The following fans submitted memories of the Colts.
* My father (this site’s (and my) inspiration)
* Bob Hohman (below)
* Gerry Mantel’s essay, “The Baltimore Colts, Me, and the Motor City”
* William H. Bender (below), who also submitted his faux 1957 Baltimore Colts contract
* A short biography of Alex Hawkins (below)
* An essay from Frank Lhotsky (below)
* Pat Gerber’s memories of Alan Ameche in Wisconsin (below)
If you’d like to write something for the site, send it my way to: contact (@) baltimorecoltsmania.com
A sampling of my father’s Colts Memories - Submitted 6/97
#1. I believe it was 1958, when the Cleveland Browns, played the colts. During the entire afternoon, my father and I sat there and watched Jim Brown absolutely destroy the colts. It seemed that every other play consisted of brown going off tackle either left or right, for 3 to 5 yards and another first down. This performance was even more remarkable because the colts were one of the NFL's finest defensive teams.
#2. I believe this game between San Francisco and the Colts was also in 1958. In the second half, the colts scored four touchdowns and shutout San Francisco for the half. My father and I, as fate would have it, were sitting in the end zone seats, where the touchdowns were scored. Lenny Moore along with my idol, Johnny Unitas took it upon himself much like, Michael Jordan did when he played, to ensure victory with one spectacular play after the other. The four touchdowns were beat into the team's heads by Ewbank at halftime in probably his only necessary and effective pep talk.
#3. The final game was the famous Detroit Lion game when Lenny Moore, with less than 10 seconds left, scores a touchdown by throwing himself completely prone in the air to catch one of Mr. Unitas' spectacular throws. The catch, also kept Unitas’ consecutive touchdown streak (which went to 47 games) alive. With only time for a kickoff return, the lions scored and the colts lost. You could have heard a pin drop anywhere in Baltimore on that Sunday afternoon at around 4:30 afternoon.
It is important to remember that the colts represented for the city of Baltimore, a team that all citizens, black or white, old or young, etc. could be proud of. The city at that time, was riddled with political corruption, was severely divided on racial lines and suffered from a major inferiority complex versus other cities in the league, especially New York. We were considered a “branch town”-so for us to be the champs (long before the orioles got going) was one of the crowning moments in the city’s history.
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Bob Hohman, Chaplin, CT, firstname.lastname@example.org
I am 45 years old and distinctly remember that disastrous day in March 1984 when the vans left town. As much as I want to block it out, I can honestly say that I've never quite gotten over it. It may not be so bad if Indy didn't steal the name and logo. It took about five years after the Colts left to truly adapt to rooting for a different team in the AFC and even the AFC East. It's hard to imagine that the team I would end up disliking the most in the NFL would be the Colts and that I could actually find a way to root for a different team in the AFC East. Well, that's the way it has been for me since 1984.
We used to draw the number 19 on our T-shirts when I was in grade school during recess.
It's taken me this long, but I am now finally looking back at some games that I can recall from my youth. I really didn't care about the Colts until 1970. I missed out on the previous glory years. I either watched on T.V. or listened to most of the Colts games on the radio from 1972-1983. Most of the home games were blacked out back then. Most games I watched were on the road and many losses over those years with the exception of 1975-1977. Listening to the games on the radio was a little challenging. I grew up in York, PA, and there was no local radio coverage for nearly all those years. I had to fine tune a Baltimore radio station which wasn't always that easy. There were some times when I was able to watch a home game on TV, but it sure seemed like those times were few and far between. I was able to go to four Baltimore Colts games in my life at Memorial Stadium.
Somehow, and for whatever reason I seemed to like that 2:00pm home starting time. Maybe because it gave me an extra hour to play in the yard before I would be tied to a radio.
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William H. Bender - Submitted 10/6/07
Hello and thank you for all the work on Baltimore Colts Mania! It is really
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Alex Hawkins Biography - Submitted 1/30/04
Alex Hawkins was recruited out of West Virginia to play football for Rex Enright at South Carolina in 1955. He became a Hall of Famer at USC, earning ACC Player of the Year honors in 1958. He went on to be the special teams captain for the Colts under both Weeb Ewbank and Don Shula.
He was such an unknown, that when the captains were being introduced to each other in the middle of the field, either the referee or an opposing team’s captain said, "Captain Who?"...and that became his nickname (along with The Hawk).
Hawkins was a demon on special teams, but was claimed in the expansion draft by the new Atlanta Falcons and played for them in 1966 before returning to the Colts for his final season in 1967. In the early 1970s he did some broadcast work as color analyst for CBS’ NFL telecasts.
Alex Hawkins was a fine football player, and a coach’s nightmare off the field, but in Baltimore Colts lore, he’ll always be "Captain Who?" Hawkins is now retired and living in Denmark, SC (at least he was in 2003 ago).
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A Colt Fan’s Memories - By Frank Lhotsky
I know I’m not the only Colt fan that has these shared the same memories about the things that went on between a team and its fans. But, I’m writing his for the younger one’s that haven’t heard of this time. It all started in the fall of 1948, when I was 12 years old. My older brother took me to Clifton Park to watch the AAFC Colts practice. The Colts were wearing the standard grey sweats and practicing in the fenced in field right off of St. Lo Drive. Ball point pens hadn’t surfaced yet, so I took my pencil and a scrap of paper. As they finished up and were leaving, they gladly signed my sheet of paper. I remember getting Y.A.Title, Dick Barwegan, Stormy Phofl, Charlie O’ Rourke, John Mellius, and others including Herman Wedemeyer. He was “Dono” on the television show Hawaii Five-O.
I was so elated that I finally found a team to root for. My brother and his friends attended the games at the old Babe Ruth Stadium and gave me the programs. By 1950, I had collected them, and the gum cards, the match covers, bread labels, comic books, team pictures and any other item related to the Colts. We had the morning and evening SUN paper delivered to our home. To get a copy of the News Post, I helped a friend with delivering his papers. Every day, I cut out the Colt pictures that appeared in our local papers and stopped in 1956, after graduating from school. I neatly mounted the pictures on 8 x10 sheets of paper. I remember all the local papers bashing Abe Watner for selling the team to Texas. I heard that some irate fans went to his house and painted his driveway with green and silver paint.
In 1953, we got our team back! I went to the Colt Nite exhibition game. The price was a dollar and the fans packed the place. I went to each exhibition game from ‘53 to ’59 and kept the programs. The gate money for Colt Nite was for charity and it went to the Police Boy’s Clubs in the city. One game, Buddy Young had a foot race with the Colt mascot, pony. When the ’53 season started, I sold programs at the Stadium and continued until 1956, just to get in free. After the game had started, I would sit on the scaffoldings and watch the games. In 1953, the Stadium was adding an upper deck to lure a Major League baseball team to the town. Of course I collected the programs and that collection would continue until the team left us, including my 2 years in the Army. I remember Alan Ameche’s first run for a touchdown and Rechichar’s field goal against the Bears and the foggy game against the Rams. In ’56, I was out of school, had a job and started paying for my tickets. Tickets were readily available at that time they could be purchase at various clothing stores. Our group of guys bought them and would sit in different locations each game, but enjoyed rooting for our team. Each year, we all went to Westminster to watch the preseason practices.
The players of that era were so pleasant to converse with, get autographs, and take snapshots. The Colts played an annual exhibition game in Hershey, Pennsylvania and the gang would leave in the morning and spend the day at the Hershey Park amusements and then at night, we would watch them play the Eagles. One year after the game, traffic was backed up going back to Baltimore and the Colt bus was about 6 cars ahead of us. I got out of our car with two quarts of National Boh. I ran to the bus, tapped on the window, and gave the beer to a pair of eager hands. “Thanks kid,” was the reply, as I ran to the car. We also went to Cincinnati, Ohio to see an exhibition game and the players were surprised to see us there.
In 1958, we boarded one of two trains loaded with fans to New York for a regular season game with the Giants. We arrived at the bowels of Yankee Stadium in the shadow of the overhead ells at about 11.30 AM. All the thirsty fans were standing outside the local barrooms, waiting for them to open the doors. Unfortunately, we lost the game to the Giants and their fans were gloating at us. I remember saying “We’ll be back,” not imagining that it would ever come true. The trip back home was memorable. You’d a thought we won the game. Everyone was partying and part of the Colt Band was on our train and they were playing the Colt song and other tunes. It was a Mardi gras atmosphere, with singing, dancing and drinking. Three quarters of the way home, the club car ran completely out of alcohol. The ’58 season was a memorable one and I was one of the huge, crowds that ran onto the field after we sewed up the Western Conference against the 49ers.
I didn’t make the return trip back to New York, but watched the championship game on TV with a few friends. I’m sure everyone reached for the reliable radio, when the slight delay in the TV communication happened as the Colts were driving toward the end zone in the overtime. After the game, we decided to go to Friendship Airport and welcome them back. The traffic was so bad on the B& W Expressway, we were forced to turn back and in a way, I’m glad after seeing the madhouse on TV and reading about it in the paper. The crowd was so large, the buses decided not to unload at the terminal, for fear of their lives. I heard one fanatic was riding atop the bus as it tore off down the highway. The overtime game was billed as “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and Baltimore was finally getting some recognition. Sports Illustrated put them on the cover and ran a special article with Robert Riger drawings and Ed Sullivan had Johnny Unitas and Ameche on his Sunday TV show.
National Bohemian sold a 45 rpm record of the final minutes and some neighborhood barrooms had it in their jukeboxes. Various other Colt items began flooding the market. The downtown stores, Stewart’s and Houschild’s, were selling beer mugs, ash trays and other items, depicting the Sun papers front page. The next few seasons, became a love affair between the Colts and their fans. The Colts were very visible in the community, doing public relations work, charity work and even working at some of the local companies in the off seasons. They never made the money as the modern day players and worked to subsidize their salaries.
Monday nights they were showing up at a little bar in Highland town, named Gus’s Downbeat. The word got out that players like Taseff, Donovan, and others were showing up and patrons would actually stand in line outside to chat with them. Art DeCarlo opened a putt-putt course, Jim Parker ran a package goods store and Lenny Moore tried his luck with a night club. Bill Pellington owned and operated the “Iron Horse” steak house. Church goers would see the likes of Berry, Szsmanski, Unitas and others at Mass on Sundays. Unitas opened his bowling alley in Dundalk and later on, his restaurant, The “Golden Arm” in Towson. A group of us took our wives and had dinner at his place. Johnny actually walked around, chatted and signed photos for the customers.
Alan Ameche, Gino Marchetti, Joe Capanella and a silent partner bought old Knox’s or Murray’s ice cream parlor on Loch Raven Blvd. and converted it to a fast food drive-in. What a goldmine! People were flocking to the store to get his Powerhouse sandwich, fries and a Coke. “Meet-cha at Ameche’s,” was heard on the radio and TV commercials. Marchetti branched off and opened fast food hamburger stands all over town and customers ordered his famous Gino Giant sandwiches to go. Later years, it was written that Alex Hawkins, alias Captain Who, was involved in late night card games in Towson and I shot the breeze with Lou Michaels, while he played the pin ball machine at The Corral Inn in Dundalk. We heard later of Big Daddy Lipscomb’s late night exploits in the streets of the Black sections of town that later led to his demise.
The following year, 1959, we repeated as World Champs and I got tickets to see the championship game as we trounced the Giants in Memorial Stadium. When the away games were on TV, our gang of guys would congregate at each others house and pitch in for beer and food and watch the games. This ritual would continue until the team left our town. We all cheered and rooted them on and after the game six or eight would join in on a card game while the others watched the 2nd game of the day.
In 1960, I was drafted in the U.S. Army and spent 18 months at Fort Bragg N.C. I was fortunate to see some of the Colt games on local TV in that area. The first game as I arrived in NC was the one against Detroit. I was going crazy as Lenny Moore made a leaping last minute diving catch in the end zone. Only to see it all go for nil as the Lions’ Jim Gibbons returned the kick-off for the game winning TD. I missed the 1960 and 61 season, but my sister continued my program collection in my absence. In the fall of 1962, I had a chance to get season tickets. Two of my friends and I had upper deck, end zone, seats directly behind home plate in section 41. Every other Sunday, we boarded a bus stocked with beer and a team of rowdy Colt fans and headed for the stadium. Mom packed us a lunch of fried chicken and we feasted on that at half time. We sat in same seats, Section 41, Row 31, every year until 1971. At halftime, I made it a point to visit my sisters and their spouses at their 50 yard line seats and pick up a few snacks and a few drinks to keep me warm. At that time, it was the norm for the fans to carry a flask of liquid refreshment to the games and we were amongst them. We never had any problems and our section was one big happy family.
I had so many fond memories of our time at the stadium and will list a few, in no particular chronological order. Who could forget the Unitas to Berry pin point timing plays or Lenny Moore’s slant passes and after catching the ball, seeing nothing but white spats speeding toward the end zone? Orrsville, was an area just below my section, inside the horseshoe on the left. Jimmy Orr caught many of his TD passes here. One time he was returning from an injury and the coach Shula waved him into the game as the fans roared to the approval. The very next play resulted in a score in his “hometown”. I remember Art Donovan’s retirement as the players took off his jersey and the fans cheered as this huge, cape draped hulk of a man walked off the field crying like a baby.
They had a retirement day for Pellington and Marchetti and sold pins to commemorate the day. Mike Curtis was remembered for tackling an inebriated fan and I remember him intercepting a pass and running about 60 yards with the ball raised high in the air as he sped for our end of the field. Our games with the Packers were so fierce and competitive. One year we lost as Willie Davis stripped the ball from Unitas as he was making one of his patented drives. Another year we got back and I remember an elated Willie Richardson heaving a ball into the stands after scoring.
I actually cried after one particular loss. In 1965, Unitas got hurt before a crucial game against the Packers and Tom Matte had to fill in for him. He had a wrist band with plays numbered on it. National Boh hyped the game by putting, “Beat the Pack” on the neck label of their beer bottles. The Colts played a gallant game only to have it snuffed out by a bad call from the referees. Don Chandler’s errant field goal was called good and the Packers went on to the championship game. The papers showed that they were wrong and the NFL tried to appease fans by elevating the goal post the following seasons. There were so many good thoughts: the Colt pony racing around the cinder warning track after each touchdown and the four characters donned with oversized helmets, white decorated, jackets and toting a banner. They would coax the fans to the famous cheer C-O-L-T-S inside “the world’s largest outdoor insane asylum.
The Colts and their fans was a match made in heaven. I often said, “We were fortunate to see the “Golden age of professional football.” Each year, the increasing ticket prices became a luxury, rather than a necessity and we soon gave them up. The Irsay’s and Joe Thomas era was starting to purge the veterans and my love affair with the Colts and football was starting to wane.
I was fortunate to get a ticket for was the December 3, 1972 game against the Buffalo Bills. Unitas was on the bench and the regular quarterback, Marty Domres, pulled up lame and limped off the field. The next scene that took place seemed like a Hollywood movie script. Johnny proceeded to throw his last pass as a Colt to Eddie Hinton for a TD. As he went off the field amidst a roaring crowd, a small Piper Cub plane with a banner reading UNITAS WE STAND flew around the stadium. I continued to follow them through the Bert Jones, Lydell Mitchell and Toni Linhart era and went to a few other games. I was at the playoff game with Pittsburgh when another plane incident took place after the game. A fanatical fan crashed his single engine, plane into the upper deck seats, not far from our section. Fortunately no one was hurt as we were in the process of going down our ramp and out of the stadium when it took place.
All these wonderful memories soon came to an end that fateful day in March of 1983 when the Mayflower vans pulled out of town and left our city for Indianapolis.
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Pat Gerber, Wisconsin - Submitted 9/21/04
I grew up in Alan Ameche's home town, Kenosha, Wisconsin. Whenever we played sandlot football every kid in town wanted to be Alan Ameche. I even had it all figured out. Using some wives tale formula I would be 6'1" tall at full height and I would weigh 220. I would be the next great fullback from Kenosha. Because of my devotion to "The Horse", I decided I was a Baltimore Colts fan - not a Packer fan. That made life tough for me at times. The first game I can actually recall watching was the 58 championship game - believe it or not. I was eight years old. That day I found another hero, one that would stick with me to this very day. Johnny Unitas. It was hard to get a lot of Baltimore games on TV back then if you didn't live in their viewing area. Only national games and when they played the Packers or Bears could I see them play. None the less I followed them in the News and papers. Those Packer Colts games where really something through most of the 60s. The Packers under Vince Lombardi had a 70% winning record against the rest of the league. Against the Colts however, it dropped to an even 50/50.
I read a few books about Unitas and Ray Berry that were written for grade school kids back then which helped me put some history and substance to these two gifted athletes. What I remember most was there desire to do the best they could. That stayed with me for the rest of my life. Also, the story of Unitas childhood and overcoming many hardships. I didn't grow up in the rich part of town and kids like me needed heroes to pull you out of the daily situations you found yourself in. The Colts where my heroes. If John Unitas could pick himself off the ground after being dumped for a big loss and having his nose broken and throw a touchdown pass, certainly I could make the effort to get up when I was knocked down and try again.
Only those of you who are true Colts fans can understand what I went through the day of Super Bowl III. I had bet money a college freshman didn't have and gave everyone 10 points to boot. It was a sure thing. I was sick by half time. Why doesn't he put Unitas in I don't know what Shula was thinking but I will goto my grave wondering what would have happened if he got Unitas in the game earlier. I will forever believe if Unitas had that time he would have won that game. It still hurts today.
When the Colts sat Johnny U. I all but dumped them as my team. How could anyone do that I thought San Diego would go to the top of the league the next year with Unitas playing. So much for the dreams of a little boy even though he was now a young man. So the years rolled on. I never reached the 6'1" height I was suppose to. I played as hard as a 5'8" 170lb high school linebacker could though. I have never lost that hero worship of my boyhood for Johnny U. I have argued his place as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game with more people than you can shake a stick at. On September 11, 2002 I came home from work and turned on the TV. ESPN was on and I heard Johnny U's name so I perked up to listen. They were speaking of him in the past tense. Then I read the scroll on the bottom of the screen announcing his sudden death. I am not ashamed to tell you that I was very emotional for several days. Only my own parents deaths have affected me more. Why? My greatest hero had died. My link to the person who was always a winner no matter what else was happening in my life was gone. My boyhood died that day and for any man that is a great loss.
I don't know what young kids do for heroes these days. It is certainly a mystery when you look at the behavior and attitudes of today's professional athlete. I guess we are fortunate in Wisconsin to have a throw back like Brett Favre to look up to. Deep down inside he can still spark memories of days and heroes gone by. I know it is almost sacrilegious to talk about the Indy Colts butseeing that blue horse shoe on the white helmet can still make me sit up with anticipation. Don't let anyone ever say "It's just a game." As Vince Lombardi said once, "Football is a way of life"....and not only for the players and coaches but people like us.....Baltimore Colts Fans!!