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 from 1972 until his death in 1997, and the Los Angeles Rams briefly in 1972.
|Born||March 5, 1923|
|Died||January 14, 1997 (aged 73)|
|Known for||Owner of the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts|
|Spouse(s)||Harriet Pogorzelski (1946–1988; divorced)|
Nancy Clifford (1989–1997; his death)
--Thomas Irsay (deceased)
--Roberta Irsay (deceased)
Irsay was born on March 5, 1923 in Chicago, the son of Charles Irsay (born Charles Israel) and Elaine Nyitrai, Jewish immigrants from Hungary. 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 business to Zurn Industries about a year before purchasing the Colts in 1972.
Irsay assumed ownership of the Baltimore Colts on July 13, 1972 after acquiring the Los Angeles Rams from the estate of Dan Reeves and swapping franchises with Carroll Rosenbloom, all made official on the same day. His last-minute US $19 million bid for the Rams was $2 million more than that of future Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse. Irsay's majority share in the Colts was initially 51%, with Willard Keland of Racine, Wisconsin owning the rest. He additionally announced the appointment of Joe Thomas as Baltimore's new general manager, succeeding Don Klosterman who accompanied Rosenbloom to Los Angeles.
In a controversial decision, Irsay moved the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis, 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. Baltimore gained a new franchise, the Baltimore Ravens, by way of Art Modell and the Cleveland Browns, 12 years later in 1996.
In January 1984 Irsay appeared before the Baltimore media and exclaimed, "This is my 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 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.
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.
In 1946, Irsay married Harriet Pogorzelski, the daughter of Polish Catholic immigrants. They raised their children Catholic. 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. Nancy Irsay died November 7, 2015 at the age of 65.
Irsay is one of the members of the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor, being inducted on September 23, 1996.
Irsay suffered a stroke in November 1995 and was in intensive care at St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital for several months. After his release he developed pneumonia, heart and kidney problems, for which he was transferred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He died in Indianapolis on January 14, 1997. He is interred at Crown Hill Cemetery.
The 1972 Baltimore Colts season was the 20th season for the team in the National Football League. The Baltimore Colts finished the National Football League's 1972 season with a record of 5 wins and 9 losses, and finished third in the AFC East. Carroll Rosenbloom and Robert Irsay, who had recently taken over the Los Angeles Rams, traded ownership of the two franchises, with players and coaching staffs remaining intact. However, the Colts were getting older and started 1-4 before Coach Don McCafferty was fired. The Colts would go 4-5 in their final nine games under John Sandusky to finish with a 5-9 record, their first losing mark in 16 years.1974 Baltimore Colts season
The 1974 Baltimore Colts season was the 22nd season for the team in the National Football League. The Baltimore Colts finished the National Football League’s 1974 season with a record of 2 wins and 12 losses, and finished fifth in the AFC East.
Head coach Howard Schnellenberger was fired after three games, after an argument with owner Robert Irsay over whether Marty Domres or Bert Jones should start at quarterback for the Colts. General manager Joe Thomas took over the head coaching duties for the remainders of the season, but could direct the team to only two wins, both on the road, as the Colts failed to win a home game during the 1974 season. This would be the last time the Colts would fail to win a home game in a non-strike season until their abysmal 1–15 1991 season, when the team was based in Indianapolis.1976 Baltimore Colts season
The 1976 Baltimore Colts season was the 24th season for the team in the National Football League. The Baltimore Colts finished the National Football League’s 1976 season with a record of 11 wins and 3 losses, and finished tied for first in the AFC East division with the New England Patriots. However, the Colts finished ahead of New England in the AFC East based on a better division record (7–1 to Patriots' 6–2).
The season started with much turmoil when head coach Ted Marchibroda resigned shortly before the season opener due to a power struggle with general manager Joe Thomas. Several Colts assistant coaches threatened to leave the team, and quarterback Bert Jones publicly came to his coach’s defense. Thomas and Colts owner Robert Irsay quickly made amends with the coach before the season started. (Thomas would be fired by the team shortly after the season.)
The Colts offense was dominant in 1976: they led the league in scoring with 417 points (29.7 per game). Quarterback Bert Jones was named league MVP after passing for a league-best 3,104 yards, 9.27 yards-per-attempt, and a passer rating of 102.5, second best in the NFL. Running back Lydell Mitchell also had a spectactular year, rushing for 1,200 yards, and catching 60 passes. Wide receiver Roger Carr proved to be a valuable deep threat in the passing game, leading the league 1,112 receiving yards and 25.9 yards per reception. All three offensive players made the 1976 AFC Pro Bowl team.1979 Baltimore Colts season
The 1979 Baltimore Colts season was the 27th season for the team in the National Football League (NFL). Veteran Quarterback Greg Landry replaced Bert Jones as starter, as the Colts continued to struggle. Following the season Coach Ted Marchibroda would be fired, and replaced by Mike McCormack. The Colts finished the NFL’s 1979 season with a record of 5 wins and 11 losses, and fifth in the AFC East division.1980 Baltimore Colts season
The 1980 Baltimore Colts season was the 28th season for the team in the National Football League (NFL). The Colts finished the NFL’s 1980 season with a record of 7 wins and 9 losses, and fourth position in the AFC East division.1982 Baltimore Colts season
The 1982 Baltimore Colts season was the 30th season for the team in the National Football League (NFL), and the Colts’ penultimate season in Baltimore. The Colts finished the NFL’s strike-shortened 1982 season without a victory, finishing with eight losses and one tie in their nine games. The Colts joined the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the second team since the AFL-NFL merger to finish a regular season winless. They were later joined by the 2008 Detroit Lions and the 2017 Cleveland Browns.
The NFL's 1982 season was disrupted by a strike by the league's players. In the Colts’ first game after the end of the strike on November 21, they were shut out by the New York Jets 37–0. The following week, they were shut out by the Buffalo Bills 20–0, in a game in which the Colts offense never crossed the 50 yard line. But the week after that, they lost by only three points to the playoff-bound and defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals.1984 Indianapolis Colts season
The 1984 Indianapolis Colts season was the 32nd season for the team in the National Football League (NFL) and first in Indianapolis, as they relocated from Baltimore after the 1983 NFL season. The Colts finished the year with a record of 4 wins and 12 losses, and fourth in the AFC East division. In their inaugural game in Indianapolis, they lost 23-14 to the New York Jets and did not win their first game at Indianapolis until week 5, when they defeated the Buffalo Bills 31-17. The Colts would lose five games in a row (including another one to the Bills, who started the season 0-11 and finished 2-14) to end the season and miss the playoffs for the 7th straight season.
The Colts' 2,107 passing yards and 4,132 total yards gained on offense were the fewest in the league in 1984.1985 Indianapolis Colts season
The 1985 Indianapolis Colts season was the 33rd season for the team in the National Football League (NFL) and second in Indianapolis. The Colts finished the year with a record of 5 wins and 11 losses, and fourth in the AFC East division. The Colts did improve on their 4-12 record from 1984, but missed the playoffs for the 8th straight season. This season was rather sluggish, as the Colts for most of the season alternated wins and losses. After starting out mediocre at 3-5, the Colts would then lose 6 straight to sit at 3-11 before winning their last 2 games to finish 5-11. This would be the only full season for head coach Rod Dowhower, as he was fired 13 games into the following season.1988 Indianapolis Colts season
The 1988 Indianapolis Colts season was the 36th season for the team in the National Football League (NFL) and fifth in Indianapolis. The team finished the year with a record of 9 wins and 7 losses, and tied for second in the AFC East division with the New England Patriots. However, the Colts finished ahead of New England based on better record against common opponents (7–5 to Patriots' 6–6).Baltimore's Marching Ravens
Baltimore's Marching Ravens are the official marching band of the Baltimore Ravens American football team. They were founded as the Baltimore Colts' Marching Band on September 7, 1947, and have continuously operated ever since, supporting three separate football franchises. The band first supported the original Baltimore Colts from 1947 to 1950, but continued to operate even after the franchise disbanded in 1950. After a new Baltimore Colts franchise was installed in 1953, the band became associated with the newly founded team. The band endured a second relocation when the Colts moved to Indianapolis in the middle of the night in 1984, leaving Baltimore without a team for eleven years. The band became attached to a third franchise when the Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore in 1996 and became the Ravens. They are one of two official marching bands in the NFL, the other being the Washington Redskins Marching Band.
According to an ESPN documentary directed by Baltimore native Barry Levinson called The Band That Wouldn't Die, band leaders got advance warning that the team was being moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis overnight and were able to remove their equipment from team headquarters before the moving vans arrived. At the time of the move, the band's uniforms were being dry-cleaned. Band President John Ziemann contacted the owner of the dry cleaners, who told Ziemann that legally they could not release the uniforms to Ziemann, but told him that that evening, he should take the company van "for a walk". Ziemann and some associates then hid the uniforms in a nearby cemetery, in a mausoleum belonging to the family of one of the band members, until the wife of then-Colts owner, Robert Irsay, said they could keep them.
From 1984 until the Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore in 1996, the band stayed together, playing at football halftime shows and marching in parades, eventually becoming well known as "Baltimore's Pro-Football Musical Ambassadors". The band supported itself and remained an all-volunteer organization until the 2013 season when the Ravens organization was required to pay them. At one point, John Ziemann pawned his wife's wedding ring for the money to buy new equipment. After the 2012 season, the Flagline and Honor guard sections were dropped from the band.
One of the band's first gigs after the Colts left was an invitation from then-Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell to play during the halftime show of a Browns game. "They were cheap," Modell said, somewhat jokingly.
When Baltimore was in the running for a National Football League franchise in the 1990s, Ziemann enlisted the band's help in convincing the Maryland General Assembly, the state legislature, to approve funding for a new football stadium. The band played on the steps of the Maryland State House while the legislature was in session one evening, causing a crowd to gather, including then-Governor William Donald Schaefer, who had been pushing hard for a team and a football stadium. Eventually, the legislature approved the funding.
When the Cleveland Browns announced their planned move to Baltimore, the band wondered if the team had any plans for them. On an episode of a local talk show hosted by Kwesi Mfume that featured David Modell and Johnny Unitas, the host introduced Ziemann to a huge round of applause. Ziemann then asked Modell if the band could become the Ravens' official band, to which Modell smiled and said, "I thought you already were," as the crowd roared its approval again. (In The Band That Wouldn't Die, Modell said that there was "no question" about - having always wanted a team band, the fact such a well-regarded band desperately wanted to fill that role was a "dream come true".)
For the Ravens' first two seasons, the band retained its name as The Baltimore Colts Marching Band. At the start of the 1998 season, it assumed its current name, The Marching Ravens, coinciding with the opening of what is now M&T Bank Stadium in 1998, as well as the Indianapolis Colts making their first visit to Baltimore since their relocation.
For Ravens' home games the band performs a short concert on Eutaw Street and then marches from Oriole Park at Camden Yards down Ravens Walk into M&T Bank Stadium playing the Baltimore Ravens' fight song and other tunes. Before the game the band performs a pre-game field show and stays on the field for the playing of the national anthem. The band also marches a halftime show during most home games.
The band also had a new fight song for the Ravens, which was drastically different from the old Colts fight song. In 2010, Ziemann announced that the band was considering using the Colts fight song with new lyrics for the Ravens. Fans were allowed to vote online. Over 10,000 votes were cast, with an overwhelming 79% in favor of using the Colts fight song with new lyrics.Baltimore Colts relocation to Indianapolis
The Baltimore Colts relocation to Indianapolis was a successful effort by Colts owner Robert Irsay to move his American football team from Baltimore, Maryland to Indianapolis, Indiana following the 1983 National Football League season. The team began play as the Indianapolis Colts for the 1984 National Football League (NFL) season.
Although there had been talks that the Colts might leave Baltimore, as the city was at the time unwilling to build a new stadium to replace the inadequate Memorial Stadium and Irsay had been negotiating with other cities about potential relocation, the move itself came as a surprise to many due to the manner in which the Colts departed. The franchise's move continues to embitter many Baltimore natives decades afterward, and has had a lasting impact on the NFL, including another controversial relocation twelve years later that resulted in Baltimore receiving its current NFL team, the Ravens.Elway to Marino
Elway to Marino is a 2013 ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about the 1983 NFL draft. The film was released on April 23, 2013, directed by Ken Rodgers, and produced by NFL Films. The film explores the 1983 NFL Draft through the eyes of Marvin Demoff, the then agent for Dan Marino and John Elway via the notes that he wrote in real time starting in the months leading up to the draft. The film covers the battle between Demoff, Elway and the Elway family and the Baltimore Colts who had the 1st overall pick that year until the ultimate trading of him to the Denver Broncos, the fall of Dan Marino through the draft and the other teams and their various picks and what happened to them. The film features Demoff, Elway, Marino, Jim Kelly, Chris Berman and then Colts general manager Ernie Accorsi, as well as interviews with other NFL personnel involved in the draft, as well as some of the other first round draft picks of 1983.
The film's main focus was on John Elway's desire to not play for the Colts, citing their apparent front office dysfunctions, and the attempts by the Colts to trade their #1 draft pick to other teams. Among the trades that were explored was a draft-day trade with the New England Patriots involving John Hannah, a three-way trade with the Los Angeles Raiders and the Chicago Bears, and a trade with the San Francisco 49ers for Joe Montana. The Colts nearly make a trade with the Dallas Cowboys, but the deal is lost when Colts owner Robert Irsay intervenes. In the end the Colts trade Elway to the Denver Broncos in a deal that was done by Irsay without Accorsi's consent, which causes Accorsi to resign.
The film's main subplot involves Dan Marino's fall in the draft, when rumors are spread that Marino's bad play during his senior season at Pittsburgh were as a result of drug use, even though Marino voluntarily gets tested repeatedly during the season, testing clean every time. Even so, teams like the New York Jets, Los Angeles Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers pass up on Marino, allowing him to fall to the Miami Dolphins.History of the Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts are a professional American football team based in Indianapolis, Indiana. They play in the South Division of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The organization began play in 1953 as the Baltimore Colts with the team located in Baltimore, Maryland; it relocated to Indianapolis following the 1983 season.
Carroll Rosenbloom brought an NFL franchise to Baltimore in 1953 and owned the team until 1972 when he traded the franchise to Robert Irsay. The Baltimore Colts won the NFL Championship in 1958, 1959 and 1968, with the Colts losing to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. The Colts won their first Super Bowl title in 1970 over the Dallas Cowboys. During this time the organization was led by star quarterback Johnny Unitas until 1973 when he was traded to the San Diego Chargers. Following disappointing seasons and poor fan attendance, the franchise moved to Indianapolis in 1984. While in Baltimore the team achieved ten postseason appearances and won four championships.
The Colts organization struggled in the early days in Indianapolis, compiling an 88–135 record from 1984 to 1997. During that time the Colts were led by seven different head coaches and seventeen different starting quarterbacks. The organization made three postseason appearances during the time, with the most success coming in 1995 and 1996 under quarterback Jim Harbaugh. The 1995 team made it to the AFC Championship Game, which they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Robert Irsay remained the principal owner of the Colts until his death in 1997 when the franchise was turned over to his son Jim Irsay, who is the current owner of the team.
Following a 3–13 season in 1997, the organization drafted quarterback Peyton Manning, who started for the Colts for thirteen seasons from 1998 until 2010. Under Manning the Colts saw their greatest success and during his time with the team made eleven postseason appearances, with nine consecutive appearances from 2002 to 2010. The Colts won eight division titles during this time along with two conference championships in 2006 and 2009. The Colts won their second Super Bowl title overall and their first while in Indianapolis during the 2006 season. From 1998 to 2011, the Colts were coached by Jim Mora, Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell. Following a 2–14 record in 2011 when Manning had been sidelined for the whole season, the Peyton Manning era came to an end in 2012, when the organization released him following multiple neck surgeries. The Colts began to rebuild and drafted quarterback Andrew Luck.Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor
The Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor honors former players, coaches, club officials, and fans who made outstanding contributions to the Indianapolis Colts football organization.
Originally a ring around the former RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana, it currently encircles Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Ring of Honor began on September 23, 1996, with the induction of then owner, Robert Irsay. Since then, eleven players (10 offensive and 1 defensive), two head coaches, a general manager, and an honor to the fans have been added. Tony Dungy was the first to be added to the ring of honor in Lucas Oil Stadium.
The 12th Man addition to the ring was the last to be added in the RCA Dome. While the ring membership is not increased annually, there was at least one inductee added every season from 2015 to 2019.Jim Irsay
James Irsay (born June 13, 1959) is the owner and CEO of the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League.Joe Thomas (American football executive)
Joe Thomas (March 18, 1921 – February 10, 1983) was a National Football League (NFL) general manager and also served as the head coach of the Baltimore Colts for part of the 1974 season.
Thomas was director of player personnel for the Minnesota Vikings (1960–65) and the Miami Dolphins from 1965 until after the 1971 season, when he was let go by team owner Joe Robbie.
Thomas arranged for Robert Irsay to purchase the Los Angeles Rams from the estate of Dan Reeves for $19 million before exchanging them for Carroll Rosenbloom's Baltimore Colts in an unprecedented transaction which was completed on July 13, 1972. He became general manager of the Colts, succeeding Don Klosterman who transitioned to the Rams in a similar capacity.When the ballclub opened 1972 at 1–4, he fired head coach Don McCafferty on October 16 and replaced him with defensive line coach John Sandusky who was ordered by Thomas to start younger players over the veterans. The result was Johnny Unitas being benched for the remainder of the season in favor of Marty Domres. After the 5–9 Colts finished its first losing campaign in sixteen years, he dismissed Sandusky and his entire coaching staff on December 20. Eight weeks later on February 14, 1973, he named as Sandusky's successor Dolphins offensive coordinator Howard Schnellenberger who posted a 4–13 record before being sacked by Irsay following a 30–10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Veterans Stadium on September 29, 1974 and replaced by Thomas himself on an interim basis.Weeks prior to hiring Schnellenberger, Thomas purged the team of its veteran players, beginning with trading Unitas to the San Diego Chargers on January 22, 1973. Within the next ten days, Tom Matte would follow Unitas to San Diego, Bill Curry was sent to the Houston Oilers, Billy Newsome to the New Orleans Saints, Norm Bulaich to the Philadelphia Eagles and Jerry Logan to the Rams. The Newsome deal brought to the Colts the second overall selection in the 1973 NFL Draft which was used to pick Bert Jones. In that draft and the one the following year, Thomas would also select a pair of blind-side offensive linemen in David Taylor and Robert Pratt and an entire defensive line of Joe Ehrmann, Mike Barnes, John Dutton and Fred Cook.By the end of 1976, he had had five different head coaches in his five-year tenure, having fired Super Bowl V-winning coach Don McCafferty after just five games in 1972. then following him with John Sandusky, Howard Schnellenberger, Thomas himself, and Ted Marchibroda. After the Colts qualified for the NFL playoffs by winning the AFC East title in each of two consecutive seasons in 1975 and 1976, Thomas lost a power struggle over player personnel decisions to Marchibroda and was fired by Irsay on January 21, 1977.Thomas then was hired as GM of the San Francisco 49ers in 1977 by new owner Eddie DeBartolo at the recommendation of Al Davis and immediately fired head coach Monte Clark. The 49ers went 7–23 in Thomas' two seasons with the franchise, and his biggest trade, a series of 5 high draft picks for OJ Simpson. Thomas also fired two more head coaches, Ken Meyer and Pete McCulley, and Thomas' third hire, Fred O'Connor, was also let go.
Thomas married the former Judi Demian in 1969.
They had a daughter, Paige, in June 1970.
Thomas was living in Miami and was VP of the Miami Dolphins at the time of his death.List of Indianapolis Colts seasons
The Indianapolis Colts, formerly the Baltimore Colts, are an American football team playing in the National Football League (NFL). This list documents the season-by-season records of the Colts franchise from 1953 to present, including postseason records and league awards for individual players or head coaches. In 1953, a Baltimore-based group led by Carroll Rosenbloom gained the rights to a new Baltimore franchise. Rosenbloom was granted an NFL team, and was awarded the holdings of the defunct Dallas Texans organization. The new team was named the Colts after the previous team that folded after the 1950 NFL season. After 31 seasons in Baltimore, Colts owner Robert Irsay moved the team to Indianapolis, Indiana.The Colts have won two Super Bowl championships (Super Bowl V and Super Bowl XLI). They also played in and lost Super Bowl III and Super Bowl XLIV. Before the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, they won three NFL Championships (1958, 1959, and 1968). By winning Super Bowl XLI the Colts became the first team that played its home games in a domed stadium to win a Super Bowl held in an outdoor stadium.After the Colts owner Jim Irsay hired Tony Dungy in 2002, the Colts made the playoffs for nine straight seasons. They won five straight AFC South titles from 2003 to 2007 and had seven consecutive seasons of 12 or more victories from 2003 to 2009, the first time that has been achieved in the NFL's 90-year history. Much of the team's success throughout the 2000s was attributed to the trio of general manager Bill Polian, coach Dungy, and quarterback Peyton Manning.In the 2013 season, the Colts secured their first division championship since Manning's departure and first under quarterback Andrew Luck and head coach Chuck Pagano.Maryland Stadium Authority
The Maryland Stadium Authority, MSA, was created by Chapter 283, Acts of 1986 Maryland General Assembly. Its initial mission was to return the National Football League (NFL) to Baltimore. Maryland sought a new football team after former Baltimore Colts owner, Robert Irsay, moved the Colts out of the city in the middle of a snowy night on March 29, 1984. The Authority is a public corporation of Maryland which is authorized to issue tax-exempt bonds for financing its operations. The proceeds from the sale of those bonds and any other revenues collected are deposited in the Maryland Stadium Authority Financing Fund.The Band That Wouldn't Die
The Band That Wouldn't Die is a sports documentary film released in 2009 and created and directed by Barry Levinson as a part of ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary series. The film follows the story of Baltimore's Marching Ravens, a marching band that has supported three separate American football franchises since 1947 and witnessed the controversial relocation of the National Football League's (NFL) Baltimore Colts franchise to Indianapolis in 1984.
The marching band was founded on September 7, 1947 to support the Baltimore Colts of the All-America Football Conference. The team folded after the 1950 season, but the band continued to play together until a new Baltimore Colts franchise was founded in 1953 to play at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The Colts relocated to Indianapolis on March 29, 1984, leaving the Baltimore Colts' Marching Band without a team once again. During the twelve-year period in which Baltimore had no football team, the marching band stayed together, continuing to practice every week in hopes that a new team would arrive. The band went to other stadiums to play, the first being Art Modell's Cleveland Browns—the future Baltimore Ravens—and also participated in events such as parades, playing the Baltimore Colts' Fight Song. When the Browns relocated to Baltimore in 1996 and became the Ravens, the band began to support the team, their third in the city. The Baltimore Colts' Marching Band retained their name until 1998, when they renamed themselves Baltimore's Marching Ravens.
According to the documentary, band leaders got advance warning that the team was being moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis overnight and were able to remove their equipment from team headquarters before the moving vans arrived. At the time of the move, the band's uniforms were being dry-cleaned. Band President John Ziemann contacted the owner of the dry cleaners, who told Ziemann that legally they could not release the uniforms to him, but told him that evening, he should take the company van "for a walk". Ziemann and some associates then hid the uniforms in a nearby cemetery until the wife of then-Colts owner Robert Irsay said they could keep them.
From 1984 until the Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore in 1996, the band stayed together, playing at football halftime shows and marching in parades, eventually becoming well known as "Baltimore's Pro-Football Musical Ambassadors". The band remained an all-volunteer band as it is today and supported itself. At one point, John Ziemann pawned his wife's wedding ring for the money to buy new equipment. One of the band's first gigs after the Colts left was an invitation from then-Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell to play during the halftime show of a Browns game. "They were cheap", Modell said. Twelve years later, Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore and they became the Baltimore Ravens. However, remorse was expressed by much of the band as they felt the city of Cleveland was going to suffer the same fate Baltimore did in 1984.
When Baltimore was in the running for a National Football League franchise in the 1990s, Ziemann enlisted the band's help in convincing the Maryland General Assembly, the state legislature, to approve funding for a new football stadium. The band played on the steps of the Maryland State House while the legislature was in session one evening, causing a crowd to gather, including then-Governor William Donald Schaefer, who had been pushing hard for a team and a football stadium. Eventually, the legislature approved the funding. Until the NFL returned, the band performed at NFL games out of town as well as at home games for the CFL's Baltimore Stallions.
†Note: The Colts removed the 12th Man reference in 2016.