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Where Are They Now: Art Donovan

Posted Sep 10, 2009

Baltimore Football Alumni Section  | Ring of Honor Section Each week leading up to a Ravens home game, a different Baltimore Football Alumni member checks-in with BaltimoreRavens.com. Be sure to continue to check back throughout the 2009 season to see what your favorite BFA members have been up to.

Baltimore Football Alumni Section  | Ring of Honor Section

Each week leading up to a Ravens home game, a different Baltimore Football Alumni member checks-in with BaltimoreRavens.com. Be sure to continue to check back throughout the 2009 season to see what your favorite BFA members have been up to. View Past "Where Are They Now?" Features »

Name: Art Donovan
Team: Baltimore Colts
Position: Defensive Tackle
Years Play in Baltimore: 1950, 1953 – 1961
Accomplishments: Hall of Fame Class of 1968, 5 – Time Pro Bowler, 4 – Time First-Team All Pro

After your playing career in Baltimore was complete, what did you do?

I was pretty lucky. The last ten years I played I had a full-time job working for Schenley Distilling Company, and they paid me even during the season – but I worked. Everyday, I’d get up at eight o’clock, go out on the street, meet salesmen and work with them. Then, they’d drop me off at the stadium at 11 and pick me up at 4, and I’d go out till about 8 or 9 o’clock at night seeing customers.

After football, one guy I used to call on was a salesman and owned a liquor store. I got to know him real well, and he said to me, “What are you going to do after football?” I said, “I’m just going to stay with my job.” He said, “Well Arthur, why don’t you buy my business.” I said, “What? Fred, where am I going to get that kind of money to buy your business?” He said, “Don’t worry about it.” So I bought his business on a handshake. I owed him like one hundred and twenty five thousand dollars. He left enough money at the store to get me through the first month of business. Now that’s really a friend! A handshake!

I had it for about twenty two years, and it was very successful. But it was starting to go down because they started to come in and hold the place up. I had a guy come in, and he had a shotgun on me. I was on the “Letterman Show” one night, and he said, “How did it feel having a shotgun on ya?” I said, “How’d it feel? Like I was looking through the Lincoln Tunnel!” I went through the Second World War, and here’s this guy going to blow me out and I said, “Just take it easy pal.”

He didn’t want the money in the cash register, he wanted the lottery money – cause he knew there was a ton of money in the lottery machine. But if I had gotten a throw at him, he would have been dead. Believe me!

You had some long days back then. Going to work at eight o’clock in the morning and not getting finished until eight or nine o’clock at night.

A lot of the fellas didn’t work during the football season, but they had off-season jobs. What are you going to do though, stay home and listen to your wife all day long. Geez! I’m going crazy now!

Are you getting tired of being retired these days?

Nah. I’ve got two real little ones [grandkids] who live with me. One’s going to be five and one’s three and half, and the oldest one’s name is Mary. I say to her, “Hey Mary.” Then I put two fingers on my chest. She goes to the refrigerator and brings me two cans of Schlitz, and her sister only gets one. I say, “Don’t let your grandmother see ya,” and they come right by my wife who’s sitting there watching TV – “Here Grandpa!”

What do you do to relax?

I sit out there [his backyard], and guys say, “How can you stand the noise on the beltway?” I-695 is right out there [behind his house]. I say, “What’re you talking about?”

I was born and raised on the busiest street in New York City – the Grand Concourse (which is four miles north of Yankee Stadium). It was a busy street – the subway station was underneath the apartment house, the bus stop was on the corner, and it is like symphony music where I am now.

Can you talk about your experience being drafted by the Baltimore Colts?

They called you up and said, “You’re drafted fella.” That was it.

I wasn’t waiting by my phone or nothing. If I didn’t get called, I was going to take the exam to be a cop anyhow. So if I didn’t make pro football, I’d been a cop and probably been shot by now.

If I had been an officer, I would have stayed in the Marine Corps. I like regimentation. I really like “this is this.” I’ll tell you what, look at these boys and girls over in Iraq and Afghanistan getting killed. They to me are my heroes! Not these [people] playing basketball or football. I was in combat in the Second World War, but I can’t imagine being where these fellas are – riding in a Hummer, not knowing what’s going to happen, and all of a sudden you run over a bomb and it blows you up. They’re my heroes, believe me – not these guys playing football or baseball!

What did you do with your first paycheck from the Baltimore Colts?

Well it wasn’t that much – we could almost hide it all under the mattress of the bed. We saved our money though. The team folded after the ‘50 season, and three of us ended up with the New York Yanks. But after the season, the owner of the Yanks sold the franchise to Dallas and halfway through the ‘52 season the Dallas team folded. So we went on the road for the last five games, and we played the teams at their home parks, then we came back to Baltimore. The best thing that ever happened!

What did you prefer, stopping the run or rushing the quarterback?

I didn’t care. Whatever they called, you did. I played alongside Gino Marchetti [Baltimore Colts Defensive Lineman: 1953 – 1966] for ten or eleven years, and he said to me one time during a game, “What’s the defense?” I said, “For Christ-sake Gino, we’ve been playing for ten years, we’ve had the same defense – 4-3 – for ten years, and you ask me what the defense is!” And then they called one we didn’t even know about, and we didn’t know where to lineup!

Who was the best player you played with while in Baltimore?

Well, you got to say [Johnny] Unitas [Baltimore Colts Quarterback: 1955 – 1973] at quarterback, and we had a great offensive line. We had a great defensive line. I played alongside Gino Marchetti for all those years, and I always thought he was the best pass-rushing end in that era. And all the other guys were fine football players.

Who was your best friend on the team during your playing days with the Colts?

Well, I started playing with my oldest friend in Baltimore in ‘50. It was a fella named Sisto Averno [Baltimore Colts : 1950, 1953 – 1954], but he’s very sick now.

Jim Mutscheller [Baltimore Colts Tight End: 1951 – 1964] is my chauffer now, anywhere I got to go – God bless him. He brings me to the meetings [NFL Alumni Meetings], and he is just a marvelous guy. We go to see Sisto.

Guys that really are close to me are Jim Mutscheller, Doctor Edmond McDonald – who was our orthopedic surgeon, Alex Sandusky [Baltimore Colts Guard: 1954 – 1966], Dick Szymanski [Baltimore Colts Linebacker: 1955 – 1968], Art DeCarlo [Baltimore Colts Defensive Back: 1958 – 1960], Ordell Braase [Baltimore Colts Defensive Lineman: 1957 – 1968] - all the guys that I played with really. But one by one, they’re all dying.

Who did you choose to present you for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame, and why did you choose that person?

I asked Jim Mutscheller, and he presented me. But there wasn’t all this left-handed B.S. for a half an hour telling who you are presenting and what a great football player he was.

Who knows how good you were besides the guy playing across from you?! No newspaper guy who writes about you, but the guy you play against is the guy who knows how good or bad you are.

We used to meet guys who you would play against, and they would say, “Hey, you’re a good one.” That means you’re a good football player, none of this left-handed B.S. – “He’s magnificent!” What the hell!

Who’s your favorite player on the Ravens?

I like that nose tackle, Kelly Gregg. I meet him one time when I had a radio show, and he came on the show - very nice fella. But they play altogether different than we did.

Now they have run stoppers and they have pass rushers and they got outside linebackers who become defensive ends. What the hell is wrong with them? We got paid to stop the run and rush the passer.

You still get around pretty good though.

As long as my right arm is alright, and I can lift a can of Schlitz, I’m fine.

Schlitz is tough to find these days. Where do you get yours from?

My daughter gets it for me, and I’ve got guys that come from all over, and they say, “What can we bring?” I say, “You know, bring me a case of Schlitz.” So wherever they go, the guy in the liquor store says, “Where you going? Over to visit Artie?” What a reputation!

Do you have anything you would like to say to the fans who are reading this?

What can I say, they seem to have a good time at the games – even though I think half of them are bombed by the time they get into the stadium. I see all this tailgating and everything – “Oh my God!” They’re great fans though.

View Past "Where Are They Now?" Features »

Baltimore Football Alumni Section | Ring of Honor Section

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