Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1983-1984 Philadelphia Stars

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Philadelphia Stars USFLUnited States Football League (1983-1984)

Born: May 11, 1982 – USFL founding franchise.
Died: October 1984 – The Stars relocate to Baltimore, MD.

Stadiums:

Team Colors:

Owner: Myles Tannenbaum

 

 

 

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

Date Opponent Score Program Other
3/6/1983 @ Denver Gold W 13-7 Program Video
4/16/1983 @ Oakland Invaders W 17-7 Program
5/29/1983 @ Boston Breakers  L 21-17 Video
7/9/1983 vs. Chicago Blitz W 44-38 (OT) Program Video
7/17/1983 Michigan Panthers L 24-22 Program Video
4/15/1984 vs. Chicago Blitz W 41-7 Program
5/13/1984 vs. Los Angeles Express W 18-14 Video
6/30/1984 vs. New Jersey Generals W 28-7 Video
7/7/1984 vs. Birmingham Stallions W 20-10 Program
7/15/1985 Arizona Wranglers W 23-3 Program Video

 

==Key Players==

 

==YouTube==

1983 USFL Championship Game on ABC Sports.  Michigan Panthers vs. Philadelphia Stars at Denver, Co. July 17, 1983…

1984 Inside The USFL feature on the Stars’ remarkable track record…

==In Memoriam==

Former Stars linebacker Sam Mills passed away April 18, 2005 at age 45 after a two-year battle with cancer.

Stars founder and owner Myles Tannenbaum died on August 31, 2012 at the age of 82 years old.

 

==Links==

United States Football League Media Guides

United States Football League Programs

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1992-1993 Cincinnati Rockers

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Arena Football League (1992-1993)

Born: 1991 – AFL expansion franchise.
Died: October 1993 – The Rockers withdraw from the Arena Football League.

Arena: Riverfront Coliseum (15,500)

Team Colors: Green, Yellow & White

Owner: Ted Gregory

 

Short-lived entry in the Arena Football League active for two summers in 1992 and 1993.

Unusual among Arena Football teams of the era, the Cincinnati Rockers employed ex-NFL quarterbacks in both of their campaigns.  The starter in 1992 was gambling casualty Art Schlichter, twice banned from the NFL by Commissioner Pete Rozelle.  Schlichter found a revival of sorts in the Arena League, winning Most Valuable Player honors in 1990 as the signal caller for the league champion Detroit Drive.  It was a modest rebound – Schlichter was one of the highest paid players in the AFL in 1992, but that still only meant a salary of $40,000 annually.   The Rockers thrived at first with Schlichter under center in 1992.  The team went 7-3 and made the playoffs as Schlichter passed for 45 touchdowns.  But late in the season the former Ohio State star fell back into his old ways and was arrested for passing a bad check.  Schlichter left the team after the 1992 season and never played another down of pro football.  He spent much of the next decade in prison.

The Rockers tried to rebuild in 1993 around former NFL journeyman Blair Kiel at quarterback.  Unlike Schlichter, Kiel struggled to pick up the indoor game and ended up splitting time with Brent Pease, a former replacement QB for the Houston Oilers during the 1987 NFL strike.  Pease couldn’t rally the Rockers either, and the franchise regressed to a league-worst 2-10 record, matched only by the Rockers’ in-state rival, the Cleveland Thunderbolts.

Other former NFL notables who played for the Rockers included former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ira Hillary and ex-New England Patriots running back Tony Collins.

After a promising start at the box office in 1992, the Rockers’ attendance crashed through the floor in 1993.  Owner Ted Gregory, the late Cincinnati rib baron, shuttered the faltering club in late 1993.  Gregory later sold off the inactive franchise certificate to Connecticut investors and the ex-Rockers franchise became the Hartford-based Connecticut Coyotes in 1995.

 

==Cincinnati Rockers Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1992 5/30/1992 vs. Detroit Drive  W 37-34 Video
1993 7/3/1993 @ Tampa Bay Storm L 61-51 Program

 

==In Memoriam==

Former Rockers owner Ted Gregory passed away on December 2, 2001 at age 78.

Ex-Rockers quarterback Blair Kiel died of a heart attack on April 8, 2012.  Kiel was 50 years old.

 

==YouTube==

Rockers inaugural game at the Riverfront Coliseum on May 30, 1992.  Art Schlichter leads the Rockers to a 37-34 upset over his former team, the Detroit Drive before 13,317 fans.

 

==Links==

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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1999-2002 Mississippi Fire Dogs

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Mississippi Fire DogsIndoor Professional Football League (1999-2000)
National Indoor Football League (2001-2002)

Born: 1999
Died: Postseason 2002 – The Fire Dogs cease operations

Arena: Mississippi Coast Coliseum

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Mississippi Fire Dogs were an obscure indoor football outfit that played four seasons in the Gulf Coast city of Biloxi from 1999 through 2002.  Starting in the late 1990’s, a rash of low-budget knockoffs of the pioneering Arena Football League sprang up around the country.  These leagues – often derisively referred to as “ankle biters” by diehard AFL fans – typically set up shop in small Midwestern and Southern cities with underutilized civic centers.  And they typically didn’t last very long.

In this sense, the Fire Dogs were a pretty typical ankle-biter entry.  The franchise started out in 1999 in the Indoor Professional Football League (1999-2001), which featured teams in the Deep South and Pacific Northwest.  After two seasons, the Fire Dogs ditched the struggling IPFL for the equally anonymous National Indoor Football League (2001-2007).

There were a couple of intriguing names associated with the Fire Dogs. During the team’s first two seasons in the IPFL, the General Manager, Head Coach and starting quarterback was former NFL quarterback John Fourcade.

The other “celebrity” associated with the Fire Dogs was Irving Favre, father of Green Bay Packers All-Pro quarterback Brett Favre.  The elder Favre was a minority owner in the club.  He also succeeded Fourcade as Head Coach when the franchise jumped to the National Indoor Football League in 2001.

The Fire Dogs won two league titles during their short life-span, conquering the IPFL (under Fourcade) in 2000 and the NIFL (under Favre) in 2001.  The team went out of business following the 2002 season.

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Written by andycrossley

August 10th, 2014 at 2:43 am

August 21, 1993 – Detroit Drive vs. Tampa Bay Storm

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Arena Bowl VIIDetroit Drive vs. Tampa Bay Storm
Arena Bowl VII
August 21, 1993
Joe Louis Arena
Attendance: 12,989

Arena Football League Programs
62 pages

 

Arena Bowl VII was the second and final meeting between Arena Football’s two greatest dynasties: the Detroit Drive, who played in the title game in all six seasons of their existence, and the Jay Gruden-era Tampa Bay Storm, who won four titles in six years with Gruden under center.  In fact, the Storm were the only force standing between the Drive and a perfect six-for-six record in championship games.  Gruden & Co. handed Detroit their only two Arena Bowl losses in 1991 and in this 1993 rematch.

The Storm took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, winning or tying every quarter en route to a 51-31 victory.  Gruden was named the MVP of Arena Bowl VII, passing for 204 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Gruden, the brother of Super Bowl champion coach and Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden, ultimately won four Arena Bowls with the Storm.  He later won two more as an Arena Football head coach.  In 2014 he was named Head Coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

Another standout was Storm OL-DL Keith Browner, who recovered a fumble for a touchdown on defense and also caught a 9-yard touchdown pass.  Browner, a former 2nd round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who played five seasons in the NFL, is part of the remarkable Browner family.  His brothers Ross and Joey were NFL standouts during the 1980’s.  Joey Browner’s son Keith Jr. and nephew Max Starks would also play in the NFL.  Keith Browner was named the “Ironman of the Game” as the top two-way player in Arena Bowl VII.

Arena Bowl VII proved to be the final appearance of the Detroit Drive franchise.  During the offseason, owner Mike Ilitch sold the team and the new owners relocate it to Worcester, Massachusetts where it became the Massachusetts Marauders.  The Marauders lasted just one season and failed to extend the Drive’s dynasty.

The evening’s game program (above right) pictured the Arena Football League’s 1993 award winners on the cover:

 

==YouTube==

 

==Downloads==

1993 Detroit Drive Arena Bowl VII Roster

1993 Tampa Bay Storm Arena Bowl VII Roster

 

==Links==

More Arena Bowls on Fun While It Lasted

Detroit Drive Home Page

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1974-1975 Memphis Southmen

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Larry Csonka Memphis SouthmenWorld Football League (1974-1975)

Born: May 8, 1974 – The Toronto Northmen relocate to Memphis, TN.
Died: October 22, 1975 – The WFL ceases operations in midseason.

Stadium: Memphis Memorial Stadium (50,164)

Team Colors: Burnt Orange & Brown

Owner: John Bassett et al.

 

The Memphis Southmen (AKA Grizzlies) began life 1,000 miles to the north in late 1973 as a planned pro football franchise known as the Toronto Northmen.  The lead investor of the Northmen was Toronto media scion John Bassett, Jr., whose burgeoning sports empire at the time also included the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association and the Buffalo-Toronto Royals of World Team Tennis.  Bassett’s father, John Sr., was a Toronto newspaper and television station baron who owned part of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs before losing it to Harold Ballard in an early 1970’s power struggle.

The Northmen were to be members of the upstart World Football League, which planned to begin play in July 1974 and combat the NFL head-to-head for top collegiate & pro talent.  The formation of the WFL brought (briefly) a form of limited free agency to pro football.  Free agent movement was virtually unheard of in the NFL at the time thanks to the chilling effects of the “Rozelle Rule” reserve clause.  But with the arrival of the WFL in 1974, NFL players were no longer indentured solely to their current teams.  They could jump to the rival league for a bigger paycheck – or at least use that threat to gain some rare negotiating leverage.  The new league pursued NFL talent aggressively, signing stars such as L.C. Greenwood, Calvin Hill, Craig Morton and Ken Stabler to futures contracts to jump leagues once their current NFL deals expired.  Ultimately, no team would make a bigger splash in the NFL-WFL player battle than Bassett’s franchise.

Memphis SouthmenOn March 31, 1974, the Toronto Northmen held a press conference to announce the signings of Miami Dolphins’ stars Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield.  All three were heroes of Miami’s legendary 1972 undefeated Super Bowl championship squad.  Bassett and his General Manager, Leo Cahill, flew the trio to Toronto and floored them with an offer that Dolphins owner Joe Robbie couldn’t or wouldn’t match.  $1.5 million over 3 years for Csonka, the MVP of Super Bowl XIII just two months earlier.  $1.0 million over three years for Warfield.  And $900,000 over the years for Csonka’s fellow running back Jim Kiick.  It was a shocking coup for the World Football League and a gut punch to one of the NFL’s elite franchises.  The Dolphins stars still had a year to run on their NFL contracts.  The plan was for Csonka, Kiick and Warfield to join Toronto for the WFL’s second season starting in the summer of 1975.

Meanwhile, Bassett found an antagonist back in Toronto who proved a much more formidable adversary than Joe Robbie.  Canadian federal minister of health and welfare set out to force Bassett out of Toronto, believing the arrival of the U.S.-based World Football League posed an existential threat to the Canadian Football League and its Toronto Argonauts franchise.  Lalonde filed the Canadian Football Act with Parliament in April 1974.  The act sought to protect the Canadian Football League and Canadian-born football players by keeping U.S.-based pro leagues out of Canada.  Although the legislation never passed, the debate created enough uncertainty and antagonism that Bassett picked up his franchise and moved to Memphis, Tennessee on May 8, 1974, barely two months before opening night of the first WFL season.

In Tennessee, the franchise would officially be known as the “Memphis Southmen”.  But locals didn’t cotton to the name too well, and colloquially the team was known as the “Grizzlies”.  (You can see the duality of the team’s identity on the first season media guide cover at left).

Although Csonka, Kiick and Warfield weren’t due to arrive in town for another year yet, the Southmen/Grizzlies still had arguably the best team in the WFL during the league’s debut season in 1974.  Head Coach John McVay ran a ball control offense for the most part, with 1964 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback John Huarte at the helm.  A trio of running backs – rookie draft pick J.J. Jennings out of Rutgers, along with John Harvey and Willie Spencer – combined for 3,197 yards and 32 rushing touchdowns.  Rookie quarterback/punter Danny White – who would later succeed Roger Staubach as starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys – saw considerable late-game action behind center in a platoon role with Huarte.

The Southmen finished 17-3 and were undeated (10-0) at Memphis Memorial Stadium.  But on November 29, 1974, they were upset at home by the Florida Blazers 18-15 in the playoff semi-final.  The Blazers were an insolvent franchise at the time.  Their players hadn’t been paid in months and within months team owner Rommie Loudd would be charged with both tax fraud and cocaine distribution charges.  The chaos surrounding the Blazers was only slightly more extreme than the turmoil enveloping the entire league.  Founder Gary Davidson was expelled from the league by disgruntle owners late in the season.   Several clubs relocated in midseason or simply folded without completing their schedules.  Amidst it all, the Southmen were a beacon of stability.  The team paid its bills and Bassett reportedly had to bail out other owners on several occasions.

At the end of the season, halfback J.J. Jennings (1,524 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns) was named Rookie-of-the-Year and one of the WFL’s ‘Tri-MVPs” for the 1974 season.

Ed Marshall Memphis SouthmenThe World Football League was all but dead by December 1974.  Many of the teams that survived the 1974 season now faced tax liens, property seizures and myriad lawsuits.  The Southmen’s arch rivals, the Birmingham Americans, defeated the Blazers to win World Bowl I, only to see sheriff’s deputies interrupt their post-game celebration to confiscate the team’s equipment.  But Hawaiians owner Christopher Hemmeter took the lead to re-organize the league under a new corporation and recruit new investors.  Bassett was one of only a handful of original investors who returned for the second season.

The WFL returned for a second season in July 1975 and that meant that Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield were headed to Memphis, Tennessee.  To make room the Csonka and Kiick in the already crowded backfield, the team’s 1974 sensation J.J. Jennings was shipped out to play for the WFL’s Philadelphia Bell franchise.  The trio of ex-Dolphins earned a cover shoot on the July 28, 1975 edition of Sports Illustrated in their Grizzlies uniforms- the first and only time that the WFL would be so honored by the nation’s premiere sports periodical.

Despite the arrival of the big stars, the Southmen seemed to take a step back during the first half of the 1975 season.  Csonka battled nagging injuries and missed games.  He would score only two touchdowns during his time in Memphis.  Kiick had the biggest impact, scoring 10 touchdowns, but Memphis’ leading rusher was the unheralded 1974 holdover Willie Spencer.  No one replaced the production of the departed J.J. Jennings.

At quarterback, 2nd year pro Danny White took over the primary role from Huarte, who accepted back-up status.  White showed flashes of the promise that would make him a started in the NFL for much of the 1980’s but was still very much a developing player.  By late October, the Southmen had a record of 7-4 and sat in 2nd place in their division behind arch rival Birmingham.  As with the first season, the rest of the league was in chaos.  The new Chicago franchise had already folded up shop after just five games.  On October 22, 1975, the league owners voted to shutdown the league immediately rather than complete the 1975 season.

Csonka, Kiick and Warfield returned to the NFL.  John McVay was hired as an assistant coach by the New York Giants in 1976 and brought several ex-Southmen with him, including Csonka, defensive back Larry Mallory, wide receiver Ed Marshall, offensive lineman Ron Mikolajczyk and tight end Gary Shirk.

After the WFL folded, Bassett kept some of his key staff in place to petition for admission to the NFL as an expansion franchise.  A winter 1975-76 season ticket drive resulted in 40,000 pledges.  But the NFL turned down Bassett’s application.   Bassett responded with an anti-trust suit against the league – Mid-South Grizzlies v. National Football Leaguedragged on until 1983.  By that time, Bassett was back in pro football as owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits of the springtime  United States Football League.  Memphis would get a USFL expansion franchise the following year – the Showboats – to finally replace the Southmen/Grizzlies after nearly a decade’s absence.

 

==Memphis Southmen Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1974 8/7/1974 @ Philadelphia Bell L 46-15 Program
1974 8/14/1974 @ Detroit Wheels W 37-7 Program
1975 7/14/1975 @ Southern California Sun (exh.) L 47-16 Program
1975 7/26/1975 @ Shreveport Steamer (exh.) W 14-7 Program
1975 8/2/1975 vs. Jacksonville Express W 27-26 Program
1975 8/30/1975 vs. Chicago Winds W 31-7 Program
1975 9/7/1975 vs. The Hawaiians W 37-17 Program
1975 9/14/1975 vs. Shreveport Steamer W 34-23 Program
1975 9/28/1975 @ San Antonio Wings L 25-17 Program
1975 10/12/1975 vs. Birmingham Vulcans L 18-14 Program

 

==Downloads==

1975 WFL Standard Player Contract

 

==Links==

They’re Grinning and Bearing“, Robert F. Jones, Sports Illustrated, July 28, 1975

World Football League Media Guides

World Football League Game Programs

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