Man who came up with name happy it's back home

March 02, 1994|By John Steadman

Calling the new Canadian Football League team the Baltimore Colts earns enthusiastic approval from the man who invented the name. It was a winning suggestion submitted by Charles Evans in 1947 that gave birth to the name Colts for Baltimore's pro football franchise.

How the National Football League can claim rights to the name baffles Evans and he applauds Jim Speros, owner of what will be known as the Baltimore "CFL" Colts, for reclaiming what he says was intended to be Baltimore's exclusive property.

"I'm overjoyed to hear about it," Evans said. "I like to think of myself as a devout Christian and this is what I prayed would happen. The name belongs in Baltimore. It fits so well."

What does he think of attempts by the NFL to try to claim the name that he -- Evans -- conceived and contributed as the winning entry in a write-in contest 47 years ago? "I thought it was sort of monopolistic on the part of the NFL," he answered. "It wouldn't listen to reason."

Evans enjoyed the distinction of giving the Colts their nickname and was upset when they took the name and stole off to Indianapolis in 1984. "In my opinion, and I believe many others around the country agree, the name Colts belongs in Baltimore," he said. "It fits so well. Baltimore is accepting it with open arms."

The 74-year-old Evans isn't in the best of health, suffering from kidney problems, and lives in an apartment that adjoins that of his daughter and son-in-law, Jim and Rita Flaig. When Evans was inspired to offer the name Colts, he said it was because Baltimore was a city with a horse racing tradition, that Maryland's heritage was involved with the breeding of horses and that, like a newly born colt, the team was new and hopeful, plus it only counted five units in a headline.

"I would have preferred, of course, for the NFL to have come back to Baltimore, but the Canadian League plays a good brand of football, one that's highly exciting," Evans said. "I'm happy they are going to be using the Colt name. The name belongs to the city of Baltimore, not the NFL."

Evans, originally from Pemberton, W. Va., came to Baltimore at the outbreak of World War II and lived in Victory Villa, a section of Middle River. For furnishing the winning name and a letter outlining his reasons, Evans was awarded an autographed football, two season tickets, a radio-phonograph and a floor lamp.

He also received a personal visit from Bob Rodenberg, the owner-founder of professional football in Baltimore, who came to his house to extend congratulations and offer thanks on behalf of the franchise that was then a member of the All-America Football Conference. Evans wants Speros to know he has his respect and support for going with the Colts' name.

Speros made preliminary moves to protect himself in any legal action the NFL might press. "This name is what the fans wanted," he said. "Everywhere I went, the reaction was the same. It wasn't nine out of 10; it was 10 out of 10."

A partner with Speros in the re-establishment of the franchise, former Colt Tom Matte, said he received a phone call from Ron Shapiro, of the law office of Shapiro and Olander.

"He was calling from Phoenix for me to tell Jim his firm was ready to go all the way in his behalf if any legal action was instituted," explained Matte. "I understand other lawyers have contacted Mayor Kurt Schmoke about the matter, too, offering similar support on a pro bono basis."

Meanwhile, Speros is considering designs for a logo prepared by Lenny Rosenthal, a vice president of the advertising company of Trahan, Burden & Charles.

The commissioner of the CFL, Larry Smith, said he was in support of Speros using the name. "He's doing it for one reason, for the fans of Baltimore," Smith commented. "We want to respect the NFL for how it runs their own business . . . yet feel this solution fits all objectives."

NFL Properties put pressure on Speros not to use the name they had nothing to do with originating in any shape or form. But this is the same league that let Irsay take the team away under the cover of darkness and then betrayed Baltimore in the expansion process.

Why would it suddenly be concerned with Baltimore? It offered, as a deal, such trite alternatives as Stallions, which would have been used by St. Louis had it gotten a team; and even the insensitive, inappropriate name of Bombers. To Speros' credit, he refused to yield -- which makes him an instant folk hero.

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