Jim Boxall was in high school when the Baltimore Colts stole away in the middle of a snowy night. He has yet to get over it.
Neither have the hundreds of other loyal Colts fans who attended a fund-raiser in Glen Burnie yesterday to meet some football heroes and reminisce about the team's glory days.
For Mr. Boxall and his father, James Boxall Sr., who faithfully carried their Colts seat cushions to every home game until the last one in 1983, there was really only one NFL team.
"It was a sad, sad day when they left," said the younger Mr. Boxall, 25, a Gaithersburg native who went to his first game at Memorial Stadium at age 5. "It was hard to deal with."
Like most of the 500 members of Colts Corrals who attended the bull roast at Michael's Eighth Avenue, he's eager to resume the tradition. The fans who have stuck by the Colts, even though the team has been gone for nearly a decade, say they're ready to switch their support to a new Baltimore football team.
"Maybe we can call them the Ponies," suggested Marge Kendrick of Baltimore. Her friend, Delores Fischer, 66, of Carney, chimed in, "We'll back them all the way, like we did the Colts. They better hurry up, though. If they wait much longer, we're going to be too old to go to a football game."
Both religiously bought seasons tickets to Colts games with their husbands for more than 20 years. They pooh-poohed the idea that women often become football widows.
"Are you kidding?" asked Mrs. Fischer. "I like it better than baseball. It's more exciting."
Nine years after the Colts' nocturnal move to Indianapolis, 22 fan clubs are still thriving in Maryland. The Baltimore Colts Band, the marching band without a team, hasn't missed a note in nine years. And the die-hard fans who got together yesterday to raise money for charity could still recite the starting lineups from 1957.
"I'm from Pittsburgh, and it's a football town, but nothing like this," said Bill Troup, a retired Colts quarterback. "When Baltimore came to town, there would be bus loads and bus loads of these people all dressed in blue and white. I was 8 years old, and I was impressed."
Colts tight end Jim Mutscheller, linebacker Doug Eggers and defensive lineman Ordell Braase joined Mr. Troup in autographing drinking cups and old footballs yesterday.
"With some of these Colts Corrals, they get so wound up, you think there's going to be a kick off next Sunday," said Mr. Eggers, 62, who now works as a construction equipment distributor. "Hopefully, they will have a team soon."
Cindy Castle of Millersville has been a loyal member of the Severna Park corral for years, even though she never attended a Colts game.
She graduated from high school the year Colts owner Robert Irsay trucked the team out of town.
Nevertheless, she knows enough Colts lore that she could have passed the football test in the movie "Diner." Her parents, Nancy and Jim Sowden, started the corral in Severna Park and have turned half their basement into a Colts museum.
"In my home, you had to learn about the Colts," she said with a grin.