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Relocated NFL Teams: The Baltimore Colts

Between 1953 and 1983, the NFL outfit Indianapolis Colts was based in Baltimore. It was then known as the Baltimore Colts and was a relatively successful team. This version of the Baltimore Colts was actually the second iteration of a team with the same name. The previous Baltimore Colts played in the AAFC from 1947to 1951 when it was dissolved following the NFL/AAFC merger. There remained an intense hunger for NFL football in Baltimore following that loss. In 1952, the NFL challenged the city to sell 15000 season tickets in six weeks in order to get consideration for a new franchise. Baltimore surpassed that target, taking only four weeks to reach the quota. The city was granted an NFL franchise in 1953 and the then homeless Dallas Texans were sold to Carroll Rosenbloom who would be the custodian of the new team. This marked the birth of the second reincarnation of the Colts. The Nickname Colts had been picked in 1947 following a fans contest during the launching of the initial Colts franchise. The name reflects the tradition of horse racing in the Baltimore region. When the new franchise was formed in 1953, they elected to adopt the same moniker to pay homage to the earlier team.

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The Colts were a decent team in competition. Their most successful year was 1970 when they won super bowl V. Two years earlier the Colts had made it all the way to Super Bowl III, only to lose 16-7 to the New York Jets .At the beginning of the season, the Colts alongside two other teams had been shifted to the AFC following the NFL-AFL merger. The Baltimore Colts adjusted quickly and emerged with an impressive 11-2-1 record. They defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the Divisional playoffs and then eliminated the Oakland Raiders in the AFC championship game. Baltimore would then meet the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl.

The Cowboys started brightly taking a 6-0lead which they extended to13-6 going into halftime. Midway through the final period, the Colts tied the game from a two yard plunge by Tom Nowatzke. This game, nicknamed the “blunder bowl” saw back and-forth fumbling between the two teams and that is what it took to hand the Colts the victory. Tied, with two minutes left on the clock, Cowboys running back Dan Reeves fumbled the ball in Dallas territory, paving the way for a 32 yard field goal from Jim O’Brien with five seconds left, to cap the finest moment in Baltimore Colts’ history.

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    Why Did The Colts Relocate?

    After winning the Super Bowl in 1971, the team went on a downward spiral following its sale to Bob Irsay. Irsay was often described as a difficult boss and he would often yell at players and employees, which this heavily affected morale. In 1984, he tried to negotiate with the city for the refurbishment of the Memorial Stadium. The negotiations, in true Irsay fashion degenerated into a heated fallout and the State of Maryland passed a law that would allow the city to seize the cots from Irsay. Meanwhile Irsay was working in the background with Mayor William Hudnut of Indianapolis where a brand new stadium, the RCA Dome stood vacant ready for the taking by any willing team. On March 28, 1984, Hudnut was alerted by Colts General Manager Mike Chernoff of the new law which was awaiting the governor’s approval. Hudnut called in his neighbor Johnny B. Smith who owned a moving company and he immediately sent vans to the Colts headquarters to transport team equipment. With the help of some hired hands, the team was packed and relocated in the middle of the night. Baltimore fans were stunned to wake up and find the team gone but there was little they could do. Among those hired to pack up the team were about a dozen members of the Sigma Chi fraternity house at the University of Maryland. One of them, Bill Kynast, later claimed to have snuck to an office in the Cots headquarters to alert a sportscaster he knew of the secret move. He was however unable to get through because the lines were busy. Had he managed to contact the reporter, it is highly probable the Colts would still be in Batimore today. The relocated team became the Indianapolis Colts. Batimore were eventually awarded a new franchise in 1996 which became the Batimore Ravens but the acrimony toward Indiannapolis and Irsay remains to this day.

    Who Were Some Notable Players on the Baltimore Colts?

    Johnny Unitas QB 1956-1972
    Raymond Berry WR 1955-1967
    Ted Hendricks LB 1969-1973
    John Mackey TE 1963-1971
    Jim Parker OT 1957-1967
    Lenny Moore RB 1956-1967
    Art Donovan OT 1953-1961
    Gino Marchetti DE 1953-64, 66
    Lydell Mitchell 1972-1977
    Jimmy Orr 1961-1970
    Earl Morrall QB 1968-1971
    Bubba Smith 1966-1971
    Tom Matte 1961-1972
    Bill Curry 1967-1972

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