocky Colavito: A Loving Look at a 30-Year Slumpthecurseofrocky

By Terry Pluto

Simon & Schuster, 1994

Of Terry Pluto’s ever-growing library of Cleveland sports books, this was the first to draw national attention, and with good reason. With the heart of the fan and the wit and intelligence of the city’s best columnist, Pluto takes readers through the desert that was Indians’ baseball from 1960 through 1993, and through all the frustrating stories and disappointing characters, somehow makes you love the team even more.

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