The Grand Rapids Tackers were a locally popular club that played in various semi-pro basketball leagues in the Midwest between 1961 and 1974.
Former University of Toledo star Steve Mix played for the Tackers during the winter of 1972-73 after his pro career initially sputtered with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and ABA’s Denver Rockets. After averaging 31.1 points per game with the Tackers in 1972-73, Mix revived his career and went on to play another 10 seasons in the NBA, mostly with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Little information about the Tackers has survived into the internet age. I believe the team owner during the 1970’s was a fellow named Albert S. Maine. We would also like to know if the team played in other gyms besides the Godwin Fieldhouse. If you can share memories or info on this club, please leave it in the comments of this post.
The Florida Flame were a short-lived entry in the NBA’s D-League minor league system that lasted for two seasons at Germain Arena in Estero, just outside Fort Myers.
Former Seattle Supersonics and Boston Celtics star Dennis Johnson coached the Flame during their first campaign in 2004-05. The team finished tied for last in the 6-team NBDL with a 17-31 record. Guard Smush Parker was the lone Flame player to earn a call up to the NBA during the season, earning a cup of coffee with the Phoenix Suns.
Former NBA All-Star Jeff Malone replaced Dennis Johnson as Head Coach for the 2005-06 season. The Flame fared much better on the court, finishing third with a 25-23 record. They lost a single-game playoff semi-final to the eventual champion Albuquerque Thunderbirds on April 15, 2006. This proved to be the final game the Flame would play. The club folded following the 2005-06 season.
Head Coach Dennis Johnson (Flame ’04-’05) died of a heart attack suffered while coaching another NBA D-League team, the Austin Toros, on February 22, 2007. He was 52. New York Times obituary.
The Maine Mariners were a popular minor league hockey club that played for 15 seasons at Portland’s Cumberland County Civic Center. The Mariners’ glory years came in the late 1970’s and early 80’s as the top farm club of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Maine won the American Hockey Leagues’s Calder Cup in each of their first two seasons. Future Flyers stars such as Pelle Lindbergh, Ken Linseman and Pete Peeters developed in Portland. Maine led the AHL attendance for four straight seasons from 1979 through 1982.
A special thrill of the Flyers era was the annual December exhibition game against touring Soviet teams. The contests packed in standing room only crowds and (usually) brought out the best in the Mariners. The first Cold War in December 1977 saw the two-month old Mariners shock Moscow Dynamo 1-0. In 1978, the Mariners beat up on Traktor Chelyabinsk 6-3.
On Christmas Eve 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Detente was over and, with it, the annual Soviet hockey tours of America of the 1970’s. But a Russian touring squad known as the Moscow Selects was already in the States on tour. Two days after the invasion, the Selects came to Portland. A franchise record crowd of 7,095 packed the Civic Center. For the first time, the Russians got the best of Maine, pasting the locals 7-2.
In the summer of 1983 the Philadelphia Flyers sold the Mariners to the lowly New Jersey Devils. The Mariners won their third and final Calder Cup in April 1984, capping off their first winter as a New Jersey farm club. But ultimately the sale to the Devils’ organization marked the start of the club’s decline. During the 1986-87 season, the Mariners bottomed out at a franchise-worst 3,361 fans per game. The Devils shifted the money-losing club to Utica, New York in April 1987.
Team President Ed Anderson quickly organized a group of investors to restore hockey to Portland. The AHL approved a new Maine Mariners franchise during the summer of 1987, affiliated with the nearby Boston Bruins. The Mariners retained their traditional Flyers’ colors of orange, black and white even during the Devils’ era. But with the arrival of the new franchise and the Bruins partnership in the winter of 1987, the Mariners shifted to Boston’s black, white and gold color scheme.
The Bruins era failed to recapture the on-ice glory of the Flyers years. The black-and-gold Mariners posted only one winning season (1987-88) in five years. The economic recession of the early 1990’s and Maine exorbitant workers compensation costs squeezed the club financially. The Mariners shut down their Maine operations in April 1992 and moved to Providence, Rhode Island a month later, where they play on today as the Providence Bruins.
Maine Mariners Memorabilia
Mariners vs. Binghamton Dusters. October 15, 1977
Mariners vs. Moscow Selects. December 26, 1979
Mariners vs. Springfield Indians. January 9, 1980
1980-81 Mariners Media Guide
Mariners vs. Binghamton Whalers. March 10, 1982
Mariners vs. Baltimore Skipjacks. November 3, 1982
Mariners vs. Springfield Indians. November 24, 1982
Mariners vs. Nova Scotia Oilers. April 16, 1988
Mariners vs. Springfield Indians. March 11, 1989
Mariners vs. Springfield Indians. February 2, 1992
Maine Mariners Video
1989 Mariners TV commercial
Goaltender Pelle Lindbergh (Mariners ’80-’82) died on November 11th, 1985 from injuries suffered the previous night while driving drunk. Lindbergh won both AHL Rookie-of-the-Year and Most Valuable Player honors with Maine in 1981. He won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s most outstanding goalkeeper of the 1984-85 season several months prior to his death. He was 26.
E.J. McGuire, the Mariners final head coach (’91-’92) died of cancer on April 7, 2011 at age 58.
The Kansas City Steers were one of the best entries in Abe Saperstein’s short-lived American Basketball League. The Harlem Globetrotters impresario aimed to compete with the NBA in major markets around the country and succeeded in luring top talent to the circuit.
The Steers’ starting five of Bill Bridges (F), Maury King (G), Nick Mantis (G), Larry Staverman (F) and Bumper Tormohlen (C) all played in the NBA. Bridges, a rookie of the University of Kansas in 1961, finished fourth in the ABL in scoring with 21.4 points per game in 1961-62. He was leading the league with 29.2 per contest when the league folded midway through its sophomore campaign.
The Steers posted the best record in the ABL in each of the league’s two seasons. In 1961-62, the Steers went 28-12. They met the Cleveland Pipers in the ABL championship series in April 1962. The Steers blew out the Pipers by 25 points and 36 points respectively in the first two games in Kansas City. But they could not close the deal on the road in Ohio. The series was due to return to Kansas City for decisive Game 5 on April 8th, 1962. That’s when things when haywire.
The Steers primary home, Municipal Auditorium, booked the Ice Capades for April 8th. The Steers booked the 1,500-seat Mason-Halpin Fieldhouse on the campus of tiny Rockhurst College for the title contest. Pipers owner George Steinbrenner (yes, that one) was outraged, believing Saperstein promised the series finale to Cleveland. As the teams bickered with each other and the ABL office, the Pipers no-showed for Game 5 at Rockhurst College. Rather than forfeit the game to the Steers, Saperstein decreed the game would now be played the following night, April 9th, 1962, at Rockhurst. This time the Pipers showed and dealt the Steers a crushing 106-102 defeat.
The Steers came back for the ABL’s second season in the fall of 1962. By now the league was on shaky ground. Only three of the league’s eight founding clubs remained in their original cities of a year earlier. Steinbrenner folded the league champion Pipers after a failed attempt to run off and join the NBA.
The Steers were once again the class of the league, racing out to a 22-9 record in the fall and early winter of 1962. But the ABL’s woes proved insurmountable, and the Steers closed their doors along with the rest of the league on New Year’s Eve 1962. The ABL declared the Steers to be league champions for 1963 by virtue of having the league’s best record at the time of closing.
Forward Larry Staverman died on July 12, 2007 at the age of 70. After playing for the Steers, Staverman went on to become the first head coach of the Indiana Pacers in 1967.
Western Carolina League (1948-1952)
Tar Heel League (1953-1954)
Born: 1948 Folded: June 21, 1954
Major League Affiliation:
Western Carolina League Championships: None Tar Heel League Championships:
The Marion Marauders were a Class D minor league baseball club in the small North Carolina of Marion. The mill town on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains had a U.S. Census population of fewer than 3,000 residents in 1950. The town is best known as the site of a deadly 1929 textile mill strike that saw six striking mill workers gunned down by law enforcement. The Marauders’ seven-year run from 1948 to 1954 marked the only time pro baseball was played in Marion.
The Marauders started out as a founding franchise in the Western Carolina League in 1948. Marion’s player-manager that first summer was Major League vet Wes Ferrell. Ferrell pitched for parts of 15 seasons in the Majors from 1927 to 1941 but primarily played in the outfield for the Marauders. Ferrell departed following the 1940 season.
In 1953 the Western Carolina League merged with the North Carolina State League to form the Tar Heel League. The Marauders were the class of the circuit that summer, thanks largely to a 29-year old journeyman pitcher named Kelly Jack Swift. Swift posted a 30-7 record. Some six decades later, Swift remains the last minor league pitcher to win 30 games in a season.
The Tar Heel League began the 1953 season with 10 clubs. By opening day of 1954, the loop was down to just four ball clubs and the end was near. The league gave up the ghost on June 21, 1954 with the Marauders sitting in 2nd place with a 26-26 record.