Monday, February 28, 2011

Rider Prophet Salutes US Expansion: Baltimore Stallions

There is an old saying that if you throw enough shit at a wall, something is bound to stick. That was certainly true of the Baltimore Stallions. While their US expansion counterparts seemed to be doing everything wrong, in Baltimore everything came together and for once worked out extremely well.

Baltimore was full of football fans but had been without a team since 1983 when their beloved Colts packed their bags and headed to Indianapolis.  The combination of a strong football market, a good venue and solid ownership put Baltimore on strong footing from day one. Though even the strongest of the US teams had its share of idiocy.

Years in the League: 1994 – 1995
Overall Record: 27 – 9
Notable Players: QB Tracy Ham, RB Mike Pringle, LB OJ Brigance, DL Jerald Baylis, DL Elfrid Payton.

The Good
- Unlike the other US franchises, Baltimore wisely decided on a GM and Head Coach with a wealth of CFL experience in Jim Popp and Don Matthews.

- The combination of a strong front office and a talent laden roster instantly made them a success on the field. They were the most successful of all the US expansion teams by far (not that that is saying much).

- Averaged over 30,000 fans per game

- Appeared in the Grey Cup in both their seasons and became the first and only US team to win the Grey Cup when they defeated the Stampeders in 1995 here at Taylor Field.

The Bad
The comedy of errors surrounding the team name. They originally wanted to be called the Baltimore Colts to play off the old NFL franchise. Not surprisingly, the NFL took some issue with the team being called the Colts and launched legal action. And when the deep pocketed corporate giant that is the NFL takes on their cash strapped little cousin to the north in court, who do you think won? That’s right the NFL prevailed and Baltimore could no longer be called the Colts.

This left the franchise flabbergasted. If they couldn’t use Colts, what could they do?!? If only there was some other term for a horse they could use instead! Alas no one involved with the franchise seemed to own a thesaurus or know anything about horses so they opted to go forward as the Baltimore CFLers.  An awe inspiring team name if there ever was one.

Eventually someone realized that Stallions could be substituted for Colts with relative ease and the Baltimore Stallions finally had a name. I always found it funny how long it took them to figure this out since I was 11 at the time and remember thinking aloud “Why not just use Stallions instead?” Though that may or may not have been a direct result of the influence of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Wyld Stallyns!!

After the 1995 season, the CFL started to disband most of its US teams. However, due their strong performance both on and off the field, the Stallions were poised to make the cut and survive… that was until the NFL announced that Baltimore would finally be receiving another NFL franchise (I suspect the CFL’s success in the city played some role in their decision). Owner Jim Speros was smart enough to realize that no matter how popular the Stallions were, there was no way they could compete head to head with the Ravens despite his best efforts. The team ended up moving to Montreal to become the Alouettes.

Video Evidence
Here's a clip from the 1995 Grey Cup here in Regina.



Ronbo the Riderfan said...

I was at that game. I remember cheering for Calgary at the beginning of the game but Calgary players didn't seem to have their heart in it so I was cheering for Baltimore by the end.

Rider Prophet said...

I think you just set the record for comments by one person in the same day

Ronbo the Riderfan said...

Just got back from a holiday in Cuba. Internet access costs $12/hr so I was way behind in my reading and commenting but I must say you brought back some fun memories. 80% Canadians there; no Americans.

As I was passing one Torontonian I heard him say in a snickering tone, "Too many men on the field"

I retaliated with, "You just gave me another reason to hate Toronto."

Rider Prophet said...

My standard response to anyone but ALs fans when they joke about the 13th man is that I'd rather have 13 men on the field during the grey cup than zero like your team did.

But the fact that the guy is fom Toronto opens up a whole bunch of retorts. There's the Leafs, the Jays, the Raptors, the football team without a passing game. Hell there's also the likely fact that he doesn't even follow sports at all.

Ronbo the Riderfan said...

This does bring up another idea for filler in the off-season. Ask for submissions of CFL related stories along the lines of this one or "there's waaay too much green here." that I overheard in Montreal. There must be thousands of them out there.

Rider Prophet said...

I like. Consider the idea stolen.

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