BEREA, Ohio — Back in the day, the Cleveland Browns ruled pro football.
And, finally, they have a trophy to prove it.
The team has recovered a lost championship trophy from 1946, when the Browns won the first of four consecutive All-American Football Conference titles.
The handsome 3-foot-tall trophy, engraved with the names of six Hall of Fame players as well as renowned coach Paul Brown, was one of two awarded to the team after the Browns won their first title in the defunct AAFC, four years before they joined the NFL. It was found in a box in the garage of the grandson of one of the team’s former minority owners in Raleigh, N.C. A member of the team’s staff retrieved the trophy this week and showed it off while wearing white gloves on Friday.
Because the NFL didn’t award permanent trophies until 1966 — two years after Cleveland won its last title — the 1946 trophies are the only ones believed to exist for the team’s eight championships.
Alumni relations manager Tony Dick said it’s nice to have some hardware inside the team’s facility.
“To me, it’s pretty special that we have something that says we won a championship,” he said.
In 1946, the Browns beat the New York Yankees — not the ones wearing pinstripes — to win the AAFC title. They won again in ‘47, ‘48 and ‘49 and captured an NFL title in their first year in the league in 1950.
The Browns have asked the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, to help them clean the trophy and for ideas on where it should be permanently displayed.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org