With two of the most highly anticipated games of the season approaching against long-time rivals Pittsburgh Steelers, there’s no denying that history is in the making. Now is a great time for Baltimore fans to look back at the foundations that make up this epic team.
The Stadium – Where It All Began
Home to both baseball and football games, Memorial Stadium on East 33rd Street was the original Baltimore Stadium and was also known for a time as “Babe Ruth Stadium,” “The World’s Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum” and “The Old Grey Lady of 33rd Street.” This stadium hosted the Baltimore Colts from 1947 to 1984, and then the Baltimore Ravens for their first two seasons before the team moved to their own stadium at Camden Yards in 1998. The Memorial Stadium was at last demolished in 2001 to the despair of many residents.
The Baltimore Ravens stadium, officially called M&T Bank Stadium, was built from 1996-1998 and boasts a whopping 71,000-plus seats. From 1999-2002 it was called PSINet Stadium, and for a time before that, Ravens Stadium at Camden Yards.
The Team – A Controversial Start
The first NFL Baltimore team was the Colts, a name that was founded from the city’s annual Preakness and rich history of horse racing. However, the franchise suddenly moved to Indianapolis between the 1983-1984 seasons and despite a voracious court battle ensued by the city of Baltimore, ownership of the Colts could not be seized and the team was lost.
The Baltimore Ravens that we know and love today originated in 1996 when Art Modell, then the Cleveland Browns’ owner, relocated the team to Baltimore – a controversial decision which triggered a flurry of legal activity before a settlement was reached establishing the team as a “new franchise.” Unable to take Cleveland’s name, colors or history with it, the team was nonetheless heartily greeted by fans of the Baltimore Stallions (CFL), giving Modell further support and encouragement.
The new Baltimore team received its name from a contest, which eliminated names like “Marauders” and “Americans,” and instead fans selected “Ravens” after Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem – “The Raven.” To further play on the popularity of this historic resident poet, the name of the Ravens’ mascot is “Poe.” Due to unfortunate financial hardships, Modell sold the franchise in 2004 to Steve Biscotti, who remains the owner of the team today.
With such a unique start, the Ravens have truly experienced amazing success in their brief history, including making eight playoffs since winning Super Bowl XXXV in 2000 and winning the AFC North three times. The team is home to greats like Peter Boulware, Ray Lewis, Jamal Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed and Rod Woodson, among others.
In September 2012, Art Modell passed away. The Ravens’ jersey and helmet currently display a patch/decal that says “Art” in remembrance of their beloved sports owner who not only was a revered figure in the Baltimore community, but held a remarkable NFL career.
Key Season Recaps
1996 – The inaugural season and the first regular season NFL game hosted at Memorial Stadium. The Ravens ended their season with a record of 4-12. Despite the scoreboard, quarterback Vinny Testaverde was voted into the Pro Bowl.
1997 – The final season at Memorial Stadium, the Ravens showed improvement as they ended the year with a 6-9-1 record and Peter Boulware was named AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
1998 – Warming up to the brand new Ravens Stadium at Camden Yards, the Ravens finish with a 6-10 record.
1999 – The Ravens, now playing in the newly renamed PSINet Stadium, struggled early on in the season, but held an 8-8 record by the final week.
2000 – The year of the Super Bowl XXXV champions, the Ravens notably broke two NFL records as they finished the season strong at 12-4, making the playoffs for the first time in history. The Ravens eventually went on to Tampa to crush the New York Giants with a win of 34-7. Ray Lewis was named Defensive Player of the Year and his teammates Rod Woodson and Sam Adams also made the Pro Bowl.
2003 – Baltimore wins their first AFC North division title with a 10-6 record. Owner Art Modell sells 49 percent of the team to Steve Biscotti.
2004 – Despite not making the playoffs with a 9-7 final record, Ed Reed is named NFL Defensive Player of the Year and breaks the record for longest interception return. Biscotti takes full ownership of the franchise.
2006 – For the first time in franchise history, Baltimore starts the season with a 4-0 record under the leadership of Steve McNair. Ending the regular season with a franchise-best 13-3 record, the Ravens bow out of the playoffs at one of the most obscure playoff games in NFL history with both teams only scoring with field goals.
2008 – John Harbaugh steps in as the new coach and Baltimore recovers with 11 wins and a wild card spot.
2011 – The Ravens celebrate their 16th season in the NFL by taking first in the AFC North after ending the regular season at 12-4 and setting a franchise record for four consecutive postseasons. They also play (and win) their first Thanksgiving Day game, which many dubbed the “Harbaugh Bowl.” Even with an exceptional year, the team fell to the Patriots in the Conference Championship game. Terrell Suggs was named Defensive Player of the Year.
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