'Loudy' mascot to help new Colts gallop into past

June 22, 1994|By John Steadman

Tying Baltimore's proud football past, encompassing 35 years in two different leagues, to the present is a joyful endeavor. It now has to do with the Baltimore CFL Colts and a horse mascot that is going to be present for all home games, just as it used to be in the All-America Football Conference and National Football League.

The horse is to be called "Loudy," the nickname of the team's most devoted fan, the late Hurst "Loudy" Loudenslager, who said his heart was broken when the franchise left for Indianapolis under the cover of darkness during an infamous March night in 1984.

To have a horse encircle the field at a pro football game was a tradition born in Baltimore. The trips around the perimeter of Memorial Stadium this coming season for the new Canadian Football League games will follow touchdowns, field goals, safeties and, for the first time, the single-point rouge, which is a bit of a different wrinkle from the NFL.

The updated idea to bring back the horse comes from the imaginative mind of George Kelch, who has nothing to do with the Colts, CFL or NFL, but is in love with Baltimore football, regardless if the game is played with 11 or 12 players, four downs or three.

Kelch's suggestion to restore the four-legged mascot was presented to CFL team owner Jim Speros, and the club's marketing director, Tom Romero. They quickly approved. Then Kelch rolled into action in his own irrepressible way.

He not only located a horse, but it happens to be the great-great-grandson of the incomparable Native Dancer, a racing legend. Now for a quick personal flashback. It was in 1955 at Sagamore Farm when this reporter posed "The Horse" with The Horse, meaning fullback Alan "The Horse" Ameche and Native Dancer, one of the most famous of all thoroughbreds for what became more of a historic picture than merely a publicity shot.

It seems so appropriate that the bloodlines of Native Dancer should be again associated with a Baltimore football franchise. The horse is 13 years old, stands 16 hands and is owned by Bernie and Eileen Uram and their children. When he was at the racetrack, before injuring a tendon, he raced under the name Bernsville Kid. But now he's going to be known as "Loudy."

"My husband and I want to establish a therapeutic riding center for handicapped children," explained Eileen. "We like assisting the CFL Colts and George told us we could expect some help from the team in the future. We are looking forward to being involved."

Fifteen-year-old Erica Uram, a student at Pikesville High, the rider, will be attired in blue, silver and white silks, bearing the team's CFL logo. Kelch also has worked with the Pimlico Race Course marketing department to obtain a recorded copy of the bugler sounding "call to the post" that will be used to introduce "Loudy."

"We've gotten fantastic support," said the enthusiastic Kelch. "One of my best friends, an artist, Bruce Crockett, is going to paint the horse trailer in team colors. And we have a blanket made for the horse that reads, 'Loudy.' Another friend, Manny Spanomanolis, who will charter buses to the games to carry fans from his Club 4100 in Brooklyn, went with me to see Speros and Romero.

"They gave full approval. Now my problem is getting cooperation from someone to cover us with the proper insurance. I'm hoping the Council of Colt Corrals, the fan club, will agree to do it. Otherwise, I'll have to look elsewhere for contributions to handle the coverage. We're also going to make a donation to Bernie Uram's favorite charity. He's a man who is always helping handicapped children and even teaches them a safe way to ride horses."

Kelch says the horse is so adaptable he expects it to jump over the goal post, which is kind of stretching the truth. But, upon clarification, Kelch points out it won't be the regular 10-foot high crossbar but rather a portable set of miniature goal posts. The entire scenario is remindful of the way the Colts' original logo was designed to look in 1947.

The horse is a bay, not a Chesapeake Bay, but reddish-brown in color. "You have no idea how excited I am about this entire endeavor," exclaimed Kelch. "I believe the CFL Colts are going to be a worthy addition to Baltimore. I'm glad the field in Canadian football is wider and longer. It will give the horse, our four-legged 'Loudy,' ample space to run.

"What this tells you is how much the love affair between Baltimore and Maryland and the horse and pro football. They go together, like Jack and Jill or crab cakes and Baltimore. I had a chance to visit with 'Loudy' and heard Bernie and Erica whistle for him in the pasture. His ears perked. He responded. When he came over to meet me I could see this was a horse after my own heart. I doubt I'll ever ride him, but that doesn't mean I can't love him."

Romero, of the CFL Colts, once worked for the Miami Dolphins and knows how important it is to give spectators a mascot to identify with at sporting events. He says the Kelch suggestion quickly got the attention of club owner Speros, who recognized the merit of having "Loudy" present at the games, just as happened in the same stadium -- during those happy times of yesteryear.

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