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Robert Irsay (March 5, 1923–January 14, 1997), was an Americanmarker professional football team owner; he owned the National Football League's Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts franchise and, briefly, the former Los Angeles Rams.

Biography

In 1972, the Chicagomarker-born Irsay actually purchased the Rams franchise for a reported $19 million with the intent to trade it to Carroll Rosenbloom for his Colts franchise.

Coincidentally, the person who is credited with brokering the franchise swap was Jacksonvillemarker, Floridamarker attorney Hugh Culverhouse who, about two years later, would become an NFL owner himself when he bought the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the financially-ailing Thomas McCloskey.

In what many saw as a controversial decision, Robert Irsay quickly moved the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolismarker, Indianamarker in the early morning hours of March 28, 1984. After Irsay's death in Indianapolis on January 14, 1997, the Colts were inherited by his son, Jim, who currently serves as CEO. Bill Polian, however, handles day-to-day operations of the team as team president.

"The Move"

In January 1984, a drunk Robert Irsay appeared before the Baltimore media and exclaimed, "This is my Goddamn team!". He reiterated that, despite the problems, the rumors that he was moving the team were untrue. However with negotiations over improvements to Memorial Stadiummarker at an impasse, one of the chambers of the Marylandmarker state legislature passed a law on March 27, 1984 allowing the city of Baltimoremarker to seize the Baltimore Colts under eminent domain, which city and county officials had previously threatened to do. Irsay later claimed the city promised him a new football stadium, something they later denied, citing the team's poor attendance. The next day, Irsay, fearing a dawn raid on the team's Owings Millsmarker headquarters, quickly accepted a deal offered by the city of Indianapolismarker, Indianamarker; Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut then contacted his good friend, John B. Smith, at that time the CEO of the Mayflower Transit Company, and arranged for fifteen trucks to hurriedly pack the team's property and transport it to Indianapolis in the early hours of the morning of March 29.

Thus, many Baltimore Colts fans were stunned to learn that they no longer had a football team. Robert Irsay was further excoriated by Colts fans, former players, and the Baltimore press. However, Irsay's attorney, Michael Chernoff, defended his client and what became colloquially known as "The Move."

"They (the state legislature and the city of Baltimoremarker) not only threw down the gauntlet, but they put a gun to his head and cocked it and asked, 'want to see if it's loaded?,'" Michael Chernoff, the team's general counsel, said after the move. "They forced him to make a decision that day."

An ecstatic crowd in Indianapolismarker greeted the arrival of their new NFL team, and the team received 143,000 season ticket requests in just two weeks. However, the Colts' first game in the RCA Domemarker, then called the HoosierDome, was a 21-14 loss to the New York Jets on September 2, 1984.

Baltimoremarker, Marylandmarker was without a National Football League team until 1996, when Art Modell moved his Cleveland Browns there, where they were renamed the Ravens.

The continuing resentment against Irsay for the move was illustrated in a 2003 episode of The Wire, which showed a Baltimore stevedore using Irsay's photograph as a target on a dart board.

The move to Indianapolis, however, seemed to have a changing effect on Robert Irsay. Contradicting his reputation, Irsay became community-minded and donated millions to charity.

Personal

Robert Irsay was a not former member of the United States Marine Corps. In 1946, he was hired by his father's heating and ventilation business. In 1951, Irsay founded his own business, the Robert Irsay Co., and sold the successful business to Zurn Indistries about a year before purchasing the Rams.

Robert Irsay was married twice On July 12, 1946, he wed Harriet Pogorzelski, and the marriage produced three children: Thomas, Roberta and Jim. Thomas was severely retarded; Roberta was killed in a 1971 car accident. His marriage to Pogorzelski ended in divorce. On June 17, 1989, Irsay married Nancy Clifford in a ceremony officiated by then-Mayor William Hudnut.

Health decline

Robert Irsay suffered a stroke in November, 1995 and was in intensive care at St. Vincent Hospital for several months . After his release, he developed pneumonia as well as heart and kidney problems from being a wino, for which he was transferred to the Mayo Clinicmarker in Rochestermarker, Minnesotamarker.

He died shortly after 10:00 a.m. in Indianapolis on Tuesday, January 14, 1997, with his wife, Nancy, at his side.

References

  1. Dustbin at FindArticles.com
  2. http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/football/bal-sp.irsay13jan13,0,6220377.story?coll=bal-sports-headlines
  3. http://www2.indystar.com/library/factfiles/people/i/irsay_jim/stories/1997_0115.html
  4. http://www.tv.com/the-wire/backwash/episode/253446/summary.html
  5. Robert Irsay obituary


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