When one thinks of the term “old-school football fans,” men like Rick Dashiell and Shawn Schmidt should be considered icons. Longtime friends and Baltimore Colts fans (Dashiell is from Belair and Schmidt is from Baltimore), these two are packed with knowledge and memorable stories.
The rivalry between Baltimore’s and Washington’s pro football teams has lasted for decades, and Schmidt asserts that it’s a crucial part of Baltimore sports culture.
“If you didn’t root for the Colts and the Orioles and hate the Redskins and the Yankees, that was it,” Schmidt says. “Fans were as passionate about that stuff back when we were growing up as they are today.”
But with that in mind, Shawn’s close friend Rick has a secret that he’s always careful about speaking of around Baltimore fans.
“I was at the University of Maryland when the Colts moved to Indy. It flat-out sucked,” Dashiell says. “We had no football team anymore, so I secretly rooted for the Redskins. UMD is closer to D.C. than Baltimore anyway so I was able to blend in.”
Dashiell, 42, and Schimdt, 43, almost resemble village orators because of the stories they can tell about their experiences with the Baltimore Colts.
“During a playoff game in 1976, the Steelers beat us 40-14, and I was at the game for my 13th birthday,” Dashiell explains. “We were on our way out a little early when we heard a loud crashing sound. It turns out some guy crashed his plane into the stadium and knocked out all the power. Nobody got hurt, but luckily we made it out 10 minutes before the impact.
But that tidbit is only a warm-up for Dashiell’s next tale. Every great story should have a memorable character, and for Dashiell, the character in his favorite story was a close friend everyone called “Mr. Lefty.”
“It was the Colts and the Giants in the NFL Championship, and 10,000 people took the train to New York. We were among them, and we all sat in the endzone in Yankee Stadium,” Dashiell says. “When Alan Ameche scored the game-winning touchdown, all those Colts fans ran onto the field. Mr. Lefty was there too, but he ended up missing the train. We didn’t hear from him for four days.”
So what happened to Mr. Lefty? “This is the best part of the story,” Dashiell says. One day we saw him walking back into town, and he was a mess. His clothes were all tattered, but he had a piece of the goalpost from that game in his hand. I’m never going to forget that image. He just stood there and said ‘we won’ with a big smile on his face.”
“I don’t really know what happened to Mr. Lefty after that,” Dashiell says. “But that’s something I’m not going to forget.”
Shawn Schmidt has a story that is out of the ordinary as well, only his is more up-close and personal, literally.
“It was 1966, and the Colts were training in Westminster at Western Maryland. Back then they used to let the fans hang out on the sidelines,” Schmidt explains. “I was 4 years old and sitting on the sideline. Suddenly an incomplete pass went flying out of bounds and I picked it up. I ran to my family yelling ‘Hey, I got the ball!” when all of a sudden a huge pair of black hands lifted me up.”
At such a young age, what happened next cemented Schmidt’s status as a die-hard Colts fan forever.
“The guy put me down in the huddle, I looked up and I saw all those Hall of Famers, including Johnny Unitas,” Schmidt recalls. “They said they wanted the ball back for their practice and I gave it to them, but that was it man. I met my heroes.”
“The Ravens still have Training Camp at that same college today, and that’s one big reason why they’re accepted by so many of us,” Schmidt says. “They respect Baltimore’s history.”
Much like any old-school fan, Dashiell and Schmidt are slightly bitter about how the football culture has changed since the heyday of the Baltimore Colts.
“Watch NFL Films very closely sometime,” Dashiell says. “Those guys were killin’ each other. Running backs didn’t dance around looking to avoid contact, they went right for it. They had less padding than today and the NFL didn’t have all those wimpy rules like no helmet-to-helmet contact. It was just part of the game, and it was definitely more of a warrior’s game back then.”
But for Schimdt and Dashiell, these are minor quibbles. The game they love so much, with all its imperfections, is still very much alive. And they’ll have plenty of stories to pass down into a future generation of Baltimore football fanatics.