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Former Ravens owner Art Modell dies at 87

By David Ginsburg

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 6 2012 9:48 a.m. MDT

"This has been a very, very tough road for my family and me," Modell said at the time of the Browns move. "I leave my heart and part of my soul in Cleveland. But frankly, it came down to a simple proposition: I had no choice."

The cost of the move to Baltimore left him financially strapped and with no choice but to put in motion the chain of events that enabled Bisciotti to assume majority ownership.

Bisciotti has since poured millions into the team, financing construction of a lavish practice facility in Owings Mills, Md. As a tribute, Bisciotti insisted that a huge oil painting of Modell be hung above the fireplace at the entrance to the complex.

"He was my friend, my mentor. We will miss him so much," Bisciotti said. "... How fortunate I am to have had him teach me about the NFL."

Modell wasn't the kind of owner who operated his team from an office. He mingled with the players and often watched every minute of practice.

"Art talked with me every day when I played in Baltimore," former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "He knew everything about what was going on in my life. He showed real concern. But, it wasn't just me. He knew the practice squad players' names. He treated them the same. He was out at practice when it was 100 degrees and when the December snows came. I loved playing for him."

Born June 23, 1925, in Brooklyn, N.Y., Modell dropped out of high school at age 15 and worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard cleaning out the hulls of ships to help out his financially strapped family after the death of his father.

He completed high school in night class, joined the Air Force in 1943, and then enrolled in a television school after World War II. He used that education to produce one of the first regular daytime television programs before moving into the advertising business in 1954.

A group of friends led by Modell purchased the Browns in 1961 for $4 million — a figure he called "totally excessive."

"You get few chances like this," he said at the time. "To take advantage of the opportunity, you must have money and friends with more."

Modell's work as a civic leader included serving on the board of directors of several companies, including the Ohio Bell Telephone Co., Higbee Co. and 20th Century-Fox Film Corp.

Modell and his wife, Patricia, continued their charity work in Baltimore, donating millions to The Seed School of Maryland, a boarding school for disadvantaged youths; Johns Hopkins Hospital; and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. The couple also gave $3.5 million to the Lyric, which was renamed the Patricia & Art Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric.

Patricia, his wife of 42 years, died last year.

"'Poppy' was a special man who was loved by his sons, his daughter-in-law Michel, and his six grandchildren," David Modell said. "Moreover, he was adored by the entire Baltimore community for his kindness and generosity. And, he loved Baltimore."

Art Modell hoped one day the people of Cleveland would remember him for what he accomplished there. Long after the move, Modell pointed out that Cleveland ultimately got the new stadium he coveted, and that the expansion version of the Browns could draw on the history he helped create.

"I think that part of my legacy is I left the colors, the name and the records in Cleveland," Modell said. "The fans in Cleveland were loyal and supportive. They lived and died with me every Sunday for 35 years."

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