BEREA, Ohio (AP) – Hall of Fame center Frank Gatski, a powerful blocker who played in 10 straight championship games for the Cleveland Browns, has died. Gatski died Tuesday in Morgantown, W.Va., according to his son-in-law, James Giuliani.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton lists Gatski’s age as 83, but Giuliani said family members are not certain what year he was born.

Gatski died of congestive heart failure, Browns alumni relations director Dino Lucarelli said.

He had been in failing health and wasn’t well enough to attend a reunion of Browns players last weekend in Cleveland.

“Gunner” Gatski anchored a line that by the end of his career included Hall of Fame tackles Lou Groza and Mike McCormack. He also played alongside former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll, a Browns guard, and snapped the ball to Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham.

The Cleveland teams of the late 1940s and 50s, coached by offensive mastermind Paul Brown, dominated the All-America Football Conference and later the NFL. Gatski and the Browns won four AAFC championships and NFL titles in 1950, 1954 and 1955.

Gatski joined Detroit after the Browns failed to make the 1956 title game – the only time in his 12 pro seasons that he didn’t play for a championship. In 1957, with Gatski at center, Detroit beat Cleveland 59-14 to win the league title. Gatski retired after playing in the Pro Bowl that season.

“He was like a polished stone, very strong in the middle,” said wide receiver Dante Lavelli, another Browns Hall of Famer. “A very strong man, and a very good player. He was always able to adjust real well to anything. Just a quiet man and a great teammate. I never remember him missing a game.”

Gatski began his career as a linebacker before moving to offense, where for a decade Gatski provided protection for Graham.

Gatski was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985 with a class that included Joe Namath, Pete Rozelle, O.J. Simpson and Roger Staubach.

In October, Gatski’s No. 72 jersey became the first number retired by Marshall, where he played for three seasons. Gatski attended the ceremony and he waved to Thundering Herd fans from a cart.

The son of a coal miner killed in a mining accident, Gatski never missed a game in 20 seasons – high school, college (Marshall, Auburn) and the pros (Browns, 1946-56).

AP-ES-11-23-05 1752EST


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