When the Colts left town: the night that lives on in infamy

March 29, 2012|By Kevin Cowherd | The Baltimore Sun

I was there that night. It was 28 years ago, in the snowy, pre-dawn darkness of March 29, that the Mayflower vans rumbled out of Owings Mills and the Baltimore Colts left for Indianapolis, ripping an entire city's heart out in the process.

Just before midnight, we started getting calls on the sports desk at the old Evening Sun that there was unusual activity taking place at the Colts complex. At first we thought it was just a couple of crank calls. But more folks were calling in to report that the complex was lit up, with the sound of trucks echoing everywhere and security guards stopping anyone not authorized to enter.

I jumped in a car with two other Evening Sun reporters and a photographer and we went fish-tailing out of the Sun parking lot. We set a new land-speed record for the drive out there and arrived shortly after midnight.

The scene was absolutely surreal.

Our jaws dropped: it was true. The Colts were leaving town. Yes, it had been rumored for weeks that this might happen. But as one veteran TV sportscaster noted -- this was the late, great Chris Thomas -- it was like something out of a Fellini movie.

With the snow now blowing almost sideways, thick, white flakes were outlined against the dark green of the Mayflower moving vans as they roared out of the gates, one after the other in periodic intervals.

Some hired security goons prevented us from going inside. Even people who worked for the Colts that had been alerted to the move and were now trying to retrieve their stuff were refused entry.

So we stood outside the gates and interviewed everyone we could: stunned onlookers with tears in their eyes, disbelieving cops who had been called to the scene, the few Colts staffers who were allowed inside and were now leaving in their own cars.

The wind blew and the snow fell. We stayed out there for four hours as the moving vans rumbled out, until at last most of them were gone.

Then we thawed out with steaming cups of coffee in a diner on Reisterstown Road before racing back downtown to file our stories -- the biggest story most of us had ever covered.

And all throughout that long, gloomy night, we turned to each other seemingly every few minutes to say in hushed tones: "Can you believe this is happening?"

Twenty-eight years later, it still feels like a dream.

A bad dream.

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