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View Full Version : Art Donovan, Pro Football Hall of Famer, dies at 88


Galax Steeler
08-05-2013, 05:21 AM
"Fatso."

That's what everyone called him. And for those of you sitting with an iPad on your lap or scrolling down on your cell phone, finding out who Fatso was -- former Baltimore Colts defensive tackle Art Donovan -- makes for time well spent.

One of the funniest professional athletes you'll ever meet, Donovan could hold court as well as any player ever seen (or heard) in a post-game locker room. Unfortunately, Donovan died Sunday night at the age of 88, the Baltimore Ravens announced.

His wasn't solely the story of a cutup. Donovan was a veteran of the Pacific Theatre in World War II. He also was a disruptive force in the middle of pro football's best team of the late 1950s.

How disruptive was Donovan? Enough to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame in just his second year of eligibility. That was in 1968, the Hall's sixth class ever, meaning there was a backlog of players from the '20s, '30s and '40s waiting to get in. We're talking first-ballot material here.

Yet, all of that is immaterial, considering Donovan's legacy and overall impact on the game. Despite being named first-team All-Pro several times, he never took pro football too seriously -- unless it was kicking the butt of the guy in front of him, which he could do.

Rather than being all piss and vinegar, Donovan really was more wit and vinegar, bringing the middle days of pro football to a different audience by the force of his personality, and with a touch of humility. Like after his Colts beat the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship Game, aka "The Greatest Game Ever Played," a contest that has been celebrated and romanticized for decades by NFL Films and every possible media outlet that covers pro football.

"I'll tell you how great that game was," Donovan said while on a conference call with reporters recalling the famous game 40 years later. "I'll tell you how important it was. I was born and raised on 202nd Street off the Concourse. (After the game) I was there in in front of Mr. Goldberg's candy store where I hung out since the time I was 6 years old. He comes out and he looks at me and he says, 'Artie, you big bum, are you out of work again?' He didn't even know I played football."
Arthur James Donovan, Jr.
Born June 5, 1925, in Bronx, N.Y.
Played 12 seasons, 138 games
Five-time Pro Bowl Selection
Four-time first-team All-Pro
First Colt to enter Pro Football Hall of Fame
Part of 1958, 1959 NFL champion Baltimore Colts
Played at Boston College after WWII Marines service
Began NFL play as 26-year-old rookie in 1950
Son of famous boxing referee of same name

Yes, he played some football. Fatso was an original Baltimore Colt in 1950, an NFL adoptee from the defunct All America Football Conference that also provided the league with the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers. Donovan played for the now-defunct New York Yankees in 1951. The next year, he and Marchetti were two of the few decent players on the NFL's first foray in Dallas: the Dallas Texans. They lasted only one year.

So, three years, three defunct teams, and Donovan's teams won a grand total of three games.

"You talk about building character," Donovan quipped.

Donovan's good humor wasn't a singular trait of the man. That is to say, this was one determined football player. Determined enough to make the Colts winners when the franchise was re-started in 1953.

Donovan made five consecutive Pro Bowls heading into the 1958 season, the year the Colts took off. Paired with Hall of Fame defensive end Gino Marchetti, as well as 300-pound Eugene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb at the other tackle spot, the Colts could match up with anybody. Throw in a young trio of Hall of Famers on offense in Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore and Raymond Berry, and this special Colts team went on to win it all in '58 and '59.

Like Unitas and Berry, Donovan was an All-Pro performer every year not on athletic ability and strength training but on desire. "The only weight I ever lifted was a can of beer," Donovan once said.

In fact, the entire Colts organization from Unitas, Berry and Donovan on down had that blue-collar mentality, which trickled not only through the club but the community, creating a love affair between city and team. Under enigmatic owner Jim Irsay, the franchise eventually relocated to Indianapolis, yet Baltimore was such a football town that the success and support of the Ravens hardly is surprising. Some of that credit must be given to Donovan, whose colorful personality only made pro football more popular, particularly in Maryland.

Berry currently is in Canton, Ohio, celebrating the 40th anniversary of his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When asked about Donovan, he instantly recounted not those legendary teams, or even the fact that Donovan was a Hall of Famer, like himself.

"I asked Donovan about the war," Berry said. "He said to me, 'Raymond, I got shot in the ass on Iwo Jima.' "

That's who Art Donovan was. Be it during his appearances on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson or in his book "Fatso," or in commercials, Donovan would recant his myriad NFL experiences in a lighthearted way that made you feel he was on the level and not like he was an arrogant professional athlete who was way up here while you were way down there.

It was a gift. He was a gift.

Buddha Bus
08-05-2013, 05:22 AM
R.I.P. Artie Donovan.

pczach
08-05-2013, 08:50 AM
That guy was funny. What a great life he had, and what great stories he'd tell. He'll be missed.

jacobo
08-05-2013, 09:14 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S7w0F7WsZg

GOAT wrestling commentator

Atlanta Dan
08-05-2013, 09:18 AM
R.I.P. Mr. Donovan - nice obit in this morning's Baltimore Sun

http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/bs-donovan-advanceobit-20130804,0,2235243.story

After he retired he ran his liquor store - back in those days nobody was set for life (or for that matter the offseason) after a career in the NFL

It was men like Art Donovan who are the foundation upon which the NFL's greatness was built

tony hipchest
08-05-2013, 11:37 AM
as a kid growing up i always thought there were 2 "stars" of all the NFL films I would watch to see and learn the history of early football.

Art Donovan and Deacon Jones. their personalities were larger than life. 2 men anyone would love to meet in a bar and listen to for hours.

as an adult, i still feel they were the stars who helped put football on the map. i guess its fitting they leaft in the same year.

RIP

GodfatherofSoul
08-12-2013, 04:13 PM
Art Donovan I think was a sportscaster on ESPN in the 90s. The guy was no-holds-barred in his commentary. Everyone would be sucking up to players, coaches, etc. and he'd give his honest opinion. I remember Brett Favre doing this really lame "drawn pistol" TD celebration and while the other casters were slurping away, he was the only one to call it out for how stupid it looked.