Despite their double-drubbing at the hands of the NFL this week, leaders of the city's effort to return to the league insist they still have hope.
"You guys have a top market and everybody knows it," said Floyd Little, an investor and prospective team president of a group represented by Baltimore attorney Robert B. Schulman.
Little, a Seattle-area auto dealer and retired Denver Broncos running back, said he spent a lot of time lobbying team owners and league officials during the sale of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and relocation of the Los Angeles Rams.
Both teams delivered bad news to Baltimore this week: The Rams announced they were moving to St. Louis and the Buccaneers were sold to investors intent on keeping them in Tampa.
But Little said he came away from his talks with team leaders convinced Baltimore was alluring to the NFL.
Schulman said yesterday that he already has heard from some teams interested in Baltimore, and is pursuing the opportunities.
Many fans have grown weary of the hunt, but Schulman said, "There are several NFL owners looking in our direction."
Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who headed a rival investment group vying for both the Bucs and Rams, said he remains committed to completing a twin stadium complex downtown.
"I don't want to say we will shop around," Angelos said. "We may be getting some inquiries. That is a very lucrative deal the Rams have made in St. Louis and certainly that is going to get the attention of some team owners.
"We'll just see what the future brings."
Said Maryland Stadium Authority chairman Herbert Belgrad: "I haven't reached the point where I think hope is lost."
Novelist Tom Clancy, a member of Angelos' investment group for both the NFL and Orioles, said: "It's a matter of looking for opportunities."
Angelos said he has signed up some of Baltimore's most prominent corporate citizens for the effort, including Crown Central Petroleum chairman Henry Rosenberg, Duty Free International Chairman David Bernstein, Diamond Comic Distributors president Stephen Geppi, H&S; Bakery chief John Paterakis, developer Willard Hackerman, Perdue Farms founder Frank Perdue, retiring Rouse Corp. chairman Mathias DeVito and film maker Barry Levinson.
Schulman, a former prosecutor and now a private attorney in Baltimore, represented the other group in its talks with the Bucs along with Jacksonville, Fla.-based attorney Terry Moore, 49, a real estate specialist and founding partner of Brant, Moore, Sapp, McDonald & Wells.
But that group has kept its membership a secret.
Little said there are about 10 investors, all of whom have signed confidentiality agreements. He said he would be the team president and general partner, the first such black chief executive officer in the NFL.
With 6,323 career yards, Little is the Broncos' all-time leading rusher. He played from 1967 to 1975.
Corporate records list Robert Pinkner, a principal with Bond Distributing in Baltimore, as secretary of the Schulman group. Another Bond principal, Robert Footlick, has also been involved.
Arthur L. Toll, a Philadelphia-area businessman who made a fortune in sporting goods, airlines and the "infomercial" industry, was part of the group more than a year ago but is not now active, said his attorney, Howard J. Kaufman.
Toll, who once owned a U.S. Basketball League franchise called the Philadelphia Spirit, resigned last year as chairman of Regal Communications Inc. as the company was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.