Irsay remembers the first Colts Hall of Famer, Art Donovan


Hall of Fame defensive tackle Art Donovan died Sunday, a day after Canton welcomed a new class of men who played the game.

He played for the Baltimore Colts, so both Baltimore and the Colts have strong connections to one of the greatest defensive linemen in league history.

“On a weekend when the NFL welcomed more players into the Hall of Fame, we lost one of its most significant enshrinees, Art Donovan,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said in a statement issued Monday by the team.  “Art was the first Colts player to be inducted into the Hall, and his roots date back to the very start of the franchise.  Art was a battle-tested veteran who stood among the giants in helping lead the Colts to their first two world championships.  While many later knew Art as a colorful ambassador to the sport because of his personality, those who played alongside and against him attest to his grit and greatness.

“Art is a beloved figure to many and is the only player to wear number 70 in Colts history.  His number is retired among Colts greats. Art truly is an unforgettable figure in our sport, and we extend our sympathies to his family.”

Donovan became perhaps better known in retirement than he was during his playing career.  Colorful, humorous, and likeable, Donovan told great stories about playing pro football in the days before the NFL became a behemoth, bridging for today’s fans the gap between the modern game and the way things used to be.

36 responses to “Irsay remembers the first Colts Hall of Famer, Art Donovan

  1. Art Donovan is a Baltimore Legend who is Already in the Ravens ring of honor. He’ll be missed but even ESPN got it right when they published a statement released by Baltimore’s Current NFL Franchise not the team from Indy.

  2. As a Ravens fan (and current season ticket holder) and a former Baltimore Colts fan (and former season ticket holder) my first instinct is to blast Jim Irsay for assuming ownership for any of the legacy of the Baltimore Colts.

    I know many of my fellow Ravens will do exactly that both here and in other web sites.

    It would have been nice to keep the name, but that’s water long gone under the bridge. The name goes with the town. The Colts are in Indy, courtesy of his father who was a drunken fool, but I can’t hold the son accountable for the sins of the father. Therefore Jim Irsay’s comments are well meant and well said.

    I knew Art Donovan – a little bit. I sat in his bar. I watched him play. I loved him in retirement. So I join with Colts fans everywhere who are remembering and celebrating the life of a patriot, WW II veteran, a HOF football player, and one of the greatest raconteurs in sports.

  3. Art, just like other great Baltimore Colts, associate themselves with the city of Baltimore and not the Irsays and the Colts franchise. I would not be surprised to see the Raves kep their ART patch on their jerseys for 2013, as the city has lost an icon, not the franchise that up and moved.

  4. Why bother reporting on what Irsay has to say? Art wanted nothing to do with the Indy franchise.

    When Johnny U passed, the only team that was allowed to honor the man was the team that currently represents his community and the fans that he played for, the Baltimore Ravens. This was at the request of the Unitas family. The NFL could (and should) learn a lesson from the players themselves.

  5. Not from Baltimore, but if I was it would probably rub me the wrong way to have Irsay saying ANYthing about Art. One of the NFL’s biggest mistakes was not forcing the Irsays to leave all things Colts in Baltimore.

  6. Not weighing into the Indy / BMore debate…but one of his lines was both accurate & funnier than hell – when asked why he was rarely injured, he replied “Because you can’t pull fat”.

    Classic. He’ll be missed. What a great player and ambassador for the game.

  7. Oh crap! He was a Marine, too? (just checked wiki page when I saw lncrprl’s comment) Hoo-Rah! As a Navy guy, I didn’t know he was my brother, too. I have seen many an interview with him being as boisterous as usual and he was such a great character. As with all vets, he was a part of my extended family, so now the loss is felt even deeper.

    If you are a football fan, do yourself a favor and dig up some youtube videos or maybe even go to your public library and find footage of interviews this guy had, man the stories he could tell. Besides the “Greatest game ever played,” even my wanna be football historian self hasn’t seen but clips of him playing since they don’t focus on D-line in early film of the NFL but he was as great a person, probably moreso than he was a player.

  8. I don’t get why Baltimore fans are so pissed when the Colts come up but ge super defensive of Modell when anyone brings up how they got their current franchise.

  9. When I was about 12 years old I attended a wedding in Maryland at a restaurant or banquet hall that was owned by Art Donovan and had a chance to meet the man. He was exactly the way Florio described: engaging, hilarious, personable. He just sat at the bar telling story after story and the wedding became background noise. The NFL lost a hell of a figure. RIP Artie.

  10. As a Colts fan it always makes me laugh when Baltimore people get bad about the Indianapolis Colts and how they aren’t the “real” Colts. Your team left you city for what ever reason. The “team” left, not just the name “Colts”. That means the players that were on “your” team the year before, where still on the Colts the next. Just like when Baltimore “stole” the Browns from Cleveland. So sitting on your high horse because the Indianapolis embrased their team is hilarious! As for Irsay comments, he probably knew Art very well and was saddened by his passing. I also find it funny that you have 8 Colts in the Browns (ravens) ring of honor!! Where is the “Honor” in that?

  11. While everyone is correct that these players belong to the city of Baltimore not Indy, Jim Irsay is still within his rights to honor Donovan. His father, reviled though he might be among old Baltimoreans (well before my time so frankly I don’t care at all), still owned the team in that era and thus its pretty much just in good taste for Irsay to say something. Its really not a big deal nor should surprise anyone.

    Jim Irsay might be a clown owner especially on the Twitters but that’s besides the point!

    where it would be stupid is for fans of the Indianapolis team to start getting sentimental. That would just be, honestly, kind of pathetic.

  12. The L.A. fans are nuts if they are claiming George Mikan’s achievements!

    Or Jackie Robinson for that matter.

    Teams MOVE. Donovan played for the COLTS organization which resides in Indy and in just 3 years will have been in Indy longer than in Baltimore

  13. Saying Baltimore “stole” the Browns is foolish. The Browns remained in Cleveland. Legally speaking, and according to the NFL, they never left. The Browns were deactivated in 1996 and reconstituted in 1999. The Ravens were ‘born”, a new team, in 1996.

  14. The Colts left. They are in Indy. I get it. If I was a Indy Colt fan, I would have liked a “new” team. Not a team that was named and “belonged” to Baltimore, for 30 or so years.

  15. Cleveland had a chance to keep the Browns, but the city wouldn’t meet Modell where he wanted. They built the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, Jacobs Field and the Gund Arena and wouldn’t build a new stadium for the Browns, the only team of real significance. He made a business decision.

    The Colts left Baltimore after Bob Irsay said he wasn’t moving the “G-d damn team.” By the way, they left in the middle of the night, in blizzard conditions. The least they could have done was leave the name and the records. How many colts run in races in Indy?

    Art Donovan was a Baltimore icon. It was more than football, as many of us are too young to have ever seen him play. Irsay may be sincere in his affection for Art, but if you would have asked Art about the Irsays you might have gotten a different response.

  16. Bob Irsay moved the team after the Maryland Senate passed legislation giving the city of Baltimore the right to seize ownership of the Colts by eminent domain.

  17. si1m, while I understand where you’re coming from, and I take no offense at Irsay honoring an all-time great, Robert Irsay did NOT own the team while Art Donovan was on it. The Irsays bought the Baltimore Colts in 1972. Donovan retired in 1961. I still agree with your statement though.

    And just a reminder to all the Indy fans, the Indianapolis Colts are named for Baltimore’s history of horse racing. Maryland has a history of horse breeding that goes back centuries. We’ve held the Preakness in Maryland since 1870. Now, our team is the Ravens, so named for Edgar Allan Poe, who spent a good portion of his life in Baltimore and died here. The Ravens are a separate franchise from the Cleveland Browns. Their colors, team name, and team records all remain in Cleveland. So stop trying to compare the two situations.

    Does it ever bother you that your team’s name has nothing to do with Indiana? Or that the best years of your franchise were played in another city? It sure would bother me.

  18. pinion8ted says: Aug 5, 2013 12:42 PM

    I just love Baltimore fans bemoaning that the legacy of the Colts belongs in Baltimore

    …… with the team they stole from Cleveland.


    The legacy of the Browns belongs in Cleveland. Where it IS. The legacy of the Colts belongs in Baltimore. Where it ISN’T. See the difference?

  19. @ ravensterps says: You are saying “Colts” means to Indy the same as “Jazz” means to Utah, “Flames” means to Calgary, “Lakers” to LA, etc., etc.
    Cleveland took legal action to retain the name “Browns”, etc. and perhaps if Baltimore went to court they might have kept “Colts”

  20. @danfromindy- You’re wrong about the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens ROH is honoring Colt players,while they were The Baltimore Colts, and Baltimore Ravens players. To correct you, The Ravens were NOT the old Browns. They remained in Cleveland.

  21. @turtlehut

    So you’re essentially using bad behavior to excuse other bad behavior? My mom taught me as a child how flawed that logic is. I think that any team that changes cities should change its name and colors. Personally, I really wouldn’t want to root for a team whose name is tied to another area.

    One of my favorite parts of sports is the feeling of community, the affinity you share with hundreds of thousands of strangers based only upon a shared pride of where you’re from. It wouldn’t feel the same if the team name showed pride in somewhere ELSE. It’s why I only root for the Ravens and Orioles. I’m from Baltimore, and as long as Baltimore has no NBA or NHL team, I don’t root for any team in particular in those two leagues.

    And Baltimore DID sue the Colts. Learn your history.

  22. Good points ravensterps. I wouldn’t want another cities team name. The Packers, Steelers, 49ers, COLTS, etc, shouldn’t take those names to another city. Just doesn’t make sense.

  23. Jim irsay wasn’t alive when Artie was playing. The team was owned by Carroll rosenbloom. Bob irsay was a drunk a/c salesman in 1957 and was no where near owning an nfl team.

    What I have a problem with is not Jim irsay honoring art Donovan. I actually think it is a class move. But you should know that guys like art, Johnny U., Tom matte, etc would have nothing to do with the colts when they left baltimore. On more than one occasion, they were invited to Indy by the irsays and no player of any significance took the free trip

    What bugs me is with the posters who feel they have the right to criticize Baltimore colt fans for holding on to their history because we “stole” the browns.

    We did not steal the browns. Art model made a business decision and moved his team. Whether he was forced or cajoled, the bottom line is that he left behind the colors and the history which browns fans are rightfully proud of.

    Bob irsay on the other hand, moved the team, stole the trophies, the name and the history of the colts. And when art model approached Jim irsay about doing the right thing and relinquishing the name and the history, jimmy told he’d be happy to for 20 million dollars. Not many people know that and since PFT tends to censor me, my guess is that this post won’t see the light of day.

    Comparing the 2 situations is like comparing apples and lobsters. Go to the hall of fame in canton. Johnny U is listed under the Indy colts, which is plain wrong. Jim brown is a Cleveland brown as he should be.

    It’s funny. The colts have now been in Indy longer than they were in bmore. At this point I really don’t care anymore. But I will bring this up just to please the Indy fans. You don’t have ONE SINGLE PLAYER in the HOF. The Baltimore colts have many. In the 30 yeas the colts have been in Indy only Peyton manning is a sure fire hofer. Maybe you can make a case for Reggie Wayne,but it isn’t a slam dunk.

    In the 17 years the ravens have been in bmore we have more HOFers (Ogden) than the colts of Indy do in 30. And that doesn’t even include the slam dunks like Lewis, Ed reed, and likelies such as Suggs and Ngata, and Jamal Lewis.

    So I am no longer bothered by the Indy colts. G-d bless them and their fans. We in bmore have our ravens and we are darned well satisfied with them. And let’s be honest. If you took a poll of 100 non ravens vs colts affiliated football fans and asked them would they rather have the ravens ownership, front office, and team vs the colts the vote would not even be close. And i suspect that really bugs the Indy fans.

    Honestly, the only thing I miss is the unis. I still think that the colts traditional uni of blue and white with the horseshoe on the helmet is the best in the league.

    It’s time to bury thre hatchet. All parties have their team, the ravens, the colts, and the browns.. If anyone has a right to grumble it is the browns fans who have been mired in mediocrity since returning to the league. But at least they can go to Canton and see Jim brown and Otto graham under the Cleveland browns section. We old colts fans ( of which I am one, back to Johnny U) either can not or will not go to the HOF, because our team which helped make the nfl what it is today is no longer represented

    Peace. Gimme a break florio. Let this one go thru. I didn’t try to insult anyone.

  24. As a Raven’s fan, I have to say that Baltimore does not have the sole right to mourn the loss of such a football giant. Any negative comment about the Indianapolis football club expressing their sadness over the loss is shameful and uncalled for.

  25. As a life long Baltimore sports fan named after Alan Ameche, I know I cannot be objective.

    I agree that to outsiders, it sounds hollow when Baltimore fans complain about anything Indy when we got the Browns through a somewhat similar manner that Indy got the Colts. And I will qualify this saying each situation had their differences. No doubt. But at the end of the day, after long arduous negotiations with the original home towns of these teams both Irsay and Modell moved their teams. This is fact and true. So I hear those that say Baltimore should not throw stones.

    Where the difference lies is in the class and dignity of the men. There is little doubt that part of Art Modell died when he moved the team from Cleveland. He hated being vilified. He felt guilt. Yet at the same time, he needed to save himself (from his own financial failures) and strike a deal. He understood the pain this was going to cause and left the deep heritage of the franchise to Cleveland. Not much of a parting gift, but it’s better than making any of the Brown faithful see Jim Brown’s name in the HOF listed as a Baltimore Brown.

    For Jimmy’s Dad though, does anyone, I mean anyone, feel he ever looked back when he took the Mayflower vans out of Baltimore in the middle of the night? Likewise, he needed financial rescue too, but the manner these men handled this was different. How many people you can line up and speak about what a man Bob Irsay was for his team’s city, his players, his fans, or in the evolution of the game of football we enjoy today? Not many, I can tell you that. For Art Modell’s this is very different (and yes I know the fan’s part would not be, but that changed the day he moved the team, Irsay was a jerk long before he moved the team).

    I think Jimmy made a class move by making a statement about Art Donovan. And I agree to not hold the sins of the father against him. Overall, I think I like Jimmy. For the most part, he speaks fondly of growing up in the Baltimore area.

    I know unless you are from Baltimore, you will never understand the hurt associated with anything Indy and then paying respect to a long beloved Colt like Art Donovan. I say its OK, but I know their are many that will never agree.

    Thank you Jimmy for remembering Art Donovan and understanding his value as a Colt. While to Indy, Artie is more a name than a person. To those in the Free State, his talents, accomplishments, and spirit will live on forever in the city he loved and played for…Baltimore.

  26. You bitter old-timers do realize that in just a few years the Colts will have been in Indianapolis longer than in Baltimore, right? They have already played more games in Indy than in Baltimore. It might be time to move on.

  27. First to andyladan, We aren’t bitter and not all of us are old timers. While we are happy with our RAVENS, the way the Baltimore Colts were taken from the city ( in the middle of the night like thieves), and the fact that our name, colors, and history were also taken is what still bothers us. What the Colts did in Baltimore before they went to Indy should have stayed in Baltimore. To rockthered1286, The ART patch worn on the RAVENS uniforms is for Art Modell, the man responsible for bringing football back to BALTIMORE without resorting to stealing the history, name or colors of another franchise. & to ravensrooster94, I agree. I don’t blame the son for the sins of the father. However, I do recognize the wishes of one of the greats himself, Artie Donovan. He, himself, stressed that he was a BALTIMORE Colt and wanted nothing of his displayed in Indy. What he did here remains here. We’ll miss you, Artie. You were a treasured BALTIMORE ICON! R.I.P.

  28. danfromindy. Man, I sure wish you would learn to spell before you take the high road. We get “mad”, not bad, because Irsay took our name, our history, our records, our colors and our uniforms. Guess he wasn’t smart or creative enough to make up anything new. While we took Cleveland’s franchise spot, we left everything else: including name, uniforms, colors, history, and yes…players. The Colts under contract at the time of the move, were forced to move to Indy. They were not given a choice. Art Modell took NOBODY who chose to stay in Cleveland. While a lot of Baltimore fans didn’t like how we got our team, we at least respected how Cleveland felt and left them their dignity. The Irsays tried to erase the fact that the Colts started in Baltimore. So, we aren’t on any high horse. ARTIE DONOVAN was a BALTIMORE COLT. He never went to Indy and refused to have any of his legacy associated with the Indy Colts. He was one of ours and notice how careful Jim Irsay was to never say the word “BALTIMORE”.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!