December 18 • 01:52 PM
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Professional football came to Indianapolis March 28, 1984, when Colts owner Robert Irsay moved the historic NFL franchise from Baltimore to Indianapolis—the friendly heart of the Midwest.

The roots of the franchise go back to December 28, 1946, when the bankrupt Miami Seahawks of the All-America Football Conference were purchased and relocated in 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."

On September 7, 1947, wearing green and silver uniforms, the Colts under Head Coach Cecil Isbell (formerly an All-American player and coach at Purdue University) won their initial AAFC game, 16-7, over the Brooklyn Dodgers. The team concluded its inaugural season before a record Baltimore crowd of 51,583 losing to the New York Yankees, 21-7. The Colts finished the year with a 2-11-1 record good for a fourth-place finish in the Eastern Division.

The Colts completed the 1948 season with a 7-8 record, tying the Buffalo Bills for the division title. The Colts compiled a 1-11 slate in 1949. The All-American Football Conference and the National Football League merged in 1950 and the Colts became a member of the NFL. After posting a 1-11 record for the second consecutive year, the franchise was dissolved by the league on January 18, 1951, because of its failing financial condition.

After two full seasons without professional football, NFL Commissioner Bert Bell challenged the franchise in December of 1952 to sell 15,000 season tickets within six weeks in order to re-enter the NFL. That 15,000-ticket quota was reached in four weeks and three days.

On January 23, 1953, under the principal ownership of Carroll Rosenbloom, the NFL's Dallas Team franchise was moved to Baltimore where, keeping the "Colts" nickname, the Texas team colors of blue and white were inherited.

Before their first NFL season, the "new" Baltimore Colts engineered one of the biggest trades in sports history. In a deal with the Cleveland Browns involving 15 players, Baltimore received 10 Browns in exchange for five Colts. Among the players who came to Baltimore in the deal were Don Shula, Bert Rechichar, Carl Taseff and Art Spinney. These players helped the Colts open the 1953 NFL season with a 13-9 upset of the Chicago Bears in a game where Bert Rechichar set a then-NFL record with a 56-yard field goal. In 1954, the Colts hired Weeb Ewbank as head coach. Ewbank would guide the Colts for the next nine seasons (the longest tenure of any Colts head coach) and lead the club to its first divisional and world championships.

On November 30, 1958, the Colts clinched their first Western Division title with a 35-27 win over San Francisco before a record home sellout crowd of 57,557. Four weeks later, Baltimore won its first World Championship, downing the New York Giants, 23-17, in the fabled "sudden-death" overtime contest at Yankee Stadium. The Colts repeated as champion in 1959, clinching their second Western Division crown and defeating the Giants, 31-16 in Baltimore for the World Title.

In January, 1963, Don Shula replaced Weeb Ewbank as the team's third head coach since 1953. During the 1963 campaign, quarterback John Unitas led the Colts offense to eight team records and set a then-NFL individual passing mark of 237 completions. The Colts won a club record eleven consecutive games in 1964, enroute to clinching their third Western Conference title and first under Shula. During that campaign, Raymond Berry caught his 506th career pass and Lenny Moore scored 20 touchdowns, both NFL records at the time. The following year, Baltimore tied Green Bay for the Western Conference title. With halfback Tom Matte quarterbacking the club because of injuries to John Unitas and Gary Cuozzo, the Colts lost a controversial 13-10 "sudden-death" playoff contest to the Packers.

Under Shula, Baltimore made its first Super Bowl appearance in 1968. The club finished first in the Coastal Division with a 13-1 mark, then defeated Minnesota, 24-14, in the Western Conference Championship game and blanked Cleveland, 34-0, for the NFL Championship. The team went on to face the American Football League Champion New York Jets in Super Bowl III, losing a 16-7 upset.

In May of 1969, the NFL merged with the AFL and Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland joined the old AFL teams to form the American Football Conference of the NFL. For the 1970 season, the Colts were situated in the Eastern Division of the AFC and on September 20, the club won its first AFC game, 16-14, over San Diego. In mid-December, Baltimore clinched its first Eastern Division Championship with a 20-14 win at Buffalo, then defeated Cincinnati and Oakland in the playoffs to win the AFC Championship. On January 17, 1971, the Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V, 16-13, on Jim O'Brien's 32-yard field goal with five seconds remaining in the game.

In July, 1972, the Colts came under new ownership as Robert Irsay acquired the club from Carroll Rosenbloom in exchange for the Los Angeles Rams.

In 1974, two young Colt stars established NFL records as running back Lydell Mitchell carried the ball 40 times against the New York Jets at Shea Stadium and quarterback Bert Jones completed 17 consecutive passes against the same Jet club later in the season. Mitchell set another mark that season, winning the league pass receiving title with 72 receptions.

In 1975, Mitchell would continue his record-setting pace by becoming the first running back in Colt history to rush for 1,000 yards, gaining 1,193 yards on 289 carries.

After posting a 2-12 record in 1974, Baltimore's fortunes began to change with the hiring of Ted Marchibroda as head coach in February, 1975. Marchibroda led the Colts to three consecutive Eastern Division titles before posting back-to-back 5-11 seasons in 1978-79.

The Colts named Mike McCormack to replace Marchibroda as head coach in January, 1980. The Colts improved to a 7-9 record in 1980 before recording the worst record in club history to date with a 2-14 slate in 1981.

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