Lively Tales About Dead Teams

1965-1980 Montgomery Rebels

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1972 Montgomery Rebels ProgramSouthern League (1965-1970)
Dixie Association (1971)
Southern League (1972-1980)

Born: 1965
Moved: October 1980 (Birmingham Barons)

Stadium: Paterson Field

Major League Affiliation: Detroit Tigers

Owners:

Southern League Champions: 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976 & 1977

 

The Montgomery Rebels were the Class AA farm club of the Detroit Tigers for sixteen seasons from 1965 until 1980. The Rebels dominated the Southern League during the 1970’s, winning five titles in a six-year span from 1972 through 1977.

Detroit had a rich farm system during this era. Future All-Stars such as Mark Fidrych, Steve Kemp, Jack Morris, Lance Parrish, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker all spent time in Montgomery on their way to Detroit.

In October 1980, a group of investors led by Art Clarkson purchased the Rebels and move the team to Birmingham’s Rickwood Field. After the departure of the Rebels, Montgomery went without pro baseball for nearly a quarter century. The Southern League returned to Montgomery in 2004 with the arrival of the Montgomery Biscuits

The former Rebels franchise still exists today in the Southern League as the Birmingham Barons.

 

Montgomery Rebels Shop

Baseball in Montgomery by Clarence Watkins

 

Montgomery Rebels Memorabilia

 

Links

Southern League Media Guides

Southern League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

November 18th, 2017 at 9:04 pm

2006-2008 Kansas City Brigade

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Kansas City BrigadeArena Football League (2006-2008)

Born: October 3, 2005 – Arena Football League expansion franchise
Folded: August 2009

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owners: 

Arena Bowl Championships: None

 

The Kansas City Brigade were the first of several attempts to establish the sport of Arena Football in Kansas City. Former Kansas City Chiefs star Neil Smith and his agent Tyler Prochnow were the team’s original investors.  They bought into the Arena Football League for a reported $16M – $18M in October 2005.  The duo’s expansion bid appeared stalled during the summer of 2005. But then Hurricane Katrina struck and devastated New Orleans. The AFL’s popular New Orleans Voodoo club would be unable to participate in the 2006 season as the city rebuilt. The disaster gave the AFL expansion committee new urgency to get a deal done with Prochnow and Smith. Kansas City was announced as the AFL’s 18th city in October 2005. The league stocked Kansas City’s roster with 15 refugee players from the homeless Voodoo franchise.

The club announced it’s name and logo a month later in November 2005. Going for a military theme, the team oddly misfired by pairing an Air Force-derived stealth bomber logo with a team name

Within a matter of months Prochnow brought local mortgage baron Chris Likens into the ownership group. Over the course of the next year, Likens would assume control of the franchise. Prochnow’s original group departed and Likens installed various relatives into what became effectively a family-run business.

Neil Smith’s former Chiefs teammate Kevin Porter was installed as Head Coach. The Brigade’s debut season in 2006 was brutal on the field. Voodoo holdover Andy Kelly struggled at quarterback and the Brigade shipped him out midseason. The position never solidified, contributing to a 3-13 last place finish. The team was a popular draw at Kemper Arena though. Announced attendance of 15,234 per game for eight home dates was third best in the 18-team AFL.

The 2007 season saw a dramatic turnaround. Porter returned for another season at the helm. The Brigade finished 10-6 and earned their first and only postseason appearance. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Colorado Crush. But the novelty of Arena Football appeared to wear thin in Kansas City. Attendance dipped 24% to 11,632 per game.

In 2008, the Brigade left Kemper Arena and moved into the brand new 17,000-seat Sprint Center. The team reverted to its expansion season form and lost its first six game en route to a 3-13 season.  The franchise earned a bit of national media attention late in the season by signing former Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Quincy Carter. Carter started the final three games of the season for the Brigade.

The Arena Football League collapsed suspended operations following the 2008 season and later filed for bankruptcy in August 2009. A low-budget spinoff of the league re-emerged in 2010 and gradually lured back a few of the original AFL’s former owners. The Likens family revived the Brigade in 2011 with a slight re-branding “Kansas City Command”). The Command played to paltry crowds at the Sprint Center for two more seasons before shutting down for good in 2012.

 

 

Kansas City Brigade Video

Short highlight reel from the Brigade’s 2006 debut season at Kemper Arena

 

Links

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

November 15th, 2017 at 12:28 am

1974-1975 Philadelphia Bell

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1974 Philadelphia BellWorld Football League (1974-1975)

Born: 1973 – WFL founding franchise
Folded: October 22, 1975

Stadiums: 

Team Colors:

Owners: 

WFL Championships: None

 

The Philadelphia Bell were one of twelve original franchises in the World Football League in 1974. The Bell made several efforts to poach high profile stars and draft picks from the National Football League during their brief lifespan. But the team was best known for “Papergate”, an attendance reporting and accounting scandal that demolished the fledgling WFL’s credibility barely than a month into its debut season.

The Bell organization took shape along with the rest of the WFL over the winter of 1973-74. John B. Kelly, Jr., a local sports hero and the elder brother of actress Grace Kelly, served as the front man for the Bell ownership group. The team offered a reported 3-year, $500,000 contract offer to the 1973 Heisman Trophy winner, running back John Cappelletti of Penn State.  Cappelletti, picked #11 overall in the NFL draft that winter, wisely chose to sign with the Los Angeles Rams for less money. The Bell biggest “name” signing in 1974 was linebacker/madman Tim Rossovich, the Eagles’ #1 draft pick back in 1968. Ron Waller, who finished out the 1973 NFL season.

Ron Waller hired on to coach the Bell. Though Waller finished the 1973 NFL season as interim head coach of the San Diego Chargers, he spent much of his coaching career in the bush leagues. Waller stocked the Bell roster with skill position players from the defunct Pottstown (PA) Firebirds, a championship minor league club that he coached in the late 1960’s. Quarterback Jim “King” Corcoran and the running back tandem of John Land and Claude Watts were all Firebirds alums.

1974 Philadelphia Bell ProgramThe Bell debuted at 100,000-seat John F. Kennedy Stadium on July 10th, 1974. Waller’s squad drubbed the visiting Portland Storm 33-8. But the big headline was the crowd. Bell officials announced a stunning attendance figure of 55,534. When the team returned two weeks later for its second home game against the New York Stars on July 25th, an even larger mob of 64,719 fans gathered at JFK Stadium. The TVS network broadcast the game nationwide. The Bell blew two go-ahead field goal attempts in the game’s final three minutes and lost 17-15.

120,000 fans for the Bell’s first two home games! Local journos assumed that team officials must have papered the city with free tickets. Not so, claimed the team’s Executive Vice President Barry Leib when questioned after the New York game. Leib obfuscated, indicating a minority of tickets were discounted for group sale or distributed to corporate sponsors. Left unsaid was an implication that Philly fans bought the majority of the tickets at face values of $2, $5 and $8. The Bell were forced to disclose actual paid attendance figures when it came time to pay city taxes on the sale of the tickets. The Bell actually sold fewer than 20,000 for the first two home games. Just 6,200 fans – less than 1/10th the announced crowd – paid for the New York game on July 25th.

On August 8th, 1974, one day before Richard Nixon’s resignation as President, the Bell held a press conference to apologize for the deception. The press dubbed the scandal “Papergate” and various outlets, including Sports Illustrated, pejoratively began referring to the WFL as the “World Freebie League”. Bell President John B. Kelly, Jr. resigned from the club in mortification. Attendance crashed, bottoming out at the Bell’s ninth home game against the Shreveport Steamer on October 16th, 1974. Just 750 fans showed up for the game on rainy Wednesday night. It was the smallest crowd in World Football League history.

On the field, the Bell underachieved. The offense, led by the Pottstown contingent, was high powered. Corcoran threw for 3,631 yards and 31 touchdowns (albeit with 30 picks to match). John Land and Claude Watts combined for over 2,000 yards rushing. The defense was suspect though and the Bell entered the final week of the WFL season with an 8-11 record. The Bell were scheduled to play the Chicago Fire at JFK Stadium on November 13, 1974. But Fire owner Tom Origer had had enough of the WFL. Rather than travel to Philadelphia, he forfeited the game and folded his franchise. With a 9-11 record, the Bell were on the outside looking in for the postseason. Until the Charlotte Hornets decided they couldn’t afford to compete in the playoffs and withdrew. The Bell replaced Charlotte on the league’s playoff schedule. The team traveled to Orlando and lost to the Florida Blazers 18-3 in the divisional round on November 21, 1974.

The WFL re-grouped to stage a second season in the fall of 1975. Bell owner John Bosacco was one of only two original WFL owners with the stomach to carry on for a second campaign. The rest of the 1975 WFL investors were new guys who apparently never read the newspaper. The Bell moved from 100,000-seat JFK Stadium to 60,000-seat Franklin Field for the new season. The team fired head coach Ron Waller during training camp in July 1975, just one week before the regular season opener. Team owner John Bosacco promoted Willie Wood, the team’s defensive coordinator, to the head job three days before . Wood, a former All-Pro safety for the Green Bay Packers, became the first African-American head coach in pro football since Fritz Pollard in 1925. Only 3,266 fans turned up at Franklin Field for the Bell’s 1975 home opener on July 19th.

The Bell had one of the most prolific offenses in the WFL in 1974.  All three skill players returned in 1975. The Bell added former NFL All-Pro tight end Ted Kwalick and running back J.J. Jennings, one of the WFL “Tri-MVP’s” in 1974 with Memphis. But the offense went backwards under Wood’s direction. Land and Watts remained a fearsome ground force. Along with Jennings, they racked up nearly 1,500 yards in eleven games. The passing game, however, collapsed. Wood benched Corcoran in favor NFL journeyman Bob Davis, who quarterbacked the Florida Blazers to the WFL’s World Bowl title in 1974. Both signal callers saw action in 1975, but neither found consistent form.

By October 1975 the writing was on the wall for the Bell and the WFL. After five home games at Franklin Field, the Bell averaged a league-worst 3,705 fans per game. National media outlets began to speculate that the WFL would terminate the club’s membership before the end of the season. Instead, the entire league voted to cease operations entirely on October 22, 1975 without completing its second season of play.  The Philadelphia Bell’s final game was played at Franklin Field four days earlier on October 18, 1975. Just 1,293 fans showed up.

 

Philadelphia Bell Shop


Bell Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max

WIFFLE: The Wild, Zany and Sometimes Hilariously True Story of the World Football League by Mark Speck

Philadelphia Bell Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Bell team President Jack Kelly Jr. (Bell ’74) died of a heart attack while jogging on March 2, 1985. He was 57.

Quarterback Jim “King” Corcoran (Bell ’74-’75) passed away in 2009 at the age of 65. Washington Post obituary.

Linzy Cole (Bell ’74) died in September 2016. The wide receiver, who was the first African-American to play football at Texas Christian University in 1968, was 68 years old.

 

Downloads

1975 World Football League Standard Player Contract

 

Links

World Football League Media Guides

World Football League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

November 13th, 2017 at 4:52 pm

1993-1996 Vancouver Voodoo

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Vancouver VoodooRoller Hockey International (1993-1996)

Born: 1993 – RHI founding franchise
Folded: December 18, 1996

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owners: 

Murphy Cup Championships: None

 

The Vancouver Voodoo were a modestly popular novelty hockey outfit during the mid-1990’s. The Voodoo were one of 12 original franchises in Roller Hockey International in 1993. RHI was an attempt to capitalize on the recreational in-line skating boom of the era. Teams played on a Sport Court surface layed down over the concrete sub-flooring of NBA and NHL arenas. The league gained exposure from a national cable television contract with ESPN that ran from 1993 until 1996.

Most Roller Hockey International players were minor league hockey players moonlighting during their summer off-season. A handful of retired NHL stars, such as Bryan Trottier and Ron Duguay, played in the league. The Voodoo featured former Canuck Jose Charbonneau, who led RHI in scoring during the league’s debut season in 1993.  Charbonneau used his Roller Hockey showcase to earn a new contract in the NHL with the Canucks. Bruising Vancouver native Sasha Lakovic also wet on to play in the NHL after playing for the Voodoo.

The Voodoo were founded by former Vancouver Canucks enforcer Tiger Williams and Mike King. Williams was (and still as, as of 2017) the NHL’s all-time leading in penalty minutes. In April 1996, Orca Bay Sports & Entertainment, parent company of the Canucks and the NBA’s Vancouver Grizzlies, purchased the Voodoo. The Voodoo moved into the brand-new General Motors Place for the summer 1996 campaign. But Orca Bay changed hands in November 1996. New owner John McCaw folded the Roller Hockey franchise in December 1996, just eight months after Orca Bay acquired the team.

The Voodoo won the division for all four seasons of their existence. The team under-performed in the postseason though and never made it past the second round of the playoffs.

 

Vancouver Voodoo Shop

Wheelers, Dealers, Pucks & Bucks: A Rocking History of Roller Hockey Interational. Richard Neil Graham

 

Voodoo Video

Voodoo vs. the San Jose Rhinos at San Jose Arena from a 1994 ESPN broadcast.

In Memoriam

Sasha Lakovic (Voodoo ’93-’94) died from brain cancer on April 25, 2017 at the age of 45. CBC News obituary.

 

Links

Roller Hockey International Media Guides

Roller Hockey International Programs

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2001 San Francisco Demons

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San Francisco DemonsXFL (2001)

Born: 2000 – XFL founding franchise.
Folded: May 10, 2001

Stadium: Pacific Bell Park

Team Colors:

Owner: XFL

XFL Championships: None

 

The San Francisco Demons were a popular but fleeting pro football entry that played at Pac Bell Park in the winter and spring of 2001. The Demons were one of eight franchises in the XFL, a $100 million joint venture between NBC and World Wrestling Entertainment.

The Demons posted a 5-5 record, good for 2nd place in the league. Former Cal quarterback Mike Pawlawski handled the signal calling and finished second in the XFL in passing yards and first in completion percentage. After dispatching the Orlando Rage in the playoff-semi-finals, the Demons advanced to the XFL’s “Million Dollar Game” championship game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. They were blown out 38-6 by the Los Angeles Xtreme.

The XFL folded three weeks later.  Although the league is largely a punch line today, the Demons attracted a decent following at Pac Bell Park in 2001. The franchise led the XFL in attendance with an announced average of 35,005 for five home dates.

 

 

San Francisco Demons Shop

ESPN Films 30 For 30: This Is The XFL

 

Demons Video

The Demons take on the Los Angeles Xtreme in the XFL’s “Million Dollar Game”, which was both the league’s only title game and the last game of its brief history.

Links

XFL Media Guides

XFL Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

November 8th, 2017 at 4:20 am

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