The Pipers’ Greatest Win: Remembering Cleveland Sports Heyday

JP O’Hagan

Hey Cleveland. It is I, the honorable keeper of all things sports in this great(ish) city. I know I have been rather horrible to you over the past 50 years, but I promise that I have been working on something that will blow your minds!

A LeBron championship? Um no… didn’t he leave? Oh he’s back? Well good for him! No, no Cleveland, I have something better!

Okay, so you know how there hasn’t been a championship here for 50 years? Right—of course you do, just checking. Well I have spent the last four years (yes, fine, I haven’t been paying attention since after LeBron left, sorry (..not sorry)).

It was really just kind of pointless for me to do any up to date work, its not like the Browns were suddenly going to turn it around after all. Anyways, I have spent the last four years digging deep into the history of Cleveland sports and guess what? I have found the Holy Grail. A Cleveland Sports team that we can be proud of!

No, no, please listen, listen, its true. Let me make it up to you guys, just hear me out.

So back before the horrible (justified?) “mistake-on-the-lake” nickname was given to (earned by?) us, there were plenty of businessmen and women who (well actually, I guess it was basically all guys since this is way back in the 1890s) wanted to bring sports to Cleveland.

This was when I started overlooking the sports of this city. Unfortunately, I started off on the wrong foot, and sadly most of those businessmen failed, like the owners of the Cleveland Forest Citys, a baseball team that was around from 1871-1873, and what a weird name right? They didn’t even spell “cities” right. They went 16-35 in their two seasons.

After losing them I was out of a job, but I was able to convince so many other teams to try and make Cleveland their home.

Remember all the different baseball teams we’ve had? There were the Blues, the Spiders, the Infants, Bearcats, Tate Stars, Browns, the Elites (not really), Hornets, Tigers, Cubs, Giants, Red Sox, Bears and Buckeyes. Sadly, we are really not creative with team names.

Or do you remember the basketball teams like the Chase Brassmen, the Allmen Transfers, or the Rebels? Or the WNBA team the Rockers?

We have had lots of football teams like the Tigers, Indians, Bulldogs, Panthers, Rams (now the St. Louis Rams) Thunderbolts and Crush.

What about the hockey teams the Indians, Falcons and Crusaders? Oh and the Barons, who were actually really successful but where a minor league team and only lasted two years in the NHL so I guess they don’t count.

We have had decent soccer teams, but I won’t even bother going there.

Or did you know that we had a professional indoor tennis team? I didn’t even know that was a thing!

Anyway, the point is I have found a team who we, the proud sports fans of Cleveland, can be proud of.  Sorry it took so long, it brought up a lot of harsh memories and I honestly wasn’t very organized when I was younger.

The team? Oh yeah, right, drumroll please… the Cleveland Pipers!

Yes, the Pipers! You never heard of them? Really? They were a professional basketball team in this city before the disappointing Cavaliers came to town. See, the Pipers were winners!

They have an spectacular 100 percent championship rate in the great historic American Basketball League. (Trust me. I am not making this up! The Pipers have never lost an American Basketball League Championship Series.)

So, Cleveland, remember back on the great times that the Pipers provided and next time anyone tries to bash the great city you can…

Oh you are skeptical? Wondering how that is possible?

Well I guess you should also know that the Pipers were owned by George Steinbrenner. Yeah, the guy who went on to own the Yankees when they won seven World Series. He made Cleveland a winner, too.

Still want more information? The Pipers played in the American Basketball League for only one season. Why? The American Basketball League actually only kinda sorta existed for one season, the 1961-1962 season, and there were only eight teams in the league.

But the Pipers won! They were even going to join the NBA after the season! But then they didn’t because Steinbrenner fell behind in payments to the league, forcing the team to fold. (But really guys, this is all circumstantial; we won a championship so remember that, only that.)

Sure, I will make sure to pay more attention to the sports of Cleveland this year. We actually stand a chance to add something other than a losing record to the archives of Cleveland sports.

For now, proudly remember the Pipers, Cleveland and the runner-up top children’s team “East 88th St. Browns” from the Peewee Cleveland Muny Football League.

1 comment

  1. I played on a Pee wee team called The Cory Jim Ray Smiths in 1961. We were co-Champs with the John Wootens. City hall would probably have more info.

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