Back when Gino’s was the York-area place to go and Baltimore Colts was the team to root for
Pro Football Hall of Famer Raymond Berry signs items at a January 2009 reception in York. Author Steve McKee includes Berry as part of his memories of the Baltimore Colts in his Da Capo Press book, “My Father’s Heart.” Background posts: ‘When people are looking back into Pa. basketball history … it’s great’ and Lineup full of sports stars with York County links and Playland plays nostalgic note for York countians.
How do you tie together such York County icons as York Area Sports Night, Gino’s, York Catholic basketball and the Baltimore Colts?<
Well, Steve McKee deftly did so in the following excerpt from his “My Father’s Heart,” soon to be released in paperback.
Here’s an excerpt from the nationally distributed book, published in the York Sunday News (1/18/09):
On Tuesday, Sept. 30, 1969, Steve McKee’s father died of a heart attack at their home in Haines Acres in East York. It was just the two of them at home that night. John McKee was 50; his son, Steve, 16. Steve’s book about the days surrounding that night was published in 2008 by Da Capo Press.
The paperback, “My Father’s Heart: A Son’s Reckoning with the Legacy of Heart Disease,” is scheduled to be released in February. With Raymond Berry of the old-but-not-forgotten Baltimore Colts of the 1950s and ’60s coming to town for York Area Sports Night this week, the following excerpt from Steve’s book provides a look back at those days and helps explains why – all these years later – a visit to York by a member of those great Colts teams still resonates.
In this excerpt, it is Wednesday, the day after Steve’s father died. Mary Liz, like Steve a student at York Catholic High School, has stopped to visit Steve at his house, which is filled with his parents’ friends lending support. Mary Liz is NOT Steve’s girlfriend, though of course Steve wishes she were.
Mr. Schmitt told me that he had arranged for his son Jimmy to get a few of the guys together and have me come over. “Don’t think you need to stay here,” he said. “Don’t feel guilty. Relax. Have some fun. We’ll take care of your mother.”
Except now with Mary Liz here there was no place else I wanted to be. A fact Mr. Schmitt surmised quickly; all he had to do was look at me. But the guys were already on their way. He told me and Mary Liz to go get something to eat, take about an hour, and then she could drop me off at their house. Go to Gino’s, he said.
For those of us who grew up on the east end of York, the original fast-food hamburger chain isn’t McDonald’s, it’s Gino’s. In fact, McDonald’s had yet to arrive in York by September 1969. No, as Gino’s own slogan sang it, “Everybody goes to Gino’s! ‘Cause Gino’s is the place to go!” And here I was, going with Mary Liz.
Gino’s was owned by Gino Marchetti, the great defensive end of the great Baltimore Colts teams of the 1950s and 1960s, just south into Maryland on Route 83. The Colts were York’s team. In the winter months they would sometimes come up to play benefit basketball games. When I was in eighth grade at St. Joe’s and playing C.Y.O., I was on a team that played the preliminary game before the Colts took on the “Double Dribblers,” the basketball team of the WSBA “Good Guys,” the local AM radio station, nine-ten on the dial, the one to listen to before school to know what songs to talk about that day.
After our prelim at York Catholic we went to the locker room and there they were: The Colts, with coach Don Shula making a surprise appearance with the team. Some were taking pregame showers. We eighth graders huddled around each other in the middle of the room until the Colts motioned for us to come on in the water was fine. So we did.
This was no small deal. These were the mighty “Bal-mer” Colts. Just a month ago, after all, with both Johnny Unitas and his backup, Gary Cuozzo, hurt, running back Tom Matte had stepped under center as quarterback – with the plays taped to his wrist! In the last game of the season he led the Colts to a 20-17 win over the Los Angeles Rams to force a one-game playoff with the Green Bay Packers the day after Christmas. The Colts had lost that one, 13-10 in overtime, but we all knew they’d been cheated. Don Chandler’s kick to tie it for the Pack at the end of regulation was wide right, even if the ref said it wasn’t.
So yeah, no small deal, this showering with the Colts (impossible as it is even to fathom such a thing today). At the same time, this was no big deal at all. They were just the Colts. Sports was different then, and these regular guys in their blue shirts with the white numbers were emblematic of the time. Yeah, Gino’s was the place to go.
Note: The Colts beat the Double Dribblers, 50-38.