Municipal Stadium

Description

The demolition of Cleveland Municipal Stadium officially began in November 1996 and was complete by the following spring. In the fall of 1995, Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell decided to move the city's football team to Baltimore. Angry fans began the demolition process themselves during the Browns' final home game in 1995, tearing out seats and taking other pieces of Municipal Stadium with them as souvenirs, knowing it might be their last time in the stadium. Part of Mayor Michael White's deal with the National Football League to bring an expansion team to the city included the building of a new stadium. The old stadium would be torn down to make way for a new lakefront facility. Coincidentally, Cleveland's Osborn Engineering Company, which, along with architectural firm Walker and Weeks, had been the main designer of Municipal Stadium, oversaw the demolition of the stadium that it had so proudly helped build more than 65 years earlier.

The construction of Cleveland Municipal Stadium was completed in 1931. It had a seating capacity of slightly more than 78,000, which gave the stadium the largest outdoor seating capacity of any stadium in the world. In 1928, Cleveland voters approved a $2.5 million dollar bond to help pay for its construction, one of the first instances in which the public helped finance a sports stadium. The final cost of construction came in at around $3 million dollars. On July 3, 1931, the first event at the stadium was held when heavyweight boxing champion Max Schmeling defeated Young Stribling. This also marked the first time that a heavyweight boxing bout had taken place in Cleveland.

The Cleveland Indians played their first game at the stadium on July 31, 1932 and played all of the 1933 season there, as well. Until 1947, however, the team played its weekday games at the smaller League Park, opting to play at Municipal Stadium only during weekends and holidays when a larger crowd could be assured. In 1948 and 1954 the stadium hosted Major League Baseball's World Series.

The Cleveland Browns began playing at Municipal Stadium in 1946 when they were a part of the All-American Football Conference (AAFC) -- a short-lived rival to the NFL. The Browns won all four of the AAFC's title games, three of which ('46, '48, '49) were held in Municipal Stadium. The Browns also had a perfect regular season (14-0) in 1948 and won the AAFC championship at the stadium that year by defeating the Buffalo Bills, 49-7.


After moving to the NFL in 1950, the team continued their success. The Browns played host to the NFL Championship Game (the precursor to the Super Bowl) in 1950, 1952, 1954, 1964, and 1968, winning each time except for the last. Today, the new Cleveland Browns Stadium (opened in 1999) sits on the site of Municipal Stadium.

Video Show

Newsreel: AL Pennant, 1959

In this Universal-International newsreel from 1959, the Chicago White Sox defeat the Cleveland Indians to clinch the American League pennant.

Audio Show

"The City Went Crazy"

Salvatore Ronald Felice reminisces about seeing Indians games at Municipal Stadium and describes the atmosphere in the city during the team's 1948 championship season.

Empty Seats & Cheap Tickets

Historian Todd Michney describes visiting Municipal Stadium as a child in the 1970s and 1980s.

Photos Show

Browns Win 1950 NFL Championship

Lou "The Toe" Groza kicks a game winning, 18-yard field goal to give the Cleveland Browns a 30-28 lead over the Los Angeles Rams with :28 seconds left to play in the 1950 NFL Championship Game, held at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on December 24, 1950.

The Los Angeles Rams, losers to the Browns in the '50 Championship, were known as the Cleveland Rams from 1936-1945, before owner Dan Reeves moved the team to LA in 1946. The Cleveland Rams played their home games at Municipal Stadium and League Park during the 1930s and 40s. On December 16, 1945, they beat the Washington Redskins at Municipal Stadium to win the NFL Championship.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Construction, April 1931

Construction at Municipal Stadium in April 1931, only a few months before the stadium's dedication on July 1. Cleveland architectural firm Walker and Weeks designed the stadium, which cost nearly $3 million dollars to build.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Judy Garland, Opening Day '39

Judy Garland sings the national anthem before the Cleveland Indians' home opener at Municipal Stadium on April 21, 1939.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

1948 World Series Game 4

The crowd is shown outside of Municipal Stadium before Game 4 of the 1948 World Series on Saturday, October 9. The nearly 82,000 fans at the game set a World Series attendance record. The record was promptly broken the following day by the crowd showing up at Municipal Stadium for Game 5.

The Indians beat the Boston Braves 2-1 in Game 4. Larry Doby, who the previous year became the first African-American to play in the American League, hit a key home run to seal the Indians' victory.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Satchel Paige and Bill Veeck, 1948

Bill Veeck (right) became owner of the Cleveland Indians in 1946. In the middle of the 1948 season he signed Negro League legend Satchel Paige, then 42 years old, to his first major league contract, making him one of the first African-Americans to play in the big leagues. Paige, a pitcher, went on to play a big role in the Indians' successful run to the World Series title that year.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Fans at 1948 World Series Game 5

Game 5 of the 1948 World Series at Municipal Stadium set a World Series record with over 86,000 fans in attendance. The Indians ended up losing the game to the Boston Braves, 11-5. With the crowd so large, the fans shown here had to improvise to get a decent view of the action.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Bob Feller Day, 1956

Bob Feller played for the Indians from 1936-1941 and 1945-1956, taking three seasons off to fight in World War II. He is widely considered to be the dominant pitcher of his era and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

Here, nearing the end of his career, he is honored at Municipal Stadium on "Feller's Day" in 1956. Feller (at left) is pictured with with his wife and three children.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Aerial View, 1936

Municipal Stadium seen from above in 1936 as its construction neared completion.

Cite this Page

Michael Rotman, “Municipal Stadium,” Cleveland Historical, accessed October 22, 2014, http:/​/​clevelandhistorical.​org/​items/​show/​149.​
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