Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1967-1968 Detroit Cougars

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Detroit CougarsUnited Soccer Association (1967)
North American Soccer League (1968)

Born: 1967 – USA founding franchise.
Died: September 23, 1968 – The Cougars cease operations.

Stadiums:

Team Colors:

Owners: William Clay Ford, John Fetzer, Ozzie Olson, Max Fischer, John Anderson & Wendell Anderson

 

The Detroit Cougars were a well-financed but short-lived effort to bring pro soccer to Detroit in the late 1960′s.  The club was backed by Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford, grandson of Henry Ford and largest single stockholder in the Ford Motor Co., and Detroit Tigers owner John Fetzer, among others.

The Cougars formed in 1967 as one of twelve founding members of the United Soccer Association (USA).  The USA was one of two U.S. pro leagues formed in 1967, the other being the rival National Professional Soccer League (NPSL).  In order to keep pace with the NPSL’s 1967 launch date, the USA elected to import entire European and South American clubs to compete under stage names during the 1967 season.  (The USA’s spring/summer schedule conveniently coincided with the offseason for Continental and South American leagues).

The 1967 Detroit Cougars were actually Glentoran F.C. of Northern Ireland.  The Cougars/Glentoran finished out of contention at 3-6-3.

Ian Thomson over at The Soccer Observer blog has a great piece on a 1967 riot at the University of Detroit Stadium between the Cougars and the visiting Houston Stars (actually Bangu of Brazil).

After the 1967 season, the USA and NPSL ended their competition and merged to form the 17-club North American Soccer League.  For the 1968 season, each franchise would assembled a roster in the conventional manner and the USA’s practice of importing foreign clubs was abandoned.

34-year old English forward Len Julians was tabbed as player-coach of the Cougars for the 1968 campaign.  The season was a disaster for the Cougars and Julians would resign in mid-August with the club mired in last place in the NASL’s Lakes Division.  Andre Nagy was hired to manage the final meaningless games as the Cougars finished 6-21-4.  Only the hapless Dallas Tornado (an historically awful 2-26-4 mark) were worse in the 17-team circuit.

At the box office the situation was just as grim.  Although the American Soccer History Archives has the Cougars average attendance at 4,266 in 1968, the Associated Press reported in September 1968 that Cougars fans numbered fewer than 1,500 per game.  Either way, it was a bad scene and the Cougar’s well-heeled backers pulled the plug on September 23, 1968.  Detroit was the first NASL club to fold after the 1968 and it began an exodus that saw the league shrink down to just five active clubs in 1969.

Pro soccer would return to Detroit a decade later with the formation of the NASL’s Detroit Express in 1978.

 

==Detroit Cougars Matches on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1968 7/20/1968 @ Baltimore Bays  L 3-1 Program Roster

 

==Links==

The Infamous 1967 Detroit Riot … On The Soccer Field“, Ian Thomson, The Soccer Observer, June 14, 2013

United Soccer Association Programs

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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1972-1973 Ottawa Nationals

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1972-73 Ottawa NationalsWorld Hockey Association (1972-1973)

Born: 1972 – WHA founding franchise.
Died: 1973 – The Nationals relocate to Toronto, Ontario.

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owners: Nick Trbovich & Doug Michel

 

The Ottawa Nationals were a short-lived original franchise in the defunct World Hockey Association (1972-1979).  Originally the WHA and team founder Doug Michel hoped to place the club in either Toronto or Hamilton, but the Nationals struggled to line up an arena in those cities and ultimately ended up at the Ottawa Civic Centre.

Wayne Carleton Ottawa NationalsWhile upstart franchises in Winnipeg, Philadelphia and elsewhere made headlines luring big-name players away from the NHL, the cash-poor Nationals were unable to lure big names to Ottawa.  Nevertheless, the club was competitive under Head Coach Billy Harris, finishing with a 35-39-4 record and a 1973 playoff date with the New England Whalers.  Ex-NHL journeyman Wayne Carleton was the Nats’ leading scorer with 42 goals and 49 assists.

The team was poorly supported in Ottawa and chose to move its home playoff games to Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.  The Whalers eliminated the Nationals 4 games to 1.

In May 1973,  John Bassett Jr., the son of former Toronto Maple Leafs owner John Bassett, Sr., purchased the Nationals.  Bassett was considerably wealthier than the club’s previous owners.  He moved the franchise to Varsity Arena in Toronto and re-named the team the Toronto Toros prior to the 1973-74 season.

 

==Ottawa Nationals Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
11/2/1972  vs. Los Angeles Sharks T 1-1 Program
11/20/1972 @ New England Whalers L 7-5 Program
12/4/1972 @ New England Whalers L 7-2 Program
1/9/1973 vs. Quebec Nordiques W 7-5 Program
2/2/1973 @ Chicago Cougars L 4-1 Program

 

==Links==

World Hockey Association Media Guides

World Hockey Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

August 18th, 2014 at 2:51 am

1971-1983 Charleston Charlies

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Mike Mendoza Charleston CharliesInternational League (1971-1983)

Born: 1971 – The Columbus Jets relocate to Charleston, WV.
Died: 1983 – The Charlies relocate to Old Orchard Beach, ME.

Stadium: Watt Powell Park

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Charleston Charlies were a colorful (at times, blindingly so) Class AAA ballclub that made their home in West Virginia from 1971 through 1983.  From 1971 through 1976, the Charlies were the top farm club for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were a National League power at the time.  Many of the great stars of Pittsburgh’s 1970′s World Series teams came through Charleston, including Bruce KisonOmar Morena, Dave Parker, Rennie Stennett, Kent Tekulve and Richie Zisk.  Other top Charlies during the Pirates era included Tony Armas, Gene Garber, Art Howe and Willie Randolph.

Although the Pirates farm system was laden with future stars, the Charlies never won an International League title until the Houston Astros took over the parent club affiliation in 1977.  The Charlies won the Governor’s Cup for the first and only time that summer, sweeping the Pawtucket Red Sox in a best-of-seven championship series.

With the arrival of the Astros came fantastic (or grotesque, depending on your worldview) rainbow jerseys, modeled on Houston’s garish horizontal stripes of the late 1970′s/early 1980′s.  (See the photo of pitcher Mike Mendoza, circa 1979, above right).  The jerseys also featured a chest patch of the Charlies’ logo of a cigar-chomping baseball sporting a bowler hat.

Houston pulled out of town after the 1979 season and the early 1980′s were a time of turmoil and decline for the Charlies franchise.  By this time, Charleston (pop. 50,000) was the smallest Class AAA city in the country.  The Texas Rangers took over the affiliation in 1980 but stayed for just one season.  Then the Cleveland Indians were the parent club from 1981 to 1983.  Neither Texas nor Cleveland boasted particularly strong farm systems and their reigns in Charleston produced neither future Major League stars nor winning minor league ball clubs.

Behind the scenes, the Charlies long-time owner Bob Levine decided to sell the club after the 1981 season.  Levine, a junkyard owner, originally brought the team to town from Columbus, Ohio in 1971 and named it in honor of his father Charlie.  A stock drive to convert the Charlies to a community-owned club fell short, but the team’s long-time General Manager Carl Steinfeldt cobbled together enough backing to keep the team going in Charleston for the 1982 season.  But the team continued to lose money and Steinfeldt sold the Charlies to Maine attorney Jordan Kobritz at the 1982 Baseball Winter Meetings.

The Charlies played what amount to a lame duck season in Charleston in 1983 and then Kobritz moved the club to Maine in 1984 where it became known as the Maine Guides (1984-1987).  After several subsequent moves and re-brandings, the franchise once known as the Charleston Charlies plays on today as the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders.

 

==Links==

International League Media Guides

International League Programs

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1997-1999 Durham Dragons

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1997 Women's Professional FastpitchWomen’s Professional Fastpitch (1997-1998)
Women’s Professional Softball League (1999)

Born: 1996 – WPF founding franchise.
Died: October 1, 1999 – The WPSL contracts the Durham franchise.

Stadium: Durham Athletic Park (2,006)

Team Colors:

Owner:

  • 1997-1998: Women’s Professional Fastpitch
  • 1999: Women’s Professional Softball League (re-branded)

 

The Durham Dragons were one of six founding franchises in Women’s Professional Fastpitch, a professional softball league that launched in the southeastern U.S. in the spring of 1997.  All six clubs were centrally owned by the Denver-based league, which was backstopped primarily by a three-year, $4 million title sponsorship from AT&T Wireless Services.

Each WPF franchise carried a 15-woman roster and had a $74,000 salary cap during the 1997 inaugural season.  Clubs typically played in softball-specific complexes or in aging minor league baseball stadiums.  The Dragons played at the 70-year old Durham Athletic Park, which had been unused for professional sports for two years since the minor league baseball Durham Bulls departed for a new state-of-the-art stadium in 1995.

The Dragons drew nearly 2,000 fans on the league’s opening night on May 30th, 1997, but attendance settled in the low hundreds soon afterwards.

Following the league’s second season in 1998, Women’s Professional Fastpitch re-branded itself as the Women’s Professional Softball League.  The Dragons played their third and final season under the WPSL banner in the summer of 1999.  On October 1, 1999, the WPSL contracted four of its six clubs and announced the league would re-organize in a barnstorming tour format for the 2000 season.

 

==Downloads==

1997 Women’s Professional Fastpitch Game Rules Quick Summary

1998 Women’s Professional Fastpitch League Brochure

1998 Women’s Professional Fastpitch Draft Selections

 

==Links==

Softball’s New Cachet Spawns a League of Pros“, Barry Jacobs, The New York Times, June 10, 1997

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Written by andycrossley

August 15th, 2014 at 12:48 am

1973-1982 Walla Walla Padres

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1979 Walla Walla PadresNorthwest League (1973-1982)

Born: 1973 – Affiliation change from Hawaii Islanders to San Diego Padres.
Died:
September 4, 1982 – The Padres relocate to Tri-Cities, WA.

Stadium: Borleske Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Walla Walla Padres were the short-season Class A farm club of the San Diego Padres for ten summers from 1973 through 1982.  Walla Walla is a city of approximately 30,000 in southeastern Washington state.  Prior to the Padres arrival in 1973, the city hosted Northwest League baseball for four seasons under affiliations with the Philadelphia Phillies (1969-1971) and the Hawaii Islanders (1972) of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League.

The original owner of the Walla Walla Padres was Verne Russell, who broadcast the team’s games on his local easy listening radio station KUJ.  In 1975, Russell sold both the station and the Padres to Jim Nelly.  Nelly converted KUJ to a Top 40 station and handed off the Padres to his wife, Pat Nelly, who ran the ball club as General Manager.  She erected a billboard on the outfield wall at Borleske Stadium that read “Peppermint Patty Loves Her Padres”.

Under Pat Nelly’s regime, the ball club had an unusually contentious relationship with the local newspaper, the Walla Walla Union Bulletin.  When Nelly finally sold the club in  1982 after years of poor attendance, Sunday Sports Editor Ed Clendaniel opined:

“Never in my life have I seen nor ever hope to see again a shoddier or less professional operation than the Walla Walla Padres since Pat Nelly took over as owner in 1975.”

Clendaniel wasn’t alone in his opinion.  Staff writer Skip Nichols regularly excoriated Nelly for her penny-pinching operation of the franchise, which included cancelling the team’s game broadcasts on KUJ in the late 1970′s.

Pat Nelly sold the club during the 1982 season to a Piscataway, New Jersey group fronted by a long-time baseball manager, executive and scout named Mal Fichman.  Fichman took possession of the club’s assets in early September 1982 and immediately moved the franchise to Richland, Washington, where it became known as the Tri-Cities Triplets (1983-1986).

Upon the departure of the Padres, Walla Walla immediately got a new, unaffiliated expansion team in the Northwest League for the 1983 season.  The new club was known as the Walla Walla Bears, but lasted only one season.  Pro baseball has never returned to Walla Walla since the demise of the Bears in late 1983.

Key Walla Walla Padres players included future Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith (1977) and Tony Gwynn (1981).  Other notables include the late Eric Show (1978), John Kruk (1981) and Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams (1982).

 

==In Memoriam==

Pitcher Eric Show died on March 16, 1994 at age 37. (New York Times obituary).

 

==Links==

Northwest League Programs

 

==Additional Sources==

“Walla Walla – Padre divorce took a very long seven years”, Ed Clendaniel, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, September 19, 1982.

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Written by andycrossley

August 14th, 2014 at 3:17 am