From bitter end to fresh beginning

INDIANAPOLIS -- Barry Krauss spent 10 years as a Colt -- five in Baltimore, five in Indianapolis. As the saying goes around here, he "came over on the Mayflower."

In retrospect, he's glad he made the trip.


"Everything was turning sour there; it was just going downhill. I still love Baltimore, but I was happy to start over," said Krauss, a linebacker who was the Baltimore Colts' first-round draft pick in 1979.

About 25,000 fans turned out in 1984 to greet the new team at a pep rally. "They opened up their arms and they were excited to have us," he recalled.


Now running his consulting firm, Krauss also serves as president of the Indianapolis chapter of the NFL's alumni organization.

Krauss remembers a four-year downslide as a Baltimore Colt, playing in dilapidated Memorial Stadium, seeing Johnny Unitas leave and listening to constant, but never confirmed, rumors that owner Robert Irsay was planning to move the team.

Then one night, a teammate called and told him to look out his window: The Mayflower moving vans had pulled up.

He recalls going over to the complex the next day.

"Everything was torn out and gone and everybody was crying. I didn't realize it at the time, but they had all been fired," Krauss said. "I was told, 'If you want to play for the Colts, you have to come to Indianapolis.' "

Krauss still remembers much of what he left behind -- Colts Corrals and bull roasts, crabs and true-blue fans.

"I love the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Little Italy, eating Bertha's mussels," he said.

He said he's still warmed by the memory of Colts fan Hurst "Loudy" Loudenslager, who furnished cakes to players on their birthdays and would be at the airport every time the team departed for a game or arrived home, playing the team's fight song on a portable record player.


The Indianapolis Colts and their fans haven't formed that strong a bond yet, he said, but it's coming.

"The fan base is growing. It's getting there," Krauss said. "But it still has a long way to go. People here need to understand that you don't leave the game. At halftime, you see a mass exodus, and that's whether the team is winning or losing.

"Baltimore Colts fans never left."