Baltimore Stallions

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"Baltimore Football Club" redirects here. For the former and current NFL franchises, see Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, respectively.
Baltimore Stallions
Baltimore Stallions helmet Baltimore Stallions logo

Founded 1994
Folded 1995
Based in Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Home field Memorial Stadium
League Canadian Football League
Division East Division
South Division
Head coach Don Matthews
General manager Jim Popp
Owner(s) Jim Speros
Grey Cup wins 1995
Current uniform
CFL Jersey BAL 1994.png
Colours Royal blue, silver, black and white
                   

The Baltimore Stallions (known as the Baltimore Football Club in its inaugural season) were a Canadian Football League team based in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, which played the 1994 and 1995 seasons. They were the most successful American team in the CFL's generally ill-fated expansion effort into the USA, and by at least one account, the winningest expansion team in North American professional sports history at the time.[1] They had winning records in each season, won a division championship, and, in 1995, became the only American franchise ever to win the Grey Cup.

Only a month after the Stallions' Grey Cup triumph, the city of Baltimore announced that they had reached an agreement with Art Modell, the owner of the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League, to move his franchise to Baltimore for the 1996 season. Knowing they could not begin to compete with an overwhelmingly more popular brand in their home country, the Stallions relocated to Montreal as the third and current incarnation of the Montreal Alouettes. They are thus one of three Grey Cup champions in the modern era to subsequently fold (the others being the Ottawa Rough Riders and the original Alouettes). The CFL considers the Stallions to be a separate franchise from the Alouettes.

History[edit]

For 30 years, Baltimore had been home to the Baltimore Colts, a popular NFL franchise that suddenly moved literally overnight to Indianapolis in 1984. In 1993, shortly after an ownership group failed to win an NFL expansion franchise as a replacement (see Baltimore Bombers (NFL)), entrepreneur and former Washington Redskins assistant Jim Speros was granted a CFL expansion franchise for Baltimore that would play in Memorial Stadium, the Colts' old home.

Attempting to capitalize on the city's love for its long-lost Colts, Speros adopted a color scheme that added silver to the Colts' colors of blue and white, as well as a stylized horse's head logo. He also invited the Colts Marching Band, which had stayed together for over a decade, to play at his games. He initially called the team the "Baltimore CFL Colts." However, the NFL went to court and successfully obtained an injunction against the Stallions' use of any version of "Colts" in their name just hours before the team was to play its first game. Speros not only had to discard tons of merchandise and an advertising campaign, had to quickly change the team's official name to the Baltimore Football Club (which some just called the Baltimore CFLs).

Local fans tended to continue referring to the team as the Colts anyway, and team officials tacitly encouraged this. For example, for most of the 1994 season, Memorial Stadium's public address announcer, Jack Taylor, would announce the team as "your Baltimore CFL..." – followed by a pause, during which time the crowd shouted "COLTS!" – after which he would conclude, "...football team."[2]

1994 season[edit]

Speros's approach to building the team was simple. He knew Canadian football was very different from the American game, so he made a point of hiring personnel and players with CFL experience. In contrast, the other American CFL teams stocked their rosters with former NFL players, former college football players, and locally-known players. Speros hired career CFL assistant Jim Popp as general manager of the new team, and named longtime CFL coach Don Matthews as head coach. Popp and Matthews, in turn, brought in experienced CFL players like QB Tracy Ham, RB Mike Pringle, LB O. J. Brigance, DT Jearld Baylis, DE Elfrid Payton. One of the more prominent NFL castoffs was K Donald Igwebuike. It also helped that Memorial Stadium had been originally built to accommodate baseball as well as football, and thus had a field large enough to accommodate the full 150-yard length and 65-yard width of a regulation CFL field.

Even though they lacked an official name, the franchise finished second in the CFL East Division, with a 12–6 regular season record – a record for the most wins by a CFL expansion team. In addition, the team was ranked third in the entire CFL in team scoring, and second in team defense.

Mike Pringle was the team's offensive standout, earning the league's leading rushing title with a record 1,972 yards and thirteen touchdowns. Pringle also returned 38 kicks for 814 yards, which made him a CFL All-Star, Eastern All-Star, and a Terry Evanshen Trophy winner.

In the playoffs, Baltimore hosted the Toronto Argonauts in the East semifinals at Memorial Stadium and won the game, 34–15. After the semifinal game, Baltimore ended up defeating the favored Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Winnipeg Stadium 14–12 to become the first (and only) American and expansion team to make it to the Grey Cup.

In the Grey Cup game, Baltimore was up against the B.C. Lions at BC Place Stadium in what amounted to a road game. Baltimore had the upper hand against the Lions, leading 17–10 at halftime and silencing the Lions' faithful; however, the Lions came back in the second half, winning by a score of 26–23 on a last-second Lui Passaglia field goal.

1995 season[edit]

After the 1994 season, the CFL announced that the league's five U.S. teams--Baltimore, the San Antonio Texans (the former Sacramento Gold Miners), the Shreveport Pirates and the expansion Memphis Mad Dogs and Birmingham Barracudas--would be placed in a new South Division (while the Canadian teams would reside in the North Division). Just before the start of the 1995 season, a name-the-team fan poll was held to decide a new team name. After the team finished the first week of its second season still calling itself "the Baltimore Football Club," the fan poll ended; Speros publicly announced that Baltimore's team would be known as the Baltimore Stallions.

Despite the changes to their name and team re-alignment, the Stallions returned with virtually the same roster. The exception was the signing of former Posse kicker Carlos Huerta to replace Igwebuike, who moved on to play with Memphis. With essentially the same team from the 1994 season, optimism and Grey Cup expectations were high for the Stallions. Optimism became reality as Baltimore continued their on-field dominance from the previous season. They started the season 2-3, but did not lose another game for the rest of the season. They ultimately finished with a 15–3 regular season record – first place in the South Division, and tying the Calgary Stampeders for the best record in the CFL.

Quarterback Tracy Ham with Mike Pringle and Robert Drummond were the most potent backfield in the CFL. Chris Armstrong became the team's top receiver and the defense continued dominating opponents by allowing only 369 points-against, ranking the squad third in team defense. Mike Pringle had a slight drop-off from his 1994 numbers by rushing for 1,791 yards, being named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player.

After defeating Winnipeg 36–21 in the divisional semifinals, the Stallions handled the Texans in the Southern finals, winning the game 21–11 to advance to the Grey Cup for the second straight season. The Stallions headed to Regina's Taylor Field to face the 15–3 North Division champion Calgary Stampeders, who were led by coach Wally Buono, QB Doug Flutie, and his two top receivers, Allen Pitts and Dave Sapunjis. During the game, the winds at Taylor Field were particularly strong and gusted up to 85 km/h (52.8 mph). That did not slow down the Stallions, as they defeated the Stampeders 37–20 to become the first American team to win the Grey Cup, with Tracy Ham becoming the Grey Cup's Most Valuable Player. Counting the playoffs, the Stallions ended the season on a 16-game winning streak.

In the end[edit]

Baltimore was far and away the most successful of the CFL's American teams. It had significant fan support and strong attendance (averaging 37,347 in 1994 [best in the CFL], and 30,112 in 1995 [2nd-best]). They won 75 percent of their games, a winning percentage that, at the time, was the best for an expansion team in North American professional sports history.[1] After the 1995 season, however, the CFL decided to disband three of its five U.S. franchises – leaving only Baltimore and San Antonio.

However, this strategy collapsed just a week before the Grey Cup, when Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell announced he would be moving his team to Baltimore. Speros had initially not believed the rumors of Modell courting Baltimore when they cropped up in September. However, as soon as the move was announced, local support for the Stallions dried up almost overnight. The Grey Cup victory celebration on Inner Harbor went almost unnoticed in local media. Speros soon realized that while the Stallions had been a runaway hit, they could not even begin to go head-to-head with an NFL team. Even without this to consider, using Memorial Stadium would have been a logistical nightmare once the NFL season began in September, and no other stadium in the Baltimore area was suitable even for temporary use. Rather than risk being reduced to "minor league" status in Baltimore (as he put it years later), he announced plans to move the team. He was actually very close to moving the team to Houston, Texas to take the place of the NFL's Houston Oilers in the Astrodome, with Houston Astros then-owner Drayton McLane as a minority partner. However, when it became apparent that the CFL was writing off its American experiment as a lost cause, he decided to relocate the franchise to Montreal as the third incarnation of the Montreal Alouettes.[3] Speros kept the Alouettes for only one year before selling the franchise to current owner Robert C. Wetenhall in 1997.

Coincidentally, sixteen Baltimore Stallions players earned tryouts for NFL teams in 1996.[2]

Historical Note[edit]

The CFL does not officially consider the Stallions to be part of the Alouettes' history. According to official league records, Speros canceled the Stallions franchise after the 1995 season and reclaimed the dormant Alouettes franchise. Consequently, when Speros moved the team to Montreal, all of the Stallions' players were released from their contracts, though Popp managed to resign many of them. The Alouettes, however, do mention the Stallions on their history page. The Alouettes are now reckoned as having suspended operations from 1987 to 1995, and the current Alouettes claim the history of the 1946-86 Alouettes as their own.

As of the 2014 season, Popp is the only remaining link between the Stallions and Alouettes, having followed the team to Montreal as general manager and remaining in that post ever since through eight Grey Cup Finals and three Grey Cups, giving him a total of 10 Grey Cup Finals appearances and four Grey Cups with the Stallions/Alouettes organization.

Roster and Accomplishments[edit]

Baltimore Stallions 1994 Roster
Quarterbacks

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen

Linebackers

Defensive Backs

Special Teams


Rookies in italics
40 Active, 13 Developmental


Canadian Football Hall of Fame[edit]

Awards and Accomplishments[edit]

1994[edit]

1995[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Symonds, William C. (December 3, 1995). Canadian football is running out of plays. Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Steadman, John. From Colts to Ravens: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Baltimore Professional Football.
  3. ^ Baltimore's Forgotten Champions: An Oral History

External links[edit]