In December,1958, I was working on the Baltimore docks as a
longshoreman for the Alcoa Steamship Co. I was living in Locust Point and
was a Colts fan right from the start.
John Unitas, was taken on Jan. 5, 2001, at the funeral for sports writer John Steadman, held at St. Jude Shrine, Baltimore, Md.
Like many from the south side, I was
excited about the upcoming championship game against the Giants. After
a very good 1957 season, the Colts looked like the real thing in '58, with
John Unitas, Lenny Moore and Raymond Berry having banner years.
It may be difficult for pro sports fans of this era to realize with
the megabucks Orioles' Camden Yards facility and Ravens' stadium, but
back in the late 50s, Baltimore was considered a hick town. In fact, it
was boring, too. There was no "Harborplace", National Aquarium,
Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Morris Mechanic Theatre, Center Stage, or $800
million subway system to be found. This was also long before the "Do-It-
Now Mayor", the incomparable William Donald Schaefer, arrived on the
municipal scene to do his unique version of urban renewal.
That other great attraction, "Fells Point", wasn't even on the
tourist map. Then, it was just a run down neighborhood featuring decaying
Jim Mutscheller, was also taken on Jan. 5, 2001, at the funeral for sports writer John Steadman
warehouses and pot-hole-filled streets, drunks, and sleazy pubs, that even
"Elvis" wouldn't be found dead in. Although, the city has just gotten a
new major league baseball franchise, (thanks to the herculean efforts of
then-Mayor Thommy "The Elder" D'Alesandro), the no-names Orioles were
a pathetic joke. In short, in 1958, Baltimore City was a "loser".
My unchecked enthusiasm, however, at age 21, led me to buy two
tickets for the contest and to take my Highlandtown girlfriend with me.
The tickets cost $4 each! Today, $4 might get you a large beer at a
Ravens game, but not much more. The Baltimore Sun ran a photo of some
of us lucky fans lining up at Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street to buy the
Colts/Giant ducats. I was thrilled to see my mug in it.
Art Donovan on Jan. 5, 2001, at the funeral for sports writer John Steadman
I was looking forward to driving to New York for the game, my first
trip there, but decided at the last minute to take a train from Penn
Station. We left early that morning, Sunday, Dec. 28, and were lucky to
get a seat. It was very crowded.
After arriving in New York, we took the subway to the Bronx and to
fabled "Yankee Stadium". I had a rush of adrenalin when I first sighted
that legendary arena, a/k/a, "The House that Ruth Built".
When we got to our seats, the usher politely wiped them off and then
stuck out his hand. I thought to myself, "He wants to welcome me to New
York by shaking my hand." I quickly found out by the look on his frowning
face that he wanted a (gasp) tip! Under coercion, I gave him a quarter.
I was pleased to see other southsiders at the event, like John
"Hopit" Haspert, Emmet Prenger and Eli Burkum. Soon, after the game
started, I got another jolt from the New Yorkers. When we would stand to
cheer for the Colts, the locals would invariably yell at us in a loud
mocking voice, "Sit down you farmers!" I had never thought of myself as
being a farmer, although my late mother, Nora Thornton, was raised on a
farm in the west of Ireland.
I'll leave the actual description of the rightly-labeled "Greatest
Game" to the sport writers. My memories of it, however, will forever
center around the dramatic final touchdown run by Alan "The Horse"
Ameche, the pin point passing of quarterback Unitas, and the record
breaking 12 receptions by the end Berry.
Lenny Moore, on Jan. 5, 2001, at the funeral for sports writer John Steadman
The train ride back to Baltimore was a special trip unto itself. The
happy Baltimore fans were at a "Mach-3" level of unbridled celebration.
Some of them were carrying parts of the goal post with them, others
could barely walk to their seats from having one-beer-too many. It was a
party train like no other. It lasted right through to our landing at Penn
Station and spilled out into the joyful night on to Charles Street.
I felt then as I still feel today, that the victory by the Colts over
the Giants, on that memorable day, by a score of 23-17, in the first NFL
televised overtime championship game, placed the city in the pantheon of
pro sports towns. The Colts' victory also proved to me, and to many
others of my generation, that Baltimore City was a winner, too!
(Editor's Note-Bill Hughes is a Baltimore attorney, author and actor
and former columnist for The Sentinel.)
(Published in The Baltimore Chronicle, December, 1998 issue.)
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