Starr drops back, but stays in city's NFL expansion pocket

John Steadman

September 10, 1991|By John Steadman

There's been a reshuffling of the lineup within one of th groups that has been vying for a position in the race as it prepares to file an application for an expansion franchise in the National Football League. Bart Starr, the universally respected Hall of Fame quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, believes the city's interests can best be served if he assumes a more passive role.

Starr, though, is not withdrawing. Two heavy investors he was counting on to become the point-men in the effort have told him that because of a decline in their real estate holdings, they would not be able to accompany him in the Baltimore project, which is a disappointment.

But Starr stays on the team, along with those he brought with him as they and possibly seven rival expansion entrants line up at the starting gate with their $100,000 entry fees in hand. There could be other revisions later, but Herb Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, who is coordinating the Baltimore presentation to the league, isn't about to offer even the va

guest prediction on what might transpire.

Phyllis Brotman, acting as a spokeswoman for what has generally been referred to as the Starr-led forces, said the realigned organization will henceforth be known as the Maryland NFL Expansion Group Ltd., and it will file application, along with submitting its $100,000 good-faith check, under the new title it adopted.

"We're excited about our preparation and congratulate Bart Starr for bringing us along this far," she said. All of Starr's associates, including Willie Davis, another Pro Football Hall of Fame member, remain intact. There was a report Davis was going to defect and join Memphis' expansion bid but he told friends, "I feel comfortable where I am," which is interpreted to mean he's going to keep his earlier commitment.

Other holdovers from the Starr side of the operation -- not necessarily investors but serving as advisers -- include John Unitas, the Hall of Fame quarterback of the Baltimore Colts, who would serve on the board of directors; Joe Foss, World War II hero and the first president of the American Football League; John Colbrunn and Tom Stoen, both of Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Baltimore business representation within the newly named Maryland NFL Expansion Group Ltd., takes in John Paterakas, ** Henry J. Knott Jr., Sig Hyman, Louis Grasmick and Brotman. As for the major player, the 51 percent investor, he has still not been identified. "We have the secret weapon," said Grasmick, which was as far as any of the group would go in specifying where its main financial resources were going to come from.

In earlier conjecture, when Bob Tisch, the wealthy hotel owner, was out front marching for Baltimore, before he purchased 50 percent interest in the New York Giants for a reported $80 million, it was generally conceded the NFL was favorably disposed to awarding an expansion team for the city. But after bTC Tisch bought half of the Giants, the overall game plan has changed.

Now Jerry Richardson, the former Baltimore Colt, who is leading the campaign for a team in the Carolinas, based in Charlotte, N.C., is projected as the foremost candidate, with Baltimore and St. Louis competing for the other club to be awarded. Richardson is building his own stadium and has enviable credentials.

In fact, a column describing Richardson in the Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal, written by Dr. Larry McGehee, vice president for development and professor of religion at Wofford College, which is Richardson's alma mater, is being circulated -- around the country. It says this about him: "The owners who vote on where to place the NFL teams need to know this about the Carolinas bid. It has Jerry Richardson standing behind it. Their personal company and their athletic league will be elevated by admitting him to those circles.

"Richardson's dignified integrity is the one significant difference that makes the Charlotte bid too conspicuously proper to be denied. His kind of caring and commitment are of an endangered species, too rare commodities in the marketplace and on the playing field today. The NFL simply must recognize and welcome the excellence in integrity he embodies and exudes."

So the race is heating. Charlotte has taken the lead, followed by Baltimore and St. Louis. Or is it St. Louis and Baltimore? In the preliminary contest, competing for recognition in Baltimore, are other groups headed by Nathan Landow, Ed Hale Sr., Tom Clancy and Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass. The scrimmage will soon begin.

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