Sitting on stage alongside his aging teammates, having dinner during the Sports Legend Museum induction at Martin's West Tuesday night, 85-year-old Gino Marchetti will chew on this:
"It's amazing to me that, after all these years, people are still thinking of us," Marchetti, the Baltimore Colts' Hall of Fame defensive end, said. "I always figured that I'd play football for a few years, go home to Antioch (Calif.) and work in the mill until I turned 65, then go fishing. But, God almighty, the people of Baltimore want to keep promoting us.
"The fans were always great in this town. It's hard to believe that it's still going on."
The ceremony will honor Marchetti and six other Colts greats — Art Donovan, Lenny Moore, Raymond Berry, John Mackey, Jim Parker and coach Weeb Ewbank — who'll be enshrined in the museum's Hall of Legends at Camden Yards. Mackey, Parker and Ewbank will be inducted posthumously.
All are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who brought world championships to Baltimore. Mackey starred in the Colts' Super Bowl victory in 1971; the others inspired the team's back-to-back NFL titles in 1958-59.
"Each is elite in so many ways," said Michael Gibbons, executive director of the Sports Legends Museum. "Marchetti is considered by many to be the greatest defensive end in history; Parker, the greatest offensive lineman.
"Mackey redefined the tight end position and was the first president of the [post-merger] National Football League Players Association. Berry retired as the game's all-time receptions leader, and coached New England to the Super Bowl.
"Moore is the only player to score 40 touchdowns, both rushing and receiving. Donovan is one of the game's original gladiators, and a community treasure for Baltimore. And Ewbank is the only coach to win world championships with teams in both the NFL and AFL."
As a group, said Gibbons, "they lifted Baltimore from being a pit stop between Washington and Philadelphia, and made us Titletown, USA. Now, we'll celebrate these men who gave the city the identity it holds today, despite the Orioles' attempts to destroy it."
The honorees are humbled — and happy they'll get a chance to see each other.
"Hey, I'm 87," said Donovan. "I'll take anything that comes my way."
Berry, who is 78, was grateful that museum officials broke with tradition to enshrine a group of players this year. Previous inductees include Babe Ruth, John Unitas, Art Modell, Jim McKay, Brooks Robinson and Gary Williams.
"Someone had sense enough to say, 'We've got to get busy because the clock is ticking,' " Berry said. "I mean, Gino fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and Artie was at Okinawa. Our ranks are thinning all the time."
Berry suffered a heart ailment recently and now wears a pacemaker. Marchetti battled pneumonia last summer and was hospitalized for nine days.
"Think logically," said Berry. "We're all old enough to be dying. So, getting this many guys together, with all of our history, will make it a very unusual gathering, for sure."
Mackey, who died in July, will be at the ceremony in spirit, said his widow, Sylvia. Mackey succumbed to frontotemporal dementia at age 69, in the city he embraced as his own.
"When John was diagnosed (in 2001), we left our home in California after 30 years and returned to Baltimore," Sylvia Mackey said. "He was back in 'Colt Land,' and it was like he'd never left.
"John loved the attention he got here. This is where his roots are, as far as fan allegiance. At times, during his illness, if you asked him who he worked for, he'd say, 'The Baltimore Colts.' "
Often, the Mackeys attended Ravens' home games. After one contest, in 2004, the old Colt got separated from his family in M&T Bank Stadium. They couldn't find him anywhere.
"John's daughter, Laura, was upset, but I told her, 'Don't worry, we're in Baltimore. I'll call home in an hour and John will pick up the phone.
"Sure enough, he did. Someone must have recognized him and driven him home to Cross Keys; John still knew his address at the time. I still don't know who gave him that ride but, what better place for it to happen than in Baltimore?"
Tickets for the affair, which starts at 5:30 p.m., cost $150. Call 410-727-1539 for reservations.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun