Two weeks into the regular season, the chairman of the Canadian Football League's expansion committee is calling Baltimore the "model expansion franchise."
Larry Ryckman, owner and president of the Calgary Stampeders, said Baltimore owner Jim Speros has exceeded expectations by selling 25,000 season tickets this year.
"Baltimore has shown, and will show, you can get 25,000, 35,000, to games in the U.S.," said Ryckman, who arrived ahead of his team to help promote last night's home opener at Memorial Stadium. "But most importantly, it can showcase this sport at its best.
"When you get games that are 45-43 and won in the second overtime, that's exciting football. When you show it to large crowds, it's only a matter of time until people get excited."
Ryckman stressed patience with the three other American expansion teams in Sacramento, Calif., Shreveport, La., and Las Vegas.
"I consider them to be developmental markets," he said. "They are smaller markets, and will take a longer period of time to get crowds out."
Sacramento's problem, he said, is Hornet Field with its 24,000-seat capacity. The Gold Miners drew fewer than 15,000 to their opener.
"It's a temporary stadium with port-a-potties," Ryckman said. "It's definitely not the best venue in the U.S. I think Sacramento will build on its attendance through the season, but I would tell people to be patient."
Ryckman named San Antonio, Orlando, Fla., and St. Louis as "prime cities" for the next wave of CFL expansion.
Born in Baltimore in 1962, Calgary quarterback Doug Flutie said he used to attend Orioles and Colts games at Memorial Stadium as a young child, but before last night never played there.
"My fondest memory of Memorial Stadium is batting practice against the Yankees," Flutie said. "Thurman Munson hit a home run during batting practice. I was fighting for the ball, pulled it out of some kid's glove. It rolls down to my little brother [Darren], sitting there,and he picks it up."
Flutie, 31, said he also attended Brooks Robinson Day at the stadium and got a Brooks Robinson jersey.
In a twist on the historic departure of the Colts 10 years ago in a fleet of Mayflower vans, a North American moving van backed up to the playing field, and out stepped the team's cheerleaders.
It was part of opening ceremonies that saw CFL commissioner Larry Smith and Speros ride to midfield on horses. A plan to fly them in by helicopter was scratched earlier in the day.
Matthews' wife Maureen O'Sullivan sang the Canadian national anthem, and Mary Aiello "The Star-Spangled Banner" to the accompaniment of fireworks. Also on hand for opening ceremonies was Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Canadian ambassador Raymond A. J. Chretien and Crown Central Petroleum chairman Henry A. Rosenberg.
Tale of the scale
Baltimore's starting offensive line last night averaged 298 pounds -- almost 20 more than Calgary's (280). In the defensive line, Baltimore, with two rush ends under 220, averaged 248 to Calgary's 260.
It's fast and real
Signed by Baltimore last Monday, defensive back Stan Petry spent 2 1/2 years in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs (fourth-round draft choice in 1989) and New Orleans Saints. But he sat out the last two years after getting cut by the Saints and Houston Oilers.
He also was cut by the Saskatchewan Roughriders early this season. He got a quick introduction to the CFL last week at Towson State. After a no-huddle drill to start practice, he came to the sideline and said, "I'll never say the CFL is not real football again."
The number, please
Baltimore cornerback Karl Anthony, who started the summer wearing No. 18 and changed to No. 13, is now wearing No. 3. "I like single numbers," he said.
Anthony knew better than to ask for the number he wore at Calgary last year. That was No. 19.
Five Baltimore players, including Anthony, spent time with thStampeders. Slotback Shawn Beals made 108 catches for Calgary from 1990 to 1992. Halfbacks Ken Watson and Charles Anthony, and wide-out Eddie Britton also played for the Stampeders.