"WHEN THE COLTS BELONGED TO BALTIMORE: A Father and Son, a Team and a Time" by William Gildea

"WHEN THE COLTS BELONGED TO BALTIMORE: A Father and Son, a Team and a Time"

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A lovely memoir of a sports-mad kid growing up in Baltimore during the 1950s -- funny and bittersweet. For Washington Post sportswriter Gildea (The Fighting Irish, 1976), the key events of his childhood and adolescence are inextricably linked to the fortunes of the Baltimore Colts football team. So it's only logical that in reliving those times, he casts a fond glance back on his relationship with his parents -- a doting, slightly overprotective mother and a pharmacist father, as big a sports fan as his son -- as well as on the Colts of his youth. Gildea writes, ""To me the Colts had been the best reminder since the Brooklyn Dodgers of how something so simple as a team could arouse emotional attachments. Then, like the Dodgers from Brooklyn, the Colts were gone."" Much of the book is spent recounting the closeness of those ties. Gildea recalls a quartet of Colts fans: his father, the poet and humorist Ogden Nash, a longshoreman named Joey Radomski, and a unique character named Hurst Loudenslager, called ""Loudy."" This last figure looms as an unusual example of a fan who became closer to the players he idolized than almost anyone but their families. The text also includes visits with numerous luminaries of the great late-'50s Colts teams, including Hall of Famers Y.A. Tittle, Johnny Unitas, Bert Reichichar, and Weeb Ewbank. But the heart of the book is Gildea's elegy for his own family and for a time that seemed simpler for sports, for families, and for America. He doesn't sugarcoat that picture, however, and speaks frankly about the effects of Baltimore's Jim Crow laws on black Colt players. In its moving evocation of lost times, this does for pro football what Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer did for baseball.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin