Thirty years after the Colts left Baltimore in the middle of the night, the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards is asking local sports fans to return to the scene of the crime, where the museum will chronicle what happened on that snowy night and the sad days that followed.
On Wednesday night, the Sports Legends Museum will remember the team's move to Indianapolis in 1984 with an event called "From Under the Cover of Darkness ... 30 Years Later." The event will be held at the Rockland Center on the Owings Mills campus of Stevenson University, the former grounds of Colts headquarters and the site from which the infamous Mayflower moving vans departed.
"We think that when the Colts left, it may have been as profound of a sports moment as this community has ever endured," said Mike Gibbons, executive director of the Sports Legends Museum. "It ripped our hearts out. It kicked us in the gut. It just hurt beyond anything that we could have imagined because the Colts really were the heart and soul of the community."
The event will include a panel discussion and a question-and-answer session centering on how the sports landscape has changed since the Colts left Baltimore the night of March 28, 1984.
The panelists include Bob Douglas, a former managing editor of WBAL-TV and press secretary for Mayor William Donald Schaefer; former Colts halfback Tom Matte; John Ziemann, president of the Baltimore Colts marching band; Vince Bagli, former WBAL-TV sports anchor; Michael Olesker, who covered the move for The Baltimore Sun; and John Patti of WBAL Radio.
"The panel is made up of people who were intimately involved in that moment," Gibbons said. "So I think to hear their perspectives will be a big part of the program that night."
The sting of the Colts leaving town has subsided, especially for younger fans who later flocked to the Ravens, Gibbons said. But he expects emotions to be stirred at the event.
"I think it's evolved," Gibbons said. "For us old-timers, they were our first passion. It was our first love with any kind of a sports team. You only get that once in a lifetime. For [younger people], the Ravens are their first love. So the passion is there."
Tickets are still available for the event, which will include a reception and a silent auction. The Sports Legends Museum will also display Colts artifacts from the museum's archives.
"Our event is neither a celebration nor an evening of pessimism," said Ziemann, now deputy director of the Sports Legends Museum. "The mission is to have a discussion and a Q&A with people who were actually involved in or witnessed events leading up to that significant event in Maryland sports history by giving firsthand accounts covering all aspects of that night in March 1984 — politics, perspective of a Baltimore Colts player, the press who reported on the move and the determination of the Colts Band.
"We will look back at the fateful night in March 1984 while highlighting the perseverance of Baltimore football fans who never gave up in their quest to restore the NFL back to Baltimore."
'From Under the Cover of Darkness ... 30 Years Later'
Wednesday, March 26
6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Rockland Center at Stevenson University
Tickets are $55 for the public, $50 for Sports Legends Museum members
Tickets can be purchased at http://www.MissionTix.com/Colts1984