Pro Football Hall of Fame Lineman Donovan Dies at 88

(Corrects final score in last paragraph)

Art Donovan, who won back-to-back National Football League championships with the Baltimore Colts in 1958-59 and was the franchise’s first player to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has died. He was 88.

Donovan, a defensive tackle, was selected to the All-NFL team five times during his 12-year playing career. He was a member of the Hall of Fame’s sixth class in 1968, elected in his second year of eligibility. In addition to his contributions on the field, Donovan was known as a morale builder with his sharp wit and contagious laughter, according to his biography on the Hall of Fame’s website.

“Art was a true legend of professional football and he will be deeply missed,” Hall of Fame President Steve Perry said in a statement a day after this year’s class was inducted into the Canton, Ohio, shrine.

Donovan grew up in the Bronx, New York, and began his NFL career with the Colts in 1950 as a 26-year-old rookie after serving in World War II. After winning a total of three games over his first three NFL seasons with the Colts, New York Yanks and Dallas Texans, Donovan returned to Baltimore and helped the franchise develop into a championship team.

Led by quarterback Johnny Unitas and coach Weeb Ewbank, the Colts in 1958 beat the New York Giants 23-17 in overtime for the NFL championship, a nationally televised matchup the Hall of Fame said became known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and helped spread professional football’s popularity across the U.S. The Colts won the title again the following season.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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