As the curtain went up on Baltimore's new NFL act, the characters who hadplayed roles in the 13-year drama of political intrigue and financial largessewere spread from the upper decks of Memorial Stadium to the beaches of France.
The debut of the Ravens at Memorial Stadium marked the official end of oneof Baltimore's most intense municipal struggles. It began with the departureof the Colts in 1984 and spanned a dozen years of bitter disappointments and,yesterday, sweet success.
Along the way, it touched the administrations of three governors, threemayors and the lives of thousands of fans, and changed forever therelationship between the NFL and the cities it inhabits.
"The important thing is we have football back here," said John Mackey,who, as a tight end for the Baltimore Colts from 1963 to 1971, played a bigpart in the city's football history.
Mackey was one of about 40 former Colts who participated in pre-gameceremonies, taking the field in Colts jerseys and then donning Ravens jackets.
He lives in Los Angeles and runs team-building seminars for corporations.He also was an investor in a group headed by novelist Tom Clancy that filed,then canceled an application to own an expansion team in Baltimore.
"All my kids were born here. . . . They were nine special years," Mackeysaid.
Johnny Unitas -- the greatest Colt of all time -- also was thereyesterday, running in the game ball. His gait was slower, but hisround-shouldered slouch was instantly recognizable as he waved the ball to thecrowd and handed it to the referee. He still lives in the area.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke watched the game from the mayor's box and recalledhis own Memorial Stadium memories: He quarterbacked City College in its annualgames against Poly in 1964 and 1965. Later, as mayor, he supported the winningfight )) for stadium funding in Annapolis and the losing battle for anexpansion franchise.
"Obviously, I'm thrilled for the whole community and very pleased I didn'tapprove the demolition of Memorial Stadium," Schmoke said.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening, whose administration was only 10 months oldwhen the Browns agreed to move to Baltimore, pronounced, "I am a Ravens fan."
It was the second conversion in the Glendening family in recent weeks. Hiswife, Frances, recently switched party affiliations to her Democratichusband's, and he has suspended, at least for now, his long-standing supportof the Redskins.
His predecessor, William Donald Schaefer, also was there, making therounds of the pre-game talk shows and soaking up the atmosphere. He was mayorwhen the Colts left and, as governor, assembled the stadium funding packagethat convinced the Browns to move here.
"Maybe it was the one-two punch. Schaefer softened them up, and we went infor the kill," said Glendening, who watched the game with his wife from a setof midfield, mezzanine seats.
Maryland Stadium Authority chairman John Moag, the lobbyist who finallygot a team to take Baltimore's lucrative offer, tried to hide his tears behindsunglasses at the opening kick. He viewed the game from 50-yard-line,upper-deck seats with his wife and daughters.
"It was intense. Look at this crowd, it's a real Baltimore crowd," saidMoag.
Moag moved to Baltimore as an 8-year-old, to a house two blocks away fromMemorial Stadium, where he parked cars in his backyard and sneaked into gamesthrough a back fence.
Among Baltimore's biggest supporters in the NFL, former Eagles ownerNorman Braman yesterday was wrapping up his extended summer stay at his housein France, outside Monaco. He returns today to Miami, where he runs a chain ofauto dealerships.
"I'm really happy for the fans and the community. It took a long time,"said Braman, who sold the Eagles after expansion.
Another youth who sneaked into Colts games was Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass,who went on to found a chain of clothing stores and earn a fortune.
"I'm now a Ravens fan," Weinglass announced last week.
Weinglass, who was an applicant to own an expansion franchise hadBaltimore won the competition in 1993, said he is still sorry he didn't getthe team. But he has bought season tickets -- upper deck, 50-yard line -- andplans to attend as many games as he can. He had planned on attendingyesterday's game, but had to change plans at the last moment and remained inhis home in Aspen, Colo.
"Naturally, I would have loved to have brought the new franchise. But Ifound out in life you can't always get what you want," he said.
Moag's predecessor, Herbert J. Belgrad, said he planned to attendyesterday's game. He's a civilian now, having given up his volunteer stadiumauthority post to return full-time to his law practice, and gives Moag a lotof credit for finishing the job.
Clancy planned to watch the game from his Calvert County estateoverlooking the Chesapeake. He said he's "in recovery" from the publication ofhis ninth book, "Executive Orders."
Angelos was in Seattle yesterday, watching his baseball team, the Orioles,play the Mariners last night.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue opted to spend yesterday in Charlotte,N.C., where the Panthers opened their new stadium. Charlotte and Jacksonville,Fla., at the urging of Tagliabue, beat out Baltimore for the two expansionfranchises the league owners awarded in 1993.
"Baltimore's NFL fans have always been among the most knowledgeable andpassionate in the country," Tagliabue said in a statement released by theleague. He said the Ravens' future was "very promising."
Tagliabue's predecessor, Pete Rozelle, planned to spend yesterday at hishome in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., with his bTC daughter. He said he'd havethree television sets going, one of them carrying the Ravens game.
"Anyone who knows me is aware of how I was personally distressed when theColts left Baltimore and the league was powerless to do anything about it,"said Rozelle, who was commissioner when the Colts moved to Indianapolis.
Rozelle, 70, is battling cancer.
"It would be nice to have the city have a winner," Rozelle said last week.
Ravens owner Art Modell, following a long-standing tradition, refused tocomment to reporters on game day. He watched the game from the owners box withhis wife and some top officials of the team. His son, David Modell, Ravensexecutive vice president, watched the pre-game ceremonies on the field.
"When Johnny U came out with the ball, it was all over for me. It was justone of the special experiences I'll ever have. I'll remember that forever,"the younger Modell said.
William Hudnut, who was mayor of Indianapolis and negotiated the deal tomove the Colts in 1984, recently left the Chicago taxpayer watchdog group hehad worked for and has taken a job as a fellow with a Washington tradeassociation representing developers, the Urban Land Institute. He wasscheduled to be moving yesterday.
Robert Irsay, the Colts owner who started Baltimore down the road ofdenial and redemption, still lives in Indianapolis, where he has been gravelyill after suffering a stroke. A team spokesman would not say last week whetherthe team owner would be at home or a hospital when the Colts opened theirseason at home against the Arizona Cardinals.
"This is not a topic that needs involvement from us," the spokesman saidof Baltimore's return.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun