On Aug. 27, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay innocuously tweeted a link to digitized versions of every media guide in franchise history, dating all the way back to the 1947 Baltimore Colts.
Look, many of us are bothered by the idea of the Indianapolis Colts claiming Baltimore Colts history, but such is the right for the owner of the team. I mean, if you visit the
Baltimore Orioles' official website to try to find out who the greatest hitter (by batting average) in franchise history is, their records page will inform you that it is ... outfielder Heinie Manush, of course.
Manush hit .362 during 345 games with the St. Louis Browns, one of nine players among the top 10 hitters in franchise history to have never actually played for the Baltimore Orioles. But the St. Louis Browns, of course, became the Baltimore Orioles in 1954 and their history and records went with them, which is why you have to sort through the Baby Doll Jacobsons of the world before you can get to Hall of Fame outfielder Frank Robinson on the list of the team's all-time best hitters.
What made this otherwise wildly uninteresting tweet peculiar, however, was something the majority of us would have never noticed. You see, Irsay's family purchased the Baltimore Colts, a franchise that started in 1952 as the Dallas Texans before moving to Charm City after just one year. The 1947-1951 Baltimore Colts were an All-America Football Conference (AAFC) franchise that merged into the NFL in 1950 for one season and simply dissolved. Somewhere in history, the current Indianapolis Colts franchise decided to seize four years of history and records for a franchise they had nothing to do with.
That combination of worlds is somehow both bizarre and seemingly harmless. Since the original franchise simply folded, I guess it's kind of nice that the history and records are recognized somewhere, even if that franchise has absolutely nothing to do with the Irsay family and the most recent Baltimore Colts iteration.
Now, I would have never even noticed any of this had it not been for former Baltimore Sun football reporter Vito Stellino. The writer, based in Jacksonville, Fla., immediately responded to Irsay's tweet by pointing out the factual issues with the Colts claiming the history of the original franchise. But then he added to that point thusly:
"My main point is that it is bad enough that Irsay keeps Baltimore post 1953 legacy but even tries to steal their 1947-50 legacy not that it was much of a legacy. But then the Irsay-Indy legacy is one championship in over three decades even with Peyton Manning.
"I know nobody cares except me and some of the old Colts who never played in Indianapolis but I couldn't resist the rant. The late, great George Young, who somehow isn't in the HOF, once said, 'I just wish they would take the horseshoes off the helmets.'"
Sadly, Stellino is probably correct. After three and a half decades, it certainly feels as though we've just about given up on getting the Baltimore Colts' history and records back in Baltimore. I briefly pursued the topic publicly during my time as a radio host in this market. During an interview with Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard, I asked him on the record if he would support the Colts giving the franchise's pre-1984 history and records to Baltimore and he said he would -- despite knowing Irsay wouldn't be thrilled.
Of course, what I thought might be a topic worth spending some time to pursue further felt fruitless. My audience in Baltimore seemed unconcerned about whether I even followed up on the issue after the interview. The success of the Ravens -- and sheer amount of time since the franchise was ripped from the city in the middle of the night -- has left this particular issue as one that's all but dead. Unless Stellino, who hasn't lived here for years, is battling Irsay on Twitter, there just appears to be no interest in Baltimore any longer to try to get the records and history back.
If you're waiting for me to offer my "take," it isn't coming. I'm just saddened by how we've completely given up on this as a collective group of interested parties. I'm just saddened that our parents and grandparents who loved the Colts haven't been able to inspire us to continue to try to take back a major piece of our sporting identity as a city. No one even wants the logo or the colors back or anything like that. We'd just want some damn statistics.
There's no reason to think it's changing anytime soon, and I guess we're just willing to accept that. That's a shame.
Issue 247: September 2018
Originally published Sept. 17, 2018