If Baltimore gets ball, give governor a hand

PRO FOOTBALL

October 24, 1993|By VITO STELLINO

Can it really be nine years, seven months and 27 days since that infamous night?

It still seems like yesterday that the moving vans rolled into Owings Mills on the night of March 28, 1984.

The memory of that surreal scene will never fade -- the sleet, the lights at the Colts complex, the trucks belching smoke. It was easy to wonder if it was real or just a scene in a Steven Spielberg movie.

Unfortunately, it was all too real. It was the night Baltimore lost pro football.

The city has waited all these years to find out if it's getting a team back.

Now the wait is down to a few days.

It's seemingly taken the NFL forever to run out of excuses to expand, but it's Baltimore's good fortune that it finally happened while William Donald Schaefer was still in office.

To mix sports metaphors, from all accounts, the governor "hit a home run" with his speech before the expansion and finance committees last month. He hit all the right notes in capturing what it meant to the city to lose the Colts and how much the city wants to get another team back.

Schaefer will give a reprise Tuesday in Chicago before all 28 owners and that's a major reason why you have to like Baltimore's chances.

If Baltimore is recommended, his talk should wrap things up. If it isn't, the owners are likely to be asking why not after they hear him. Since so many owners haven't paid much attention to expansion and are open-minded on the issue, the governor's comments could carry a lot of weight.

Schaefer may be able to offset the fact that the league office is pushing hard for a Charlotte-St. Louis combo.

Nobody is better at talking from the heart about Baltimore than Schaefer.

No other single man in any of the other cities has meant so much to the expansion effort. The governor had the clout to get the twin stadium bill passed. Without it, Baltimore would have never been in the race.

When Baltimore had to sell luxury boxes, he called in all his chits with local businessmen to get them sold.

He won't be in office when the football stadium is completed, but he said he wants to see that hole in the ground before he departs.

Incidentally, Arrowhead Stadium and Royals Stadium in Kansas City are called part of the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex.

If Schaefer brings back a football team to Baltimore, there's only one obvious name for the Baltimore sports complex. If you were one of the fans who wrote Val Pinchbeck, the director of broadcasting for the NFL, to complain about the San Francisco-Dallas game not being shown here, you can expect a reply by form letter fairly soon. A spokesman said they were still "rolling in" by the end of the week.

Pinchbeck argues the Washington Redskins still get higher ratings in Baltimore than the other teams although Baltimore officials counter that's only if you include their games against the Cowboys.

In any case, Pinchbeck no longer can say that nobody has ever brought the issue to his attention. CBS should show its best games in Baltimore -- even if they don't involve the Redskins.

Protecting Joe

Although Joe Montana has been injured twice this year, opposing players are starting to complain the officials are going overboard to protect him.

Burt Grossman of the San Diego Chargers said: "He's done a lot for the league and they treat him right in return. The ref even said to me and Leslie [O'Neal], 'Stop hitting Joe. Stay away from Montana.' "

The Chargers also complained that a key play on the Chiefs' winning drive in last Sunday's 17-14 triumph was a roughing-the-passer penalty on Shawn Lee.

Lee said he just tapped Montana and said even Montana came over to him and said, "the call was BS."

Jay's return

Jay Schroeder gets his first start in a Cincinnati Bengals uniform today. Officially, young David Klingler has a sore back, but the winless Bengals are desperate for a victory against the Houston Oilers and are hoping that Schroeder can give them a spark.

Schroeder, who was noted for sulking in Washington when he was benched, now takes things in stride.

"If you can do it on Sunday, you've got a chance of getting the job. If you can't, you're going to be watching the game from the sidelines. Or at home," he said.

Support

New York Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason said his former Maryland teammate, Buffalo Bills backup quarterback Frank Reich, flew to Cincinnati and spent three or four days with him when he learned during the off-season that Esiason's son, Gunner, has cystic fibrosis.

"We talked about a lot of things," said Esiason, who faces the Bills today. "You know about Frank's strong religious background. He was very supportive. I did consider retirement. It's never been written -- and Frank doesn't care if it ever is -- but I can tell you Frank was a very important part of me making the decision to stay with football."

Reich said: "I wanted to be with him, not to do anything other than be there for support and just listen."

The bad deal

Two weeks shy of the sixth anniversary of his Halloween trade to the Indianapolis Colts, Eric Dickerson retired last week.

The Los Angeles Rams got three first-round picks and three second-round picks and blew them all. Four players -- Aaron Cox, Gaston Green, Frank Stams and Fred Strickland -- are gone, Cleveland Gary isn't starting and Darryl Henley has left the team because he's under investigation for possible involvement in a drug ring.

The only team that did well in the three-team trade was the Buffalo Bills. They got linebacker Cornelius Bennett.

Remembering

When the Rams host the Detroit Lions today, it'll be the first time they've played since 1991.

Mike Utley was paralyzed in that game.

Defensive lineman Tracy Rocker, who was rushing Utley on the play, said he's tired of talking about it, but added, "It has given me a lot more respect for the game. Going out there and realizing how fortunate and how blessed you are to take the field and be able to walk off it."

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