Many things had to go right for the recently awakened sports fans of Cleveland to claim the honor of winning multiple sports championships in one year. There is no chance the Browns will win any sort of title (other than top pick in the draft). However, with the Cavaliers scoring an NBA title, fans along the Cuyahoga prayed the Indians would win the World Series and make their town a city of champions. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t make it happen.
While it’s far more common for cities to go through long, title-free eras in pro sports, a number of major metropolitan areas have been fortunate to break out the ticker tape multiple times in one season. Of the 14 times such a feat has occurred, it’s logical that New York appears five times given the number of teams it supports.
Speaking of Cleveland, in 1948 — the last time the Indians won the World Series — the Browns of the then-AAFC (precursor to the NFL) won the pro football championship. These three cities stand out as the more memorable cities with multiple sports championships.
Pittsburgh, Steelers and Penguins (2009)
This is an especially harsh memory for me since the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl 43 (I attended the NFC Title Game). The Steelers finished 12-4 for the 2008 season (SB43 took place in 2009) with Mike Tomlin winning NFL Coach of the Year in his second season as head coach. The name of this team’s game? Defense. Pittsburgh didn’t have a 1,000-yard running back and only Hines Ward has more than 1,000 yards receiving. In the end, the NFL awarded scary James Harrison the Defensive Player of the Year honors.
In the 2008–09 season, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, besting the Red Wings 4-3 in a hard-fought series. The one-two punch of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby combined for 68 regular-season goals and another 29 in the playoffs. In the regular season, the Penguins finished second in the Atlantic Conference — seven points behind the New Jersey Devils. However, they went on to beat the Flyers, Capitals, and Hurricanes to advance to the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. The Conn Smythe Award for best playoff performance went to Malkin.
Boston, Red Sox and Patriots (2004)
Ending a dry spell of 86 years, the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 MLB World Series, beating the St. Louis Cardinals in four straight games and setting off a monumental celebration for Red Sox Nation. Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz led the team — combining for 84 home runs in the regular season — along with Curt Schilling, who won 21 games. For those who don’t recall Game 6 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees (yes, the historical comeback), the film, Fever Pitch, can give you a great depiction.
In 2004, the New England Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles (still suffering over that one) 24-21 after a 14-2 record in the regular season. New England compiled 14 wins without major offensive stars. Antowain Smith led the team with 648 yards on the ground, and Deion Branch had 803 yards on 57 catches. However, with his ability to control the game tempo, Tom Brady’s 60% passing accuracy and 23 TDs versus 12 interceptions guaranteed victory .
Los Angeles, Dodgers and Lakers (1988)
The 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers‘ whole was greater than the sum of its parts. The two most notable achievements for LA’s NL team: Orel Hershiser’s 59 scoreless inning streak (to go along with his 23 wins) and Kirk Gibson’s dramatic home run against Dennis Eckersley to win Game 1 of the series against the heavily favored Oakland A’s. During the regular season, Gibson led the team with 25 home runs, and outfielder Mike Marshall was tops with 84 RBIs.
For the Lakers, it was the height of Showtime. The team, led by Magic Johnson, Byron Scott, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, took the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons in seven games, winning the last two by a total of four points. For the regular season, the Lakers finished 62-20, defeating the Spurs, Jazz and Mavericks to reach the championship against Detroit. The title was the team’s 11th and made the Lakers the first repeat NBA champions (they won 1986–87) since the Celtics of the late ’60s.