Lively Tales About Dead Teams

1963-1994 Spartanburg Phillies, Traders, Spinners & Suns

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Spartanburg PhilliesWestern Carolinas League (1963-1979)
South Atlantic League (1980-1994)

Born: 1963 – Western Carolinas League expansion franchise.
Died:
1995 – The Phillies relocate to Kannapolis, NC.

Stadium: Duncan Park

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

For more than three decades, Spartanburg, South Carolina was one of the first destinatons for young prospects in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.  The city’s glory days as a Phillies farm club came in the mid-1960’s.  The Spartanburg Phillies won back-to-back Western Carolinas League titles in 1966 and 1967.  The 1966 Spartanburg club, featuring a middle infield combo of Larry Bowa and Denny Doyle, had a 91-35 record and was ranked #78 in the Top 100 minor league teams of all-time as chosen by the National Association in 2001.

Off the field, the Spartanburg teams of the mid-60’s were packaged and sold by Pat Williams, a young protégé of maverick promoter Bill Veeck and also of the Carpenter family that owned the Philadelphia Phillies.  Williams ran constant promotions and local fans responded.  In 1966, Spartanburg re-wrote the single season Class A attendance record.  Williams – a young man in his mid-20’s during his time in Spartanburg – would go on to become one of the mostly highly respected chief executives in the NBA, as General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers and the Orlando Magic in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s.

Spartanburg PhilliesThe Phils enjoyed another run of league dominance in the early 1970’s, winning Western Carolinas League crowns in 1972, 1973 and 1975.  But by the 1970’s, both Williams and the crowds were long gone.  Attendance at Duncan Park during the 1970’s was frequently under 500 fans per night, reflecting the broader existential crisis in minor league baseball around the country during that era.

As the 1980’s dawned, the Western Carolinas League re-branded itself as the South Atlantic League.  Spartanburg continued its long-time relationship with the Philadelphia Phillies, but starting in 1981 the team adopted a series of new names.  The ball club was known first as the Spartanburg Traders (1981-1982), then the Spartanburg Spinners (1983) and finally the Spartanburg Suns (1984-1985).  Meanwhile, in 1984, the Most Valuable Players of both the American League (Willie Hernandez) and the National League (Ryne Sandberg) were former members of the Spartanburg Phillies.

In 1986 the team took back the traditional Spartanburg Phillies name.  Two seasons later, the Spartanburg Phillies won the 1988 South Atlantic League crown, which would prove to be the city’s final minor league championship.

By the early 1990’s, Duncan Park was badly outdated and no longer met the minimum Class A standards set by the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs. Spartanburg’s attendance consistenly ranked last in the South Atlantic League by this point.   While numerous small mid-Atlantic cities were willing to help finance new ballparks to lure minor league baseball, Spartanburg didn’t show the political will to upgrade Duncan Park.  Late era owner Brad Shover entertained numerous offers for the team in the 1990’s before finally closing a deal with NASCAR team owner Larry Hedrick in late 1993.  Hedrick operated the Phillies for one lame duck season in Spartanburg in 1994 before moving the team to a new ballpark in Kannapolis, North Carolina in 199

At the time of the move in 1995, the Philadelphia Phillies and the city of Spartanburg had the 5th longest relationship between a Major League ballclub and a minor league community.  The former Spartanburg franchise plays on today as the Kannapolis Intimidators.

 

==Links==

Western Carolina League Programs

South Atlantic League Media Guides

South Atlantic League Programs

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1973-1974 Gastonia Rangers

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Gastonia RangersWestern Carolinas League (1973-1974)

Born: Affiliation change from Gastonia Pirates.
Died:
1975 – The Rangers relocate to Anderson, SC.

Stadium: Sims Legion Park

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Gastonia (NC) Rangers were a Class A farm club of the Texas Rangers during the summers of 1973 and 1974. The team replaced the Gastonia Pirates entry (1963-1972) in the Western Carolinas League.

Gastonia won the 1974 Western Carolinas League championship by virtue of finishing in first place in both halves of the season, thus eliminating the need for postseason playoffs under the rules of the league.  Key future Major Leaguers to play in Gastonia during the Rangers early 70’s tenure included Mike Hargrove (1973) and Len Barker (1974).

Following the 1974 season, owner Fred Nichols moved the team to Anderson, South Carolina where it became the Anderson Rangers.  One factor in the move was the dim lighting at Gastonia’s Sims Legion Park, which failed to meet the minimum “foot candles” requirements (i.e. brightness) for Class A ballparks.

Following the Rangers’ departure in 1974, there was no pro baseball in Gastonia until the arrival of the Gastonia Cardinals in 1977.  In 1980, the Western Carolinas League changed its name to the South Atlantic League.  Gastonia hosted a series of South Atlantic League clubs throughout the 80’s and early 1990’s, including a later version of the Gastonia Rangers from 1987 until 1992.

 

==Links==

Western Carolina League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

December 14th, 2014 at 1:34 pm

2001-2003 Boston Breakers

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2002 Boston BreakersWomen’s United Soccer Association (2001-2003)

Born: April 10, 2000 – WUSA founding franchise
Died: September 15, 2003 – The WUSA ceases operations.

Stadium: Nickerson Field (10,000)

Team Colors: Breaker Blue, Sea Silver & Surf White

Investor-Operator: Amos Hostetter

 

The original Boston Breakers soccer club was a founding member of the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) from 2001 to 2003.  The WUSA was the first professional soccer league for women in North America, backed by a consortium of cable television companies and executives who were intrigued by the groundbreaking success of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, hosted by the United States.  The Breakers franchise was backed by Amos Hostetter, the billionaire co-founder of Continental Cablevision.

The provenance of the team’s name was somewhat odd.  Like many fledgling sports teams, the soon-to-be-Boston Breakers instituted a Name-The-Team contest.  The winning entry was attributed to a 15-year old teenage girl from suburban Easton, Massachusetts.  What was strange about the  choice was that Boston already had a high profile pro sports flop that had used the same identity in the recent past.  The Boston Breakers of the United States Football League had even used a similar blue/white color scheme and played in the very same stadium (Boston University’s Nickerson Field) as the new women’s soccer team.  The football Breakers came and went in a single season in 1983 – very much in the living memory of countless local sports fans and Boston’s sporting press.

But “Breakers” it was to be.  In May of 2000, each of the eight WUSA franchises received three players from the United States Women’s National Team tha captivated the nation during the World Cup ten months earlier.  The U.S. National Teamers – known as “Founders” since they also had a small equity stake in the league – were meant to form both the talent nucleus and the marketing tent poles for each franchise.  The Breakers received All-Universe midfielder Kristine Lilly and stalwart defender Kate Sobrero.  The team’s third allocation, however, was a bust.  Tracy Ducar, the USWNT’s reserve goalkeeper, suffered an eye-injury late in the WUSA’s 2001 debut season and was thereafter unseated by less-heralded Canadian National Team goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc for the Breakers starting job.

Dagny Mellgren Boston BreakersThe burden of scoring goals fell to the Breakers’ international signings.  Boston received German National Team stars Maren Meinert and Bettina Wiegmann along with the Norwegian duo of Ragnhild Gulbrandsen (who would join in 2002) and Dagny Mellgren.  Though Gulbrandsen would disappoint and Wiegmann retired after two seasons, Meinert and Mellgren quickly emerged as premier scoring threats, with Lilly often setting the table with deft assists.

Despite fine individual performances from the likes of Lilly, Meinert, Mellgren and a previously unheralded University of Virginia midfielder named Angela Hucles, the Breakers disappointed as a team during the first two seasons of the WUSA.  Under Head Coach Jay Hoffman, the team finished 6th place and out of the playoffs in both campaigns.  The Breakers were also something of a Jekyll & Hyde club – virtually unbeatable at home, where they had established one of the most loyal followings in the WUSA, but unable to perform consistently on the road.

The club’s fortunes turned in 2003 with the hiring of Swedish manager Pia Sundhage to take over for Hoffman.  The Breakers finally became a tough road team, equaling their success at home.  Meinert was phenomenal at the top of the attack, winning league Most Valuable Player honors.  At 10-4-7, the Breakers finished top of the table in the WUSA’s regular season.  However, Boston was bounced on penalty kicks in the playoff semi-final by the eventual league champion Washington Freedom.

Boston Breakers ProgramOne month later, the WUSA abruptly closed its doors on September 15, 2003.  There were inklings that the league was in trouble.  The league cut roster sizes from 18 to 16 following the 2002 season and dropped the salary cap from $834,500 to $595,750.  The “Founders” (mostly) accepted large pay cuts.  But it wasn’t enough.  While attendance was not far off from expectations, corporate sponsorship for the league never hit critical mass.  Still, the timing of the shutdown shocked many outside observers, coming just five days before the start of the 2003 Women’s World Cup – which would be held in the United States once again, thanks to the SARS outbreak creating havoc in China, the original host of the tournament.

A lackluster effort to revive corporate support for the WUSA through a series of neutral-site “festivals” in the summer of 2004 flopped.  From 2008 through 2008, there was no top-flight women’s pro soccer league in North America.  When a new league – Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) – began play in 2009, a franchise was quickly awarded to Boston, based upon the warm reception to the WUSA-era Breakers club.  The WPS franchise revived the Breakers name and logo.  The “New” Breakers of 2009 included three veterans of the original 2001-2003 Breakers club – Angela Hucles, Kristine Lilly and seldom-used Mary-Frances Monroe.  The team also featured several front office holdovers who returned to work for the new club, including Team President Joe Cummings, who launched both editions of the team.

The new/2009 edition of the Breakers remains active today in 2014 as a member of the National Women’s Soccer League.

 

==Slideshow==

  • WUSA Founders Goofing Around Circa 2000
  • Kristine Lilly Boston Breakers
  • 2001 Boston Breakers Media Guide
  • Kate Sobrero Boston Breakers
  • Angela Hucles Boston Breakers
  • Michelle Akers Boston Breakers
  • Kristine Lilly Boston Breakers
  • Dagny Mellgren Boston Breakers
  • Kristine Lilly Boston Breakers
  • 2003 Boston Breakers Media Guide
  • Dagny Mellgren Boston Breakers
  • Kate Sobrero Boston Breakers
  • Boston Breakers Program
  • Kristine Lilly Boston Breakers
  • Dagny Mellgren Boston Breakers

 

==Boston Breakers Matches on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
2001 5/5/2001 vs. Atlanta Beat L 1-0 Game Ticket
2001 6/3/2001 vs. New York Power L 3-2 Program
2001 6/6/2001 vs. Atlanta Beat T 1-1 Program
2001 6/9/2001 @ San Diego Spirit L 3-1 Program
2001 6/16/2001 vs. Washington Freedom W 1-0 Program
2001 7/12/2001 vs. Carolina Courage W 2-1 Program
2001 7/21/2001 vs. Carolina Courage L 2-1 Program
2001 7/26/2001 @ New York Power L 4-2 Program
2001 7/29/2001 vs. Washington Freedom W 2-1 Program
2002 4/20/2002 vs. Atlanta Beat W 3-1 Program
2002 6/1/2002 vs. Washington Freedom T 0-0 Program
2002 6/8/2002 vs. Carolina Courage T 2-2 Program
2002 6/12/2002 @ Washington Freedom L 2-1 Program
2002 6/22/2002 vs. New York Power W 5-2 Program
2002 6/29/2002 vs. San Jose CyberRays T 1-1 Program
2002 7/10/2002 vs. San Diego Spirit W 3-2 Program
2002 7/24/2002 @ Washington Freedom T 1-1 Program
2002 8/4/2002 vs. New York Power W 4-1 Program
2002 8/10/2002 vs. San Jose CyberRays  W 1-0 Program
2003 4/12/2003 @ Atlanta Beat L 6-0 Program
2003 6/8/2003 @ Washington Freedom W 3-1 Program
2003 6/21/2003 vs. Carolina Courage L 1-0 Program
2003 6/25/2003 vs. New York Power W 2-1 Program

 

 

==Key Players==

 

==YouTube==

2002 Boston Breakers In-Stadium Video Montage  (starts around 0:18)…

 

==Links==

Women’s United Soccer Association Media Guides

Women’s United Soccer Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

December 13th, 2014 at 4:00 am

1992-1996 Charlotte Rage

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Charlotte RageArena Football League (1992-1996)

Born: October 10, 1991 – Arena Football expansion franchise.
Died: 1996 – The Rage cease operations.

Arenas:

Team Colors: Red, Teal & Silver

Owners: Allen J. Schwalb, Joanne Faruggia & Cliff Stoudt

 

This early Arena Football franchise played five seasons in North Carolina, splitting dates between the massive, NBA-scale Charlotte Coliseum and the smaller Independence Arena.  The franchise was owned by motion picture financier Allen J. Schwalb, who backed some of the biggest blockbusters of the 1980’s, including Rambo, Rain Main, Moonstruck and Thelma & Louise.

During the Charlotte Rage’s first season in 1992, the team signed Joe DeLamielleure, a perennial All-Pro offensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills during the late 1970’s.  41 years old at the time, DeLamielleure was seven years removed from his last NFL game in 1985.  He played in a handful of games for Charlotte in 1992 before retiring for good.  DeLamielleure remains the only member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to play Arena Football.

After a promising start in 1992 (13,248 average attendance for five dates), attendance plummeted to below 7,500 per game in 1993.  At some point, Schwalb’s relations with AFL Commissioner Jim Drucker and his fellow owners appeared to sour.  In July 1996, the Charlotte Business Journal reported that league officials were pressuring Schwalb to sell the franchise.  Schwalb had discussions with groups in Salt Lake City and Long Island, but ultimately folded the team in late 1996, taking an $850,000 payout from the league to turn in the franchise.  Schwalb would later file a $200 million Sherman anti-trust lawsuit against the league, asserting that his former business partners unlawfully scuttled his efforts to sell and relocate the franchise and coerced him to sell the team back to the league for a below market price.  The suit seems to have been resolved in the early 2000’s, but it’s not clear what the resolution was.

Arena Football replaced the Rage in the North Carolina market with the Raleigh-based Carolina Cobras in 2000.  The Cobras would later move to Charlotte in 2003 before going out of business in late 2004.

 

 

==Charlotte Rage Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1992 6/19/1992 vs. Dallas Texans L 32-30 Program
1993 6/5/1993  @ Tampa Bay Storm L 52-19 Program
1996 4/27/1996 @ Memphis Pharaohs W 54-30 Program

 

==YouTube==

Brief clip of the Rage in action at the Charlotte Coliseum against the Albany Firebirds in 1994.

 

==In Memoriam==

Ex-Rage owner Allen Schwalb passed away on July 14, 2014 at age 76.  Variety obituary.

 

==Links==

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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February 14, 1963 – Camden Bullets vs. EPBL All-Stars

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Camden BulletsCamden Bullets vs. Eastern Professional Basketball League All-Stars
February 14, 1963
Convention Hall
Attendance: 2,000

Eastern Professional Basketball League Programs
8 Pages

 

Stellar vintage scorecard from the 1963 Eastern Professional Basketball League All-Star Game, played before a small crowd of around 2,000 in Camden, New Jersey on Valentine’s Night.  The exhibition pitted the host Camden Bullets (1961-1966) against an All-League squad from the other six clubs in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania bus league.

The Bullets boasted the best player in the Eastern League in former 10-time NBA All-Star Paul Arizin.  Arizin was Philly through and through, a native son of the city who played college ball at Villanova and then spent his entire NBA career with the Philadelphia Warriors.  When the Warriors left town for San Francisco in 1962, Arizin decided to retire from the NBA rather than move West with the franchise.  At the time of his retirement, Arizin was the 3rd highest scorer in NBA history, despite missing two full seasons in his prime to serve in Korea.

After the Warriors departed, Paul Arizin played three more seasons for the minor league Bullets before retiring from pr0 ball in 1965.  On this night in 1963, he led all scorers with 35 points and added 16 rebounds in Camden’s 122-114 victory over the All-Stars.  He would go onto win Eastern League MVP honors in 1963.  His Camden teammate Bobby McNeill, however, was the MVP of this game, with 32 points, 12 assists and 7 boards.

Paul Arizin was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978 and chosen as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history in 1996.  He passed away in 2006 at age 78.

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Written by andycrossley

December 8th, 2014 at 4:38 am