Robert Irsay (March 5, 1923–January 14, 1997), was an American professional football team owner. He owned the National Football League's Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts franchise, and the former Los Angeles Rams, albeit briefly.
In 1972 the Chicago-born Irsay purchased the Rams franchise for a reported $19 million with the intent to trade it to Carroll Rosenbloom for his Baltimore Colts franchise. The person credited with brokering the franchise swap was Jacksonville, Florida, attorney Hugh Culverhouse, who bought the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the financially ailing Thomas McCloskey about two years earlier.
In a controversial decision Irsay moved the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis, Indiana, in the early morning hours of March 28, 1984, to become the Indianapolis Colts. Many fans of the Baltimore Colts continue to harbor resentment at Irsay, for perceived theft of the Colts and associated memorabilia, despite Baltimore gaining a new franchise, the Baltimore Ravens many years later.
After Irsay's death in Indianapolis on January 14, 1997, the Colts were inherited by his son, Jim, who serves as CEO. Bill Polian handled the day-to-day operations of the team as vice-chairman until his dismissal after the 2011 season.
The Move 
In January 1984 Irsay appeared before the Baltimore media and exclaimed, "This is my goddamn team!" He reiterated that, despite problems, the rumors that he was moving the team were untrue. With negotiations over improvements to Memorial Stadium at an impasse, one of the chambers of the Maryland state legislature passed a law on March 27, 1984, allowing the city of Baltimore to seize the Colts under eminent domain, which city and county officials had threatened to do. Irsay later claimed the city promised him a new football stadium, something they later denied, citing the team's poor attendance. The next day, fearing a dawn raid on the team's Owings Mills headquarters, Irsay accepted a deal offered by the city of Indianapolis,
[The state legislature and the city of Baltimore] not only threw down the gauntlet, but they put a gun to his head and cocked it and asked, 'want to see if it's loaded?' They forced him to make a decision that day.—Michael Chernoff, the team's general counsel, after the move.
Indianapolis Mayor, William H. Hudnut III, contacted John Burnside Smith, then CEO of the Mayflower Transit Company, who arranged for fifteen trucks to pack the team's property hurriedly and transport it to Indianapolis in the early hours of the morning of March 29. An ecstatic crowd in Indianapolis greeted the arrival of its new NFL team, and the team received 143,000 season ticket requests in just two weeks.
Baltimore was without a National Football League team until 1996, when Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns there. Initially they were to be named the Baltimore Browns. However, Modell was forced to change the name of his team. Cleveland was promised a new team by 1999 that inherited the Browns' name, colors, and history.
Irsay was born March 5, 1923 in Chicago, IL. Son of Elaine Irsay who was from originally from Hungary, Irsay was of Hungarian descent. In 1942 he joined the United States Marine Corps. In 1946 he was hired by his father's heating and ventilation business. In 1951 Irsay founded his own business, the Robert Irsay Co., and sold the successful business to Zurn Industries about a year before purchasing the Colts.
Irsay married Harriet Pogorzelski on July 12, 1946. They had three children - Thomas, Roberta and Jim. Roberta was killed in an automobile accident in 1971 on I-294 outside Chicago. Thomas, who lived with a severe mental disability, lived in a Florida facility until his death in 1999 at the age of 45. Jim is now the CEO and principal owner of the Colts. Irsay, who had divorced from Harriet, married Nancy Clifford on June 17, 1989, at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis; Hudnut officiated the ceremony.
Irsay is one of the members of the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor, being inducted on September 23, 1996.
Health decline 
Irsay suffered a stroke in November 1995 and was in intensive care at St. Vincent Hospital for several months. After his release he developed pneumonia, heart problems, and kidney problems, for which he was transferred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He died shortly after 10:00 a.m. in Indianapolis on Tuesday, January 14, 1997, with his wife at his side.
- "Dustbin at". Findarticles.com. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
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- O'Neill, John R. (1997-01-15). "Robert Irsay obituary". .indystar.com. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- Henkel 2005, p. 103
Milwaukee Wisconsin Sentinel Journal
|Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts principal owner