Legendary Baltimore Colts defensive tackle and raconteur Art Donovan died tonight at 89, according to AP:
Voted into the Hall of Fame in 1968, Donovan was an outstanding lineman and an even better storyteller. Long after his career was over, Donovan made a living on the talk-show circuit, weaving yarns about the NFL’s good old days — as he put it, ”When men were, well, men.”
Donovan was much like Bob Uecker, who also became popular on late-night talk shows through his stories about sports. But Uecker’s game was baseball, and his schtick dealt with his limited abilities. Donovan performed on the football field as well as anyone at his position, even though he once said the only weight he ever lifted was a beer can.
”Some of the greatest football ever played by a defensive tackle was played by Art Donovan,” said Hall of Fame center Jim Ringo, who died in 2007. ”He was one of the greatest people I played against all my life.”
Donovan played in the 1958 championship game between the Colts and New York Giants, a contest that was decided in overtime and ultimately tabbed by some football historians as ”The Greatest Game Ever Played.” The winner’s share was $4,700; the most Donovan ever earned in one season was $22,000.
But Donovan got a million dollars’ worth of memories and more than enough material for storytelling. Once, he filled a hotel shower stall with water and went for a dip. Things went swimmingly until the shower door burst open, flooding his room and the one below it.
Donovan had a thousand more stories like that, many of which were chronicled in his autobiography, appropriately titled, ”Fatso.” Donovan liked to say he was a light eater — ”When it got light, I started eating.”
Here’s one of Donovan’s classic late night appearances with David Letterman in 1986, during Letterman’s earlier, funnier, less misanthropic era:
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