2 former Colts, now big experts, eschew the fat


January 10, 1991|By MICHAEL OLESKER

Are they beautiful or what?

Here is Jim Parker, immortal pro football Hall of Famer with a team called the Baltimore Colts, No. 77 in your program and No. 275 on the weight chart during his svelte playing days.

He is standing in his package goods store at Liberty Heights Avenue and Garrison Boulevard yesterday morning with a tray of ham and eggs and grits in front of him that, now that you mention it, he seems to be inhaling.

And here is Art Donovan, immortal pro football Hall of Famer with those same Baltimore Colts, No. 70 in your program and No. 270 on the weight chart in his lean and hungry playing days.

He is a mere shadow of his former self, at 286 pounds today, a mere slip of a man who has lost 49 pounds since he peaked at 330 and his doctor declared:

''Cut out the beer.''

''Beer?'' said Donovan.

''And the salami and baloney.''

''Salami and baloney?'' said Donovan. ''Doc, why not just cut off my arm?''

At the dawn of the second week of the new year, I have come to these men seeking wisdom.

I wish to ask them about weight loss, since everyone in North America resolved on New Year's Eve to lose weight and, among us all, we have lost maybe 4 ounces.

About weight loss, nobody knows more than Donovan or Parker, who surely lost more weight (and, to be honest, usually put it back on) in more creative ways than any two people on the planet back when they had to weigh in during their playing days.

''I always had a clause in my contract,'' Donovan was saying yesterday, ''that I had to play at 270. So Friday mornings, 3 o'clock in the morning, Don Joyce would pick me up and we'd go to this steam room at Calvert and Saratoga and sit in it till 10:30 in the morning.

''Then we'd shower and dress and go to the weigh-in. I'd step on the scale, it would say 275. I'd take off my sweat shirt and drop 2 pounds. My pants would be another pound and a half. I'd get down to 270 and a half by dropping my underwear. Still too much. So I'd take out my false teeth. Hey, I got onto that scale just the way I came into the world, no clothes, no teeth, no nothing.''

After Friday morning weigh-ins, players could eat whatever they wanted -- as long as they got their weight back down by the following Friday.

Most would be voracious by now. Donovan remembers Joyce, the ferocious defensive end, ''would have 5 pounds of raw beef stashed in his locker.'' Gene ''Big Daddy'' Lipscomb once had a whole turkey and sweet potato pie waiting in front of his locker.

''You're gonna eat yourself right out of the league,'' Coach Weeb Ewbank hollered at him. Jim Parker remembers Lipscomb grabbing the turkey by the leg and swinging the whole thing at Ewbank.

''He was hungry,'' Parker explained.

Donovan would wait a little longer to indulge. His passion was kosher salami and baloney, ''but you couldn't eat meat on Friday if you were Catholic. So I'd buy a few pounds of Hebrew National deli, and I'd make sandwiches, and I'd sit in front of the TV set until midnight. And at the stroke of midnight, you never saw anybody tear into a plate of sandwiches like I did.''

Donovan and Parker shared at least one method for weight loss: rubber suits. Donovan would get into one and hop into a whirlpool bath.

Parker was even more radical. On hot summer days when the Colts were still training in Westminster, he'd put on a rubber suit, get into his car and turn the heat all the way up, and drive around for an hour.

''I'd lose 8 or 10 pounds an hour,'' he says now, between mouthfuls of breakfast in his package goods store.

''That wouldn't work anymore,'' somebody calls across the store. ''When he locks himself in the car now, he locks food in with him.''

Not to mention he's lucky he never killed himself with such drastic methods.

Parker played at 275. Once he made weight on Friday mornings and was free to eat at will, he did.

''There wasn't any emphasis on health back then,'' he says. ''Every week, you just got the weight off any way you could.''

Donovan remembers fasting each week from Tuesday until Friday's weigh-in -- with occasional defections for beer. Parker's son David, a kinesiology graduate of the University of Maryland, has recently taken care of his father's diet.

Parker weighs 315 -- but he's down from about 335.

''Notice,'' he says, putting aside the remains of his breakfast, ''that I didn't eat any of the ham.''

For Parker, the key to weight loss is no more red meat and pure fruit juices instead of any liquor. For Donovan, it's no more beer.

Well, almost no beer.

''I sneak one once in a while,'' said Donovan. ''But don't put that in the paper, or my wife will holler at me.''

Maybe that's what the whole world needs: Art Donovan's wife to holler at us and Jim Parker's kid to tell us what to eat.

It beats running around in a rubber suit.

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