Baltimore, Toronto: CFL rivals?


Baltimore will christen its inaugural season in the Canadian Football League with a Thursday night, July 7 opener against, appropriately, the Toronto Argonauts at SkyDome.

CFL commissioner Larry Smith wants to borrow a page from one of baseball's best rivalries -- the Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays -- for the occasion.

"Larry Smith told me he wants us to open in Toronto," said Jim Speros, owner of Baltimore's CFL expansion team. "He wants to build the rivalry up."

Speros is more than happy to oblige. He said he plans to put together a junket for Baltimore fans to make the trip to Canada.

Although the full schedule has not yet been approved by the CFL board of governors, Speros said Baltimore's first home game probably will be July 20. He's hoping to draw a U.S. team for his home debut at Memorial Stadium.

In addition to Baltimore, there will be expansion teams in Shreveport, La., and Las Vegas this season. The Sacramento Gold Miners became the first U.S. team to play in the CFL last season.

The Argonauts are set to visit Baltimore on Saturday, Aug. 20. The schedule is expected to be released later this week.

In related developments:

* Speros said he'll kick off a telemarketing ticket campaign next week. "Everybody who called in [to reserve season tickets] is on a data base," Speros said. "No one will be lost. Everybody who called will get a piece of mail and a return call."

* He said he is moving "closer and closer" to using the name Baltimore Colts. The CFL has sent him a letter of indemnification, which will remove legal risk for the league should the NFL sue over the name.

* Speros said he expects to be in Memorial Stadium by next week, along with office personnel. Coaches already have set up an office, with fax and phone lines, in the stadium.

* Front-office personnel in place include vice president of operations Joe Namath, a Bethesda CPA, and director of marketing Dave Julian, who worked on Baltimore's bid for an NFL expansion team. Speros also has contracted Bob Leffler of the Leffler Agency as a media relations consultant.

* Crown Central Petroleum will sponsor a 30-minute special on channel 13 Friday at 7:30 p.m. on the making of the Baltimore franchise.

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