Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1966-1967 Eugene Bombers

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Eugene Bombers

Pacific Football League (1966)
Continental Football League (1967)

Born: 1966
Died: Spring 1968 – The Bombers cease operations.

Stadium: Bethel Park

Team Colors:

Owner: Peter Murphy, et al.

 

The Eugene Bombers were a brief pro football entry in the Oregon city of Eugene in the late 1960’s.  The club originated in the semi-pro Pacific Football League in autumn of 1966.  The team played well, posting a 7-2 record, but attendance fell as temperatures dipped in November and the club elected to forfeit its playoff appearance for financial reasons.

Nevertheless, the Bombers had the best attendance in the Pacific League and they were invited to move up the pro football ladder in March 1967 with the formation of the Pacific Division of the previously East Coast-based Continental Football League.  The Pacific Division was basically a league-within-a-league and Eugene played exclusively against other Pacific Division opponents including Orange County (California), Sacramento, San Jose, Seattle, and Victoria (British Columbia).  The San Jose Apaches were coached by future Super Bowl-winning coach and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Bill Walsh.

Unlike the Pacific Football League, the Continental League was fully professional.  The bulk of the Bombers’ roster had local college ties at the University of Oregon, Oregon State or Portland State.  Key players included quarterback Paul Brothers, who led the Oregon State Beavers to the 1965 Rose Bowl against Michigan, and his former OSU teammate Jack “Mad Dog” O’Billovich, who started at middle linebacker.

The Bombers shared the city’s Bethel Park with the Eugene Emeralds minor league baseball team.  Both clubs found the stadium unsuitable for their long term sustainability and hoped to collaborate on construction of a new facility.  The Bombers ultimately folded in the spring of 1968 after just one season in the Continental League and before the stadium question could be resolved.  Bethel Park would be demolished the following year and the Continental League itself would go out of business in early 1970.

 

==Eugene Bombers Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1967 10/1/1967 vs. Orange County Ramblers W 21-17 Program Roster

 

==Links==

Continental Football League Media Guides

Continental Football League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

June 28th, 2014 at 3:25 am

1983-1984 Michigan Panthers

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Michigan PanthersUnited States Football League (1983-1984)

Born: May 11, 1982 – USFL founding franchise.
Died: November 20, 1984 – The Panthers merge with the Oakland Invaders.

Stadium: Pontiac Silverdome

Team Colors: Royal Plum, Champagne Silver, Light Blue & White

Owner: A. Alfred Taubman, Max Fisher and Peter Spivak

 

The Michigan Panthers were a very strong pro football entry in the United States Football League.  A popular springtime alternative to the Lions for Detroit gridiron fans, the team was soon pushed out of business by the USFL’s decision to abandon its spring schedule in favor of head-to-head competition with the NFL in the fall.

During the league’s first season in the spring of 1983, the Panthers were one of the top-spending teams in the USFL.   and put together a blend of NFL veterans and talented rookies.  The offense, in particular, relied on a trio of rookie skill position players – unheralded Cajun quarterback Bobby Hebert out of Northwestern State (Louisiana), running back Ken Lacy from the University of Tulsa, and star wideout Anthony Carter of Michigan, who would have been a top NFL draft pick in 1983 had the Panthers not lured him away from the senior circuit.

The defense was keyed by NFL washout John Corker, who would terrorize the USFL in 1983 with 28.5 sacks from his outside linebacker position, and rookie safety David Greenwood out of Wisconsin (who doubled as the Panthers’ punter).

David Greenwood USFLThe Panthers got off to a weak 1-4 start before catching fire midway through the season.  They won 11 of their final 13 to finish the 1983 season with a 12-6 record.  As the wins mounted, fans began to take notice.  When the Panthers hosted the Western Conference championship playoff game against the Oakland Invaders at the Silverdome on July 10th, 1983, a USFL record 60,237 fans showed up.

The following week, the Panthers travelled to Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado for the first USFL Championship Game against the Philadelphia Stars.  The Panthers won the game 24-22 with the decisive play coming on a 4th quarter touchdown pass from Hebert to Carter.

The script flipped for the Panthers during the 1984 USFL season.  Michigan got off to a hot start, racing out to a 6-0 record through the first third of the schedule.  But in Week Six against the San Antonio Gunslingers, Anthony Carter broke his arm and was lost for the remainder of the season.  The team went into a prolonged funk, losing eight of their next ten before rallying to win their final two games and sneak into the playoffs with a 10-8 record.

On June 30th, 1984 the Panthers played the Los Angeles Expressquarterbacked by future Hall-of-Famer Steve Young, in a first round playoff contest.  The quarterfinal game turned into an epic battle, although fewer than 8,000 fans were on hand to watch it at the Coliseum.  The Express finally triumphed 27-21 in the third overtime period, on a long touchdown run by future Detroit Lion Mel Gray.  At three overtimes, the game remains the longest pro football game in history.

It was also the last game ever played by the Panthers.  At the end of the 1984 season, USFL owners voted to shift to a fall season in 1986.  The Panthers were against the move, not wishing to compete head-to-head with the NFL’s Detroit Lions.  The business model shift set off a wave of relocations and mergers among the USFL franchises located in NFL markets.  In the fall of 1984, the Panthers merged with the Oakland Invaders.  Most of the top Panthers players, with the exception of John Corker, moved to Oakland for the USFL’s final spring season in 1985.

The Invaders, led by Hebert, Carter and other Michigan holdovers, returned to the USFL championship game in 1985.  There they met the Baltimore Stars in what was to some degree a rematch of the 1983 USFL title game against the then-Philadelphia Stars.  (The Stars were another relocation born out of the USFL’s planned switch to the fall).  This time the Stars came out on top with a 28-24 victory at Giants Stadium on July 14, 1985.  This was the final game in USFL history, as the league folded before staging its planned fall season in 1986.

 

==Michigan Panthers Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
4/4/1983 vs. Denver Gold L 29-21 Program
5/1/1983 @ Boston Breakers W 28-24  Program Video
5/16/1983 vs. New Jersey Generals W 31-24 Video
5/23/1983 vs. Birmingham Stallions L 23-20 Program Video
7/3/1983 vs. Arizona Wranglers W 33-7 Program Video
7/10/1983 vs. Oakland Invaders W 37-21 Program
7/17/1983 Philadelphia Stars W 24-22 Program Video
2/27/1984 vs. Chicago Blitz W 20-18 Video
3/3/1984 vs. Pittsburgh Maulers W 27-24 Video
3/26/1984 @ Houston Gamblers W 52-34 Video
4/23/1984 vs. Tampa Bay Bandits L 20-7 Video
4/29/1984 @ New Jersey Generals L 31-21 Video
5/20/1984 @ Los Angeles Express L 24-17 Video
5/27/1984 vs. Philadelphia Stars L 31-13 Video
6/30/1984 @ Los Angeles Express L 27-21 (3 OT) Video

 

==Key Players==

  • Anthony Carter
  • John Corker
  • Bobby Hebert

 

==YouTube==

The Panthers defeat the Philadelphia Stars in the first USFL championship game.  July 17th, 1983.

 

==In Memoriam==

Defensive end Larry Bethea, who had 11 sacks for the Panthers in 1984, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 24, 1987 at age 30.

Defensive lineman Phil Dokes, a 1977 NFL 1st round pick who played for the Panthers in 1983, passed away on December 7th, 1989 at age 34.

Panthers offensive guard Tyrone McGriff died of a heart attack on December 9th, 2000 at age 42.

Former Panthers Head Coach Jim Stanley died of melanoma at age 76 on January 12, 2012.

Safety John Arnaud died of lung cancer at age 51 on November 10, 2012.

 

==Downloads==

1983 David Greenwood USFL Standard Player Contract

 

==Links==

USFL Media Guides

USFL Game Programs

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Written by andycrossley

June 1st, 2014 at 1:43 pm

October 19, 1975 – Portland Thunder vs. Jacksonville Express

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Jerry Inman Portland ThunderPortland Thunder vs. Jacksonville Express
October 19, 1975
Civic Stadium
Attendance: 8,713

World Football League Programs
28 Pages

 

This rare, colorful program comes from the final night of action from the star-crossed World Football League on Sunday, October 19, 1975.  Tales of doom and ruin stalked the two-year old league for weeks, with many singling out the struggling Portland Thunder franchise as a weak-link in the fragile confederation.  Portland was far from the only trouble spot though.  A rain-soaked WFL contest in Philadelphia the previous night marked a humiliating nadir for the league when only 1,293 fans showed up.

Portland Thunder WFLThe league said all of the right things about resilience, but in truth the owners were exhausted after losing a collective $10 million through the first 12 weeks of the planned 20-week 1975 season.  The WFL had no TV contract and minimal sponsorship, leaving teams dependent solely on ticket revenue.  The league-wide average through midseason dwelled beneath 14,000 per game and plummeted further each week as the season went on.

This final game was perhaps the finest for the Portland Thunder franchise, who came in as one of the league’s worst clubs with a  3-7 record.  The Thunder pounded away at the Jacksonville Express with 217 rushing yards on 48 carries, while attempting only 12 passes.  Former University of Wisconsin running back Rufus Ferguson led the way with 141 yards and a touchdown.  Portland also scored on a punt return and a flea flicker off a fake field goal attempt.  The 30-13 victory was the most decisive win in the Thunder’s brief 11-game history.

Three days later the league shut its doors for good, on October 22, 1975.  The Thunder finished their only season with a 4-7 last-place record.

Former University of Oregon defensive tackle Jerry Inman is pictured on the cover of the Thunder’s final program.  Inman played eight seasons for the Denver Broncos in the AFL and NFL from 1966 to 1973 before finishing his career in the WFL.  This was his final pro game.

 

==Downloads==

October 19, 1975 Jacksonville Express Roster

October 19, 1975 Portland Thunder Roster

 

==Links==

Jacksonville Express Home Page

Portland Thunder Home Page

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Written by andycrossley

May 31st, 2014 at 12:10 am

1975 Portland Thunder

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1975 Portland Thunder Media GuideWorld Football League (1975)

Born: 1975
Died: October 22, 1975 – The WFL folds in midseason.

Stadium: Civic Stadium (33,000)

Team Colors: Royal Blue, Kelly Green & White

Owner: William Tatham Sr.

 

The Portland Thunder were a doomed pro football franchise that took part in the abbreviated second season of the World Football League in the autumn of 1975.

The WFL’s debut season was an utter disaster, plagued by teams relocating and folding in midseason, bounced paychecks, epic PR blunders and an estimated $20 million in red ink.  It was somewhat surprising that a small cabal of surviving owners, led by Chris Hemmeter of The Hawaiians franchise, regrouped to stage a second season in 1975.  Even more surprising was the continued inclusion of Portland, Oregon where the WFL’s Portland Storm franchise had been one of the league’s more embarrassing efforts.  The Storm started 0-7-1 and managed to complete the season only because the players were willing to continue playing games without paychecks for the season’s final two months.  The IRS slapped a lien on the Storm and the discredited (literally) club was more or less out of business by December 1974.

World Football League Pocket SchedulesIn early 1975, Hemmeter and a few other holdovers reorganized the insolvent league as a new corporation and attempted to start over again.  A twelve-team league was put together for 1975, featuring eleven holdover cities from 1974 (plus San Antonio).  Most of the owners and investors were brand new.  Portland came back with a new identity and a new owner: Fresno-based William Tatham.   A handful of Storm players returned, despite the broken contracts and promises of the previous year.  This included 5′ 5″tailback Rufus Ferguson who led Portland in rushing during both seasons of the WFL.

But Portland had seen enough of the World Football League.  A meager 7,700 turned out at Civic Stadium for the Thunder’s regular season home opener in August 1975.  This was about half what the Storm averaged a year earlier.  In several ways, the Thunder just seemed like a chintzier knockoff of Harris’ discredited club.  Not only was the name similar, but the Thunder retained the old colors of blue and green and slapped new logo stickers on the Storm’s old helmets to save money on equipment.

By October 1975 – around the point in the season that the Storm ran into serious financial trouble the year before – the Thunder were on the verge of collapse.  The other ten WFL franchises had to take up a collection of $300,000 to keep Portland in business.  The rest of the league was in terrible shape as well and two weeks later the owners decided to cut their losses.  The World Football League shutdown on October 22, 1975 without managing to complete its second season of play.  The Thunder finished their only campaign with a 4-7 record.

Pro football returned to Portland and Civic Stadium a decade later with the arrival of the Portland Breakers of the United States Football League.  For local football fans, it was deja vu all over again.  The Head Coach of the Breakers was Dick Coury, the same man who coached the Storm in 1974.  And like Portland’s previous entries in the WFL, the Portland Breakers lasted only one season and left town owing unpaid wages to their players and debts to local businesses.

Portland Thunder owner William Tatham also got involved with the United States Football League in the 1980’s.  Tatham and his son owned the USFL’s Oklahoma/Arizona Outlaws in 1984 and 1985.

 

==1975 Portland Thunder Results==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
7/12/1975  @ Birmingham Vulcans (Exh.)  L 25-9 Program
7/27/1975 vs. Philadelphia Bell (Exh.) L 30-21
8/3/1975 @ Southern California Sun L 21-15
8/9/1975 vs. The Hawaiians L 25-24
8/16/1975 @ Chicago Winds L 25-18 Program
8/23/1975 vs. Shreveport Steamer W 33-24
8/30/1975 @ San Antonio Wings L 22-0 Program Roster
9/6/1975 vs. Birmingham Vulcans  L 26-8
9/13/1975 @ Philadelphia Bell W 25-10
9/21/1975 vs. Memphis Southmen L 16-3
10/4/1975 @ Jacksonville Express L 32-29 Program
10/12/1975 vs. San Antonio Wings W 28-25
10/19/1975 vs. Jacksonville Express W 30-13 Program Roster

 

==Downloads==

1975 World Football League Standard Player Contract

 

==Links==

1975 Portland Thunder statistics on JustSportsStats.com

World Football League Media Guides

World Football League Programs

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1979 Tulsa Mustangs

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Tulsa MustangsAmerican Football Association (1979)

Born: 1979 – Joined American Football Association.
Died: 1979 – The Mustangs cease operations in midseason.

Stadium:

Team Colors:

Owner:

 

The Tulsa Mustangs were a minor-league football outfit that last for only 5 games of a planned 16-game schedule in the American Football Association in 1979.  The team had a 1-4 record at the time they folded in midseason.  The AFA was a southern U.S. minor league that stretched from Jacksonville to San Antonio and as far north as Louisville during the 1979 season.

Most of the Tulsa Mustangs players were local players from Oklahoma and Texas universities and junior colleges.  A roster from one of their five games is available in the games section below.

According to Wikipedia, the Mustangs played their few home games at Skelly Stadium, but we haven’t been able to find confirmation for that claim.

 

==Mustangs Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1979 6/2/1979 @ Jacksonville Firebirds ?? Program Roster

 

 

==Links==

American Football Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

May 19th, 2014 at 2:33 am