Art Donovan: The defensive line in heaven just got a lot better

Art Donovan's moving on is a reminder to me of another Baltimore, one that lives in the memories of we children of the 1960s who grew up in a wonderful city that on six Sunday afternoons every fall coalesced around a football team that was much more than that. ("Art Donovan, vocal ex-Colts defensive tackle, dies at 89," Aug. 5.) My father had purchased season tickets to the Colts shortly after the team started playing at Memorial Stadium. As the city moved from 1957 through the 1960s and '70s, the Colt's were one of the things that we all loved. Before and after the riots of the '60s and the flight of the middle class from much of the city, the Colts were a unifying force. No one was a bigger part of that than Art Donovan. For a while his defensive unit included a tough Italian kid from the San Francisco Bay area on one end and a another tackle whose college was listed as "Camp Pendleton Marines." We were thrilled after the '58 championship game at Yankee Stadium.

Art wasn't from Baltimore, but he was more Baltimore than anyone I ever met. A Bronx kid whose father was a famed boxing referee, I could imagine Donovan sitting at a table full of steamed crabs and pitchers of National Bohemian.

The last time I saw him was at the Black Tie Football dinner at a New York Hotel several years ago. He was wearing the largest tuxedo I had ever seen. During the cocktail hour several of us were talking about weight training and off-season conditioning during our playing days. Donovan joined us at our table, where martinis seemed to be the most popular drink. As he explained that he did remember spring football practice at Boston College, but the NFL in his time had nothing like that. He also explained that many of his contemporaries never lifted anything heavier than a pitcher of beer. Eyeing our stemmed glasses he called out to a young female server, "Hon, just bring me a pitcher of beer and when it is empty, please fill it up."

The defensive line in heaven just got a lot better.

Roland Nicholson Jr., Stockbridge, Mass.

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