Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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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.



October 19, 1975 Jacksonville Express Roster

October 19, 1975 Portland Thunder Roster



Jacksonville Express Home Page

Portland Thunder Home Page


Written by andycrossley

May 31st, 2014 at 12:10 am

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.


Team Colors:



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




American Football Association Programs


Written by andycrossley

May 19th, 2014 at 2:33 am

1992-1994 Cleveland Thunderbolts

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Cleveland ThunderboltsArena Football League (1992-1994)

Born: 1992 – The Columbus Thunderbolts relocate to Cleveland, OH.
Died: 1994 – The Thunderbolts cease operations.

Arena: Richfield Coliseum (17,606)

Team Colors: Black, Silver & Purple


  • 1992-1993: John Kuczek
  • 1994: Robert H. Crane, Kuczek family trust


The Cleveland Thunderbolts were a bottom-dwelling Arena Football League franchise that played for three seasons at the suburban Richfield Coliseum from 1992 to 1994.  The Thunderbolts originated an expansion team in Columbus, Ohio in 1991.  After a winless (0-10) campaign playing in small agriculture fairgrounds arena in Columbus, the team was sold to Ohio insurance salesman John Kuczek in late 1991 and he moved the T-Bolts to Cleveland.

Cleveland ThunderboltsThe T-Bolts were one of the weakest entries in the Arena League in the mid-1990′s, posting an 8-26 record during their three seasons in Cleveland, including back-to-back 2-10 campaigns in 1993 and 1993.  During their brief run, the team signed two big names from the world of college football.  Quarterback Major Harris, a holdover from the 1991 Columbus team, played for the T-Bolts in 1992 and 1994.  Harris was a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist (1988 & 1989) at West Virginia.   He never played in the NFL and his Arena Football career was not ultimately that distinguished.  He was one of the league’s premier rushers as a scrambling QB, but the ground attack was not a major factor in the indoor game.

The other big name, at least locally, was head coach Earle Bruce, formerly of Ohio State University.  Bruce was hired to turn around the team in 1994, but ultimately produced an identical 2-10 last place finished as his predecessor Dave Whinham did in 1993.  Bruce resigned shortly after the 1994 season.

The Thunderbolts were run as a family business. Team owner John Kuczek was an insurance broker from Boardman, Ohio.  His son Jeff was the team’s General Manager.  Early in the T-Bolts short existence in Cleveland, John Kuczek was implicated in a federal securities fraud case in Florida.  Prior to the team’s second season in 1993, the elder Kuczek divested himself of ownership in the club and placed it in a trust for his grandchildren.  Son Jeff continued as the front office leader of the organization.  Kuczek was ultimately convicted on one count of the indictment.  The day before he was due to begin serving his sentence in February 1995, he committed suicide in a Salem, Ohio hotel room.

The Cleveland Thunderbolts did not return for the 1995 season.  Arena Football returned to Cleveland in 2008 with the arrival of the Cleveland Gladiators, a transplanted franchise from Las Vegas.  The Gladiators continue to play today under the ownership of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.


==Cleveland Thunderbolts Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1994 6/25/1994 vs. Las Vegas Sting  W 46-20  Program
1994 7/22/1994 @ Milwaukee Mustangs  W 42-41   Video



One of the final Thunderbolts games – on the road against the Milwaukee Mustangs on July 22, 1994.




1992 Cleveland Thunderbolts Season Ticket Brochure

1993 Cleveland Thunderbolts Season Ticket Brochure




Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs


Written by andycrossley

May 4th, 2014 at 12:01 am

1994-2001 Milwaukee Mustangs

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Milwaukee MustangsArena Football League (1994-2001)

Born: August 9, 1993 -  Arena Football expansion franchise.
Died: 2001 – The Mustangs cease operations.

Arena: TheBradley Center (17,819)

Team Colors: Purple, Teal & Black

Owner: Andrew Vallozzi


The Milwaukee Mustangs were a popular indoor football attraction in Wisconsin’s largest city during the mid-to-late 1990′s.  Although rarely in serious contention for the Arena Bowl championship – the Mustangs had only two winning seasons out of eight and never advanced beyond the playoff quarterfinals – they regularly ranked among Arena Football League attendance leaders.

During the Mustangs’ debut season in 1994, the team went winless in 12 games with former NFL signal callerJohn Fourcadeat quarterback.  But the expansion team still averaged 14,231 fans for six home dates, which was third best in the 11-team league.  During the 1996 season – the franchise’s high water mark with a 10-4 record – the Mustangs tied for the league lead in attendance with 15,567 fans on average for seven openings.

The Milwaukee Mustangs were owned throughout their existence by the Vallozzi family.  During the Mustangs’ final season in 2001 the Vallozzi’s feuded publicly with management of the Bradley Center over date conflicts and planned renovation projects.  The Mustangs closed their doors in August 2001 and blamed the closure of the team on the intractable arena disputes.

Arena football returned to Milwaukee in 2009 with the formation of the Milwaukee Iron of Arena Football 2, which was initially owned by the Vallozzi’s as well.  The new franchise was unable to rekindle Milwaukee’s earlier enthusiasm for the sport, despite reclaiming the Mustangs brand name in 2011.  The Vallozzi’s bailed out after the 2010 season and the Iron/Mustangs franchise shut down for good after the 2012 season.


==Milwaukee Mustangs Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1994 5/23/1994 @ Fort Worth Cavalry L 65-28 Video
1994 7/22/1994 vs. Cleveland Thunderbolts L 42-41   Video
1995 7/28/1995 vs. Memphis Pharaohs W 53-37 Program
1997 7/5/1997 @ Iowa Barnstormers L 47-29 Program
2000 6/29/2000 Los Angeles Avengers  W 64-52 Program



Mustangs host the Cleveland Thunderbolts at the Bradley Center on July 22, 1994.




Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs


1988-1993 Detroit Drive

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Detroit DriveArena Football League (1988-1993)

Born: 1988 – Arena Football expansion franchise.
Died: March 1994 – The Drive relocate to Worcester, Massachusetts.

Arena: Joe Louis Arena (17,446)

Team Colors: Victory Blue, Orange & White

Owner: Mike Ilitch


The Detroit Drive were a championship dynasty during the early years of the Arena Football League.  Formed as an expansion franchise for the AFL’s second season, the Drive went on to play six years.  Incredibly, the Drive appeared in the Arena Bowl title game in all six seasons they competed.  They won the Arena Bowl four times (1988, 1989, 1990 and 1992) and compiled an overall regular season & playoff record of 58-12 in six seasons – an astounding 83% winning percentage.  The team’s two Arena Bowl losses in 1991 and 1993 both came at the hands of the Tampa Bay Storm.

Detroit DriveThe Drive’s most famous player was former Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter.  Schlichter, the #4 overall pick in the 1982 NFL draft by the Baltimore Colts, was a degenerate gambler and con artist.  During his rookie season in 1982, he gambled away his entire $350,000 signing bonus.  He was suspended from the NFL for gambling twice and never played an NFL down again after 1985.  Schlichter mounted a comeback with the Drive in 1990 at age 30 and promptly led the club to a third consecutive Arena Bowl title and was named the Arena league’s 1990 Most Valuable Player.

After leading the Drive to a fourth straight title appearance in 1991, the team traded him to the expansion Cincinnati Rockers prior to the 1992 season.  Although Schlichter would have his best statistical season with Cincinnati in 1992, the trade proved a shrewd deal for Detroit as the quarterback’s gambling addiction roared back to life in Ohio.  He passed at least two bad checks during the 1992 season and was arrested two weeks before the end of the season.  Schlichter never played another down of professional football after 1992 and spent much of the next decade in prison on various fraud charges.

The owner of the Detroit Drive was Little Caesar’s pizza mogul Mike Ilitch, who also owned the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.  The team was a popular attraction in Detroit, averaging over 14,000 fans per game at Joe Louis Arena over six seasons.  But Ilitch purchased the Detroit Tigers in 1993 and reportedly came to view the Drive as competition for the Tigers during the spring and summer months.  Ilitch sold the Drive to Joseph O’Hara in February 1994.  O’Hara moved the franchise to Worcester, Massachusetts where it played one undistinguished season as the Massachusetts Maraudersin 1994 and then went out of business.



==Detroit Drive Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1988 6/10/1988 vs. Los Angeles Cobras W 39-26 Video
1988 7/1/1988 @ Pittsburgh Gladiators W 28-9 Program
1988 7/30/1988 @ Chicago Bruisers W 24-13 Program
1989 7/28/1989 Pittsburgh Gladiators W 61-34 Program Roster
1989 8/18/1989 vs. Pittsburgh Gladiators W 39-26 Program
1990 7/14/1990 @ Dallas Texans L 33-29 Video
1990 8/3/1990 vs. Pittsburgh Gladiators W 61-30 Program
1990 8/11/1990 vs. Dallas Texans W 51-27 Program
1991 8/9/1991 vs. Albany Firebirds  W 37-35 Program
1991 8/17/1991 vs. Tampa Bay Storm L 48-42 Program
1993 8/21/1993 vs. Tampa Bay Storm L 51-31 Program Roster



The Drive host the Los Angeles Cobras at Joe Louis Arena, June 10th, 1988.




Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs


Written by andycrossley

April 26th, 2014 at 8:43 pm