Don Kelly's CFL love affair becomes CFLs' love affair

August 19, 1994|By JOHN STEADMAN

Sometimes his wife of 38 years wonders if she has a rival in the Canadian Football League. Her husband's name is Don Kelly, a man who almost defies description when it comes to the fanatical interest he expresses in this league that has been playing for more than a century, but is new to Baltimore.

Since 1963, Kelly has been a follower of the CFL and cataloging the scores and staying up late to hear games on the radio. For most of his life, he also was attached to the Baltimore Colts and is proud of the picture the late Alan "The Horse" Ameche autographed to him.

Because of a hip ailment, he comes to Memorial Stadium on what he calls his "Canadian crutches." He'll be there tomorrow night for the Baltimore CFLs' encounter with the Toronto Argonauts. "I still call our team the Colts," he says. "I can't help myself. But the Canadian game is superb. When we played Winnipeg in an exhibition, I actually heard men and women talking to themselves it was so great. They couldn't believe what they were seeing."

Kelly, originally from the Remington area of Baltimore, watched the Colts as they started in the All-America Conference in 1947, when they practiced in Clifton Park and he later went there to see Lamar "Racehorse" Davis, Y.A. Tittle, Bob Nowaskey, Billy Hillenbrand, John "Red" Wright and then those later teams that made such an impact in the National Football League.

WK His interest was so intense that when the Colts lost he felt ill. "If I

told my wife I didn't want dinner she knew I was depressed. I even remember crying a few times when it was a critical game. People who came to Baltimore after the Colts left can't relate to what it was like. They have no idea."

Kelly admits he wasn't much of a student at St. Phillip & James School. After class he came home to help his mother, who was troubled with arthritis.

"I got a job at Shriver Brothers in the grocery department and gave her most of my salary," he realls. "In those days, things were cheaper. You could buy a pound of balogna for 18 cents. And a pickle or a soda only cost a nickel. I used to umpire amateur baseball games to make extra money and I was there seven days a week."

When the Baltimore Colts' Band begins to play the team song, Kelly, a sentimental sort, becomes emotional. He thinks of Baltimore's football history, the heroes of the past, such as Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore, Art Donovan, Gino Marchetti, Bill Pellington and all the rest.

"I admired a great man named Hurst Loudenslager," Don recalls. "He loved the Colts. Everybody called him 'Loudy'. Now I see the horse mascot carries his name. I like the Colt Corrals but never joined. For a lot of years, even before we had this new team, the Sunpapers were good to me. I called the sports department to talk to Steve Kivinski or Derek Toney to help me track CFL scores. Before we got a team, results weren't always published. But they'd help me because of realizing how important it was to me."

At his residence, Kelly has two miniature scoreboards where he posts CFL standings and the schedule of upcoming games. It's for his own edification, nothing more. He says some friends lament that the NFL would crush the CFL in competition. That's true, but then this Baltimore CFL fanatic comes to the defense of his favorite league.

"I don't see the point they're trying to make," he contends. "The important thing is the CFL plays beautiful, just beautiful, football. It's a fun game. That's what I enjoy. Seeing those backs moving in all directions and no such thing as a fair catch is different.

"Look at the NFL exhibition in Mexico City before 112,000. A 6-0 score. I don't care if it was in the mud. What a bore. You'd never see anything like that in the CFL."

AKelly is confident CFL franchises are going to gain acceptance in the United States.

"All I hope is our team gets the Colt name, which is what we alwant," he adds. "If we don't have Colts as a nickname then I hope the owner, Jim Speros, doesn't use any at all. Just call 'em the Baltimore CFLs. It'll be a constant reminder of how the NFL robbed us of our name."

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