The day before the Cleveland Browns officially announced, in 1995, that its National Football League franchise would be moving to Baltimore, Stan White dismissed the possibility of such a momentous event taking place.
“I had heard the rumors that the Browns were moving to Baltimore,” said the longtime Cockeysville resident and former Baltimore Colts linebacker. “I thought there was no way that was going to happen.”
Growing up a Browns fan in Kent, Ohio, which is less than 40 miles from Cleveland, added to White’s skepticism about the proposed franchise shift.
He then made a phone call to Browns owner Art Modell, who all but confirmed that the Browns were indeed coming to Baltimore.
“Art said, ‘Stan, I’ll be there tomorrow, That’s all I know,’ ” White remembers.
The press conference announcing the move in November 1995 was the opening chapter of the Baltimore Ravens putting down roots in Charm City. It also marked the beginning of White’s long association in a variety of capacities with the team.
White has relied on his institutional knowledge of the Ravens to write a book — “If These Walls Could Talk” — about the team’s more than two decades of thrills (two Super Bowl titles) and spills (Billy Cundiff’s missed chip-shot field-goal attempt in the 2011 AFC championship game) while playing in Baltimore.
The idea for the book originally came from veteran local writers and co-authors Todd Karpovich and Jeff Seidel, both of whom have covered the Ravens and other sports in the area for a number of years.
“Jeff and I kicked around some ideas,” said Karpovich, a Calvert Hall alumnus and Towson resident. “It came together pretty quickly. The Ravens have a pretty defined history. They struggled in the beginning and then became a model franchise. Stan has been there from the very beginning.”
Seidel said that the trio worked well together.
“It sounds like a cliché,” he said. “But it was good teamwork. We all had different roles, but I think the book turned out really well.”
It didn’t take White long to embrace the project.
“He was really into it,” Karpovich said.
‘A team again’
White was the 438th of 442 players selected in the 1972 NFL draft, when the Baltimore Colts nabbed him. His teammates during his first year in the NFL included Hall of Famers, such as quarterback Johnny Unitas, linebacker Ted Hendricks and tight end John Mackey, in addition to mammoth defensive lineman Bubba Smith, White said.
White said that he had some good fortune on draft day, in that the only reason that he was taken by the Colts was that coach Don McCafferty had coached at Kent State University and played at Ohio State, which is also White’s alma mater.
White played eight years with the Colts and made his home in the area with his wife, Patty, while raising two daughters, Meghan and Amanda, and a son, Stan Jr.
He also played for the Detroit Lions of the NFL and the Chicago Blitz and Arizona Wranglers of the now-defunct United States Football League while keeping his year-round home in Cockeysville.
After a 13-year pro career, White returned to Baltimore to practice law — he earned a law degree from the University of Baltimore — with attorney and sports agent Ron Shapiro before eventually moving into broadcasting as a sports talk show host on WBAL radio in 1986.
When the Ravens arrived, White was ecstatic for himself, his family and his adopted hometown.
“Baltimore had a team again,” White wrote in “If These Walls Could Talk,” echoing the sentiments of many Baltimoreans. “I had a team again. My kids had a team to grow up with.”
From that point forward, he was involved with the Ravens, from reviewing game film for the team’s first head head coach, Ted Marchibroda, to moving into the radio booth a dozen years ago to work with with play-by-play broadcaster Gerry Sandusky and fellow color analysts and former Ravens Quadry Ismail and, currently, Dennis Pitta.
White’s knowledge of the sport is extensive, Sandusky said.
“Stan understands the people, the strategy, the execution,” Sandusky, a former Towson University tight end, said of his broadcast partner. “He knows the big picture of game prep and the fine details of position techniques. And he knows how to bring it all together to enhance the experience of a listener in a broadcast and a reader in a book. He brings readers behind the scenes in his book in a way that gives great depth to the game, its history, and the powerful role football plays in Baltimore.”
The book strives “to look at the whole history of the team from my perspective,” White said. He has attended every game, home and away, while developing insight into what makes the Ravens who they are and how they have evolved over the past two-plus decades.
Profiles of former players, such as Ed Reed, Jonathon Ogden, Ray Lewis, Matt Stover, Dennis Pitta and Jamal Lewis are included in the book’s 22 chapters, along with accounts of current players Justin Tucker, Eric Weddle and Terrell Suggs.
White also has written chapters on Ravens coach John Harbaugh and his predecessor, Brian Billick, Modell and current Ravens owner Steve Biscotti.
Throughout the book, White uses a conversational-style in “Stan’s Sidebar,” which feature his insights into the subject of a chapter, such as how Baltimore fans reacted to the Ravens during the team’s first years in the city.
His best memories are from the Ravens’ wins in Super Bowls XXXV and XLVII, especially the latter, when he was on the field at the Super Dome in New Orleans, where he interviewed standout receiver Anquan Bolden and Jack Harbaugh, the father of Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh, who coached the losing San Francisco 49ers.
But his most poignant moment was in the somber Ravens locker room following the gut-wrenching 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the 2011 AFC championship game after Cundiff’s infamous miss of 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left that would have tied the score and most likely sent the game into overtime. Instead, Cundiff's attempt went wide and the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl.
“I thought I might try to console him,” White said. “But he put his arms on my shoulders as if to to console me. I just gave him a hug. There wasn’t anything to say, so I didn’t say anything.”
Kevin Byrne, the Ravens vice president of public and community relations, said that interviews like the one White did with Cundiff following the loss in New England are what makes White special.
“A lot of former players who get into broadcasting just say, ‘I’ve got this,’ and think they don’t have to work hard,” Byrne said. “But what I respect about Stan is how hard he works on his craft. And that’s especially true about going into a locker room after a loss. Stan just has a way about him — he’s not intimidated by anything.”