Baltimore Colts (1947–50)
|Based in||Baltimore, Maryland, United States|
|League||All-America Football Conference (1947–1949)
National Football League (1950)
|Team History||Miami Seahawks (1946) (defacto)
Baltimore Colts (1947–50)
|Team Colors||green, silver
|Head coaches||Cecil Isbell (1947–49)
Walter Driskill (1949)
Clem Crowe (1950)
|Owner(s)||Abraham Watner (1947–50)|
|Mascot(s)||horse (with football helmet) jumping
over goal posts, horseshoe on helmet
|Home field(s)||Municipal Stadium, [built 1922], (1947-1949), (aka "Baltimore Stadium", "Venable Stadium"),
Memorial Stadium, [rebuilt 1950-1954], (1950)
The Baltimore Colts were a professional American football team based in Baltimore, Maryland. The first team to bear the name Baltimore Colts, they were members of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) from 1947–1949, and then joined the National Football League (NFL) for one season before folding. They were one of the least successful teams in the AAFC and NFL both on and off the field, winning only 11 games in their history. In 1953, Baltimore was granted an expansion team that revived the Colts name; this team is now the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts' origin is with the Miami Seahawks, one of the charter franchises of the AAFC. After playing a single disastrous season the Seahawks were confiscated by the league, and were purchased and reorganized by a group of businessmen as the Baltimore Colts. The new team struggled through the next three seasons, but managed to grow a sizable fan base in Baltimore. In 1949 the Colts were one of three AAFC teams, along with the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns, to be brought into the NFL following the AAFC-NFL merger. They played only during the 1950 season before financial pressures forced them to fold.
The All-America Football Conference had initially intended to place a team in Baltimore in its opening 1946 season, following the end of World War II which had disrupted many professional sports, but its prospective owner, retired boxer Gene Tunney, was unable to secure a stadium deal with the City of Baltimore's Board of Park Commissioners which owned "Municipal Stadium" (also known as "Baltimore Stadium" or "Venable Stadium"), a large football bowl built in 1922 on 33rd Street boulevard in the northeast part of the city near the Waverly and Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello neighborhoods. Municipal field had usually been utilized for many high school and college/university games including several Army-Navy Games. Needing an eighth team to balance the schedule, AAFC officials granted a franchise to a group of Miami-based boosters, and the Miami Seahawks were born. From the first the Seahawks were beset with problems: a weak team with a difficult schedule, they drew little fan support and accumulated debts of up to $350,000, which owner Harvey Hester could not afford to repay. League commissioner Jim Crowley expropriated the franchise, and the AAFC covered its overdue travel and payroll costs.
Five businessmen, led by Washington, D.C. attorney Robert D. Rodenburg, made a bid to purchase the Seahawks' assets and reform the franchise in Baltimore. The AAFC quickly approved the deal, and the team was reorganized as the Baltimore Colts, a name chosen due to the city's long history of horse racing and breeding. Due to the club's inherited talent drought, the Colts were permitted to recruit a player from each of the AAFC's four strongest teams. Nevertheless, the Colts struggled financially through the 1947 season, leading the owners to walk away after the season. The team was little better on the field, winning only two games, as they finished in the AAFC's Eastern Division basement. Sensing a crisis the AAFC supplied the Colts and the league's two other weakest teams, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago Rockets, with superior players. The team found new ownership, but its financial crisis was not resolved. Even with stronger players, the Colts were still barely competitive on the field in 1948. However, the Eastern Division was extremely weak that year; none of its four teams tallied a winning record. The Colts tied for first with the Buffalo Bills with a 7–7 record, and lost the division championship game to the Bills. The team regressed in 1949, finishing dead last.
In 1948 both the AAFC and the old NFL (1920/1922-1950) were struggling, and determined that the continued viability of professional football depended on a merger between the leagues. The leagues began negotiating a deal in which three AAFC teams would be brought into the old NFL and the owners of others would be compensated for their interest. The Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers, clearly the Conference's strongest teams, were obvious choices. Although the Colts were one of the weakest teams in the AAFC Conference both on the field and off, the Colts' owners insisted that their club be maintained in the merger. However, George Preston Marshall, owner of the Washington Redskins, initially refused to cooperate, as he felt a Baltimore team which would be forty miles to the northeast from the District of Columbia, infringed on his market. Marshall finally relented in exchange for the Colts paying him $150,000 for the infringement. With this obstacle overcome, the merger was finalized, and the Colts were brought into the NFL.
In the 1950 AAFC Dispersal Draft, the Colts restocked themselves primarily with players from the erstwhile Bills. The Bills were arguably a better choice for entry into the NFL; they were in a more isolated market, had stronger attendance and performed better on the field, but league owners (namely George Halas and Dan Reeves) blocked the Bills' entry into the NFL. (The Bills were not the same as the modern Buffalo Bills expansion franchise to Buffalo, New York, which joined the NFL in 1970.) The Colts were nominally part of the "National Conference;" however, unlike the other twelve teams, Baltimore was scheduled as a "swing team" and played every team in the NFL over the course of the 1950 season (whereas the other twelve teams played a double round robin schedule in their conference plus one crossover game with the opposing conference and a game with Baltimore).
Despite the addition of the Bills players, the Colts struggled through the 1950 season, ending with a record of 1–11–0. Facing a financial crisis, Colts owner Abraham Watner sold the team and its player contracts back to the NFL for $50,000, and the team officially folded. Still, however, fan support continued in many quarters; notably, as the only NFL team, besides the Washington Redskins to have a team "Baltimore Colts Marching Band", uniformed cheerleaders, fan clubs ("Colt Corrals"), and official fight song, which remained intact after the previous second "Colts" team was folded, even continuing playing and performing at other neighboring NFL and college/university games during half-times, presaging its later second experience from 1984 to 1996 after the later Colts went to Indianapolis and before the arrival of the Ravens. After that single 1950 NFL season, three years later, another franchise, also re-named the Baltimore Colts, came to Baltimore from the former Dallas Texans. This famous third "Colts" team set the standard for professional football in America during its three decades by the Chesapeake Bay, but was controversially decimated, then relocated to Indianapolis in 1984 by then owner Robert Irsay, and was renamed the Indianapolis Colts. The supporting groups, including the fan clubs, marching band, cheerleaders remained, however, again working to revive a team in Baltimore during the 12-year interval and the old team's fight song was revised and reworded to honor the new "Ravens". In 1996, the Baltimore Ravens were formed from the players and staff of the former Cleveland Browns, moved from the city of Cleveland in Ohio by longtime owner Art Modell. The marching band (now known as "Baltimore's Marching Ravens") and fan club became affiliated with the Ravens. The "Baltimore Colts" name was briefly revived in 1994 when the Canadian Football League briefly moved south into the U.S.A. and established several American franchises "south of the border", including a Baltimore-based expansion team with owner Jim Speros of that old historic name; later even changing it to the "Baltimore CFL Colts", however, following a lawsuit from the NFL the team name was eventually changed to the Baltimore Stallions which proved quite dominating in CFL competition, entering the play-offs for two years straight and winning the historic "Grey Cup" championship trophy.
First round draft picks
Pro Football Hall of Famers
|1947||2||11||1||4th AAFC East||–|
|1948||7||7||0||2nd AAFC East||Lost Eastern Division Championship Buffalo 28, Baltimore 17|
|Merged into NFL|
- Coenen, p. 118.
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- Coenen, pp. 133–135.
- Coenen, Craig R. (2005). From Sandlots to the Super Bowl: the National Football League, 1920–1967. University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 1-57233-447-9. Retrieved October 1, 2010.