I recently acquired a small collection of mid-1950s NFL playbooks and other documents, including the 1953 Baltimore Colts Training Camp Guidelines that outline the rules and regulations during the team's stay in Albert Normal Ward Hall on the campus of Western Maryland, now McDaniel College. We'll focus today on this document, which includes basic instructions and room assignments for the players, coaches, and assorted others.
The franchise that is now the Indianapolis Colts traces its origins to the pre-NFL Dayton Triangles. They became the Brooklyn Dodgers/Tigers (1930-1943), Boston Yanks (1944-1948), and the New York Yankees (1950-1951), before morphing into the Dallas Texans for the 1952 season. The Texans' owners returned the franchise to the NFL during the 1952 season.
A different Baltimore Colts franchise played in the AAFC before joining the NFL along with the 49ers and Browns but dissolved in 1950. With the demise of the first Baltimore Colts and the Texans, NFL Commissioner Bert Bell challenged Baltimore to sell 15,000 season tickets in six weeks to earn another shot at a franchise, which they succeeded in doing. (One of the franchise owners was Carroll Rosenbloom, who played halfback at Penn in the late 1920s when Bert Bell was the backfield coach.)
So, the 1953 training camp was the team's first as the new Colts and the only season with Keith Molesworth as head coach. (Weeb Ewbank took over in 1954.)
The guidelines appear to have been created by the team's publicity director following Molesworth's direction. The first page of the mimeographed guidelines tell players to follow the rules, offers bios of each coach, and suggests they will be welcomed in Baltimore.
The fans here put up $300,000 in cash just to get a club back in the league. They'll treat you just like the baseball fans treated the Braves in Milwaukee -- if you give 100% effort at all times.
Of course, neither the new Colts nor the Milwaukee Braves remain in the cities they called home in 1953, but....
Page 2 outlines the daily schedule, including two-hour practices morning and afternoon, and a one-hour squad meeting in the evening. It then covers the details of photo day, noting,
The shots will be used on national television by Westinghouse, as well as in papers throughout the country, so it is to your benefit to work with the photographer.
It also covers physicals, mail and laundry, and outlines the preseason schedule, which illustrates how NFL teams commonly played exhibition games in non-NFL cities back then:
August 6: Intra-squad scrimmage @ Baltimore
August 15: Philadelphia Eagles @ Norfolk, VA
August 22: Chicago Cardinals @ Lubbock, TX
August 26: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Rochester, NY
September 7: Cleveland Browns @ Akron, OH
September 12: New York Giants @ St. Louis, MO
September 20: Washington Redskins @ Baltimore
Page 3 provides comments about the members of the press that cover the Colts, stressing:
Players can help themselves and the club by cooperating in interviews
Players should be truthful and not "talk off the record"
Do not discuss or compare teammates, and do not disparage opponents
Be humble, say thanks, and dress conservatively when on television
Page 4 lists the room assignments for players, coaches, and staff, while page 5 has drawings of each dormitory floor. Some players, particularly rookies, tripled up in larger rooms on the fourth floor. Most did not triple up for long. Names and room assignments worth noting include:
142: Art Donovan, Sisto Averno
144: Alex Agase, Tom Keane
233: Don Shula, Carl Tassef
234: Bert Rechichar, Tom Kalmanir
241: Dick Berwagen, Bill Lange
243: George Taliaferro, Buddy Young
343: Gino Marchetti, Art Spinney
None of the pages include momentous information, but they offer some insight into the revitalization of the Baltimore Colts franchise and players who had experienced multiple home cities during their time with the franchise. They also let us know who had the pleasure of rooming with Art Donovan in 1953.
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