Calpundit links to an article about Walter O’Malley, the man who moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn to LA, as well as helping to break the color barrier and a number of other important things to help usher in the modern era of baseball. Kevin is shocked that some people might block O’Malley from the Hall of Fame because of a grudge they still hold about him moving the team:
“Walter did a lot of great things for baseball,” said Hal Lebovitz, Hall of Fame writer from Ohio. “But I can’t vote for him the way I could never vote for Art Modell for the football Hall of Fame. In a way, they were traitors to their cities.”
My mother’s side of the family grew up in Baltimore, and I can tell you first-hand that Hal Lebovit’s sentiments are tame stuff compared to the hatred most people from Baltimore have for former Indiannapolis Colts owner Robert Irsay, who stole the Colts from Baltimore. Here is some background on the move:
The Colts received the first selection in the April 26, 1983 NFL draft and selected Stanford quarterback John Elway. Six days later Irsay pulled the rug under from his own front office and quickly traded Elway to Denver for the Broncos’ 1983 first round choice, offensive tackle Chris Hinton, and quarterback Mark Herrmann. Leaving the question as to what might have been in store for Baltimore had they kept Elway under the Horshoe rather than in Denver under the Bronco. Instead, another blunder move by Irsay while Denver acquires a franchise quarterback for the next two decades.
The Colts rebounded in 1983 to go 7-9, the best turnaround ever in the NFL for a winless team. The Colts were 6-4 after week 10 and then went 7-9 on the season. The Chris Hinton acquisition proved temporarily successful as the rookie earned a starting berth at offensive guard for the AFC in the Pro Bowl. The Colts’ running game came together as Curtis Dickey and Randy McMillan combined for just shy of 2,000 yards rushing to rank first in the AFC and second in the NFL. They capped their season with a 20-10 victory at home over Houston on December 18 in the season finale.
Few realized it at the time, but that game marked the final time the Colts would play as the home team in Baltimore. In 1984, in the middle of the night, the owner, Robert Irsay, ‘snucked’ the team out of Baltimore to Indianapolis. (See image, right – one of the last vans to pull out) This was the famous Mayflower incident that left Baltimore without a team, and much controversy and debate that still rages today. Their surroundings changed, the club owned by the Irsays still to this day continues its losing ways.
An entire city was devestated. No team, except for perhaps my Steelers and their rival the Browns (who also endured a similar unpleasantness), identified with their city more than the Colts. Sure, there were still the Orioles, but this was the Colts. My mother was with her brother and my grandmother and grandfather to greet the Colts and and Johnny Unitas when they returned from NY after the ‘Greatest Game,’ and my mother’s family ties to the Colts were typical of those who lived in Baltimore. It was a blue collar town with a deep love for their Colts, and Irsay shattered that.
“Unitas We Stand” was not just some sort of pithy slogan to root for the team, it was part of the core moral and ethical values of the city. Teammate John Mackey referred to playing with Unitas as ‘being in the huddle with God.’ If Johnny Unitas was God, certainly heaven was Colts football in Baltimore. For those of you who are unaware, during the Greatest Game ever played, the television brodcast briefly went out. For the next 25 years until he died, my grandfather had both a radio and a television tuned to the game in case the television broadcast went out again. It never did, but he would never miss another down of Colts football.
To get an idea how deep the grudges still are about Irsay stealing the Colts:
– It took my mother until Peyton Manning to call the Indiannapolis Colts the ‘Colts.’ For the previous fifteen years she had referred to them as ‘that damned team from Indiannapolis.’
– Along with important family birthdays, deaths, the date the Colts were stolen is still marked on calendars in our household.
– For years my mother woke up in the middle of the night crying because the Colts were no longer in Baltimore.
– The night the Colts were stolen, my mother called my grandmother and said “Thank God daddy is dead and didn’t have to live to see this.”
– Mayflower moving vans, the moving line used to sneak the Colts out of the city, almost went under in the region. To this day my mother and her friends refuse to even cosider using the corporation.
– When the Colts were moved, the Baltimore Colts marching band rushed off and incorporated. They continued to organize, practice, and play from 1984-1998:
The Baltimore Colts’ Band, Inc. continues to operate without a football team. The band performs at 30 NFL football games, 23 CFL (Canadian Football League) games and had the honor of performing at the 1991 Pro-Football Hall of fame enshrinement, parade, pre-game and halftime and receives the first standing ovation for a halftime band in Pro-Football Hall of Fame history.
Fifteen years after the move, they performed for the last time and Became the Baltimore Marching Ravens.
– Baltimore magazine continues to reference Rob Irsay, barely containing their disgust.
– In a poll in Baltimore magazine (which my mom still gets) last year, the following question was asked:
“Who is your favorite Baltimorean, living or dead?”
The #1 response- “Bob Irsay, because he is dead.”
So no, Kevin, I don’t Lebovitz’s statement is crazy at all. In fact, for my mother, I will leave you with a song:
Let’s go you Baltimore Colts
And put that ball across the line,
So, drive on you Baltimore Colts –
Go in and strike like lightning bolts,
Fight, fight, fight,
Rear up you Colts and let’s fight –
Crash through and show them your might –
For Baltimore and Maryland –
You will march on to victory.
– – – by Jo Lombardi & Benjamin Klasmer