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Thursday, July 25, 2002
Lewis was first QB to play for Browns
TAMPA, Fla. -- Cliff Lewis, the first quarterback of the Cleveland Browns and an insurance executive for the New York Yankees, died Thursday afternoon at his home following a long illness. He was 79.
Lewis started the first three games for the Browns during their inaugural season in the All-America Football Conference in 1946 --- all of them victories.
When future Hall of Famer Otto Graham returned to play quarterback in the fourth game of the 1946 season, Lewis became the Browns' regular safety and returned punts until his retirement in 1952. Graham started the 1946 campaign in the secondary due to his unfamiliarity with the offense.
Lewis joined the Yankees' organization in 1973, when George Steinbrenner purchased the team, and was serving as the Yankees' vice president of insurance administration.
"Cliff was a very fine football player and a great guy," Graham said. "He was a team man all the way. Even after he was moved to defense, he was still my backup at quarterback."
In five seasons with the Browns, Lewis completed 30-of-71 passes for 542 yards and seven touchdowns. He also returned 76 punts for 548 yards and intercepted 30 passes, including a career-high nine in 1948.
"Cliff Lewis was a great competitor and a great professional man as well," Steinbrenner said. "Most of all, he was a great family man and a real true friend. He has been with me in key positions for more than 30 years and he will be sorely missed by all."
Lewis began his association with Steinbrenner in 1970, when he joined the insurance department of the American Shipbuilding Company.
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