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Catching Up With ... former Colt Gino Marchetti

Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter 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 ... " 

Three months shy of his 84th birthday, Gino Marchetti sees life as an all-out pass rush. Forget old age – he hurdles it as nimbly as he did all of those blockers before sacking the quarterback.

Gino Marchetti at his West Chester, Pa., home in 2003. (Sun photo by Lloyd Fox)  

Marchetti walks up to three miles a day and bowls four times a week. In West Chester, Pa., where the Baltimore Colts Hall of Famer lives, they’re still buzzing about the 299 game Marchetti rolled a couple of years ago, one pin shy of a perfect score.

This year, he took up painting – not with brush and palette, but with roller and paint tray. He painted the master bedroom, plus the homes of two of his seven children. Then, feeling restless, Marchetti built a cedar closet in the basement for his wife, Joan.

How long can he keep up the pace?

"As long as I’m breathing," he said. "Hell, I’ll go on until I can’t open my eyes any more, until I join (John) Unitas up there in the sky – I hope."

As a player, patience was not Marchetti’s forte. Sundays found him prowling the Colts' dressing room, end to end, five hours before kickoff.

"I probably walked 30 miles before each game," he said.

The thought of facing "Gino The Giant" unnerved opponents too. Getting sacked by the 6-4, 245-pound Marchetti, Detroit Lions quarterback Bobby Layne once said, was "like running into a tree trunk in the dark."

A coal miner’s son, Marchetti rose to be captain of Baltimore’s two-time world champions (1958-59) and one of the most feared pass rushers in NFL lore. In 1994, he was one of three defensive ends named to the league’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, alongside David (Deacon) Jones and Reggie White.

Marchetti played 12 years with the Colts and retired three times. Twice, the team persuaded him to come back. He bowed out for good in 1966 and moved to Pennsylvania to run his fast-food empire. He got rich – and very fat.

In the top photo of this scan, Gino Marchetti throws the 49ers' Y.A. Tittle for a loss. (Sun photo by Richard Stacks). 

"I tried to eat and drink everything they were serving in Philadelphia," he said. A heart attack in 1981 spurred him to shed 85 pounds he’d gained since retirement.

Now 83, with six great-grandchildren, Marchetti’s regimen includes brisk walks around the neighborhood.

"My wife wants me to walk with her, but she goes strolling along, looking at flowers," he said. "I tell her, ‘This ain’t walkin’. You’ve got to move."

Last summer, Marchetti began lifting weights at the local YMCA, an exercise that was frowned upon in Marchetti’s day.

"Can you believe it? I never lifted in my life and now, at 83, I start this stuff," he said.

He tried golf once but gave it up.

"Once, in the 1950s, (teammates) Don Shula and Bill Pellington took me out to play golf for the first time," Marchetti said. "The first ball I hit must have gone 300 yards, straight as an arrow, and almost hit the green. But it took 10 putts to get it in.

"I never played much after that."

Bowling is more the style of the blue-collar Colt born in West Virginia. He carries a 175 average in his seniors league in Downingtown, where he flirted with that perfect game.

Marchetti rolled eight straight strikes before he sensed a hush in the house.

"I looked around and thought, ‘Godalmighty, the whole bowling alley is watching me,’ " he said. "My last ball hit the 1-3 pocket, a good hit, but when the 5-pin stayed up, I heard this big ‘Awwwww.’ "

Marchetti shrugged, as if he’d missed making a sack by a whisker.

2003 Sun photo by Lloyd Fox

"Nervous? Hey, I didn’t get nervous playing football in front of 57,000 wild people in Baltimore," he said. "After that, you’re used to any crowd."

Comments

I grew up watching Gino and those great Colt teams, what a thrill it was! The memories never die!Thanks Gino!

Give me a Giant Burger with Fries to Go, Gino

He was the heart of the old Colts defense!

I still remember him breaking his ankle or leg in the '58 NFL Championship game and refusing to go to the hospital til the game was over. He was as loyal to his team as anyone. He owned his own restaurant with Alan Ameche called Gino's. Had a burger named after him called Gino's Giant which was similiar to the Big Mac.

no mention of his ownership of Gino's, the hamburger chain during the sixties and seventies?

gino the giant was as good as a defensive end and pass rusher as there has ever been. long live number 89!

I remember growing up with Gino's fast food in York. Always wished it would have out done McDonald's cause it was better!

Great article, great football player, great man! Glad to hear Gino is still going strong. Mike: I used to work for you when you were editor of the UMBC newspaper in the late-60s -- I always look for your articles. Keep up the good work.

The Gino Giant was a much better tasting burger than the Big Mac. It had a clear cellophane wrapper that kept the burger hot. Nowadays, you're lucky if you can get a warm Big Mac.

He was called "Gino the Giant", and I know why. After Gino retired, I happened to stand next to him in a concession line at Memorial Stadium during a Colt game. The guy was as big as a Redwood, with the widest set of shoulders I have ever seen on a human being! And I'll never forget the day of his retirement, when he trotted off the field - a lone, solitary figure, with cape draped over his shoulders, to the roar of 60,238 adoring fans.

Nobody, and I mean nobdy, was a better pass rusher than Gino. As a Colt fan--and that group in Indianapolis is not and never will be the real Colts--I saw Gino throughout his career, and what a thrill it was. I hope you can tell him how much he's still loved by the real Baltimore Colt fans.

Marchetti and Donovan on the same defense...wow! Just the thought of it is incredible.

Too bad the sack wasn't a statistic that was kept back then. It would be cool for someone to look at old game film and see just how Gino stacked up against today's defensive ends in sacks per game. My guess is, noone could touch him.

I read the excellent book Johnny U: The Life and Times of John Unitas by Tom Callahan. There, and in many other accounts, it is clear that the Colts were HIS team during that era. Johnny, Artie, Big Daddy, Parker, Lenny all looked up to him. And he was a BADASS, too - WW2 vet who was in a motrocycle gang before he played pro football.

Everybody goes to GINO'S
because GINO's is the place to go. I worked there as my first job out of high school. very nice company to work for A-G foods. he partnered with Alan Ameche.


to terpinleesburg : nice memory of 60,238 (after baseball season)

Always found it ironic The Giant teamed with The Horse to form Gino's, seeing how No. 89 not remembered for his key 3rd down stop against the Giants in the 1958 Championship Game, breaking his ankle in the process and watching the rest of the overtime from the sidelines (instead of going to the locker room for medical treatment), while everyone remembers the touchdown scored in OT by Ameche. Of course, the wizards at Marriott, after buying Gino's, turned them into Roy Rodgers. Better they named the franchise after Trigger, Roy's horse.

Gino-- best DE getting to the QB I ever saw, period.

Great Memories - Long Live Gino

Gino Marchetti is an awesome legend of an NFL player and one of the truly great Baltimore Colts.

Thanks for the article.

If anything is deserving of our respect as far as professional sports is concerned, one need look no further than Gino the Giant Marchetti. A veteran of the World War II ( along with many of his Colt team mates) he was on and off the field, a person who deserved the adoring worship of every kid who followed sports. Never a phony self aggrandizing loser that most pro prima donnas are today. If q/b sacks were counted in his time he could have had 30 in a 16 game season. With salaries more in line with the blue collar worker of his era, the players lived and worked year round and for the most part accessible to the fans. That era is gone forever but man do we need it back.

I grew up watching the "old Colts". They were unique to say the least. My biggest trill was to meet Gino just a few years ago and I found him to be the warmest and sincere person that you would ever want to meet. He was an icon to me and when I met him, he actually surprised me by being an even nicer person.
We need more people like him in this world.

One of my favorite Colts! Deacon Jones patterned his game after Gino and took defensive end play to the next level. When I watch a great current Colt DE life Dwight Freeney I'm reminded that Gino was the prototype for the position as we know it today. And you can't think about Gino without remembering Gino's! Before McDonald's saturated Baltimore beginning in 1973, Gino's owned the fast food landscape. I've always wondered whatever happened to those big blown up photos of Gino that were in the Gino's located on Baltimore Street, across from what is now 1st Mariner Arena (Civic Center) and the one tha was at the corner of Howard and Mulberry. That's a trivia question I wish someone could answer.

Oh Gino,
Kirby would have loved a Gino's Giant!
We remember the trots around the "Mill". Put all of us slow pokes to shame.
Great article!

Gino was the BEST.

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