The room at Memorial Stadium was decorated with balloons. A pair of football helmets rested on the podium. Cheerleaders from Morgan State and Lake Clifton High bounced in, shrieking.
In the back, wearing their age well, stood old Baltimore Colts heroes like Art Donovan, Tom Matte, Fred Miller, Jim Mutscheller, Rick Volk, Stan White, Joe Ehrmann and Sisto Averno.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke stepped forth grasping a blue and white pompon. Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, stepped forth with a command to the NFL: "Give Baltimore the ball and we'll give you NFL history."
That was the scene yesterday when Baltimore's bid for an NFL franchise shifted into a higher gear with the announcement of an exhibition game between the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints Aug. 28 at the stadium.
Tickets ($25 throughout the stadium, except for a limited number of partially obstructed view seats priced at $22) will go on sale Jan. 25 at 9 a.m. at Memorial Stadium. They can also be purchased at Ticketmaster outlets or by calling (410) 481-SEAT.
Belgrad would like nothing better than a quick sellout, say, in one day. That way, the world could be told via TV the next day, Super Bowl Sunday, of Baltimore's accomplishment.
"That should give Baltimore's expansion bid a solid boost in August, just before the NFL enters the final phase of the expansion process in the fall," Belgrad said.
Underscoring the importance of a sellout to Baltimore's chances of obtaining an expansion team, Gov. William Donald Schaefer said: "If you don't produce on the bottom line, you don't get a team. Once you lose a team, it's hard to get one back. We've been trying for eight years."
The Colts played their final game at the stadium on Dec. 18, 1983. Three months later, they moved to Indianapolis. The Miami-New Orleans game will mark the return of the NFL to Baltimore.
"All of our competitors for a team have had exhibitions," Belgrad said. "We wanted, and got, a game in the fourth and final week of the exhibition season, when teams wouldn't be playing rookies. It was scheduled as a home game for the Saints, but they were persuaded to move it to this neutral site. It has Baltimore ties."
Dolphins coach Don Shula played four seasons for the Colts in the 1950s and was head coach from 1963-69. Saints coach Jim Mora had a brief brush with this area in 1985 as coach of a United States Football League team that called itself the Baltimore Stars even though it practiced in Philadelphia and played its games at Byrd Stadium in College Park.
Promoters of the exhibition game plan to make the Jan. 25 kickoff of the ticket sale an event. The celebration at the stadium will run from 9 a.m. until noon and include a performance by the Colts Band, showing of Baltimore Colts, Saints and Dolphins highlight films and an autograph session with former Colts players.
NFL preseason game at a glance
Date: Aug. 28 (although it might be changed to Aug. 29 to accommodate TV after the national TV schedule is announced in March).
Time: Night (exact time to be announced).
Site: Memorial Stadium.
Matchup: Miami Dolphins vs. New Orleans Saints.
Tickets: $25. Sale to start Jan. 25 at 9 a.m. at Memorial Stadium. Tickets also will be available at Ticketmaster outlets or by calling (410) 481-SEAT. Cash and major credit cards only.