Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘American Professional Slo-Pitch League’ Category

1978-1980 Philadelphia Athletics

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American Professional Slo-Pitch League (1978-1980)

Born: 1978
Died: 1980

Stadiums:

Team Colors:

Owner: Valentino “Butch” Piacentino, Jr.

 

The Philadelphia Athletics softball team of 1978-1980 were a men’s slo-pitch squad competing in the American Professional Slo-Pitch League.  The team revived both the name and the old elephant logo of Philadelphia’s former American League baseball franchise, which departed for Kansas City in 1954.

The APSPL was concentrated on the East Coast and Upper Midwest.  The league signed a few big-name retired Major League Baseball players, such as Norm Cash of the Detroit Caesars and Joe Pepitone of the Trenton Statesmen.  The Athletics had one of the most unusual signings in the league though.  During the 1978 season Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, All-Pro kick returner for the NFL’s Houston Oilers, appeared in 25 games for the Athletics before NFL training camp opened.   He hit .349 (lowest average on the club) with 4 home runs.

The Athletics folded after the 1980 season.

 

==Philadelphia Athletics Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1978 8/27/1978 vs. Chicago Storm ?? Ticket

 

==Downloads==

1979 American Professional Slo-Pitch League Franchise Sales Brochure

 

==In Memoriam==

Athletics team owner Butch Piacentino passed away on April 4, 2014 at age 66.

 

==Links==

Men’s Pro Softball Media Guides

Men’s Pro Softball Programs

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1979 Fort Wayne Scouts

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Fort Wayne ScoutsAmerican Professional Slo-Pitch League (1979)

Born: 1979 – APSPL expansion franchise.
Died: Postseason 1979 – The Scouts cease operations.

Stadium: Tah-Cum-Wah Recreation Center

Team Colors: Red & White

Owner: Johnnie Walker

 

The Fort Wayne Scouts softball team was a One-Year Wonder in the American Professional Slo-Pitch League (1977-1980).  The club took its name from the Scout off-road vehicle, an early SUV that was manufactured by Fort Wayne’s International Harvest Company.  In the late 1970’s more than 1,400 local factory workers built 200 Scouts a day on the production lines at International Harvester’s New Haven Avenue plant.

The Scouts were organized by a guy named Johnnie Walker, who had previously worked in the APSPL as the PR Director for the league’s Philadelphia Athletics franchise.   Walker hired former Major League outfielder Jim Rivera to manage the team.  Rivera was a popular figure on the Chicago White Sox in the 1950’s but also a controversial one.  Rivera was sentenced to life in prison in the 1940’s for attempted rape during a stint in the army, but was paroled after five years, thanks partly to the efforts of a minor league baseball promoter who saw him play on his prison team.

Rivera’s Scouts team was truly, historically awful.  The club went 8-56 – a .172 winning percentage – which was the worst record in the short history of the APSPL.

After the 1979 season the APSPL split in two.  Ted Stepien, owner of the Cleveland franchise (and also the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA), split off and formed his own rival league known as the North American Softball League.  The Scouts fell by the wayside sometime that winter.  Whether or not this was related to the fortunes of International Harvester is unclear, but the truck giant built its final Scout vehicle in 1980.

Fort Wayne got a new men’s pro softball entry in Stepien’s league in 1980.  With International Harvester out of the picture, the team got a new major sponsor: a local lollipop company that named the club after one of its popular sucker lines: the Fort Wayne Huggie Bears.

I’m not kidding.

The Huggie Bears and the rest of the NASL folded after the 1980, bringing the pro softball era to an end in Fort Wayne.

 

==Downloads==

1979 American Professional Slo-Pitch League Franchise Sales Brochure

 

==Links==

Men’s Pro Softball Media Guides

Men’s Pro Softball Programs

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1977-1982 Cincinnati Suds

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American Professional Slo-Pitch League (1977-1980)
United Professional Softball League (1981-1982)

Born: 1977 – APSPL founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1982 – The Suds cease operations.

Stadiums:

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Cincinnati Suds softball team played in various locales in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky from 1977 until 1982.  Slo-Pitch softball had a brief moment in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when a group of enthusiasts and pro sports speculators attempted to establish a marketplace for men’s softball as a nationwide professional sport.  Three league different leagues came and went during this time, with most of the clubs being clustered in softball’s Rust Belt strongholds in the Northeast and upper Midwestern states.  Investors included Mike Ilitch, future owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers, and Ted Stepien, the future owner the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, along with a considerable number of mom & pop types.

 

Of the several dozen teams formed during Slo-Pitch softball’s brief pro moment, the Cincinnati Suds were one of only two clubs (along with Kentucky Bourbons) who played for all six seasons from 1977 to 1982.  The Suds were a founding member of the first league out of the gates, the American Professional Slo-Pitch League.  After the APSPL folded in 1980, the Suds joined the United Professional Softball League and played two more seasons before that league went out of business at the end of the 1982 season.

There has been no professional softball league for men in the U.S. since 1982.

The Suds played their games at several locations, including Trechter Field on the campus of Cincinnati Technical College.

 

==Downloads==

1977 Cincinnati Suds Ticket Brochure

1979 American Professional Slo-Pitch League Franchise Sales Brochure

 

==Links==

Men’s Professional Softball Media Guides

Men’s Professional Softball Programs

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1978-1981 New England Pilgrims

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New England PilgrimsAmerican Professional Slo-Pitch League (1978-1980)
United Professional Softball League (1981)

Born: 1978 – APSPL expansion franchise
Folded: Postseason 1981

Stadium: Blake Field

Team Colors:

Owner: Carl Grande

 

Obscure men’s professional Slo-Pitch franchise that operated for four seasons out of New Haven, Connecticut.  The New England Pilgrims softball team spent their first three seasons in the American Professional Slo-Pitch League (APSPL).  In 1979, the Pilgrims earned a few wire service mentions around the country for signing 39-year old former Detroit Tigers All-Star infielder Dick McAuliffe.

In 1981 the Pilgrims joined the United Professional Softball League, a successor league to the by-then defunct APSPL.  Despite having one of the worst records (23-35) in the eight-team UPSL, the Pilgrims advanced through the playoffs to the league championship series, where they lost to the Kentucky Bourbons.

The Pilgrims went out of business after the 1981 season and the UPSL followed suit a year later.  There has been no men’s professional softball in the United States since 1982.

 

==Downloads==

1979 American Professional Slo-Pitch League Franchise Sales Brochure

 

==Links==

Men’s Professional Softball Media Guides

Men’s Professional Softball Programs

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1977-1983 Rochester Zeniths Basketball & Softball

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Rochester ZenithsAll-American Basketball Alliance (1978)
Continental Basketball Association (1978-1983)

American Professional Slo-Pitch League (1978-1979)

Born: 1977 – AABA founding franchise.
Folded: June 30, 1983 – The Zeniths cease operations.

Arenas (Basketball):

Stadium (Softball): Harris Whalen Park

Team Colors: Royal Blue & Gold

Owners:

  • 1978-1979: Dick Hill
  • 1979-1980: Dick Hill & Art Stock
  • 1980-1983: Numerous community stockholders

CBA Champions: 1979 & 1981

 

Dick Hill owned Western New York’s top television dealership in the 1970’s, selling and servicing the dominant brands of the day – Zenith and RCA.  In 1977, Hill dove into the world of professional sports, acquiring a minor league basketball franchise in the new All-American Basketball Alliance.  A few months later, Hill also purchased a expansion franchise in the American Professional Slo-Pitch League, a men’s pro league entering its second season in the summer of 1978.   He named both of the basketball and softball clubs after the brand that fueled his dealership’s success – the Rochester Zeniths.

The AABA turned out to be a disaster.  Hill discovered that most of the other owners had no money and by February 1978 the whole things collapsed after a little more than a month of play.  Hill’s Zeniths were the class of the league at 10-1 and he was able to keep the basketball Zeniths going after the AABA’s demise and enter his club into the Continental Basketball Association for the 1978-79 season.

Rochester ZenithsMeanwhile, the softball Zeniths debuted in the APSPL, playing out of Harris Whalen Park in suburban Penfield, New York.  The softball team finished their 1978 debut season last in their division with a 22-42 record, second worst in the 12-team league.

It was a rough first year for Hill, between the AABA debacle and the lackluster debut of the softball team.  But things turned around once the Zeniths entered the Continental Basketball Association in the winter of 1978-79.

Under Head Coach Maura Panaggio, the Zeniths had the best record in the league at 36-12.  The CBA was mostly a Northeastern circuit at the time, stretching from Pennsylvania to Maine, but the league did have one remote outpost 3,000 miles away in Alaska – the Anchorage North Knights.  The Zeniths swept the Knights in the 1979 championship series.  Zeniths guard Andre McCarter, formerly with the Kansas City Kings of the NBA, won the CBA’s 1979 Most Valuable Player award.

The softball Zeniths also turned things around in 1979, winning their division with a 35-27 record.  They lost to the Kentucky Bourbons in the playoff semi-finals.  1979 was the last year for softball under the “Zeniths” name in Rochester.  When the club returned in 1980, it was known as the Rochester Express.

A few odd stories about the Zeniths…

The basketball team split their games between the downtown Rochester War Memorial and the Dome Arena in suburban Henrietta.  The Dome Arena was never intended for basketball and didn’t have a hardwood floor.  As an alternative, the building management installed a green rug with basketball lines, similar to what was used in some European countries at the time.  The ball made a muffled “thump” with every dribble on the carpet.

Rochester ZenithsPrior to the 1979-80 season, New Jersey nightclub owner Art Stock joined Dick Hill as an investor in the basketball team.  Stock was known for his “Art Stock’s Playpen” nightclubs up and down the East Coast from Fort Lauderdale to the Jersey Shore in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  As part of Stock’s investment deal, the night club owner got to replace Mauro Panaggio as Zenith’s head coach during the 1979-80 season.

“Art lived in Atlantic City where he had another night club.  The team’s trainer and players ran practices in his absence.  He would fly in for games, female entourage of Disco Babies in tow, or meet them on the road,” former Zeniths public address announcer Terry Proctor wrote in a 2005 column for New York’s Lake and Valley Clarion.  “The team was a toy to him.  The players didn’t listen to him and were so good they coached themselves.”

In spite of their absentee coach, the Zeniths returned to the CBA Championship Series in 1980 for a rematch with the Northern Knights.  This time Anchorage got the best of it, winning the 1980 title.  The Northern Knights were coached by Bill Musselman, a who would take over the top job with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers just a few months later.  Only in the CBA would the league championship series pit a coach on the NBA fast track against a disco owner whose team played basketball on a rug.

Stock left after the 1979-80 season and Mauro Panaggio returned to coach the team.  He led the Zeniths to their second and final CBA championship in the spring of 1981.  This time they defeated the Montana Golden Nuggets, who were led by future NBA coach George Karl.

The Rochester Zeniths continued on through the 1982-83 season, with Panaggio at the helm as President, General Manager and Head Coach.  The team closed up shop in June 1983 citing dwindling crowds at the War Memorial and financial losses.

 

Rochester Zeniths Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Former Zeniths center Jim Bradley was shot and killed in Portland, Oregon on February 20, 1982.  He was 29 years old.

 

Downloads

1979 American Professional Slo-Pitch League Franchise Sales Brochure

1982-83 Continental Basketball Association Magazine (Program Insert)

 

Links

Continental Basketball Association Media Guides

Continental Basketball Association Programs

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