On April 10th, we lost more than a gridiron hero.
Baltimore Colt Jim Mutscheller personified Baltimore football. He was a hard-nosed ex-marine made of Western Pennsylvania scrap iron who obliterated anything in his path and snared many of the passes thrown in his direction. He was also a great father and family man who had an impeccable reputation in the community.
I interviewed him for my book, Never Easy, Never Pretty at his home in Timonium, MD in the Spring of 2013. I could have stayed with him all afternoon. His health was beginning to fail him then but his eyes were serious and penetrating.
“Johnny Unitas could feel things, he could sense things,” he told me. “He had an incredible ability to concentrate.” He had seen similar traits from Joe Flacco in the Super Bowl victory over the 49ers.
“Flacco proved himself,” the Colt great told me.
A scrappy and undersized tight end at six foot one and 200 pounds, Mutscheller played 8 professional seasons (1954-61) in Charm City. He caught 40 touchdown passes and was the best blocker on the team.
Coach Weeb Ewbank had Mutscheller demonstrate his blocking technique to the Colt rookies. During scrimmages in practice, he’d line up across from the menacing Gino Marchetti and Bill Pellington.
“Don’t worry Jimmy, I won’t hurt you,” Pellington told him.
He helped lead the Colts to the 1958 championship victory against the New York Giants. Quarterback Johnny Unitas surprised everyone by throwing a pass to Mutscheller from the 7 yard line in sudden death overtime. The tight end caught the pass and slid out of bounds at the two. On the next play, his crushing block paved the way for Alan Ameche to score the touchdown.
Unitas told him, “I tried to make you the hero.”
“Did you see my block on the play?” he asked me.
Mutscheller and his wife Pert raised four sons in the Guilford neighborhood. One his favorite things to do was take Pert to a restaurant near Hopkins called Tambers.
When he finally moved to the county, his son Michael asked him, “What will you miss the most about the old neighborhood?”
“Tambers,” he said.
He loved the city and its fans.
“Baltimore was the ideal place to play football,” he told me. “It was a perfect time.”