What was earning first team all-ACC honors as a middle linebacker at the University of Virginia worth to Dick Ambrose? Selection in the 12th round of the 1975 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. What was Dick Ambrose worth to the Cleveland Browns for the next nine seasons? Priceless. The 6-0 235-pounder—who earned the nickname “Bam Bam” which he carried through his career when he broke a pair of shoulder pads while making a tackle in his rookie season—became a starter early on and retained that status, starting 64 consecutive games, until a broken leg sidelined him in the sixth game of the 1983 season. He led the team in tackles for five consecutive years from 1977 to 1981, was named the team’s most valuable defensive player in 1977, was an integral part of the storied “Kardiac Kids” in 1980 (a team which wrote a special page in the Browns’ history), was voted the winner of the Browns’ Captains Award made annually to “a team player and an inspiration” in 1981, and was elected a team co-captain in 1982. He began studying law while still an active player, and received his degree from Cleveland State’s Marshall College of Law in 1987 and practiced law in Cleveland until he was appointed a judge of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in 2004. The native of New Rochelle, NY, has remained active in a large number of civic, charitable and athletic affairs in Greater Cleveland and makes his home in Westlake.
One of the best wrestlers ever developed on the Greater Cleveland area, he was a three time Ohio high school champion at Bay Village going 83-0 in his championship years (1974-6) and 104-5-1 for his scholastic career and earning first team high school All-American honors. At Bay he also earned two U.S. Wrestling Association National Freestyle titles. Continued his career at the University of Iowa where he was a four-time NCAA Division I All American, twice reaching the NCAA finals, and a four-time Big Ten Champion. After graduation he won National AAU Freestyle titles in 1983 and 1984 and was named second alternate to the 1984 U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling team. Became the head wrestling coach at Edinboro University in 1984 and guided his team to five Top Ten NCAA finishes in six years, earning laurels as the NCAA Division II’s National Coach of the Year in 1986, then settled into a career in real estate, making his home in Westlake.
The passion for wrestling that burned in his small frame as he collected victories in each of his last 30 dual meets for Cleveland’s John Marshall High never ebbed. It became instead the torch which guided the rest of his life and played a substantial role in the development of Ohio High School wrestling as one of the nation’s premier programs. He was one of a trio of men who took leading roles in co-founding the Ohio State Wrestling Tournament which debuted in 1938 and for which he served as the official scorer for 60 years. He subsequently would become a co-founder of the Brecksville Holiday Wrestling Tournament which began in 1961 and is credited with setting the standard for holiday tournaments across the nation. Three years out of high school in 1936 he was officiating high school matches, later adding college matches as well, winning general acclaim as one of the state’s best officials long before closing out that phase of his career in 1994. Throughout it all—for 50 years beginning in 1946-47—he would serve as Secretary of the Greater Cleveland Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association, a beacon of consistency through a myriad of changes in the organization. Inducted into the Ohio Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1972, he was named Ohio’s Man of the Year by Wrestling USA Magazine in 1993. He died at the age 85 in January, 1999.
A three-sport at Cleveland West High, where he captained the baseball, basketball and football teams, he appeared on track to a professional baseball career after earning All-Ohio diamond honors at West in 1964 and subsequently playing for two years in the Cleveland Indians farm system. Instead, his future in sports took a sharp right turn which transformed him into one of—perhaps the—most successful college basketball referees ever to come out of the Greater Cleveland area. Donning, his first striped shirt at the age of 28 in 1974, he began a career as a Big 10 official in 1976 which has spanned 26 years and led to officiating assignments in 20 consecutive NCAA Men’s National Basketball Tournaments, including an appearance in the Final Four and numerous “Elite Eight” and “Sweet 16” match-ups. He has also called National Invitation Tournament games for two decades, including the 1993 championship at Madison Square Garden, and a tournament championship games for virtually every major collegiate conference. President of Big Ten Officials Association for eight terms and director of two nationally acclaimed camps, one for baseball, his “real job” is as coordinator of the Occupational Work Experience program at Buckeye High School in Medina County, where he has won honors as Educator of the Year and Employee of the Year. He currently makes his home in Westlake.
Five seasons in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform were all the 6-11 Racine, WI native needed to establish himself as one of the finest players in team history. The verdict was first delivered in 1991 when fans voted him the starting center on the “Classic Cavs Team” covering the club’s first 20 years, and re-enforced a decade later when he was named to the 12-man All-Time Cavs Team. An All-American for a 25-4 Marquette University quintet in 1971-72, when he averaged 20.5 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, and a member of the 1971 U.S. Pan-American Games team, he turned pro in 1973. After two seasons in the American Basketball Association (ABA), he joined the Cavs for the 1974-75 season. His finest year came in 75-76—the memorable “Miracle of Richfield Year”—when he averaged a career high 15.8 ppg, but he scored in double figures in each of his five Cavs seasons, while his 3,790 rebounds rank third on the team’s all-time leaders list. He ended his playing career with two seasons in Los Angeles, where he was a member of the Lakers’ 1979-80 championship squad and two years with European teams, then returned to Cleveland and worked for 11 years as a Cavaliers television analyst. He now resides in Orange Village and is marketing director for a construction company.
Cleveland-born and raised, he parlayed a solid athletic career at Warrensville Heights High and a series of strong summer performances for highly respected sandlot teams into a baseball scholarship at perennial baseball power Arizona State. When he was named the MVP of the 1965 College World Series, won by ASU, the door was opened to one of the finest major league careers ever enjoyed by a Greater Cleveland native. Drafted by the Kansas City Athletics prior to their move to Oakland, he enjoyed 11 seasons as the A’s third basemen, playing a major role in the team’s three consecutive World Championships in 1972-73-74, playing on four American League All-Star teams and compiling career statistics which still rank him in the A’s top three in six categories. He went on to play five seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, retiring at the end of the team’s pennant-winning season in 1981. Subsequently he became a special assistant to the Brewers general manager, was promoted to general manager in October, 1991, and held down that position for eight seasons. He remains active in Milwaukee community affairs and makes his home in Mequon, WI.
Brian Dowling is an athletic legend at St. Ignatius High School. He led his team to a City Basketball title, sinking four clutch free throws in the title game’s last 34 seconds to turn a 13 point deficit into a 53-50 victory. He also made the state tennis doubles finals as a sophomore and the regional singles finals as a senior. But it was as a football quarterback that Dowling achieved bigger-than-life status. In six high school and college seasons he played in just one losing game, when, as a prep junior in 1963, injuries sent him to a hospital at half-time of the City Championship Charity Game. He avenged that loss in the following year’s Charity Game, breaking loose for a 71-yard TD run and passing for four touchdowns in a 48-6 rout. At Yale, his teams were 21-0-1 in games he played and 5-6 in games he missed with injuries. The tie came in his final collegiate game when Harvard scored 16 points in the final 42 seconds to earn a 29-29 draw and a share of the Ivy League title with Yale. The previous year, his 66 yard touchdown pass with 2:16 left had beaten the Crimson 24-22 for the Ivy League Crown. An honorable mention All-American and the Outstanding Player in New England as a senior, he currently lives in Lowell, Massachusetts.
On May 15, 1981 Lenny Barker carved a special niche for himself in the history of Cleveland Indians baseball by pitching the 12th perfect game in major league history, handcuffing Toronto 3-0, striking out 11 Blue Jays along the way. It was, however, far from the only highlight of his four-plus seasons with the Tribe. Twice in that period (1980 and 1981) he led American League pitchers in strikeouts and was second in 1982. He was named to the 1981 AL All-Star team, which was played in Cleveland, and pitched two hitless innings before an appreciative crowd of 72,086. His 56-49 record with the Indians included 19-12 (1980) and 15-11 (1982) seasons and earned him a place on the roster of the 100 Greatest Indians named in 2001 as part of the team’s 100th Anniversary celebration. His seasons with Cleveland were the finest of an 11-year major league career in which he won 74 games. Now in the construction business, the native of Ft. Knox, KY and star high school athlete at Neshaminy High School in Trevose, PA makes his home in Auburn Township.
Active in AAU programs for over 50 years, he made his mark most strongly in the sport of boxing where as a trainer and coach he produced a long list of nationally prominent fighters. In 1974 he was inducted into the AAU Boxing Hall of Fame and was named the AAU’s “Man of the Year.” Served as secretary-treasurer of the Ohio Association of Boxing and Ohio Wrestling Commission and the National Wrestling Association.
Spent 43 years as a sportswriter, the last 23 with the Cleveland Press. Retired in 1966 with a reputation as one of the country’s most knowledgeable experts in the fields of track, amateur and professional golf and collegiate football. Covered every major golf tournament during his career, as well as several Olympics.
2001 Crocker Rd., Ste. 510, Westlake, OH 44145