Super Bowl V: A Personal and Historical Memoir of the Colts Last Championship in Baltimore Part I

The 1970 Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Colts--It would be another 30 years before Baltimore would experience a Super Bowl title.

The last headline of a Colts Championship in Baltimore

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

For all the sporting events that I have watched since I was six-years-old or better yet, the last 42 years, there’s two dates that I will always remember for both good and bad reasons. Starting with the bad—January 12, 1969—that, of course, was the day my beloved Baltimore Colts were upset by the New York Jets.

It was a bitterly disappointing end to their very first time I followed football as a six-year-old football fan. I thought the Colts of those days were unstoppable, especially after the 34-0 butt-whuppin they had put on the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship game. At a very young age,  it was my first taste of how your home town can break your heart.

But the other date that I will always remember as a sports fan for happier reasons is January 17, 1971. That was the day the Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 in Super Bowl V. Like Super Bowl III, I remember that game like it was yesterday. I remember watching the replays of John Mackey’s touchdown that came on a tip by Cowboys cornerback Mel Renfro. I can recall agonizing over Johnny Unitas fumbling and getting knocked out of the game by Cowboys lineman George Andrie.

In many ways it was a gut-renching game for me as a fan because the Colts trailed for a good portion of that game and seemed to be doing everything to give the Cowboys the game. After the Colts committed two turnovers early in the fourth quarterback—an interception of an Earl Morrall pass in the end zone by Cowboys middle linebacker Chuck Howly and a fumble into the end zone by Colts wide receiver of a Eddie Hinton, who had the ball at the 10-yard line and was about to score, but was stripped by Cowboys defensive back Cornell Green and the ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.

It was after that play when my mother saw the look of worry on my face and said to me, “Uh oh the Colts are losing, hope you’re not going to start crying,” referring to the tears I shed when the Jets took a 16-0 lead in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl III.

I’m not gonna cry this time, I’m little older now and besides I’m in third grade now, I thought back then. But I ain’t gonna lie, I was thinking the Colts were on the verge of losing the Super Bowl, especially after Hinton fumbled the ball in the end zone. And soon as my mother said that Colts safety Rick Volk intercepted Craig Morton and returned it to the Dallas 3. A seldom used Colts fullback Tom Nowatzke scored the game-tying touchdown on the next play.

When Jim O’Brien kicked the winning field with five seconds, I remember jumping up and down in my mother’s room where our relatively new Panasonic black and white TV was located at the time. “The Colts are the World Champs,” I screamed. To me, it made up for losing to those daggone New York Jets. I thought it was the happiest day of my life as a football fan.

I couldn’t get enough of the highlights. I watched the locker room celebration and interviews with all the players. I saw the trophy presentation with Pete Rozelle and the wife of Vince Lombardi presenting the first Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy to then-Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom and head coach Don McCafferty.

I remember my mother smirking and shaking her head disapprovingly when NBC interviewed the white wife of Colts receiver Ed Hinton. To my mother, seeing Hinton’s white wife hit her personally because my father’s new girlfriend was white. Interracial dating and marriages were still a big taboo even in those days. It was a grim reminder to me of my parents pending divorce and the fact that I hadn’t seen my father since the summer time. He wasn’t there with me to share that moment.

I was ecstatic that day and like I said earlier I couldn’t get enough of the Colts winning the Super Bowl. My mother even allowed me to stay up and watch the highlights on the 11 o’clock news. Since the game was on WBAL Channell 11, the NBC affiliate—I listened to Vince Bagli and caught the highlights againg. I flicked the channel to Channel 2 to see what WMAR sports anchor Jack Dawson had to say and then I turned it to Channel 13, my father’s former employer to see what John Kennelly had to say and see more highlights.

At Lady of Lourdes School the next day, it was a day of I-told-you sos to all my friends who thought the Colts wouldn’t win. I couldn’t concentrate in school because all I thought about was getting back home and waiting for the paper boy to deliver the Baltimore Evening Sun, so I could see all the photos.

This was one day that I didn’t want  to hang around after school with my friends, I wanted to jet on home to get the newspaper. I was planning to cut out the pictures and post them on my bedroom wall. On the way home, I ran into this older dude from my block  named Barry, who used to tease me by always saying that the Colts are sorry.

As I was rolling up the block, I yelled over to Barry, “Colts are the World champs, they ain’t so sorry now, huh?” Barry muttered something like, “Ahh, they got lucky.”

When I got home sometime around 3:30, I kept looking outside of our living room window for the paper boy to deliver the newspaper. In those days, we were living in Northwest Baltimore at 3809 Fernhill Avenue right near the newly-built Calloway Elementary School (at that time). My mother Carolyn was working for the Department of Social Services. I had an older brother, Ralph, who was two years older than me, my sister Melissa, who was six, and my baby sister Melanee, who was one and a half going on 25.

It was about 4:30 and close to getting dark when the paper boy finally came to our house with the Evening Sun. News of the Colts win was on the front page, but all the photos were in the sports section. I spent hours with that section, reading the stories looking at the photos.

I had absolutely no idea (no one else in Baltimore did either for that matter) that it would be the last Super Bowl title for the team we knew as the Baltimore Colts. It would be another 30 years and a new team before the city of Baltimore’s name would be inscribed on the Tiffany silver Super Bowl Trophy.

In that span of time, I would attend three high schools, three colleges, earn two degrees, experience the death of my father, get married, get divorced, win my first journalism award and see the day the Colts would no longer call Baltimore their home.

I have found over the last 40 years of my life since that game that very few, if any of my friends my age from Baltimore really remember or experienced the joy I felt watching the Colts win that game. For most of my friends born between 1960 and 1964, their remembrances of the Baltimore Colts are of the Bert Jones and Lydell Mitchell teams from about 1975 to up until the time they shipped out to Indianapolis in 1984.

The one thing that will always bother me about the Colts leaving for Indianapolis is not so much that they left, but they took the name, the history and the records. I didn’t like the idea of Art Modell taking the Browns out of Cleveland to move to Baltimore. But the one redeeming thing about Modell was that he had the decency to leave the Browns name, record and history with Cleveland.

That didn’t happen with Baltimore. Robert Irsay just took everything, except the memories. At least for some of us.

Whenever I’ve brought up Super Bowl V or even Super Bowl III to Baltimore sports fans who are the same age as me, the response is always, “man, I can’t even remember that far back.” Then there’s the classic, “aw, man you’re showing your age.”Only my friend from my college days at Maryland the late Jon Chambers (who was born in 1961) could remember both Colts Super Bowls and talk about it in the way that I could.

Over the years, I’ve haven’t said much about Super Bowl V or my memories of the last Colts championship in Baltimore for a variety reasons. I guess not many people have my long memory or have the same passion for sports as I do.

I can understand that while most six year-olds, seven-year-olds and eight year-olds back from 1968 to 1970 were into coloring books, comic books and , my super heroes were Johnny Unitas, John Mackey, Tom Matte, Bubba Smith and Mike Curtis. In baseball, there was Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Paul Blair.

And the thing is I did all those things that normal young kids do when they’re seven and eight-years-old. I played outside-sports and non-sports like any normal kid. I wasn’t a stay-in-the -house bookworm of a kid.  Over the years, whenever I mentioned that I can remember sporting events from that far back, people have always said well you must not have gotten out much.

My love for the Colts of those days comes from my father Ralph Murray, who was working as a TV reporter for WBAL and later WJZ between 1967 and 1970. Even before my father was working in TV, he watched a lot of football and the game was always on in my house—whether it’s on the radio or TV.  Hearing then Colts play-by-play announcer Chuck Thompson’s voice blaring over the radio or TV was a regular occurence

Not only did my father love the game, but my grandfather was a big Colts fan. I remember in the basement or the living room of my grandfather’s home on Chelsea Terrace in Northwest Baltimore, seeing a framed Baltimore Sun headline of the Colts winning the 1958 Championship.

I remember the first time I saw a football game in color was in 1968 on my grandfather’s TV when the Colts played the 49ers at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. Preston Pearson returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in that game for the Colts.

The one time  I mentioned  Super Bowl V in any conversation of my adult years was at a Final Four party I attended in the D.C. area in 1992. The University of Cincinnati was playing Michigan in one half of the national semifinal.  Someone at the party asked who were some famous pro athletes outside Oscar Robertson that attended Cincinnati. There’s was only one that I could recall off the top of my head—Jim O’Brien of the Colts went to Cincinnati. He played wide receiver and kicker.

I mentioned his name and supposedly, according to one of my friends who was there, folks looked at me as if I was the “dork” of the week. Hey,someone asked, I gave the answer. But in my apparent lack of being cool and being hip, my proper social response should have been, “I don’t know.” Of course, I say that with complete, unapologetic sarcasm.

The Baltimore Ravens winning the Super Bowl in 2000 brought back that feeling that I had back in 1970 when the Colts made their run to the Super Bowl. People in my hometown were finally experiencing what I felt back then. I just hope that 30 years from now that kids in Baltimore who were as young as me back in 1970 will remember Ray Lewis and Trent Dilfer with the same fondness the way I remember Johnny U, Bubba Smith, Mike Curtis, and the 1970 Baltimore Colts.

Seeing O’Brien’s kick splitting the uprights to help the Colts to win Super Bowl V is as fresh and as exhilarating a memory for me as seeing Jamaal Lewis cross the goal line to put away the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.