Cleveland Browns: Top 30 moments of all-time

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I remember it as if it was yesterday.

Dec. 17, 1995 was the date. The Cleveland Browns faced the Cincinnati Bengals in their final home game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium before moving to Baltimore for the 1996 season.

Fans revolted as the waning seconds ticked off the clock, ripping out anything and everything that wasn’t bolted down that day and carrying rows upon rows of stadium seats out of the storied facility and into their memorabilia collections.

It was a modern-day sports tragedy as fans and players wept together as the final whistle was blown, and an end of era had just been witnessed as the Browns defeated the Bengals 26-10.

The pain could be seen on the faces of the fans as cameras panned the crowd looking for reactions of the Browns faithful as they watched their team win for what may have been the last time in the storied franchise’s history.

But what led us to this fateful day? How could one of the most storied franchises be ripped away from the fans that bled the team colors since its inception in 1946?

Then Browns owner Art Modell became tired and fed up with the city’s handling of the pro teams’ facilities in downtown Cleveland. After the Gateway project was approved and built, Modell felt slighted by the city in which the Browns dominated all the headlines and were the darling of the blue-collared town.

Modell pleaded with the city to approve $175 million in funding to refurbish the existing stadium, which was outdated by NFL standards. The stadium lacked the luxury suites that NFL owners coveted for top-revenue and Modell was missing out.

The city balked at the request and only approved the funding after Modell announced the team’s intention to move on Nov. 6, 1995, at a news conference from Camden Yards in Baltimore.

As he and then Maryland governor Parris Glendening stood together on that stage announcing the agreement to bring the Browns to Baltimore, a city’s heart collectively broke in realization that their worst fear had become a reality.

The Cleveland Browns were moving to Baltimore after the 1995 season.

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Fans immediately went into action faxing NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue expressing their anger and frustration that the NFL would let one of its most fabled franchises get up and move, leaving fans out in the cold.

Rallies were organized and held where fans yelled “Our Name, Our Colors,” in trying to preserve the Cleveland Browns legacy in Cleveland.

Finally, the NFL recognized the fans pleas and awarded the city the team name, colors, legacy and the promise of a team in the near future, while allowing Modell to move his franchise to Baltimore and adopting a new identity.

The Browns suspended operations from 1996 to 1998 before rejoining the league in 1999 as the Cleveland Browns once again. They were again placed in the AFC Central with rival Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Modell’s Baltimore Ravens.

Unfortunately, since the team’s return in 1999 Browns fans have yet to see a return to the glory days of the past as the team has struggled to only one playoff appearance (2002) since its return in 1999.

But fans have yet to give up hope as they continue to support the franchise and legacy they fought so hard to keep here in Cleveland. – GC