Just about the healthiest looking patient in all of St. Joseph's Hospitalis in Room 407. Certainly the strongest. Art Donovan may look like an animatedbowl of jello when it comes to muscle definition, but he has the strength toknock down a building.
Donovan, the first Baltimore Colt to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame,whimsical star of stage, screen, radio and television, had a spell ofdizziness that caused his wife, Dorothy, to summon an ambulance. St. Joseph'sHospital will never be the same.
"The Good Lord gave me a warning," he said. "And believe me, I got themessage. No more drinking. That's over with. My hand to God."
At one time, Donovan would drink a case of beer a day, absorbing it asthough he was a giant sponge, and still be able to walk a straight line. Buthe finally stopped after a good doctor friend gave him an ultimatum. "That wasmost commendable," acknowledged Dorothy.
With Donovan laying off the suds, it necessitated a cut-back in productionat the brewery of his favorite brand. Artie was never a problem drinker, buthis friends wanted to see him ease off to assure continuing good health and along life.
"The other night, at a restaurant, I had about eight glasses of whitewine," he recalled. "I got woozy. I hadn't eaten much during the day. Thedoctors are giving me tests. The most important thing they found out, fromchecking my blood, is I didn't have a heart attack."
Upon arrival at the hospital, a reading, which is assumed to be accurate,was taken on his weight. The scale stopped at 302. But he has already lost 10pounds. An encouraging sign.
"Yeah, a lot of my friends have been in to see me," he observed withpleasure. "Like Jimmy Mutscheller, Sisto Averno, who came with me to the Coltsin 1950; Art DeCarlo, George Young's step-cousin, who is a priest; and TomDavis, the broadcaster. Ordell Brasse is out in South Dakota at a reunion athis old school, or he would have been here. I call him 'Bugs'."
Donovan then said he'd been giving a lot of thought to "Big Daddy," theother tackle on Baltimore's NFL title teams of 1958 and '59, one Eugene "BigDaddy" Lipscomb.
"Yeah, I've been thinking of 'Daddy.' Gee, how about the time we werepracticing before a game with the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Barbara and weredressing in the swimming pool locker room by the hotel.
"I remember 'Daddy' shoved out his arm to full length and showed it to ourcoach, Weeb Ewbanks [he still likes to put an 's' on Ewbank's name]. Weebdidn't know what the hell to think. Whew, that 'Big Daddy' had some arm."
Next Arthur started to reflect on his boyhood days in the Bronx, when hewas a part of a neighborhood "army" that would drill every Saturday under thegeneralship of Eddie McCarthy. "Eddie was one of our crowd. He was crazy. Onetime, he was fooling around with some gunpowder or something and blew the roofoff the garage. He burned all his hair off. The last time I saw Eddie was in1946 and he was going to Mexico to hunt gold."
What about another member of your old crowd, one Jerry Sheridan? "Gee,what a good looking guy. But he was one of those top-shelf Irishmen. He had ahat, but he would carry it. He'd be walking to church on Sunday carrying hishat. I never saw anything like it. A charmer.
"One time in Chicago, after a game, we were at the Windemere East. I wasat the bar with Sam Banks, our publicity man, and a sports writer. We werehaving a few laughs. Suddenly, they paged me. I figure who the hell knows mein Chicago?
"It was Jerry Sheridan. He invited us to a party at the Drake Hotel. Wewent over and took Dick Barwegen. What a time we had. Some oil millionairefrom St. Louis named Dolan, I think his first name was Jimmy, or something. Wedrank a bathtub of beer and he told us, 'Boys, order all the steak sandwichesyou want.' We had some time. On the way back in a cab, we saw old 'Tuffy,'another sports writer, sitting on a curbstone. He might have been drunk, too.I tell you, they were some days back then."
Donovan is impressed and thankful for the hospital care.
"Yeah, all these wonderful nuns come in here and say, 'God bless you,' andtell me I'm a wonderful boy. They ought to know what a rat I am."
But Arthur has been known to be self-deprecating. Another example.
Have you heard from "Big Stoop," he was asked, a reference to some boxerhe fought in a inter-regimental match in the Marine Corps?"I never liked to fight," he said. "And 'Big Stoop' was from Minnesota ,orsomeplace, and they talked about him like he was Jack Dempsey. I was so scaredin the corner I wet my pants. Then the bell rang. 'Big Stoop' was holding hishands like a girl. I punched him, knocked him down and then kicked him as thereferee counted. You should have heard those Marines in my regiment cheering.I never saw 'Big Stoop' again."
Art Donovan was impressed with a visit from Baltimore Archbishop William Keeler.
"What a nice man," he said. "You can understand why he's an archbishop.Bishop William Newman brought him. Now that's another nice man. I'm reallylucky to have such a hell of a lot of good friends."
With that, Art Donovan held up a glass of milk and drank it down. He's onthe road to good health. All friends and admirers will drink to that.