It's probably a little too early to tell who will arrive on the scene as the new Hurst C. "Loudy" Loudenslager, who was, from 1947 until they left town in 1984, the Colts' No. 1 fan.
Gifted with a wide smile reminiscent of the late comic actor Joe E. Brown, the Baltimore Highlands resident filled his club cellar with Colts memorabilia that ranged from autographed pictures to shoes and from jerseys and helmets to splinters from goal posts.
Footballs were carefully displayed on shelves, and on the walls hung framed front pages from The Sun and News American that chronicled the team's golden years, when Memorial Stadium was known as "the world's largest outdoor asylum."
Outside his home, Loudenslager flew a flag embossed with "GO-GO-COLTS," which was ceremoniously lowered to half-staff when the team lost. In all those years, he missed only one home game -- when he was recuperating from a heart attack.
Whenever the team arrived at or departed from the old Friendship Airport, now BWI, Loudy would be there to run out onto the tarmac with his record player and 100-foot extension cord to play the "Colt's Fight Song."
He'd go out to the airport at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. -- it made no difference to him what time it was -- and he figured he must have done it at least 626 times.
He and his wife, Flo, who died last year, also sent 3,059 birthday cards and 3,797 Christmas cards to players, coaches and front-office employees. The couple also baked 913 black-walnut cakes, which Loudy would present to players on their birthdays during breaks in practice.
"I cut the cake with a tongue depressor, then I back away," he told The Sunday Sun magazine in 1979. "The guys rush for it. It lasts about a minute."
The tradition began in 1960. "It seemed a nice way to show appreciation for what they were doing," said Loudenslager in the interview. "Ordell Braase was the first. The other guys would come up and ask about their birthdays. The thing just snowballed."
The former retired National Guard master sergeant organized Colt Corral 2 in the late 1950s and served as president of the Council of Colt Corrals.
In 1984, when he learned that the team had left Baltimore, he broke down and cried. "Bob Irsay may have owned the franchise with his money, but I owned them with my heart," he told The Evening Sun.
On September 3, 1984 -- what would have been the first day of the football season in Baltimore -- Loudy, dressed in his Colts T-shirt and blue pants, arrived with his wife and several friends at Memorial Stadium hoping to sit in their old seats one more time in a place they had considered their second home for 25 years. They were turned away by a security guard.
"I was going to stand up and sing the anthem, close my eyes and pretend that I could see Unitas, Moore, Donovan, Marchetti and Berry runnin' around out there. All of 'em -- just one more time," he told The Sun.
On April 24, 1989, Loudenslager died of a heart attack in Ocean City while planning a Colt Corrals' convention. At his request, he was buried wearing blue and white, the Colt colors, a team sweater and the gymnasium shorts he wore to training camp after coach Joe Thomas appointed him an assistant equipment manager.
He was carried to his grave by John Unitas, Lenny Moore, Jim Mutscheller, Art Donovan, Buzz Nutter, Mike Curtis, Fred Miller, Rick Volk, Stan White, Toni Linhart, Jesse Thomas, Sean Landeta, and trainers Bill Neill and John Lopez.
"It would be easy to classify Hurst Loudenslager, who fought in World War II and then served as a sergeant with the National Guard, as some kind of extremist. And he was about the Baltimore Colts," wrote sports columnist John Steadman in The Evening Sun.
"When he's carried to his grave at Glen Haven Memorial Park, the mourners will be singing, low-key, the appropriate lines of the team song, and where it says "Fight on for Baltimore and Maryland," they'll add, "and for Hurst Loudenslager, too."
Pub Date: 9/15/96