He gave name to Colts, now longs to get it back

November 07, 1993|By John Steadman | John Steadman,Staff Writer

OCEAN CITY -- Every morning, Charles Evans, the man who gave the Baltimore Colts their name, says his prayers with deep devotion. He asks that family and friends be blessed with good health and then makes one more request.

Evans asks that pro football return to Baltimore -- and bring with it the Colts name.

This is not some fanciful illusion but a kind of spiritual pas- sion that's felt for Baltimore's football future. Evans, 74 and ailing from kidney problems, has been with the Colts from their inception. Some days he doesn't feel well enough to get out of bed, but his daughter, Rita Flaig, is devoted to him and offers cheer and comfort.

Evans named the team in a contest in 1947 and still has a chance to look fondly at one of the prizes that Bob Rodenberg, who founded the franchise, presented to him as a prize. It's an autographed football that is now in the hands of his grandson, Chuck Zukas.

Some of the signatures have faded from a team coached by Cecil Isbell and led by such players as Lamar "Racehorse" Davis, Billy Hillenbrand, Hub Bechtol, Augie Lio and John "Red" Wright, but the memories have lingered for Evans. He enjoyed a certain celebrity status and the admiration of a grateful city that realized the name Colts fit Baltimore and Maryland with historical accuracy and profound feeling.

When the Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis, it was an emotional moment for Evans. He was then living on the side of a mountain in Cool Ridge, W. Va.

"I had gone back home to be with the beautiful countryside, the birds and nature," he recalled. "But only the death of my wonderful wife of 52 years, Garnet, cut me as deeply as Baltimore having its team taken away."

He tells, in his own quiet indignation, of writing a letter to the editor of The Indianapolis Star to tell him of the wrong that had been committed. Evans never had it answered and believes the newspaper didn't print it because it was somewhat critical of Colts owner Bob Irsay.

"I had my ear glued to the radio when Baltimore was at the expansion meeting in Chicago," he said. "The NFL changed the rules at the 1-yard line to let St. Louis get another opportunity. It was prearranged to help St. Louis. Baltimore deserves to be included.

"I think many of us would forgive Irsay for his actions if we are awarded another team and get our name back. The city, in 1984, wasn't exactly bending over backward to help improve Memorial Stadium. Taking our name, the Colts, was an injustice. I didn't name the team for it to be taken to Indianapolis, where it has no meaning or feeling."

Evans came to Baltimore from Pemberton, W. Va., in 1941 after World War II started. He worked as a private detective, and his wife was employed at Esskay. They lived in Victory Villa, a sub-division built near the Glenn L. Martin Co.

Then Baltimore got a franchise in the All-America Football Conference, and Evans won the contest to name the team. "The owner, Mr. Rodenberg, actually came to my house to thank me. I got the football from the first game, a $50 U.S. savings bond, a ZTC lamp, radio and record player, two season tickets. People on the street even stopped to congratulate me."

The name Bombers, which has been proposed if a new team comes to Baltimore, doesn't thrill Evans.

"It lacks any real connection because bombers were only built in Baltimore from 1940 to 1945," he said. "Baltimore is famous for a lot of things. Bombers isn't one of them. The name doesn't do much for me."

L But, admittedly, Evans is prejudiced in behalf of the Colts.

Evans says he believes in the power of prayer, which is why he continues to ask Baltimore be given another team and the name it carried for 35 years.

Baltimore, at least, has a prayer from Charles Evans. And that, in itself, is important.

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