Art Donovan died Sunday of a respiratory ailment at Stella Maris Hospice, Mike Klingaman of the Baltimore Sun reports. He was a Hall of Fame defensive tackle for the Baltimore Colts and an engaging raconteur at banquets and on TV talk shows. His cherublike face, adenoidal voice and side-splitting tales of yore captivated generations of viewers who never saw Donovan collar a quarterback or take down a runner.
"Artie made a career out of telling people everything that he'd done right — and wrong — in football," said Ordell Braase, his teammate on the field and in the broadcast studio. "The diversity of his appeal was amazing. Everyone wanted to hug 'Fatso,' from young girls to little old ladies."
Donovan died just before 8 p.m., surrounded by 15 to 20 family members, said his daughter, Kelly Donovan-Mazzulli.
"My mom [Dorothy] was with dad to his last breath, as she was determined to be," she said.
Ten times, Donovan appeared on "Late Night with David Letterman," where he spun yarns about his youth in the Bronx, his hitch in the Marines during World War II and his experiences during the sanguinary years of the National Football League, when the game was played by "oversized coal miners and West Texas psychopaths."
Often, his stories were laced with self-deprecating humor and some choice four-letter words. Like beer, Spam and junk food.
"Dunnie had all of his stories numbered," said Alex Sandusky, a Colts teammate. "Going to games, he'd sit in the last seat on the bus, the widest one. That was our 'story room.' Then he'd say, 'This is number 46 coming up.'
"He was a classic — a great, fun-loving human being. If they can laugh in heaven, he'll get them going."