Colts fans can relive glory of '58, help special cause at fall salute

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It was an event that set itself apart, carrying an indelible signature all its own. For the Baltimore Colts, it became a defining moment, playing and winning the first overtime game in pro football. A place in history has been duly documented and perpetuated.

The upcoming 40th anniversary of the Colts' first championship is going to be celebrated in Baltimore with style and substance, taking on overtones of a gala civic gathering that will bring coaches and players together for a reunion in a city that reacted as if they, the men and women looking on as spectators, had actually been doing the blocking and tackling -- along with the cheering and, yes, even the praying for a team that was revered as few others have ever been.

Baltimore's salute to the Colts of 1958 will be highlighted at a banquet Nov. 19 at Martin's West, to be followed the next day by a downtown corporate luncheon at which the business community will unite to mark the occasion.

The function will benefit the Johns Hopkins Hospital's research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease). This was the ailment that struck Janice Braase, wife of the Colts' defensive end, and brought about her death last year after an illness of only four months.

Ordell Braase is leading the cause, almost a personal crusade, to bring attention to the kind of life his late wife enjoyed until being taken ill. His teammates from 1958 are with him in the effort to raise funds for research into the disease.

So the objectives Braase and the Colts have in mind are threefold -- honoring the achievements of that 1958 season, the memory of Jan Braase and providing assistance in raising funds for research at Johns Hopkins.

The Colts beating the New York Giants in 1958 has become a classic, ready for replay four decades later in what has the potential to be the best sports banquet Baltimore has ever held. Braase has invited the 28 surviving players and the widows of the eight deceased team members.

"At this early point, the reaction has just been overwhelming," he said. "Some people have already called to inquire, but specific details will come later.

"The ticket for the banquet is established at $150, and we believe we'll sell out. Nineteen of the 28 living players have already responded. They all want to come back. This is going to be a special night, one of a kind. The focus will be on the players. believe this is appropriate. Our desire is to have Chuck Thompson and Chris Schenkel as co-masters of ceremonies. They were NBC's TV announcers that day, and it's fitting they handle the program."

From the Colts' standpoint, the game produced six players who earned their way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, namely Art Donovan, Gino Marchetti, Jim Parker, John Unitas, Lenny Moore and Raymond Berry, plus head coach Weeb Ewbank.

All of them, plus assistant coaches Bob Shaw, Charlie Winner, Herman Ball and John Bridgers, along with team doctors, trainers and equipment handlers, are being asked to attend the reunion and, health permitting, they will.

The eight deceased Colts -- George Shaw, Alan "The Horse" Ameche, Bill Pellington, Art Spinney, Steve Myhra, Eugene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb, Ray Krouse and Sherman Plunkett -- will be represented by their widows or a family member.

There was some doubt about the whereabouts of Jackie Simpson. Reports confused him with another Jackie Simpson, a football player from the University of Mississippi who had died. Happy to report, the Colts' Jackie Simpson is alive and well, living in Cookeville, Tenn.

Braase has brought a committee together, headed by Richard McCready, chairman and chief executive officer of the Rem Organization. It was McCready, whose mother died from Lou Gehrig's disease, who was motivated along with Peter Angelos and Joe Foss to use the occasion when Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record to raise $5 million for research at Hopkins by selling tickets on the field.

Some of those funds, raised by the Orioles, have been cited by Hopkins as being responsible for bringing about advancement in diagnosing and treating the disease.

Meanwhile, McCready and Braase have organized a steering committee of Lora Clawson, coordinator for Johns Hopkins' department of neurology, ex-Colts Jim Mutscheller and Donovan, Foss, Steve Geppi, Bob Schroeder, John Paterakis, Lou Grasmick, Drs. William and John Mitcherling and Lou Kousouris.

Angelos has said he's behind the effort. Each baseball season since buying the Orioles, he has entertained the ex-Colts at a game, recalling how he grew up watching them.

Foremost is what happened on the afternoon of Dec. 28, 1958, when the team won Baltimore's first major championship since the Orioles of the mid-1890s, not discounting the fact that the Bullets earned a pro basketball title in 1947-48.

"In McCready, we have an outstanding leader who is widely respected," said Braase. "We feel his direction will enable us to present a program that Baltimore wants to see staged in a first-rate style."

And as Donovan said: "Fewer members of our team will be around for the 50th anniversary, so we better seize on this moment.' "

A member of the Baltimore business community, Ron Bray, said: "There's no doubt in my mind this is going to be something we all need to do to let those old Colts and the coaches come back into our midst to hear our applause once more. The sudden-death game has a certain magic to it, even to young men and women who aren't old enough to remember it. This sounds to me like the next best thing to being there."

Yes, bring back those memories. The Colts' victory over the Giants carried a special impact, one that Baltimore has kept alive in its scrapbook of recollections that remain as vivid as if the game had been yesterday.

Books and television shows have been produced on the game. NFL Films has told Braase it is extending full cooperation and will allow the game to replayed, in part, for the banquet audience because it's a charity function.

Colts defensive back/punter Ray Brown, later an aide to Supreme Court justice Byron "Whizzer" White and a former president of the Mississippi Bar Association, said after the game: the kind of an experience we'll be telling our grandchildren about." And he and all his teammates have done just that.

They're coming back to relive it once more, and a Baltimore audience is ready to demonstrate that what transpired 40 years ago remains one of its most notable keepsakes.

Pub Date: 6/28/98

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