I recently ran across a very interesting book full of pro football stories. This is right down my alley, since I go back way back – to the halcyon days of the Baltimore Colts.
In fact, I recall being at one of the Colts’ training camps back in the 50s, in Westminster, Maryland, (Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College), watching legendary coach Weeb Ewbank walking off the field with one of his then star halfbacks – Billy Vessels – a Heisman Trophy winner.
Getting back to the book. Its title is: “Tales from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline.” Its co-author was one the golden boys, ex-Baltimore Colts’ players, No. 41 himself, Tom Matte.
The sub-title for Matte’s tome goes like this: “A Collection of the Greatest Ravens Stories Ever Told.” Well, that turned out to be a little over the top, but still it made for a good read. Matte’s co-author was Jeff Seidel.
Matte’s pro career was spent with just one team. You guessed it: the Baltimore Colts. And, what a splendid career it was from 1961 to 1972. One of its highlights was in 1969, when he scored three TDs as the Colts won the NFL championship by beating the Cleveland Browns. Matte went both ways on the gridiron, excelling as a running back and also as a quarterback.
Matte’s book chronicles the Ravens from 1996, its initial year in the league, after it was taken from Cleveland by its owner, Art Modell. It was Baltimore’s good fortune that Modell was fed up with his team’s lack of support in Cleveland, Ohio, otherwise we (Baltimore) would still be on the outside looking to get into the National Football League. Bottom line: No Art Modell – No pro football in Baltimore.
The book begins with the 1996 team and continues till the 2016-17 season. This includes the two years the Ravens won the big won – the Super Bowl.
Naturally, QB Joe Flacco gets a lot of coverage in the book by Matte. He played for the Ravens for ten years from 2008- 2018. And, it was Flacco, who led the team to a Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. The victory celebration for that triumph in downtown Baltimore was a joy to behold. As you can see from this photo, no one enjoyed it more than the Ravens’ winning QB – Joe Flacco.
Besides Flacco, who set a team record of 212 TDs in his fabulous career, Matte also had high praise for the likes of: Jamal Lewis, Ray Rice, Derrick Mason, Torrey Smith, Marshall Yanda, the one and only Ray Lewis, the incomparable Ed Reed, the kicker Justin Tucker, Peter Boulware, and finally the HC of the Ravens from 2008 till the present – John Harbaugh.
Matte relates how the team held a rally a day before leaving for the 2001 Super Bowl game in Tampa, Florida, at the Inner Harbor. It was a rousing success with the great linebacker, Ray Lewis, leading the crowd in a cheer. Matte praised coach Brian Billick for being a master at “handling the media.” That was the time, January 28th, 2001, the Ravens easily beat the New York Giants in the Super Bowl by a score of 34-7, in Tampa.
One of the fans’ pet players, Tony “The Goose” Siragusa, got the star treatment from Matte. It is well deserved if you ask me. Matte underscored how Siragusa was seen by some fans as “a second Art Donovan.” Well, I wouldn’t go that far. Donovan was in a league of his own. Siragusa was, however, on the Super Bowl winning Ravens team against the NY Giants in 2001. He had a better than average career with the Ravens.
As for Ed Reed, Matte said of the fantastic defensive back, “there are few better than him.” He was right on the money with that statement. Reed played with the Ravens from 2002 to 2012. He was “part of the Ravens Super Bowl winning team in 2012.”
Matte continued: “Reed is the franchise leader in interceptions, 61, and pick sixes, 7,…and holds a record for the seventh most interceptions in league history with 64.” In my view as a football junkie, Reed was one of best Ravens – ever. Matte called him “the most complete safety.”
Matte finished his book with musings on Jermaine Lewis, Shannon Sharpe, Jonathan Ogden and the tight end, Todd Heap, among other notables. The book is filled with key insights about each player and their contributions to the team.
I think Matte’s book, with an important assist from his co-author, Jeff Seidel, deserves a rating of three out of five stars. I might add you don’t have to be like me, a pro football zealot, to enjoy it either.
Bill Hughes is an attorney, author, actor and photographer. His latest book is “Byline Baltimore.” It can be found at: https://www.amazon.com/William-Hughes/e/B00N7MGPXO/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1