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The Suburbanite
  • Ravens coach tells funny stories about ties to Cleveland

  • His parents spent their honeymoon in Cleveland.
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  • Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, the parents of the famous Super Bowl coaches, expressed their love for Cleveland in an unusual way.
    They spent their honeymoon in Cleveland. They went to a Browns-Giants game.
    That is only the tip of the iceberg as to the ties of the NFL's best-known siblings to Cuyahoga County.
    John Harbaugh, Baltimore's head coach, took the occasion of a game at Cleveland to share some of the details.
    "My mom and all my family is from over there on the east side," John said as a conference call with Ohio writers shifted away from the game. "Say hi to uncle Bob and aunt Sandy and grandpa Joe. You've got to give him a shout out."
    Tell us more about grandpa Joe, someone said.
    "Joe Cipiti has been here since he was 4 years old," said the head coach of the defending Super Bowl champs — 'here' is the United States. "He came over, went through Ellis Island in 1920.
    "He's 97 years old. He says it's hard work and red grapes. He has a nursery out on Chillicothe Road in Bainbridge (Township), right across from the fire station ... he and uncle Bob and Aunt Sandy."
    The mailing address of the nursery is Chagrin Falls. John could walk there from Lake Erie with his eyes closed.
    "Grandpa used to let us drive the truck and drive the lawn mower around the nursery," John Harbaugh said. "One time he let me drive the lawn mower and cut the grass. I was 10 or 11. My brother was 8."
    His brother is Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the 49ers.
    "Jim was whining and crying because he wanted to do it," John said. "My grandpa said, 'Whatever you do, don't cut down the sapling trees. Well, Jim commenced to mow down a whole row of little oak trees. Jim didn't get on the lawn mower again for about a couple years after that."
    Grandpa Joe changed careers to get into the landscaping-nursery business.
    "They were in Richmond Heights for a long time right next to the mall," he said. "Before that they were in East Cleveland. My mom went to Shaw High School. He owned a gas station for a while down there ... mysteriously burned up.
    "And then he just ran the nursery business and was a car mechanic in a number of places for a number of years."
    The coach seized the opportunity for a little free advertising.
    "Yeah. Cipiti Nursery, man. Go in there and buy some trees. Uncle Bob ... he's got plenty of stuff. Wholesale prices (laughs).
    "Landscaping, sodding, you name it. He used to make us pull all the rocks when we laid sod in the summer time. Pull all the weeds. He gave us all the dirty work."
    Page 2 of 2 - What about that gas station that burned up?
    "It's a family mystery," Harbaugh said. "I can't get it out of grandpa Joe. I'm not exactly sure what went down. It was down there in East Cleveland somewhere. It was the only one he owned.
    "I'm not saying there's any ties to any elements. I'm not sure what happened. Probably just an accident. All tongue in cheek."
    Harbaugh's Ravens have mowed down the Browns 11 straight times.
    That is an odd thing in what used to be a family of Browns fans.
    Reach Steve at 330-580-8347