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Baltimore CFL Colts 1994 - Baltimore Stallions 1995

Home Stadium: Memorial Stadium (54,600)

 

Baltimore was granted an expansion franchise on February 17, 1994, the third American franchise in CFL History after the Sacramento Gold Miners and Las Vegas Posse. The President and Owner was Jim Speros a sports restaurant owner in Virginia who had financial backing from Maryland residents Dr. Michael Gelfand and Marv Stursa.

 

Baltimore followed a successful expansion strategy luring experience coach Don Matthews to be head coach. Matthews resigned his post as head coach of Saskatchewan to join Baltimore. Along with Matthews came Jim Popp as GM, Popp served as Player Personnel Director with Saskatchewan. Popp and Matthews aggressively pursued free agents that would fit their blueprint for the team. The club signed highly regarded pivot Tracy Ham to be the clubs quarterback. Ham was coming off a terrible year with Toronto where his skills were not utilized. The benefit of being able to field a roster of all American born players served Popp and Matthews well as they were able to build a dominant defence and All American offensive line. Notable addition included Jearld Bayliss, O.J.Brigance, Swift Burch and Elfrid Payton. The club also added experienced assistant coaches in Joe Barnes and Steve Buratto.

 

On the marketing side of things Baltimore took advantage of the anti-NFL sentiment in Baltimore after the Colts had moved to Indianapolis in March 1984 naming the team the Baltimore CFL Colts. The NFL fought the naming of the team and ultimately won and the team for 1994 was known as the Baltimore CFLers, in 1995 the club ultimately decided upon the Baltimore Stallions.

 

On the field Baltimore was an astonishing success, they finished 1994 at 12-6 good for second in the revamped CFL Eastern division. At home, amidst claims of rampant free tickets, the club drew an impressive average attendance of 36,499 which included a franchise high of 42,116 for a September 10th game versus Sacramento. Baltimore defeated Toronto at home in Maryland for the Eastern Semi-final 34-15 advancing to the Eastern Final in Winnipeg versus the Blue Bombers. Baltimore became the first American team to advance to the Grey Cup defeating Winnipeg 14-12 on a Donald Igwebuike field goal.

 

The win set the stage for a patriotic battle versus the B.C.Lions who where the host team for the Grey Cup at B.C.Place in 1994. A crowd of 55,097 turned out for the battle of Canada versus the U.S. upstarts as it was billed. The game was a thriller. Tracy Ham played well but had a crucial fumble late in the game. Lui Passaglia kicked the winning field goal with no time on the clock to claim the victory for the Lions 26-23. It was a classic Grey Cup battle and Baltimore vowed to return to the big game. For the season Matt Goodwin the linebacker out of Iowa State was named leagues top rookie and Shar Pourdanesh was named the leagues Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman.

The team returned with virtually the same roster intact for 1995. Las Vegas Posse orphan Carlos Huerta joined the club as the new place kicker replacing Igwebuike as the only major roster change. Optimism was high for the team coming off the narrow defeat the renamed Stallions were focused on concluding the season with a championship. The league had added 2 more expansion teams in the Birmingham Barracudas, Memphis Mad Dogs, while Sacramento had relocated as the San Antonio Texans. The league now had a North and South division with Baltimore as the heavy favorite in the South division amongst the other American clubs.

As expected Baltimore had a dominant season. Tracy Ham formed a lethal combination with Mike Pringle and Robert Drummond forming the most potent backfield in the league. Chris Armstrong was the teams top receiver and the defence dominated opponents. Mike Pringle had a record breaking season at running back rushing for a league record 1,972 yards and adding 13 touchdowns and was named the leagues Most Outstanding Player. Mike Withycombe captured the second consecutive Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award for the clubs dominant O-line. Baltimore finished as expected at the top of the South division with a 15-3 record. Matthews and company easily handled San Antonio in the Southern final in Baltimore 21-11 to advance to the Grey Cup again this time to face Wally Buono, Doug Flutie and the 15-3 Calgary Stampeders for the big game at Taylor Field in Regina. This time Baltimore would not be denied as the handled Calgary for a 37-20 victory. Tracy Ham was named the game MVP passing for 213 yards and adding a rushing touchdown. The win capped two seasons of hard work for both Popp and Matthews but with the American clubs existence hanging by a thread the future was uncertain.

Art Modell had announced that he would be moving the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1996 returning the NFL to the city 12 years after it had left. That announcement was made prior to the Stallions Grey Cup victory and definately took the enthusiasm out of the city. Only around 200 fans showed up for a scaled down Grey Cup celebration and the writing was on the wall for the franchise. After some failed negotiations by Speros with town officials it was determined the future was dead for the CFL in Baltimore along with every other American based club. The remnants of Baltimore were the only club to survive the collapse of the American teams as Speros relocated the team to Montreal. The Montreal Alouettes were reborn with a number of former Stallions: Ham, Armstrong, Pringle and Burch all continued with the organization in Montreal for the 1996 CFL season.

Baltimore had unparalleled success over their two season run in the Canadian Football League. A 27-9 regular season record and two trip to the Grey Cup culminating in victory in 1995. It may have been a short stay but Baltimore will always hold a place in the history of the Canadian Football League and the Grey Cup. -By CFL-H-

-source CFL facts figures records 1994,96,98.

 

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