Today in Sports History: November 6th

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11/06/1995 - Modell moves Browns to Baltimore

It's a dark day for Cleveland sports fans, as Browns owner Art Modell announces that the team will be moving to Baltimore, Maryland in 1996. Modell had petitioned heavily for a refurbishing of Cleveland Municipal Stadium, referred to by many as "The Mistake by the Lake." With negotiations for a new venue stalled, and Modell deep in the red after several poor business transactions, Baltimore could fix both of his concerns: finance and a new stadium. The move gave Baltimore their first NFL franchise since 1984, when Robert Irsay moved the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis.

The announcement was universally abhorred, so much so that even Pittsburgh Steelers fans protested the move, feeling that their ultimate rival was being stolen from them. The next game, Modell was not in attendance for the first time in 35 years -- several bomb threats had been made and team officials believed it was best for him to abstain from public appearances. Symbolically, the Browns lost their next five games after the announcement and many fans stopped coming to the ballpark. The last Browns games at Cleveland Stadium were blacked out to local viewers, adding one more insult to injury.

The fans had ever right to be outraged. Day in and day out for 50 years, they filled the stadium to the brim regardless of its bad condition or how poor the team was. For all the loyalty they had given the team, they were getting nothing in return.

Initially, the plan was for the team to keep its nickname and continue as the "Baltimore Browns." But after much complaint, the city of Cleveland and Modell reached a compromise that Baltimore had failed to reach with Robert Irsay. The Browns' name, history, records, and color scheme would remain in Cleveland, as the city prepared for an expansion team for a later date.

Cleveland got a team back in 1999 -- along with a brand new stadium -- and the overwhelming sentiment was to name them the Browns again. When they returned to the field, the Browns were as bad as they ever were. In their first eight years since returning to Cleveland, the Browns posted the second-worst record in the league behind only the Detroit Lions. Meanwhile, to the displeasure of everyone in Cleveland, Art Modell won a championship with the Ravens in 2001.

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11/06/2000 - The Improbable Bobble

A classic game between the Packers and Vikings ended with maybe the greatest catch ever aired on Monday Night football.

With the rain pouring the entire way, the Vikings were on the verge of sealing the victory. It was a tied game, and Minnesota needed only a 33-yard field goal from Hall of Fame kicker Gary Anderson to go home with the win. But after Green Bay called a timeout to ice Anderson, the precipitation had taken its course.

On the snap, holder/punter Mitch Berger couldn't secure the ball cleanly. With the seconds ticking off the clock, Berger desperately flung it towards the end zone where it was intercepted by Tyrone Williams. Time expired and the game went to overtime.

"If I wasn't an idiot, I would have spiked the ball to get another shot at it," Berger said afterward. Minnesota was only on their third down and they would have had three seconds to try another field goal. "For some reason, it didn't cross my mind."

After winning the coin toss, Green Bay's streak of serendipity won them the game. On third-and-4 from the Vikings 43, Brett Favre lobbed it to Antonio Freeman, who was trying to elude Chris Dishman down the right side of the field. Freeman slipped on the wet grass and began to fall; the football went through Dishman's hands and hit Freeman's left shoulder right as he hit the ground. The ball bounced to the Packer receiver's right arm where it ricocheted into his chest. Dishman never touched him, thinking that the play was dead. When Freeman saw that it was ruled a catch, he stood up and raced into the end zone.

"The ball was changing trajectory all night. It affected our receivers. It affected their defender on that play," Freeman said. "Dishman made a good play. It hit his right hand and his shoulder pad as I fell back."

Al Michaels call of the game-winning TD fit what many fans were thinking: "He did what?!"

Further reading:

Freeman redeems himself with "Improbable Bobble" [South Coast Today]

The Ratings Don't Tell The Story On Monday [New York Times]

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