Baltimore Colts' Marching Band Drum

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The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project—unveiled every Wednesday from May through July—detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.

Since 1947, when it first represented a team in the All-America Football Conference, the Baltimore Colts’ Marching Band has played continuously, whether its city had a football team or not. In that way, the band represents the undying passion of a city for its team, and represents the hopes of jilted fans everywhere that someday football will return. 

The Colts franchise was canceled by the NFL in 1950 but resurrected three years later, when the Dallas Texans and their blue-and-white colors were transferred to Charm City. In between, the band played on. For the next 30 years the Colts thrived, winning four NFL championships during an era that featured quarterback Johnny Unitas and head coach Don Shula. But in 1984, after a dispute over building a stadium, the Irsay family packed up overnight and moved the franchise to Indianapolis in Mayflower moving trucks. Again, the band played on, this time as the symbol of a devastated city. The band practiced regularly over the next 11 years, performing at NFL and CFL halftime shows and at the 1991 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement. Like the band, Baltimore never let the Colts go, and the musical ambassadors joined the city’s fight to bring pro football back. 

In 1996, the city was part of another controversial team move—this time, when the Cleveland Browns were lured to Baltimore by funding for a new stadium. The band kept its name at first, but at the opening of the city’s new stadium in 1998, it was announced as Baltimore’s Marching Ravens.

— Jenny Vrentas

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