Stallions draw ringing support from volunteers Saving effort: Dedicated group solicits season-ticket buyers by phone to help keep the CFL team in town.

January 07, 1996|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

There's a chill in the air as nightfall descends upon an apparently dormant Memorial Stadium.

The stadium is not completely vacant, however. Nestled in an office behind the ticket windows, a group of about 20 people is diligently making phone calls.

They are calls for help.

S.O.S.

Save Our Stallions.

The group, a band of volunteers known as the Special Teamers, has been soliciting Stallions fans to commit to the Save Our Stallions season-ticket drive before tomorrow's deadline in an effort to keep the Grey Cup champions in Baltimore. The Special Teamers, who initially concentrated on new accounts, have spent the past week urging existing season-ticket holders to renew.

In the wake of the Cleveland Browns' intended move to Baltimore, Stallions owner Jim Speros has said he needs a guarantee of 20,000 season tickets sold in order to stay. The campaign, which began Dec. 1, is approximately 7,000 shy of that goal.

Special Teamers coordinator Lucy Kelly has been encouraged, however, by a late surge in ticket orders.

"We've gotten nearly 2,000 over the past two days," said Kelly, who said that many people waited until after the holidays to commit to the $100 deposit.

In addition to the holidays, the Special Teamers have had to contend with the possibility that unless Speros receives financial help from the state, he will move the team regardless of the ticket drive's success.

This past Thursday, while the Special Teamers were making their pleas over the phone, Speros was in Houston meeting with potential investors about possibly moving the team there.

"I have my down days, because when I hear something like that, it makes me think, 'Why am I doing all this?' " Kelly said. "And the reason I'm doing this is because of the people in this room. They want this team to stay as much as I do."

Kelly has been here before. She was one of the originators of the Designated Hitters, the Orioles' booster club that was founded in 1979, when the team's future in Baltimore appeared in jeopardy.

"I can remember the days in this building trying to save the Orioles, trying to sell season tickets," said Kelly, who worked for the Orioles for 18 years. "And I've got some of those people who were Designated Hitters with me today."

As Kelly was speaking, a videotape of the Stallions' rally at the Inner Harbor after winning the Grey Cup was being played on a television at the front of the room. The tape had been dropped off by a fan to inspire the troops.

On the tape, Len "Big Wheel" Burrier is leading the crowd in various cheers. Seconds later, the real Burrier enters the room, sits down before a phone, grabs a list of names and starts dialing.

"I don't want to lose another team," said Burrier, who began leading Colts cheers at the stadium in the 1970s. "The reason I'm doing this is for the fans that came out to the games."

Among those fans is Ron Berry, a two-year season-ticket holder who has assisted the Special Teamers with the drive.

Berry, who works as a job service specialist in College Park, used his vacation time to work 12-hour daily shifts on the phone this past week.

"I think of Jim Speros as a golden Greek god," Berry said. "He has never given us the fans a cause not to believe what he said. I believe if we get 20,000, he'll give every consideration to keeping the team here."

The willingness of her volunteers to do whatever is necessary is what has most impressed Kelly, whether it's making phone calls, soliciting in malls or even putting on the mascot costume for special appearances.

One such dedicated individual is Tom Guy, also known as "The Keeper of the Cup." Guy, a dialysis technician at Maryland General Hospital, has been given the responsibility of transporting the Grey Cup for the Special Teamers' promotional appearances.

"It's been a lot of fun," Guy said, "and hopefully after Monday, we can keep on booking the Cup."

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