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Catching Up With ... former Colt Jimmy Orr

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sports reporter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ..." Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

Colts receiver Jimmy Orr catches a third touchdown pass against the Rams during a game in 1964. (Baltimore Sun photo Paul Hutchins)

They called it Orrsville, that patch of paydirt in the Baltimore Colts’ end zone where No. 28 plied his trade. How many teams were buried there, in the closed end of Memorial Stadium, beaten by a scoring pass to the elusive Jimmy Orr?

"I must have caught 45 or 50 touchdowns in that right corner," said Orr, a favorite Colts receiver in the 1960s. "It was sloped some, a little downhill, which helped me, speed-wise. I wasn’t all that fast."

But Orr had sure hands and he ran smart routes, which made him All-Pro -- and the club’s deep threat for much of his 10 years with the Colts. In 1968, at an age when his legs should have quit, he led the NFL with an average of 25.6 yards per catch. Orr was 33 at the time.

Fans loved the tough, cigar-smoking flanker with the southern drawl, who played and partied hard. Injured during a close game in 1965, Orr was hurried to the hospital at halftime for X-rays.

"There were 17 people ahead of me in the emergency room at Union Memorial," Orr said. "But they had the game on the radio and when someone recognized me, all of those people sent me to the front of the line."

Told he had a shoulder separation, Orr shrugged and returned to the ballpark for the final quarter. When he trotted onto the field from the Orioles’ dugout, "a roar built until it just about lifted Memorial Stadium off the ground," The Sun reported.

Without a word, Coach Don Shula waved Orr into the game where, on the Colts’s second play, he slipped behind a Philadelphia defender and caught a 22-yard TD from John Unitas to ice a 34-24 victory over the Eagles.

Later, in the locker room, Orr lit a victory stogie with his bum right arm as general manager Don Kellett praised the late-game heroics of the team’s "Cecil B. DeOrr."

But it was a catch that he didn’t make that has dogged Orr, and Colts’ fans, for 40 years. That was the play in Super Bowl III where quarterback Earl Morrall failed to spot a wide-open Orr waving wildly in the end zone. The flub cost Baltimore dearly in its 16-7 loss to the New York Jets.

Orr, 73, has watched the films many times. He figures he was 37 yards from the nearest defender while flailing his arms to draw Morrall’s attention.

"What else could I do? Yelling wouldn’t have done any good," Orr said. "Maybe Earl thought the Jets’ safety had followed me downfield (he hadn’t). Or maybe I blended in with the band members crowding inside the fence before halftime."

 1966 Baltimore Sun photo by William L. Klender

For 20 years, the two men didn’t speak of the matter. Finally, at a celebrity golf tournament, Orr sidled up to Morrall in the bar and popped The Question.

"He said, ‘Jimmy, I just didn’t see you,’ " Orr recalled.

The former Georgia star retired in 1971 with 400 career receptions and 66 touchdowns for Baltimore. Orr worked awhile for the Atlanta Falcons, as a broadcaster and assistant coach, then became a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Now retired, he lives with his wife, Lyneath in a house alongside the first tee of a golf course in St. Simons Island, Ga.

A prostate cancer survivor, he plays golf regularly and, two years ago, made a hole-in-one at Augusta National, site of the Masters.

"I’ve got life about where I like it," said Orr. "I’m glad I played football when I did. My time (in the 40-yard dash) back then might not get me a tryout today. On the Colts, both Raymond Berry and I ran a 4.8. That might have been the only team in history where the tight end (John Mackey) was faster than the two wide receivers."

Comments

orr was terrific

For those of us old enough to remember, the Super Bowl III mistake has always had a bad smell to it.

People were dismissive of what Bubba Smith said about the game. But something just didn't sit right. Once Morrall missed Orr, Shula should have taken him out of the game and put a healthy Johnny U in.

Jimmy Orr's catch in the Eagles game was one of the most unforgettable moments in sports for me. How many players would do that today? The closest was Derrick Mason's one handed catch last year.

I am glad to hear Orr is alive and well. He provided Baltimore fans with many exciting moments!

thanks for the update on jimmy orr.

a colts fan favorite for many years,
he was a dependable wide
receiver and another character
that the colts had.....

alex hawkins, bill pellington, the
mad stork ted hendricks, big daddy
lipscomb, ray berry and johnny u...
and artie d....

they didn't make the money back
then, but their stories and
friendships lasted a lifetime.....

go you baltimore colts!!!!!!

The missed play in SB III was a 14 point swing (Morrall threw an INT that was turned into a TD by the Jets. My grandfather said up to his dying day that Morrall was forced to throw that game in order to facilitate the NFL AFL merger (nobody knowing that the Chiefs were going to demolish the Vikings one year later). But you also have to add to that the fact that the defense was so intent on making Namath eat his words that they overpursued and did not focus on their running game keys, and Namath was smart enough to call running plays that gouged the Colts' D (he said that a lot too. My grandfather was a smart man).

I wish Orr would write a book. He played with Bobby Lane, was rookie of the year (58??), played with John Unitas and those great Colt players in the sixies and he loved to party. There must be a book in there somewhere. Also, i have a theory about SB 3. Eight years earlier Morrall had a similar played against the Colts when he QB The Lions. It was the final play of the game. As the recievers ran towards the endzone with all the DB's attention, a tightend ran underneath the pattern and was wide open. Morrall hit him underneath, he was wide open, scored easily game over, Lions win. I believed he was trying to do the same in SB3 with Jerry Hill, but threw a bad pass. Yeah, i'm that nerd. I actually told this theory to Hunter S. Thompson a couple of years ago; it sobered him up.

Didn't see him my rear end!! The play was practiced, anticipated, called in the huddle, and executed to perfection. Orr was exactly where he was supposed to be. Morrall saying he didn't see him is an insult to one's intelligence. He's a liar and I'll believe that til the day I die!Bubba was right.


super bowl iii, expedited don
shula to miami to coach the dolphins..

if you watched the nfl championship
and the
destruction of the cleveland browns
prior to that, no way you would
have believed an upstart afl ny jets
team would beat the colts.....

a brash joe namath had really his
only day in the sun and unitas always
said if he had more time the colts
would have won the game....

bubba always said the game was
fixed and coming from a pro football
player, that is a big statement.....

to this day, it was the first or
second most disappointing sports
event in baltimore sports history....



Shula's mistake that week was not how he handled Morrall vs Unitas (well ok, that too).

But his main mistake was believing his own hype about how good that team was. They lay around and goofed off in the sun all week when they should have been working hard and wound uop losing to a vastly inferior team.

Owner Carroll Rosenbloom never forgave Shula and kicked him to the Dolphins a year or two later. The rest of course - for better or worse - is history. Had Shula stayed, the Colts would have remained a successful team that would not have been traded to Irsay and the Baltimore Colts would still be here today with roughly the success of Miami during the 1980s.

Still, I have to agree with Steward that Morrall's missing Orr on the flea-flicker bordered on the impossible. It worked earlier in the season with Jerry Hill, so with Hill covered this time around, there were absolutely no other options? C'mon, gimme a break.

Nonetheless, I don't agree with the "smell". It was probably just a true stinker of the QB's missed opportunity. Remember, Tom Matte's 50-yard run-and-fumble didn;t help much, either.

They called it "Orr's Corner" a lot more often. The Bubba Smith comment was the first thing that crossed my mind, too.

From one his teammates, my father heard that he was an extreme party guy. Often out extremely late on game nights.

Another good one from the Toy Dept. I was at this really exciting game, seated on the east side of the stadium, in the lower deck stands. My recollection is that the ambulance came back to the gate on the west side from the hospital with Jimmy Orr as a passenger. That is what caught the crowd’s attention and became to build the tension. I’m not sure whether Orr emerged from the Orioles’ dugout or not. In any event, Orr walked to the sideline where the other Colt players and coach Don Shula were located. It’s true that Coach Shula put him right in the game and he caught the TD pass “to ice the game” down in historic “Orrville.” What I have heard is that since Orr went directly from Union Memorial hospital to the stadium and then right out on the field is this: He didn’t have time to put his shoulder pads on! I say: Way to go, Jimmy Orr, Toy Dept., and you legendary Colts of old!

Hey Jimmy, were the 64 Browns really that much better than the 64 Colts? Sunday dinner in Towson, Md. with my Aunt and Uncle was all about one thing during football season when I was a boy. Listening to the Colts on the radio and then having the best crab imperial I ever ate for dinner. Thanks Jimmy. Thanks Aunt Ernie and Uncle Karl.

Thanks for remembering Jimmy Orr, who at times can be overrshadowed in memory by his Hall of Famer counterparts John Mackey and Raymond Berry. While I loved Orr, I have wondered in recent years whether Lenny Moore's career would have been even more productive had he remained at flanker and occassional running back his entire career instead of relinquishing the flanker post to Orr in 1961 and becoming a fulltime halfback.

While Orr was tremendously productive, moving Moore to halfback did not make for the best use of his considerable skills as one of a handful of players--Charley Taylor and Bobby Mitchell are the only others in my thinking--who could make a 60-yard run from scrimmage or catch a 60-yard bomb. Still, Orr made many memories in "Orrsivlle," that patch of end zone near the 3rd base dugout at the old Stadium, tthough he spent most of his last 3 seasons on the opposite side of the field, split end.

I was 10 years old for SB III. I loved the Colts even though I lived in NYC. I bled Johhny U and Colts. I see that flea flicker in my mind's eye every time I hear or read the name Jimmy Orr.

I was reading the biography of my other childhood hero, Mickey Mantle, and wouldn't you know it, one of his best friends was Jimmy Orr. Sure enough, I read the name Orr and all I see is #28 jumping up and down and being ignored.
42 years later and its still a killer.

Did Mr. Orr have a brother that served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam war?

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