The Baltimore Colts were a professional American football team based in Baltimore, Maryland. The first team to bear the name Baltimore Colts, they were members of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) from 1947–1949, and then joined the National Football League (NFL) for one season before folding. In 1953 they were replaced by a new franchise that revived the Baltimore Colts name; this team is now the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts' origin is with the Miami Seahawks, one of the charter franchises of the AAFC. After playing a single disastrous season the Seahawks were confiscated by the league, and were purchased and reorganized by a group of businessmen as the Baltimore Colts. The new team struggled through the next three seasons, but managed to grow a sizable fan base in Baltimore. In 1949 the Colts were one of three AAFC teams, along with the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns, to be brought into the NFL following the AAFC-NFL merger. They played only during the 1950 season before financial pressures forced them to fold.
The All-America Football Conference had initially intended to place a team in Baltimore in its opening 1946 season, but its prospective owner, retired boxer George Tunney, was unable to secure a stadium deal. Failing in Baltimore, the league approved a bid by Miami, Florida football boosters to place its eighth team in that city, and the Miami Seahawks were born. From the first the Seahawks were beset with problems: a weak team with a difficult schedule, they drew little fan support and accumulated debts of up to $350,000, which owner Harvey Hester could not afford to repay. League commissioner Jim Crowley expropriated the franchise, and the AAFC covered its overdue travel and payroll costs.
Five businessmen, led by Washington, D.C. attorney Robert D. Rodenburg, made a bid to purchase the Seahawk's assets and reform the franchise in Baltimore. The AAFC quickly approved the deal, and the team was reorganized as the Baltimore Colts, a name chosen due to the city's long history of horse racing and breeding. Due to the club's inherited talent drought, the Colts were permitted to recruit a player from each of the AAFC's four strongest teams. Nevertheless, the Colts struggled financially through the 1947 season, leading the owners to drop it. Sensing a crisis the AAFC supplied the Colts and the league's two other weakest teams, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago Rockets, with superior players; the team found new ownership, but its financial crisis was not resolved.
In 1948 both the AAFC and the NFL were struggling, and determined that the continued viability of professional football depended on a merger between the leagues. The leagues began negotiating a deal in which some AAFC teams would be brought into the NFL and the owners of others would be compensated for their interest. The Colts' owners insisted that their club be maintained in the merger, though their franchise was one of the weakest in the league. However, George Preston Marshall, owner of the Washington Redskins, initially refused to cooperate, as he felt a Baltimore team infringed on his market. Marshall finally relented in exchange for the Colts paying him $150,000 for the infringement. With this obstacle overcome, the merger was finalized, and the Colts, together with the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns, were brought into the NFL.
In the 1950 AAFC Dispersal Draft, the Colts restocked themselves primarily with players from the erstwhile Buffalo Bills AAFC team. The Bills were arguably a better choice for entry into the NFL; they were in a more isolated market, had stronger attendance and performed better on the field, but league owners (namely George Halas and Dan Reeves) blocked the Bills' entry into the NFL. (The Bills were not the same as the modern Buffalo Bills franchise, which joined the NFL in 1970.) The Colts were nominally part of the "National Conference;" however, unlike the other twelve teams, Baltimore was scheduled as a "swing team" and played every team in the NFL over the course of the 1950 season (whereas the other twelve teams played a double round robin schedule in their conference plus one crossover game with the opposing conference and a game with Baltimore).
Despite the addition of the Bills players, the Colts struggled through the 1950 season, ending with a record of 1-11-0. Facing a financial crisis, Colts owner Abraham Watner sold the team and its player contracts back to the NFL for $50,000, and the team officially folded. Still, however, fan support continued in many quarters; notably, the Baltimore Colts' Marching Band remained intact after the team folded (it has survived to the present day, and is now known as Baltimore's Marching Ravens) and a Baltimore Colts fan club continued to operate. Three years later a new franchise, also named the Baltimore Colts, came to Baltimore. This team relocated to Indianapolis, Indiana in 1984, and was renamed the Indianapolis Colts. The supporting groups, including the fan club and marching band remained, however, again working to revive a team in Baltimore. In 1996, the Baltimore Ravens were formed from the players and staff of the Cleveland Browns, and these former Baltimore Colts' groups became affiliated with the Ravens. The Baltimore Colts name was briefly revived in 1994 when the Canadian Football League created a Baltimore-based expansion team of that name; however, following a lawsuit from the NFL the name was changed to the Baltimore Stallions.
First round draft picks
- 1947 Elmer Madar End Michigan
- 1948 Bobby Layne QB Texas
- 1949 George Sims Back Baylor
- 1950 Adrian Burk QB Baylor
Pro Football Hall of Famers
Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties
|1947||2||11||1||4th AAFC East||--|
|1948||7||7||0||2nd AAFC East||Lost Eastern Division Championship Buffalo 28, Baltimore 17|
|Merged into NFL|
- Coenen, p. 118.
- Coenen, p. 113; 136.
- Coenen, p. 126.
- Coenen, p. 131.
- Coenen, pp. 131–132
- Coenen, pp. 133–135.
From Sandlots to the Super Bowl: the National Football League, 1920-1967,Coenen, Craig R. (2005). From Sandlots to the Super Bowl: the National Football League, 1920-1967. University of Tennessee Press. Retrieved on October 1, 2010. ISBN 1572334479.