Come fall, folks packed Memorial Stadium on Sundays to cheer the Colts, a club of castoffs and commoners who had somehow clicked to win it all. Of course, Johnny U and Spats and Gino dressed in blue and white. Bled those colors, too
In their stead would come high-rise condominiums that hug the city's waterfront, high-tech jobs and a swaggering football team clad in purple and black.
Baltimore was trading up, though not everyone embraced change.
Even now, as the Ravens begin their 10th season, there are steadfast Colts fans who ignore them. But attrition is reducing their kind.
George Politz attended Colts games to the end in 1983 but has yet to see the Ravens. At 67, he doubts he ever will. Like others, Politz found his spirit flattened by those fleeing Mayflower vans.
"When the Colts left [for Indianapolis], I felt like I'd gone through a divorce," said Politz, who grew up in Middle River. "I'm a throwback who can't - no, won't - let go of history.
"I went to Colts games when it was so cold we burned newspapers to stay warm in the stands. And when they won the [NFL] championship in 1958, I went to Friendship Airport to cheer them home. The crowd was packed so tight, I got carried along with my feet off the ground -- and I weigh 270 pounds."
In their day, the Colts so consumed the city that local commerce depended on the outcome of Sunday's games. Ask Politz, then a sales rep for Kraft Foods.
"I had clients who, if the Colts lost, were so upset on Monday that they wouldn't buy a thing," he said.
And if the Colts won?
"I could write my own ticket."
The halcyon years are what Colts fans remember. Back-to-back titles in 1958 and 1959. Fifty-one straight home sellouts from 1964 to 1970.
Forgotten is the fact that the team's last home game in 1983 drew a paltry 20,418 fans who braved a cold, gray day to wave vulgar banners and shout obscene chants at the Colts' owner, Robert Irsay, and a club cobbled together with players like Leo Wisniewski and Karl Baldischwiler.
A city in transitionIn the wake of the Colts' exodus, the city took a hard look at itself - parochial and unpretentious, save for Harborplace - and realized its shortcomings. To woo an NFL franchise, Baltimore would have to doll itself up.
Down came the drug-laced public high-rises. Up went trendy condos and lofts. Memorial Stadium became, well, a memorial, replaced at Camden Yards by twin peaks (Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium).
Whole neighborhoods were revamped. Fells Point went upscale; likewise, Canton. Even Hampden, perhaps the last campy haven of Bawlamer kitsch, has morphed into a caricature of its old self.