Davis' ties here knotted Raider: Oakland owner claims Baltimore past with Colts that is disputed by others.

August 31, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

With so many old Colts being honored when the NFL returns to Baltimore tomorrow, it's appropriate that Al Davis will be on the scene.

You probably didn't realize the Oakland Raiders owner is an old Colt.

He is, at least in his own mind.

According to the Raiders media guide, "Davis served on the staff of the Baltimore Colts in 1954, at age 24, concentrating on player personnel work."

Davis, who rarely returns phone calls, didn't return a call this week asking him about his Baltimore days.

But Raiders senior assistant Bruce Allen forwarded questions to Davis about the owner's Baltimore connection.

"He's got great memories from there," said Allen, son of the late George Allen. Davis lived on Charles Street and liked to go to Danny's restaurant, he told Allen.

Allen said Davis has vivid memories of Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom, general manager Don Kellett and executive vice president Keith Molesworth. He also recalled the team's 1955 draft when the Colts took George Shaw, the top college player, with the bonus pick and then took Alan Ameche.

"He said, 'I can see it right now. We won the coin flip to get the first pick in the draft,' " Allen said.

So Davis was very involved in the organization, right?

Well, maybe, maybe not.

Looking into Davis' background is like walking into a hall of mirrors. Everything is subject to interpretation.

For example, Davis' name isn't listed in either the 1954 or 1955 NFL record and rules manual, as Rosenbloom, Kellett and Molesworth were.

Weeb Ewbank, who was the coach then and is now 89, living in Ohio, has a different version of Davis' role.

"He was never on the staff or anything like that," Ewbank said this week.

Ewbank said Davis was coaching a military team and wrote some reports on players on the team for him.

"We had several guys around different leagues and we'd have them write reports. They'd only get $50 or $100," Ewbank said.

He said Davis also hung around the Colts' training camp for a couple of weeks.

Ewbank said Davis wasn't involved in the 1955 draft. He said he took Ameche because he knew the Wisconsin coach.

There are other Baltimore connections. Davis was back in the city during the spring of 1995 to meet with Orioles owner Peter Angelos and his attorney, George Stamas, to talk about relocating the Raiders here.

Davis' local ties also include the fact that if he hadn't won the lawsuit to move the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982, it's unlikely Colts owner Bob Irsay would have moved to Indianapolis two years later.

Ravens owner Art Modell was one of former commissioner Pete Rozelle's strongest defenders in that lawsuit. Modell testified against the move, but made what the book, "The League," called "probably the most conspicuous blunder on the stand."

The issue was whether Davis had said at a league meeting, "I reserve my rights" or "I reserve my rights to move" when he declined to vote on the issue.

Modell testified that Davis said only, "I reserve my rights."

When Davis' attorney, Joseph Alioto, pressed Modell, he replied, "Mr. Alioto, you can keep me here all summer long. I'm not going to change my testimony. All he said was, 'I reserve my rights to move.' "

There was a stir in the courtroom. Alioto had the court reporter read back Modell's testimony as the audience laughed.

Modell said, "I misspoke myself. All he said was, 'I reserve my rights.' "

But Davis won the lawsuit -- the first trial ended in a hung jury -- TC and moved his team.

When Modell decided to move the Browns, Davis was quick to point out that it was inconsistent for Modell to move after he had fought Davis' move.

Modell, though, won't criticize Davis now.

"I have no complaints with Al Davis. What can I say? He's a football genius, a winner. He's a great man for the NFL despite some problems here and there," Modell said this week.

Pub Date: 8/31/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.