Arguably the best high school basketball player ever to come out of Greater Cleveland’s small school ranks, he enjoyed a fabled career at Cuyahoga Heights High, culminating with his selection as an All-American in 1973 after leading the state in scoring with a 32.9 ppg average and being named Ohio’s Class A High School Basketball Player of the Year. Those feats earned him a scholarship to the University of Minnesota where he stepped right in to a starters’ role. The heady backcourt general started 101 of the 103 contests he played in for the Golden Gophers and as a senior helped lead the team to a then school best 24-3 record. His playing career ended with that season, but not his association with basketball. A transformation from player to coach was made as easily as the step up from Cuyahoga Heights to Minnesota basketball. It began with four seasons guiding the fortunes of Grand Valley (MN) Lutheran College to a 92-13 record including a perfect 56-0 home court mark, continued through the major college ranks as an assistant for seven successful season and seven more impressive years as a CBA head coach, then culminated in a move to the Minnesota Timberwolves as the NBA team’s general manager in May 1995. It was a job that lasted only until he asked to take over as the team’s head coach seven months later, a position he still fills with the distinction that has marked his entire career.
He was a general manager’s dream come true—a first round draft pick who proved to be worthy of the choice. A big, strong running back who plowed through Big Ten defenses with relative ease at Purdue, the Browns tabbed him with their opening pick in the 1976 draft and roundly enjoyed the presence of his company for nine solid season thereafter. The power he displayed in the college ranks continued to evidence itself in the pro game. Four times in five seasons beginning in 1978, he bulled his way to more than 1000 rushing yards, the string only interrupted in 1982, when injuries limited him to nine games. He was a Pro Bowler in 1979 and 1980, an all-AFC selection in 1979 and was picked as the Browns’ Offensive Player of the Year in 1980 and 1981 His 6,450 yards rushing were the third most ever compiled by a Brown, exceeded only by the numbers of Hall-of-Famers Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly. Supplemented by the totals he built in his final two seasons, spilt between Buffalo and Kansas City in 1985 and 1986, his career totals rank him 26th in total rushes, 32nd in rushing and tied for 39th in rushing touchdowns on the NFL’s all-time leaders list. Electing to remain in Cleveland after his playing days, he now lives in Strongsville and is the owner of two auto dealerships, Mike Pruitt Honda, located in Akron, and Mike Pruitt’s Superstore in Lima, OH.
He joined the Cleveland Browns as a second round draft choice in 1973 after a sensational career at the University of Oklahoma where he was a two-time consensus All-American back and runner up in the 1972 Heisman Trophy balloting. It was apparent early-on in his Browns career what the cheering had been about. In his second year with Cleveland he topped the NFC in kickoff returns with a 27.5-yard average, and in his third year he began a string of three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, missing a fourth by only 40 yards when he was sidelined for four games with an injury. After suffering a severe knee injury in 1979, he was moved into a receiver role coming out of the backfield and in 1981 his 65 pass receptions lad all AFC backs. He was named to the 1973, 1974, 1976, and 1977 Pro Bowl teams during his nine-year career with the browns, which ended when he was traded to the Oakland Raiders for an 11th round draft pick in 1982. His final career rushing totals for Cleveland stood at 5,496 yards, still fourth best of all Browns backs. There was one more good season leading kickoff returner in the AFC and third in the NFL, helping the Raiders to the NFL Championship in Super Bowl XVIII. That earned him a final Pro Bowl appearance, which he celebrated with a record 75-yard punt return. After his career came to a close he came back to the Cleveland area where he has become a successful businessman, currently making his home in Shaker Heights.
She began to get serious about figure skating rather early in life—when she was an eight-year-old elementary school student in her home town of Westlake. Beginning as a singles skater, she shifted her attention to pairs skating as a teen-ager and at the age of 22 she shifted partners and into a high gear on the world stage. Teaming with Todd Sand, who towered a full 11 inches above her, they quickly adjusted to each other and in their first year together in 1993 they captured a silver medal in the U.S. National Championships and placed a surprising fifth at the World Championships. The following year they won the U.S. National Championship, qualified for the ’94 Winter Olympics were they finished fifth, found a moment to become engaged while there, and then went on to finish sixth in the World Championships. By the time she and her husband ended there amateur careers to join the Stars on Ice Tour for the 1998-99 season, the pair had amassed three U.S. National Championships (in 1994, 1995 and 1996) plus a second in 1997 and had established themselves as favorites for the ’98 title, only to have to withdraw when Jenni suffered a serious ankle injury. Later, able to train for only a week for the 1998 Winter Olympics, they gamely competed and finished a credible eighth, With Jenni fully recovered a month thereafter, they were able t close out their amateur careers by capturing the silver in the ’98 World Championships. Still skating professionally, the couple lives and trains in Southern California and Summerlin, Nevada.
A remarkably successful and generous businessman, this transplanted native of Brooklyn, NY brought to his adopted city of Cleveland, a stunning array of values—humanity, generosity, patriotism, leadership and genuine devotion—which assured his name in a permanent place of honor in the city’s annuals. But, while his unparalleled support of the healthcare and educational communities built a listing legacy, he will, in all likelihood, be remembered best by the city’s legion of football fans as the man who resurrected their beloved Cleveland Browns by purchasing the dormant franchise in September, 1988 for a then-record sum and working with unswerving determination to rebuild both an organizational infrastructure and a team worthy of the Browns’ proud tradition. The process was not without obstacles, but the team seemed headed toward a resumption of its once-familiar role as a perennial playoff team when Mr. Lerner passed away in October, 2002. Dedicating the season to his memory, the Browns provided their popular leader with the most appropriate farewell gift they could muster by powering their way into the playoffs for the first time since their return to the league. Mr. Lerner is survived by his wife, Norma, two sons and seven grandchildren. His oldest son, Randy, succeeded him as president, keeping the quiet Lerner touch in plane with the city’s favorite football team and assuring its continuing presence in the city of its birth.
There are legends in sports and there are LEGENDS. Buddy Langdon merits all-capitals treatment when listing those who stand tallest in Greater Cleveland’s well-respected men’s softball lore. Born John Langdon in Cleveland’s Collinwood area, he moved to bat-and-ball conscious Euclid at the age of six By the time he graduated from Euclid High, he had developed the interest in slo-pitch softball which was to become integral part of his life. From 1953 to 1975 he starred in the sport, being named the Greater Cleveland All-City left-fielder four times on the All-Time All-City teams of both the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Press. Starring for memorable teams fielded by Sheffield Bronz. Swing Inn, Pyramid Café and Lach’s Bar, he played in seven World Tournaments between 1960 and 1969 in the men’s open division. Went on to coach in six others and was a member of Pyramid café’s 1975 World Championship team. He also managed and coached Cleveland’s first professional softball team “the Cleveland Jaybirds” to a division title in 1977. Off the field, his continuing devotion to the promotion of the game led to his founding in 1985 of the Greater Cleveland Slo-Pitch Softball Hall of Fame and Museum, which he still serves as its coordinator. He, himself, was voted into the hall in 1988. he continues to make his home in Euclid.
A solid, but hardly sensational wrestling career at Cleveland State University—a 56-11-2 record, a school record 14 pins as a senior bulwark of the nations ninth-ranked team when he qualified for NCAA Division I Nationals but he won just one match before bowing out—gave virtually no hint that the Vikings were nurturing an Olympic silver medalist in their midst. However, turning to Greco-Roman style wrestling after his graduation in 1984, proved the catalyst to the 1996 Olympics Silver Medal at 286 pounds and a notable national acclaim which followed, abetted no doubt by his imposing physical appearance. The medal was no fluke. Rather it was the special highlight of a post-collegiate career which saw him become the only wrestler in U.S. history to win a combined four World and Olympic medals. Add to that seven U.S. national championships, an American record nine Pan-American titles, and four World Cup championships, and 13 Grand Prix and four Canada Cup championships. Also earning a spot on the 1992 Olympic Team and as an alternate to the 2000 team, he was the U.S. Olympic Committee Greco-Roman Athlete of the Year for 1996 and 1998 and fifth in the voting for the U.S. Olympic Committee Sportsman of the Year in 1999. now the Director of National Facilitated Services at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, he makes his home in Avon Lake.
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.
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