As the players Tom Clancy used to cheer approached to shake his hand and tell him what he wanted to hear -- that they hope he becomes the new owner of a pro football team in Baltimore -- his knowledge of their careers absolutely stunned them.
"Yeah, Sam Havrilak, No. 17," he said. Maybe Havrilak had forgotten his own jersey number but here was Clancy remembering.
Madison "Buzz" Nutter came by and Clancy commented, not to him but to a friend seated nearby, "One of the best centers who ever lived." And next came Mike Curtis, causing Clancy to exclaim:
"When we had Curtis, Ray May and Ted Hendricks, I don't think there was any team that had three better linebackers playing as a unit at the same time."
It would be difficult to offer dissent on the point he raised -- proving that Tom Clancy, now a renowned author, was paying attention when he went to Memorial Stadium to watch the Baltimore Colts at play in an era that was replete with packed stands and either championships won or contending seasons.
Clancy was introduced to the crowd of 600 attending the Council of Colts Corrals annual bull and oyster roast on Sunday at LaFontaine Bleu.
"I was in section 6, row 1, seat 9," he informed the audience, which tended to create an instant rapport between himself and those in attendance.
"I make no promises in the effort to get a team," he went on to tell the listeners. "I will do the best I can do to deliver for you what somebody did for me during my father's generation of having the Colts. If we're lucky and get the right kind of support, maybe we can do it again."
It was a sincere comment, reflecting Clancy's desire to be the team owner if Baltimore is selected for one of the new expansion franchises in the NFL. Clancy explains the reason his whole financial package isn't together is he wants the ownership associated to be exclusively from Maryland.
"We're getting close on that," he said. "I'm real hopeful. I like the local concept of owners. Then you know the team is safe. I've had contacts from overseas investors but, no, I couldn't go for that. I know, too, that buying an expansion team is an efficient way to throw money away."
But, like a man about to buy a yacht or join a country club, Tom knows if there's concern about the cost then you simply can't afford the luxury. Still, Clancy wants to be the man who brings pro football back to his old hometown.
"I already have $250,000 in, not counting my time," he said. "But we're getting closer. I plan to be in Phoenix for the owners' meeting in March unless I hear to the contrary.
"Then I go to Massachusetts to receive the John F. Kennedy Memorial Award for achievements by an Irish-American citizen. Maureen O'Hara won it once. I would like to have known her 40 years ago."
Clancy said he enjoyed the Super Bowl and visited briefly with Bob Tisch, co-owner of the New York Giants, and Ken Hoffman, of the Seattle Seahawks, the man he points to as "getting me involved in this pro football endeavor."
Colts players from the past, such as Sisto Averno, Art Donovan, Ordell Braase, Doug Eggers, Jim Mutscheller, Rick Volk, Rev. Joe Ehrmann and Art DeCarlo, talked with Clancy. Most all offered the identical scouting report: shy.
Herbert Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, attended the party, looked about him and praised the turnout of celebrants. "No other city could do this . . . to draw this kind of a response eight years after the team had left."
Norman Anderson, chairman of the event, said it was a pleasure to have Clancy in its midst. "Tom talks football like one of us," he said. "You have to admire his desire. He could be writing instead of giving so much of himself in trying to get a team for Baltimore."
That's true. But Clancy says he always sees sun in a rainbow, never the rain, and believes there's reason to be optimistic, which is why he's going all-out in storming the goal line.
It's his belief one expansion team will go to the Carolinas and the other to either Baltimore or St. Louis.