In October of 1960 at a Colts game George Preasis, #60, blocks… (Robert F. Kniesche/Baltimore…)
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti says the team will make plans for a statue of Ray Lewis to honor The Great Mufasa for his stellar football career in Baltimore. And that's a good idea, but what about Lenny Moore?
First things first, please.
"Without a doubt Ray Lewis is one of the greatest middle linebackers in NFL history, if not the greatest," says Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, coordinator of a Lenny Moore statue committee that formed a couple of years ago. "However, there must be a statue made this year, when the great Lenny Moore turns 80 years young, to finally recognize him for his great athletic accomplishments, but also for his outstanding and long-standing contributions to just about every public service and philanthropic cause Maryland has had.
"We can talk about many athletes, but none in the history of Maryland has given to the community for as long, in as many areas, to just about every cause imaginable and without due recognition and thanks."
Actually, Baltimore and the Ravens have done a lot to recognize and thank Lenny Moore, a widely respected man who had a Hall of Fame career as a runner and receiver with the Baltimore Colts back in the day.
His No. 24 was retired in the 1960s and you can find it memorialized with other numbers in the stadium where the Ravens play. In fact, the Ravens have done an excellent job at memorializing the old Colts.
The Ravens band, one of only two in the National Football League, has a direct line to the Baltimore Colts Marching Band. The Ring of Honor at the stadium, dedicated a decade ago, includes the names of eight Colts who made the Hall of Fame, including Lenny Moore.
And, of course, there's Unitas Plaza, in front of the stadium, and the statue of Johnny U. You could make a case that honoring Unitas in big bronze was a way of honoring not only him but his teammates from the 1950s and 1960s, when Baltimore was all blue and white — Donovan, Marchetti, Berry, Parker, Mackey and, of course, Moore.
The Ravens also invited Moore to New Orleans for the Super Bowl and he attended a team practice at the Superdome.
So, yes, Baltimore and the Ravens have honored Lenny Moore.
But some of us — probably a lot of us — would like to see one more piece added to this picture.
There should be a statue of Lenny Moore to join the one of Unitas at the stadium.
The talk of a statue for Ray Lewis prompted me to call Cheatham. He still has the committee, he says, but the project hasn't advanced, and, of course, it needs money to advance. "As you can imagine," Cheatham says, "we have a lot of folks share thoughts, but few have actually come forth to assist."
Lenny Moore had a golden career, but he also played professional football before and during the civil rights movement, when life for a black man in the NFL — and in Baltimore, and in the United States — was anything but golden. Teammates on the field, the Colts were otherwise segregated.
"Once they blew the whistle and the game was over, they went their way, we went our way," Moore told schoolchildren a few years ago. "We split. It was race."
Moore did not let the racial attitudes of the times keep him from excelling in his chosen profession. Allow me to repeat some of the facts I reported in a column on this subject a couple of years ago:
Lenny Moore was the NFL Rookie of Year in 1956. He was a key player in the Colts' two NFL championships of 1958 and 1959. He amassed 12,451 yards on offense, both running and receiving. He scored 113 touchdowns, impressively, 63 of them running, 48 of them receiving, one on a kickoff return and one by fumble recovery. He played in seven Pro Bowls. He was NFL Player of the Year and Comeback Player of Year in 1964, recovering from injuries to score 20 touchdowns and lead the Colts to a division title.
And then there was the exemplary life after football: a commitment to Baltimore, to kids, to community organizations and charities, one of them his own. In 2001 his son, Leslie, died at the age of 43 of a chronic disease called scleroderma. Moore established a foundation and scholarship fund in his son's name. "You were a great football player, Lenny," Lydell Mitchell, one of Moore's successors as a Colts running back, told him at a banquet. "But you're a greater man."
Those are some of the reasons we say, first things first, and how about a statue of Lenny Moore? And how about scheduling a Ravens home game on Sunday, Nov. 24, so that the statue can be dedicated on that day, the day before Lenny Moore turns 80?
I think Ray Lewis would be glad to wait in line behind Lenny Moore.