Artie Donovan will be there to connect old era to new

August 03, 1996|By John Eisenberg

The moment he heard that NFL football was coming back to Baltimore?

"I was in China," Art Donovan was saying yesterday.

China? C'mon, big man.

"Yup, a hotel room in Shanghai," he said. "I'm trying to sleep, but the bed is too small and my rear is sticking out over the edge."

An enchanting image.

"So I'm lying there awake in bed, and the phone rings and I pick it up all mad, and it's a guy from The Sun calling. He says to me, 'Baltimore got a team, what do you think?' And I say to him, 'I think there's 6 million Chinamen over here who don't care.' "

Donovan cared. How could he not when he has lived in Baltimore since 1953?

"It's like this," he said, "I don't like the way they got the team, but they got it, so they might as well support it."

You won't find him on the other side of the earth when the torch passes tonight and the Ravens open the city's new NFL era with an exhibition game against the Eagles at Memorial Stadium.

"I'll be there," Donovan said. "I don't know where I'm sitting, but I'll be there."

To see the torch passed? To see the Colts era finally and officially end as a new era begins?

"What are you talking about?" he said. "All it is, my son got season tickets. He asked me if I wanted to go in with him. I figured why not? We're making Modell a millionaire."

Good seats? Cheap seats?

"Like I said, no idea," he said. "We sent away and my son called when he got 'em. 'The seats are no good, Dad,' he said. I said to him, 'What do you want me to do about it?' "

People think Donovan has clout because he is always on television talking about football. These days, interviewers are constantly calling for his opinion about the Ravens.

"I don't get it," he said. "They call me up, they say, 'Baltimore has a team again, what do you think?' Like I was someone who had any idea about what was Donovan going on. I don't know a thing. All I know is what I read in the papers. Looks like they got a lot of guys hurt. They got a million bucks sitting on the trainer's table."

Does he know any of the players?

"I know Sean Landeta. He doesn't play for the Ravens, he plays for the Rams. But he lives right around the corner and he comes over to watch TV. He came to say goodbye one night before he left for training camp. I had just made a triple-decker Hebrew National bologna sandwich. He said he was hungry. I asked him if he wanted a bite. He said, 'Sure,' and then he ate the whole thing. Can you believe that?"

The Ravens, Artie, do you know any of the Ravens?

"I saw a picture of the center in the paper. He looks like Tarzan."

Anyone else?

"I know about Vinny Testaverde. What I remember about him was the day he won the Heisman Trophy. They showed his dad sitting in the audience, crying like a baby. I think his dad was counting the money. Sitting out there going, 'Vinny, my man, way to go, son!' "

Anyone else?

"Let's see. Oh, yeah, I know [coach Ted] Marchibroda. He's a nice guy. Real nice guy. Probably too nice. He deserves to have a good team. I wish them luck for Marchibroda more than anything."

Donovan isn't the only old Colt coming tonight. Many are planning to come, he said.

"Yeah, we have a Colt alumni group that meets every month or something," Donovan said. "We just elected Toni Linhart president, by the way. He should do a good job. We sit around talking about pensions and stuff. I said to Alex Sandusky, 'What are they talking about?' He said, 'Shut up, you big fatso.' "

But Artie, about the old Colts coming tonight?

"Oh, right," he said. "We were at this Colt alumni thing and someone asked was anyone buying tickets [to the Ravens], and it turned out a lot of them did. They're football fans and they live here, so they figured they might as well go. What else are they going to do?"

No jealousy at watching another team take over their town?

"Are you kidding?" Donovan said. "We had our day. It's over. Nobody enjoyed it more than I did for 13 years. But it's over."

And you can't get those days back.

"No way," he said. "Things are different now. It's like what [Ordell] Braase said to me. He said, 'It's a rich man's game now.' He's got that right. Fifteen bucks to park? No way. I'm coming tonight, but I'm going to park in Parkville and walk. No way am I paying 15 bucks to park for a football game."

Pub Date: 8/03/96

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