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The Heist That Helped Bring NFL Football Back to Baltimore

Updated: Thursday, January 30 2014, 10:41 PM EST

When the Baltimore Colts abruptly left in the middle of the night in 1984, Owner Bob Irsay thought he'd taken everything with him to Indianapolis.

But some very wise and passionate members of the Colts band beat Irsay at his own game - the uniforms were not aboard the Mayflower vans, but stored neatly on hangers in a truck next to Kirsch's Dry Cleaners in Towson.

Along with some of his band mates, bass drum player John Ziemann pilfered the uniforms from the Kirsch truck and stashed them in a dark East Baltimore warehouse owned by a mysterious man named "Richard."

When a lawyer cautioned that the heist could result in a lawsuit, the men went to an area cemetery in the dark of night and stored the band uniforms in a mausoleum, where for the next 60 days, they lay with the deceased. After that 60-day period they were considered abandoned property.

Then-Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schafer, still seething from Bob Irsay's betrayal, fought a fierce political battle to get an NFL franchise back to the city and allowed the beloved Colts band to fight the emotional battle.

For 12 long years marching in the wilderness, "the band without a football team" played-on; entertaining anyone who would listen, including fans in other NFL cities like Philadelphia, Buffalo and Cleveland.

The two-pronged offense between William Donald Schaefer and the Baltimore Colts band worked. When the Ravens landed in Baltimore in 1996, the Colts band stayed together. The two-time Super Bowl-winning Ravens embraced the band and its unmistakable tune like an old friend.

Today Ziemann serves as Band President for the Baltimore Ravens.

The Heist That Helped Bring NFL Football Back to Baltimore


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