Colts on bill for last pass Greats of glory years enrich stadium finale

December 12, 1997|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

On Sunday, it will finally be over. If his recently surgically repaired hand and arm will allow, John Unitas might pass to Lenny Moore. And if Mike Curtis doesn't flatten him, Moore should score on the final play at Memorial Stadium.

The Baltimore Colts' Band will play, the lights will dim, and that will be that. Professional football at Memorial Stadium will come to an end, though some are unclear about what the exact manner will be.

"I don't know what's supposed to happen," Unitas said. "Twenty-two guys are supposed to go on the field and do something, but I don't know exactly what."

Though the final event in the stadium will be a game between the Tennessee Oilers and Ravens, it could also be described as an observance in honor of Colts memories.

Forty former Baltimore Colts are expected to attend Sunday's game, where they will greet fans at the gates, starting 75 minutes before the 1 p.m. kickoff. The Colts' Band will play before the game.

Chuck Thompson and Vince Bagli will announce the Colts five at a time during breaks in the game, allowing them to bask, one last time, in Memorial Stadium applause.

"It's going to be hard for me to leave Memorial," said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, who coached the Colts from 1975 to '79, winning three division championships. "You walk out of the locker room, and it's old. There's a feeling of tradition and history there, and there's not too many places that have that."

The Colts won three world championships while playing there, so perhaps it is fitting to let them have the last word.

"These are the players who made the NFL so important to this community," Ravens owner Art Modell said. "They deserve to have this opportunity to take a bow in front of many fans who followed them through the years."

Next season, the Ravens move into a new stadium at Camden Yards that will be their own. As the Ravens end their Memorial Stadium stay by paying homage to the Colts, some players are eager to be done with playing somewhere that belongs to someone else.

"We can get the Colt taste out of our system," Ravens special teamer Bennie Thompson said. "It will probably be better than hearing about the Colts all the time."

Memorial Stadium is not a modern stadium, as some players mentioned. "I don't think I'm going to miss walking through the locker room and hitting my head on the beams 'cause they're only 5 1/2 feet tall," defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said.

"It's nice to have played there, but it's an old stadium, not good for the fans as far as viewing," offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "There's nothing good about it as far as it being a modern stadium. We're going to miss the old place, but it's time to move on."

Some are too young to remember. Ogden was not yet 10 when the franchise pulled out of Baltimore for Indianapolis, and he grew up a Redskins fan anyway. Others, like running back Bam Morris, are separated from the Colts' golden era by both time and distance.

A player might know about Unitas, but not much about Moore, John Mackey or Gino Marchetti.

"I never really followed the legacy of Baltimore, so I never really knew much about those guys," Morris said. "In Texas, either you're a Cowboys fan or an Oilers fan or a Bears fan."

Also, in order to have pleasant memories, pleasant things have to happen. Instead, the Ravens have a home record of 6-8-1, most of the losses coming in close games.

"Since I've been around here, there hasn't been too much positive going on in that stadium," Bennie Thompson said. "Call a spade a spade."

Even Unitas, who won threeworld championships while playing at Memorial Stadium, said seeing the stadium go unused wasn't going to leave him too choked up.

"I really don't have any particular feelings about it," said Unitas, who regularly has attended Ravens games at the stadium. "I hate to see it go, but a football field is a football field. It's a great place for the fans, a lot of memories there, but other than that, it's just a concrete edifice."

Ravens on TV

The Ravens' final game at Memorial Stadium was sold out yesterday and will be televised by Channel 11.

Opponent: Tennessee Oilers

Site: Memorial Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Oilers by 2

Pub Date: 12/12/97

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