The Colts franchise officially began on December 28, 1946, when the Miami Seahawks of the All-America Football Conference folded and were relocated to Baltimore by a group headed by Bob Rodenberg. As the result of a contest in Baltimore, won by Charles Evans of Middle River, Md., the team was renamed the “Colts” in honor of Baltimore’s distinguished history with thoroughbred racing and the area’s rich tradition in horse breeding.
Wearing green and silver uniforms, the Colts won their initial AAFC game on September 7, 1947 defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers 16-7. The Colts enjoyed only moderate success in the AAFC and would later become one of 3 teams to join the NFL in 1950. The team was a financial disaster and folded after just 1 season, winning only 11 games in their history.
Simultaneously to the north another AAFC team, the New York Yankees shared the Colts’ fiscal inadequacies and folded after the 1949 season. The New York Bulldogs, another NFL team, finished 1-10-1 in 1949 and changed their name to the New York Yankees for the 1950 season.
A group of Baltimore investors considered acquiring the Yankees in 1951 but their attempts were foiled when the league acquired the team and moved them to Dallas where they became known as the Texans.
The collegiate crazy Texas fans did not embrace the Texans and by the middle of their first season they were operating from Hershey, PA, playing all of their games on the road. The league folded the Texans after that season.
In 1952 Baltimore was challenged by NFL Commissioner Bert Bell to sell 15,000 season tickets within six weeks to re-enter the NFL. On January 23, 1953, the league awarded the NFL’s Dallas Texans franchise to principal owner Carroll Rosenbloom and the team was moved to Baltimore. The franchise retained the blue and white colors of the Texans but restored the Colts name.
Before their first NFL game in 1953, the Colts engineered one of the biggest trades in sports history. In a deal with Cleveland involving 15 players, Baltimore received 10 Browns in exchange for five Colts. Among the players traded to Baltimore were Don Shula, Bert Rechichar, Carl Taseff and Art Spinney. These players helped the Colts open 1953 with a 13-9 upset of Chicago in a game where Rechichar booted a then-NFL record 56-yard field goal.
The following season, the Colts hired Weeb Ewbank as coach and success soon followed. In 1958, the Colts defeated the New York Giants 23-17 in overtime to claim their first NFL title in a game that is still hailed as “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. The Colts repeated as NFL champions the following season.
With a solid foundation now in place, the following years saw additional championships, Hall of Fame players, Super Bowl victories, and the curse of Broadway Joe. Those victories and individual successes are chronicled elsewhere throughout Colts Fandom. However, there were two additional franchise twists that need to be recorded here.
In July of 1972, citing friction with the City of Baltimore and the local press, the Colts came under new ownership as Rosenboom traded the Colts franchise to Robert Irsay in exchange for the Los Angeles Rams.
The city of Indianapolis, Indiana, made an offer for the Colts franchise to move there. Baltimore was unsuccessful at persuading them to stay, so the city government attempted to get the state legislature to condemn the Colts franchise and give ownership to another group that would promise to keep the Colts in Baltimore. Under the threat of eminent domain from the city of Baltimore, the franchise relocated to Indianapolis in the middle of the night on March 29, 1984. The city of Baltimore did not give up and sued to condemn the franchise anyway and seize ownership, but did not prevail in court.
A more detailed year-by-year history of the Colts can be enjoyed here.