Football in Baltimore

By Dean Smith, director, Project MUSE

Dean Smith is part of our full roster of book signings and other events at this year’s Baltimore Book Festival. He and Ted Patterson will be signing copies of the second edition of Football in Baltimore: History and Memorabilia from Colts to Ravens in the Peabody Library at 1 pm on Sunday. 

I first encountered the books of the Johns Hopkins University Press in the late 1990s at the Baltimore Book Festival. I had moved back into the area from New York City and greatly enjoyed speaking with Washington Post reporter William Gildea, the author of When the Colts Belonged to Baltimore: A Father and a Son, a Team and a Time, in the Press tent. I enjoyed reading the book and always thought that it was the kind of book I’d like to write about the Baltimore Colts.

When I joined the Johns Hopkins University Press as Director of Project MUSE in 2010, I encountered another Press title about the Colts.  The Colts’ Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s, written by Michaelolesker Olesker, chronicles the 1958 Championship season from the neighborhood perspective, capturing the city’s colorful football characters in a street view of the season that ended with the greatest game ever played. I contacted him to speak at the MUSE Publisher Meeting, where he talked passionately about an incredible moment in the city’s history that led to the rise of the modern day NFL.

Shortly thereafter, I consulted Ted Patterson’s comprehensive Football in Baltimore: History and Memorabilia when writing a brief history of the 94-year-old football rivalry between Calvert Hall College High School and Loyola High School. Their annual Turkey Bowl embodies another of the city’s rich football traditions.

After being enthralled by the Ravens Super Bowl season in 2012, I set out to write a book in the tradition of Gildea and Olesker about another defining moment: our unexpected and electrifying Super Bowl run and its relationship to the city’s football history.  With our second Super Bowl trophy, courtesy of the purple and black, we have now reached the moment when we can put the last few spades of dirt over the painful baggage of losing the Colts in 1984.

“That last season was incredible,” said retired sportscaster and Colt announcer Vince Bagli. “The enthusiasm for the Ravens matches what we had for the Colts.”

NENP1Smith final_cover_071113Soon after returning from the Super Bowl, I started putting together a proposal for a book that went deeper into the games than the game stories I was writing for Baltimore Brew. I wanted to tell my own football history within the context of a magical season. The book, Never Easy, Never Pretty: A Fan, A City, A Championship Season, was published by the Temple University Press on August 23.

One day last spring, on Lovegrove Street, which runs behind Johns Hopkins University Press, I ran into my colleague, senior books editor Bob Brugger—the person responsible for the Press’ regional list, which includes the Baltimore football books. Bob immediately focused on updating Patterson’s Football in Baltimore.

“Start writing,” he said. “Start writing now, I’ll handle the rest.”

It reminded me of H.L. Mencken’s legendary tale about his first job at the Sun. He went there looking for work and a fire broke out somewhere in the city.

“Go!” the editor yelled at him. “Go now. Just go!”

pattersonPublished in 1999, Football in Baltimore included only three years of Baltimore Ravens’ history. It didn’t cover the first Ravens’ Super Bowl run in 2000 or last year’s title. I wrote about thirteen years of Ravens history in two chapters and selected new photos to tell their story. The story begins with Joe Flacco dropping back to pass against the Denver Broncos with 40 seconds left in the game, then works its way back to the 2000 season. “A Ravens Renaissance,” the first chapter, ends in 2007 with the Brian Billick era. “The Second Coming” begins with the 2008 season—the first one for head coach John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, and Ray Rice.

I also provided an update on the Maryland and Navy football programs, the great high school rivalries of City vs. Poly and Calvert Hall vs. Loyola, and the emergence of Gilman as an area power. Ted Patterson included new photos of memorabilia shot by Edwin Remsburg.

Football in Baltimore is a must-read for any Baltimore football fan. This beautiful book— with an updated cover, as well as new artwork, photos,  and contents—landed on my desk yesterday. The book, which represents a triumphant feat of publishing prowess on an accelerated schedule,  reflects the dedication and publishing expertise of my colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University Press and the passion of a city devoted to football teams.

I am deeply grateful and honored to join my heroes William Gildea and Michael Olesker in representing the Press as an author this weekend at the Baltimore Book Festival.