Driving along one day, Artie Donovan pointed to a restaurant in Timonium. "Up there," he said, "is where I used to have my radio show. They must have had 500 people in this place, listening to this goofy radio show. Ordell Braase and I were on it.
"On my radio show, Miller was the sponsor. And I'd say, 'Give me another Miller.' And I'd open a can of Schlitz. The liquor store here, they used to send me up 12 cans of Schlitz on the house so I could drink the Schlitz."
Fast forward 40 years.
Now Baltimore is enjoying the Ravens and their players just as it used to love the Colts -- Donovan, Braase et al. Baltimore is a time warp: This season, fans have gathered in the basements of their row houses on Sundays to root for the Ravens on TV; drive almost anywhere in Baltimore this week and quickly you will find a bar/restaurant planning a Super Bowl Sunday bash when the Ravens will play the New York Giants. There are no second chapters?
There's even a second Artie Donovan -- he would be a reincarnation of Donovan if Donovan weren't still around and planning his own Super Bowl party. Tony Siragusa is a defensive tackle, as Donovan was; Siragusa is a jolly, round giant, the team prankster, the same as Donovan -- Siragusa is 6 feet 3, 340 pounds; Donovan was 6-2 and claims to have played at 280 although "I got up to 335"; the stories of what Siragusa can eat and what Donovan used to eat sound mythic except they are true; Siragusa plays and Donovan played alongside another mammoth tackle, Sam Adams (6-6, 330) and Big Daddy Lipscomb (6-6, 283), respectively -- as they said in Baltimore then and are saying again now, it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to run between the tackles; both Siragusa and Donovan grew up following the Giants, Donovan in the Bronx when the Giants played at Yankee Stadium and Siragusa in the north Jersey town of Kenilworth, near Giants Stadium.
Both had sports-mad fathers -- Art Donovan Sr. was one of boxing's greatest referees; Pete Siragusa coached his three sons in youth football before he died of a heart attack in 1989 when Tony was playing for the University of Pittsburgh. Both Donovan and Siragusa had religious mothers, loving but strict -- Mary Donovan, who used to pack Art Sr.'s little bag with his ref's stuff in it; Rosemarie Siragusa, who ruled that Tony and his girlfriend, Kathy Giacalone, could not live together before marriage, which finally took place after a 12-year courtship.
Siragusa on Kenilworth: "How heavy is the Italian population? Well, let's put it this way: On every Sunday morning, a mother walks out on her porch and calls for Anthony. About 35 kids come running, yelling, 'What, Mom?' "
Donovan on the Bronx: "When I was 7, my father started making a little money and we got high class and moved two streets up to the Grand Concourse." Donovan attended high school at Mount St. Michael. When he took the field at Yankee Stadium for the '58 title game, he heard a Giants fan yell: "Ya better be better than you were at Mount St. Michael, ya big bum."
Siragusa and Donovan have had a laugh together -- Siragusa calls him "a good guy, a great guy." But still Siragusa says: "I don't like being compared to people. I am who I am. When I first came to Indianapolis, they were comparing me to the Refrigerator [the Chicago Bears' William Perry]. I like opening one, but not being compared to one."
Comparisons, however, are inescapable with the 33-year-old Siragusa. During a game in October when he was carted off the field and taken to a hospital only to return and play, longtime Colts fans recalled a game from the 1960s when the diminutive Colts flanker, Jimmy Orr, was removed to a hospital during a game and returned. Orr ran back into the huddle to the roar of the Memorial Stadium crowd and promptly caught a touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone at the closed end of the stadium -- "Orrsville."
Siragusa topped even Orr's return because his injury was frightening. His spinal cord was said to have been "bruised" or "strained." Nevertheless, he hustled back to the stadium from the shock trauma unit and trotted back into the game against Tennessee as fans chanted "Goose." Later he said he didn't want to miss the fun.
A good deal of what Siragusa says cannot be printed; even his personal story leading up to the Ravens' game at Washington this season requires the omission of certain parts.
"The night before we played the Redskins I had stomach pains. They were killing me," Siragusa said. "We go to the stadium and it gets so bad I can't even breathe. I'm telling the doctor, 'Listen, man, I need some X-rays or something. There's something the matter with my stomach. So they take me to go get X-rays."
The problem wasn't serious.
" 'We can give you an enema.' 'What?' So they made kind of a contraption. I'm like, I really don't have to play this game, this is the Skins, man. To make a long story short, they did it and nothing happened. I'm saying, 'What if we go out there for pregame and all of a sudden, ka-p-o-o-o-w?' They say, 'That shouldn't happen.' I'm like, 'What do you mean, it shouldn't happen?' So they give me another one. Now I'm nervous. 'What do I do if I get a hit, or something like that?'
"I decide if it happens in the game, I'm going to lie there like I hurt myself and I can't move. I'm just going to roll onto my back and let them roll out the stretcher. Then on the way in I'll tell them, 'I've just got to change my pants,' and everything will be cool. But luckily it didn't happen."
In the Ravens' practice facility locker room, Siragusa has been given two lockers. He has too much stuff for one, like 11 or more pairs of shoes. Adalius Thomas, a rookie defensive end, occupies the locker next door. "He does things that nobody else can do because he's Goose, he has his own style," Thomas said. "He keeps us laughing. But Goose is pretty athletic for a big guy. He has the ability to get loose and maneuver his way into a quarterback."
But that rarely happens. When Siragusa came wide open at the line of scrimmage and fell on Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon in the AFC title game, drawing a fine of $10,000 by the NFL, it was as if the Raiders accidentally had left a door open. Siragusa seldom reaches a quarterback and almost never gets a sack. He had no sacks in 1997 and 1998 and none this season.
"He blocks up the middle," Donovan said. "He doesn't get off the line of scrimmage. He takes the run away from them. But when 340-something falls on you like he did on Gannon, something's got to give and it's not going to be the ground. Hey, it was just a thing that happened. Hey, he's fatter than I was."
Unlike Donovan, a Hall of Famer, Siragusa is a self-made player. In high school, he was a New Jersey state wrestling champion. In college, he kept a boa constrictor and a tarantula as pets. But he went undrafted by the NFL in 1990; he went out for a long walk to decide what to do with the rest of his life. His life was football; he caught on as a free agent with Indianapolis, selling himself in part as a backup long snapper.
Indianapolis gave him a signing bonus of $1,000 -- $674 after taxes. He spent it all on dinner with friends.
After football, he wants to have his own cooking show on TV -- although coaches and teammates have said he has a place in the World Wrestling Federation.
Siragusa and Donovan both are renowned as radio hosts. Whereas Donovan did his show in Timonium, Siragusa works a few beltway exits away, out of a place called the Barn, in Carney. Every Thursday night the Barn is jammed with people dressed in purple for Siragusa's hour of chaos beginning at 7 o'clock. Last Thursday night's crowd included a woman carrying a stuffed raven and a man with a fake goose. A barmaid climbed up on the bar to get a look at the real Goose.
"Who let the Goose loose? . . . Goose, Goose, Goose," went the chants. It was body to body, hundreds stuffed in the bar, with another 50 or so held back at the door and lined up outside or trying to peer in the steamed-up windows.
Siragusa swallowed two crab cakes in what was announced as an unofficial record time of 19 seconds.
Brian Billick, the Ravens' coach, phoned in.
"A lot of people sort of refer to me as a Refrigerator guy," Siragusa told Billick on the air. "You know, the Refrigerator carried the ball in the Super Bowl. You think there's a shot at the Goose maybe carrying the ball on the short yardage?"
The Barn erupted in cheers.
"I'll tell you what. I'll tell you what," Billick tried to reply through the din.
"I'll give everyone Brian's address after he gets off and his home telephone number," Siragusa shouted. "What do ya think, Bri? Do you think I got a shot?"
"I'll tell you what. I'll make you a deal," Billick said. "If we're up by four touchdowns, okay, we'll work something up for you then.
"If we're up by four touchdowns -- "
"You're going in at fullback and we'll give you the ball," Billick promised.
"Oooooooh, ha-haaaaaa, yes," Siragusa screamed. "I'm in. Hey, Trent [Dilfer, the quarterback], I know you're listening. You better score four or I'm gonna kick your butt."
"There's some motivation right there," Billick added.
Later, Siragusa reminded his fervid audience: "We want four touchdowns because I am going to carry the ball."
The crowd screamed approval.
It did again just before he signed off, after he sang, not badly, a Sinatra song; if only Rosemarie and all the guys in Jersey could have heard him, but then, they've heard him. Finished, Siragusa cried out: "C'mon, ladies and gentlemen. Let's hear it for me."