Tom Blount: Ravens have illustrious, if illegal, past

Jan. 27, 2013 @ 01:44 AM

It appears at first blush and legally, that the Baltimore Ravens have been in existence only since 1996 and own a 3-1 record against the San Francisco 49ers.
A wacky revisionist-history agreement reached between the city of Cleveland and the NFL (Paul Tagliabue) in the mid-1990s, when then-Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell relocated the franchise to Baltimore, stipulated that the Browns’ name, colors, uniform design and franchise records (club records and connections with Pro Football Hall of Fame players) would remain in Cleveland.
Even though Modell (who purchased the Cleveland franchise in 1961) and most of the Browns’ players and other personnel moved to Baltimore — from which Robert Irsay and the Colts had bolted for Indianapolis in 1984 — the Ravens were labeled an expansion team. The Cleveland Browns were “reconstituted” in 1999 and since (73-151 – 37.5 percent) have tarnished the reputation of that once-revered organization (421 wins, 270 losses, 13 ties – 60.8 percent, 1946-1995; eight league championships and 11 conference titles). The reactivated Browns  have had only two winning seasons.
Research shows the Ravens have made the playoffs nine times since 2000, with one Super Bowl victory (Super Bowl XXXV following the 2000 season), four AFC North division titles (2003, 2006, 2011 and 2012) and two AFC Championship titles (2000 and 2012). The Ravens now are owned by Steve Bisciotti.
Common sense tells me that, in spite of legal eagle maneuvering when the city of Cleveland sought an injunction to keep Modell from moving the franchise to Baltimore, the 1946-1995 legacy belongs as much if not more to the Ravens than the reactivated Browns. So does my loyalty to the early Browns teams, though residing roughly 30 miles from Forbes Field, the Pittsburgh Steelers home field from 1933-42 and 1946-1957.
My boyhood pals, most of them Steelers fans, used to tell me in the late ’40s to “wait until the Browns play in the real pro football league.” I did, and the Browns won their first NFL title in 1950, which shut my pals up for a while. Can’t blame my pals for being jealous of the Browns: their Pittsburgh Steelers had only seven winning seasons in 36 years before Chuck Noll, former Browns messenger-guard/linebacker, became coach in 1969.
Aside: The Browns-Ravens record against the 49ers is 21-10 (16-9 overall 1946-95, 2-1 since 1999 for the Browns).
The Ravens (nee Cleveland Browns) aren’t the only Browns professional team to move to Baltimore. More research tells us that “One of the American League’s eight charter franchises in 1901 spent its first year as a major league club in Milwaukee as the Milwaukee Brewers before moving to St. Louis to become the St. Louis Browns. After 52 often beleaguered years in St. Louis, the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954 and adopted the Orioles name in honor of the official state bird of Maryland. [The Orioles name had been used by previous major league baseball clubs in Baltimore, including the American League Baltimore Orioles franchise from 1901–1902 that became the New York Yankees and the National League Baltimore Orioles.]
Who is going to win next Sunday? I don’t have a clue, but I would if I could get in touch with the guy who went to the Herald & Review in Decatur, Ill., during the 1985 Christmas holidays and told the sports department the Super Bowl was fixed. After nobody in the H&R office seemed to believe him, he – three weeks before Super Bowl XX – brought in an envelope and asked us to open it the day after the big game. We did. A paper in the envelope read: Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10.

Tom Blount retired as editor of The High Point Enterprise in 2012.