Robert Irsay Dies at 73

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INDIANAPOLIS: Colts owner Robert Irsay died in Indianapolis Tuesday, almost 12 years after he packed up his team and fled Baltimore under the cover of darkness. The Chicago-born Irsay, who made his fortune in heating and air conditioning and formerly owned the Los Angeles Rams, got the Colts in a 1972 franchise swap with Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom. By taking his team to Indianapolis in March of 1984, Irsay kicked off the modern wave of NFL team relocations, which has seen teams from Cleveland, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Oakland jump to other cities for more money. In a desperate attempt to prevent the Colts from leaving, the Maryland House voted to give Baltimore the power to take over the team through eminent domain. But by the time the city sent Irsay a telegram offering $40 million for the franchise, it was too late. Irsay had sent Mayflower moving trucks to club offices the previous night. Four days later, an estimated 20,000 people welcomed the Colts to Indianapolis. At the time, Irsay denounced Maryland's decision to allow seizure of the team through eminent domain. "That's against everything the United States stands for," he said. "It's not your ball team, it's not their ball team. It's my family's ball team. I paid for it, and I worked for it." Baltimore fans, who never missed a game, who knew Unitas and Donovan as regular guys, would never agree.