1. William Donald Schaefer
Given the fact that he’s personally responsible for both modern stadia at the foot of downtown Baltimore – a vision only he really saw that day that Robert Irsay stole the Colts away to Indianapolis. Gov. William Donald Schaefer saw the opening of both facilities and even lived to see another Super Bowl parade in Baltimore.
In the mid 1990s when it felt like the NFL would never give Baltimore the ball, Schaefer stood up as the Governor who kept hope alive by keeping the Redskins out of Crofton, Bowie and Anne Arundel County and kept Baltimore in the game by keeping funding for a “dream” stadium to complete Camden Yards. And in late 1995, John Moag found Art Modell and the Browns came to Baltimore. Schaefer, upstaged politically by Parris Glendening at the original press conference, never wavered just like he lobbied Edward Bennett Williams to keep the Orioles in Baltimore if somehow the state could put together a new baseball stadium for a civic treasure.
His name sits on the circle entering Oriole Park at Camden Yards. His statue lives in the Inner Harbor that he saw like a modern Walt Disney. The Aquarium, the Science Center and the Convention Center all owe their existence to him. Next time you drive around Baltimore, remember William Donald Schaefer. It looks like it does and our sports culture is what it is because of him.
And, honestly, he wasn’t even really a sports fan. He just knew how important it was to Baltimore – physically, spiritually, psychologically and financially. He was the ultimate Baltimore sports visionary of our lifetime.