This die-hard Colts supporter is a piece keeper

The Fan Elmer Kreisel

Memories Of '58

December 24, 2008|By MIKE KLINGAMAN

The old glass aspirin bottle sits on the desk in Elmer Kreisel's home in Towson. What's inside, he says, is good for what ails you - if you grew up a Colts fan in Baltimore.

The contents? Seven slivers of wood Kreisel tore from a goal post at Yankee Stadium after the 1958 NFL championship game in which the Colts defeated the New York Giants.

To him, the fragments are cherished keepsakes of a glorious era. Treasured relics from "The Greatest Game Ever Played."

Splendid splinters, all.

"I never gave away any of them," said Kreisel, 70, a retired physics professor at Towson University. "I wasn't very generous that way."

Part with those pieces? Not after what he went through to get them.

It has been 50 years since Kreisel, then a steadfast Colts fan, camped out all night at Memorial Stadium a week before the title game to get tickets that would go on sale the next morning. Fifteen thousand seats had been allotted for Baltimore, and Kreisel, a junior at Johns Hopkins, was determined to be first.

He and a friend arrived at the ticket window Sunday at 10 p.m. - 14 hours early - and huddled under blankets as temperatures fell to near 10 degrees. They cared that much for the Colts.

"We were pretty frozen," Kreisel said. "I'd brought a frying pan and an old metal bucket filled with charcoal. At 6 a.m., we cooked bacon and eggs on the parking lot."

Armed with their $10 tickets, the two men drove to New York on game day. Entering the city, they stopped, tied bedsheets scrawled with "GO COLTS!" to the sides of Kreisel's 1956 Chevy Bel Air and cruised around Times Square, honking and screaming themselves hoarse.

New Yorkers responded in kind.

"Nobody cared," Kreisel said.

Arriving early at Yankee Stadium, they spent several hours parading around the park touting a provocative sign: a 4-foot caricature of a Giants player with blood running down his face.

"It's a wonder we didn't get killed," Kreisel said.

Of the game, his recollections are sketchy. How much can one see from the end zone anyway? Kreisel spent most of his time agitating the Giants' fans around him.

"I took my trumpet - I'd been in the high school band at Poly - and played the Colts' fight song over and over," he said. "I'd memorized it during the week. I had an air horn, too, which I blew at anyone who tried to bad-mouth the Colts."

At the finish, as Alan Ameche plowed in for the winning score, Kreisel joined the mob that scrambled onto the field. The goal post nearest him was down when he got there.

This is what he saw: "A guy laying there with one of the beams on his arm. He was screaming, but no one was listening because there were maybe 100 people on top of him trying to break the timber apart."

Kreisel scaled the pile - "I must have been 6 feet off the ground" - and managed to grab a few splinters, which he stuffed in his blue-and-white Hopkins jacket. Then he slid off, pocketed a chunk of sod and headed toward the Colts' locker room.

"We waited [for the players] for an hour, but we got to meet a lot of the guys and shake their hands," he said.

The game touched Kreisel to the core. Back home, he took one of those slivers, had it laminated and affixed it to his key chain. Two years later, he got married - on a Sunday in November when the Colts didn't play. In 1966, when his son was born, Kreisel named him Raymond, after the team's star receiver, Raymond Berry.

Half a century after the Colts' first championship, Kreisel still tingles when he rattles the wood chips in his magic bottle, his favorite gift of 1958.

"Christmas was a side effect," he said. "The game was everything that year."

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