Hall to shift into new formation

Canton renovation may resolve Baltimore complaint about Colts display

March 14, 2007|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN REPORTER

The crusade to separate the Colts' Baltimore and Indianapolis histories in the Pro Football Hall of Fame has moved online with a petition begun yesterday. But it turns out that the Hall already has plans to change one exhibit that has long angered Baltimore Colts diehards.

Soon to be sacked: the Enshrinee Mementoes Room, which pays tribute to the 32 NFL teams and the stars representing each franchise. There, for instance, under an Indianapolis hallmark, visitors now find lore on 10 Colts Hall of Famers - all but one of whom (Eric Dickerson) played only for the Baltimore version.

Those displays, some of the oldest at the Canton, Ohio, shrine, will be overhauled next year, said Joe Horrigan, vice president of exhibits.

"The existing room that [Baltimore Colts fans] find most objectionable will be gone," Horrigan said yesterday.

Even though the Hall would have made the changes anyway, Horrigan said, officials there are fully aware of the concerns expressed by Baltimore Colts fans.

"Maybe where we fell down a little bit was in not making clear the intent of that room," Horrigan said. "We set it up that way [in 1978] for ease of grouping, so that the average fan could walk in and say, `Where are all of the Colts, Cardinals or Rams?' "

Like the Colts, the Arizona Cardinals came from elsewhere - St. Louis and, before that, Chicago. And the Rams' roots go back to Cleveland via Los Angeles.

It wouldn't have been practical to break up franchise displays by noting each of their homes, Horrigan said.

"If we had separated each franchise by every city it has ever represented, we'd have had about 85 franchises."

Horrigan said he isn't sure how the new room will look after renovations - probably more along the lines of highlighting individual Hall of Famers - but the changes shouldn't raise the ire of those who cherish the memories of John Unitas, Lenny Moore and Gino Marchetti.

"Baltimore's emotions are still tied to that [Colts] team," he said. "We love the fact that fans there want to see their heritage preserved. That's what [the Hall] is all about."

The petition is aimed at protecting that history.

"The Baltimore Colts deserve their own display at the Hall of Fame," said Tony Lombardi, a local sports talk show host who started the petition. "At the very least, our Colts should be represented [in Canton] alongside the Ravens."

By 9:30 last night, Lombardi's Web site (www.coltsheritage.com) had collected more than 2,357 electronic signatures, though some, bearing names such as Bob Irsay, Britney Spears and Kermit the Frog, clearly were pranks.

Other responses were clearly heartfelt.

"Let Indy have the team, we just want the memories," one fan wrote.

"Historical inaccuracy at a site celebrating the history of professional football is unacceptable," wrote another.

"It is about time. Maybe then we can let the Colts go," wrote another.

Lombardi said he hopes to amass at least 100,000 signatures and present the petition to Hall officials this summer.

"We hope to create a groundswell," said Lombardi, 46, of Canton. "We don't want the team colors or the name back. There's a new team in town, and people should embrace that.

"But when Baltimore Colts fans visit the Hall of Fame, they shouldn't feel like orphans on a raft at sea."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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