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April 5, 1986 – Cleveland Force vs. Minnesota Strikers

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1986 Cleveland Force ProgramCleveland Force vs. Minnesota Strikers
April 5, 1986
Richfield Coliseum
Attendance: 20,174

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs

 

Always been especially fond of game programs with illustrated art, like this 1986 soccer mag that arrived at FWiL this week. They were commonplace at both the major and minor league levels until the late 1980’s, when the rise of cheap graphic design software packages drove the final nail in the coffin of hand-drawn cover artwork.

This game day mag comes from an historic match in the Major Indoor Soccer League. The popular Cleveland Force (1978-1988) took on the visiting Minnesota Strikers (1984-1988) in the regular season finale of the 1985-86 season.  The Saturday evening contest pulled a massive announced crowd of 20,174.  At the time it was the largest crowd ever to watch an indoor soccer match, surpassing the previous record of 19,398 set by the Chicago Sting of the NASL at Chicago Stadium in 1982.

Ali Kazemaini Cleveland ForceThe Force didn’t disappoint, treating their fans to a 7-4 victory that clinched their first division title after seven seasons in the MISL. Ali Kazemaini led the way for the hosts, scoring a hat trick with his 36th, 37th and 38th goals of the 1985-86 campaign.

Cleveland and Minnesota would meet again three weeks later in the Best-of-5 MISL semi-final playoffs. This time around, the Strikers got the best of it, vanquishing the Force in four games. Just two years later, both franchises would be out of business.

The attendance record would fall one year later, when 21,728 fans showed up in Tacoma, Washington for Game 7 of the 1987 MISL Championship Series between the Tacoma Stars and the Dallas Sidekicks.  That 1987 Tacoma crowd remains the largest ever for the sport of indoor soccer, a mark likely to endure given the dire status of the indoor game in recent years.

 

==Links==

Cleveland Force Home Page

Minnesota Strikers Home Page

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1979-2001 Wichita Wings

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Wichita Wings Media GuideMajor Indoor Soccer League (1979-1992)
National Professional Soccer League (1992-2001)

Born: August 21, 1979 – MISL expansion franchise.
Folded: May 18, 2001 

Arena: Kansas Coliseum

Team Colors:

Owners:

MISL Championships: None
NPSL Championships: None

 

Text Body

 

==Slideshow==

 

==Wichita Wings Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

1979-80

1979-80 3/18/1980 vs. Houston Summit L 5-4 (OT) Program

1982-83

1982-83 1/29/1983 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 7-6 (OT) Program
1982-83 4/5/1983 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 4-3 Program

1983-84

1983-84 12/17/1983 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 6-5 (OT) Program
1983-84 12/27/1983 vs. Los Angeles Lazers W 11-6 Program
1983-84 2/1/1984 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 5-3 Program
1983-84 2/7/1984 vs. Los Angeles Lazers W 4-1 Program
1983-84 2/17/1984 vs. Pittsburgh Spirit W 6-4 Program
1983-84 2/24/1984 vs. Memphis Americans W 7-4 Program
1983-84 3/16/1984 vs. Kansas City Comets W 5-4 Program
1983-84 3/18/1984 vs. Buffalo Stallions W 6-3 Program
1983-84 3/21/1984 @ Los Angeles Lazers L 2-1 Program
1983-84 3/24/1984 vs. St. Louis Steamers W 4-2 Program
1983-84 4/1/1984 vs. Pittsburgh Spirit W 5-4 Program
1983-84 4/15/1984 vs. Phoenix Pride W 6-5 Program
1983-84 4/24/1984 vs. Los Angeles Lazers W 10-7 Program
1983-84 5/4/1984 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 5-4 Program

1984-85

1984-85 11/15/1984 @ Los Angeles Lazers L 3-2 (OT) Program
1984-85 11/24/1984 vs. Tacoma Stars W 4-3 Program
1984-85 12/21/1984 vs. Pittsburgh Spirit W 5-4 (OT) Program
1984-85 12/28/1984 vs. New York Cosmos W 7-5 Program
1984-85 12/30/1984 vs. Los Angeles Lazers L 8-7 Program
1984-85 1/12/1985 vs. Kansas City Comets W 5-4 (OT) Program
1984-85 2/11/1985 @ Los Angeles Lazers L 3-1 Program

1985-86

1985-86 11/22/1985 @ Chicago Sting L 5-4 Program
1985-86 11/23/1985 vs. San Diego Sockers W 11-9 Program
1985-86 12/3/1985 vs. St. Louis Steamers W 4-3 Program Video
1985-86 12/6/1985 @ St. Louis Steamers L 5-3 Program
1985-86 12/8/1985 vs. Los Angeles Lazers W 8-3 Program
1985-86 12/13/1985 vs. Kansas City Comets W 7-2 Program
1985-86 12/20/1985 vs. Tacoma Stars W 4-2 Program
1985-86 12/26 1985 vs. San Diego Sockers ?? Program
1985-86 1/4/1986 @ Los Angeles Lazers L 6-4 Program
1985-86 1/7/1986 vs. Kansas City Comets W 4-3 (OT) Program
1985-86 1/10/1986 vs. Baltimore Blast L 6-3 Program
1985-86 1/19/1986 vs. Los Angeles Lazers W 6-3 Program
1985-86 1/25/1986 vs. Minnesota Strikers L 6-4 Program
1985-86 1/31/1986 vs. Tacoma Stars W 6-5 (OT) Program
1985-86 2/2/1986 vs. Cleveland Force L 4-3 Program
1985-86 2/9/1986 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 7-2 Program
1985-86 2/11/1986 vs. St. Louis Steamers L 4-2 Program
1985-86 2/21/1986 vs. Chicago Sting W 11-3 Program
1985-86 2/23/1986 vs. Cleveland Force L 8-5 Program
1985-86 3/7/1986 vs. Los Angeles Lazers W 9-4 Program
1985-86 3/9/1986 vs. San Diego Sockers W 5-4 Program
1985-86 3/11/1986 vs. Pittsburgh Spirit W 5-4 Program
1985-86 3/14/1986 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 8-6 Program
1985-86 3/21/1986 vs. Tacoma Stars W 9-6 Program

1986-87

1986-87 11/14/1986 vs. Tacoma Stars W 6-4 Program
1986-87 12/7/1986 vs. San Diego Sockers L 8-5 Program
1986-87 1/20/1987 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 5-4 (OT) Program
1986-87 1/27/1987 vs. Dynamo Moscow W 7-6 Program
1986-87 1/30/1987 vs. Chicago Sting W 7-2 Program
1986-87 2/3/1987 vs. New York Express W 7-5 Program
1986-87 2/13/1987 vs. Tacoma Stars W 8-7 Program
1986-87 3/1/1987 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 5-4 Program
1986-87 4/26/1987 @ Los Angeles Lazers L 6-1 Program

1987-88

1987-88 12/26/1987 vs. Baltimore Blast W 5-4 Program
1987-88 1/23/1988 vs. Chicago Sting W 4-3 (OT) Program
1987-88 2/25/1988 @ Los Angeles Lazers ?? Program
1987-88 4/2/1988 @ Cleveland Force L 7-2 Program
1987-88 4/16/1988 @ Los Angeles Lazers ?? Program

1988-89

1988-89 12/26/1988 @ Los Angeles Lazers ?? Program
1988-89 1/15/1989 @ Los Angeles Lazers ?? Program
1988-89 2/9/1989 @ Los Angeles Lazers ?? Program
1988-89 4/15/1989 @ Los Angeles Lazers ?? Program

1989-90

1989-90 4/22/1990 @ Cleveland Crunch W 7-5 Program

1991-92

1991-92 12/14/1991 vs. St. Louis Storm ?? Program
1991-92 4/4/1992 @ Cleveland Crunch L 3-2 Program

 

==Downloads==

1987-88 Major Indoor Soccer League Rule Book & Schedule 

 

==Links==

Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs

National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs

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1979-1988 St. Louis Steamers

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Carl Rose St. Louis SteamersMajor Indoor Soccer League (1979-1988)

Born: July 31, 1979 – MISL expansion franchise
Folded: June 22, 1988

Arena: The Checkerdome / St. Louis Arena

Team Colors:

Owners:

MISL Championships: None

 

Text coming soon…

 

St. Louis Steamers Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Steamers goalkeeper Slobo Ilijevski (1980-1988) died of a ruptured aorta during an amateur soccer game on July 14, 2008. He was 58 years old.

Ian Anderson (Steamers ’82-’83) passed away November 5, 2008 at age 54 in Scotland.

 

St. Louis Steamers Video

1984-85 St. Louis Steamers promo video:

 

The Promoters: Doug Verb

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Doug Verb HeadshotRecently, Fun While It Lasted had the pleasure of speaking to long-time sports executive Doug Verb for the latest entry in our Promoters Series.

Doug was one of the founding executives behind the Major Indoor Soccer League and the Arena Football League and served as President of the Chicago Sting soccer club from 1982 to 1986.

The Temple University grad has developed and consulted on sales promotions, event management and television deals for major sports and entertainment properties including the NBA, the Miss America Organization and numerous promotions in his home base of Las Vegas, Nevada. Doug’s company Action Sports America (www.giantjersey.com) is a promotional consultant and supplier to major and minor professional sports teams.

I asked Doug for 20 minutes of his time and came away with nearly two hours of great stories about the boom & bust years of American pro soccer in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

I hope you enjoy the highlights of our conversations below.  You can download the entire interview here.

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FWiL:

How did you break into pro sports, Doug?

Philadelphia AtomsDoug Verb:

With the 1976 Philadelphia Atoms of the North American Soccer League. We were the worst professional franchise in America, and I think we may still hold the title to this day.

We had a lot of the same problems that other teams had. We were terrible on the field. There was no money for marketing. We had a terrible schedule – if it was Easter Sunday or Mother’s Day or the 4th of July, that meant the Atoms had a home game. And we had absentee owners. The Atoms were owned by the four 1st Division teams in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Like I said, lots of soccer teams had those problems back then. But we also had a problem that nobody else had: no one on the Atoms spoke English and we played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

FWIL:

You were the Chivas USA of your day!

Doug Verb:

Well, yeah, but it wasn’t set up that way! We didn’t quite have a Hispanic market in Philadelphia. We couldn’t even find a place for the guys to eat.

The local President of the Atoms was an American named Ed Tepper. Ed previously owned the Philadelphia Wings indoor lacrosse team that played at the Spectrum. Somebody recommended me to Ed to be the Atoms’ PR Director. After two or three days on the job, I went to see Ed Tepper and said ‘Ed, why are we doing this?’

Ed says ‘We’re doing this to learn about soccer. We’re gonna do indoor soccer.’

Philadelphia Atoms Indoor SoccerThe day the Mexicans got off the plane in Philadelphia, I took them right to the Spectrum. There’s no translator. I brought them out onto an Astroturf carpet that didn’t quite fit over the hockey rink. These guys clearly think that they’re just in this building to loosen up and see the locker rooms – Veterans Stadium was right next door.

I tell them “No, we’re playing a game here a las siete, at seven o’clock.”

They went back to the locker room and said no, no, no, they’re going home. So I took what they thought were their plane tickets home and I just stood in the middle of the locker room and ripped them up. Of course, it was just their receipts. I kept hearing them call me ‘Loco! Loco Verb-o!’ while I’m trying to explain indoor soccer – that it’s only five players on the field and just try it, it’s going to be fun.

And so they played an indoor exhibition that night against some local semi-pros and they did have fun. I think we had five or six thousand people in the Spectrum and afterwards I told Ed Tepper ‘There is something to this’. Indoor was fast and fun and exciting.

Anyway, then we moved outdoors and had a horrible year. The Mexicans had never seen Astroturf before. The NASL was mostly a league of English guys and our undersized players just got pounded into the turf week after week by the English players. We played on Bicentennial weekend and nobody came. I announced the attendance as 1,776. And the worst part of it all was that only one of these players ever went back and played professionally in Mexico.

So the Atoms went away. I went back to sports writing. And then two years later I got a call from Ed and another guy named Earl Foreman.

FWiL:

The founders of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL).

Doug Verb:

Yes. I was one of the four guys that started the MISL, along with Ed, Earl and a Ph.D from the University of New Haven named Joe Machnik, who was the soccer guy.

After the Atoms folded, I worked for The Trenton Times.  I covered soccer in Philly and New York including the New York CosmosThe Times was owned by The Washington Post so occasionally my Cosmos stories got picked up by the national Post news service.

Earl Foreman MISLEd called on my birthday. Friday the 13th of October 1978. The other guy on the phone was Earl Foreman. Earl was the closest guy that I ever met to a genius. But also on that fine line of being maniacal. Earl was a big-time lawyer. He had a lot of sports experience as an owner in the American Basketball Association, where he’d signed Julius Erving out of college, as a part owner of the Eagles, and with the old Washington Whips soccer team. His brother-in-law was Ed Snider who owned the Flyers and Earl restructured the lease for the Flyers and made the Spectrum into the country’s #1 arena. Ed Tepper convinced Earl that indoor soccer was the way to go.

They said we have this idea of Americanizing soccer. Why don’t you come over and we’d like to talk to you about how the media will look at it?

“I don’t need to come by. I’ll tell you right now. They’ll ignore you. They’ll hate you. Sports editors hate it. They don’t like soccer. The only reason I get to write a little here is because it’s the Cosmos.”

I had to cover a New Jersey Nets game that night, so I told them I had to go and I went to take a nap. The phone rang a few hours later and it was Ed and Earl again.

“We got our sixth team and we’re ready to start.”

I said “Start what?”

I started working for the MISL two days later on October 15, 1978. The only known piece we had going for us was Pete Rose, who was a part-owner of our Cincinnati Kids franchise. Pete was great. He was on his free agency trail, which was relatively new back then. I went on the road with Pete as he met with Major League teams in all of the six cities we had for the league. Pete drew throngs of reporters and he always made it a point to talk to the press about indoor soccer.

We launched the league in 69 days. We played our first game on December 22nd, 1978 with Pete Rose kicking out the first ball at the Nassau Coliseum.

Putting together the league in the fall of ’78 was like getting my Master’s degree in the sports business. The Ph.D. came when Earl Foreman said ‘Look. When we get a new franchise, you need to go there, whether it’s for the first two weeks or two months and make sure we stay away from the ‘Brother-in-Law effect’”.

Sure enough, we go into Wichita, Kansas for the first round of expansion in 1979. So Joe Machnik and I went to Wichita to meet with the <new owner>. And Joe asks ‘What about the soccer operations side?’

And of course this guy says ‘Oh, I’ve got that covered. My brother-in-law has been involved in youth soccer here in Wichita for seven years.’

I started laughing and Joe kicked me under the table. Joe told him ‘Look, this is a professional organization. I have list for you of coaches and general managers with experience in pro soccer.’

And the guy is heartbroken. He’s thinking what am I going to tell my wife?

 

FWiL:

Let’s talk about the Chicago Sting.

Doug Verb:

After five years in the MISL league office I wanted to go run a franchise. I was hired to be the President of the Chicago Sting. This was 1982. The Sting were playing soccer year-round – outdoors and indoors – in the North American Soccer League.

Chicago Sting YearbookMy guy in Chicago was Lee Stern. He was everything that was great about soccer in Chicago. He built the foundation of soccer in that town. Because of his stick-to-itiveness and his willingness to absorb what I’d estimate to be $20 million in losses over about 15 years of owning the Sting. The Sting won a couple of titles and had a big championship parade down LaSalle Street when they won the Soccer Bowl in 1981, just like the big boys did.

And yet, Lee was everything that was wrong with owners as well.

Lee would call sports editors at 2:30 in the morning and want to know why the Sting were on the second page when we’d just won a playoff game. When I got there I said to Lee ‘<The editors> all think you’re an asshole.’

And he looked at me like ‘What do you mean?’

‘No one’s ever told you this?!’

‘No!’

Once I’d been there for a little while, I realized why people weren’t being straight with him. In the early years, it was all soccer guys running the Sting. And they were all stealing from Lee. Coaches would do player deals and they’d get a piece of it on the back end. That was the way in soccer back then. The soccer guys did the equipment deals too and they were a joke. We got hardly any money from Adidas. Well, the coach was selling the equipment! Not out of the back of his car, but out of a friend’s car.

FWiL:

Who were some of the most memorable characters on those Sting teams?

Doug Verb:

Karl-Heinz Granitza was the man. He was suave and European. He was a man about town. He had limitations in his game. He wasn’t fast, he wasn’t quick. He kind of played a post-up game and he scored a lot of goals that way. He also had a trendy restaurant and some other business ventures, but he ended up leaving a lot of paper around town and he had to eventually just leave Chicago a few years after the Sting ended. It was a lot of money.

Pato Margetic was a scrawny half-German half-Argentine guy with wild blond hair. He reminded me of an indoor soccer version of Pete Maravich. He was a guy who got the ball on his foot and the crowd just stood up. I never had anything to do with player contracts, except for Pato’s. Pato wanted more money and wanted to stay in Chicago, so I got involved with his contract. We made him a model for one of our sponsors who made blue jeans to get him the extra money.

And then there were the Americans. The leader was Rudy Glenn who was from one of the Chicago suburbs and played at the University of Indiana. He was a big strong defender and he did more camps and clinics than anyone else.

In 1984 we signed a kid named Frankie Klopas who was 16 or 17 years old and underage. He went to Mather High School in Chicago, but he was born in Greece. There’s a big Greek community in Chicago. After we signed Frankie, I couldn’t walk into a Greek restaurant in Chicago – from Greektown to all the little hamburger joints – without them clearing a table for me and never letting me pay. And, of course, I didn’t have anything to do with signing him. Frankie went on to become a national team player for the U.S.

 

FWiL:

What was the impact on the Sting on bouncing around between Wrigley, Comiskey and Soldier Field every year? Why couldn’t the team settle in one place?

Doug Verb:

The impact was that even the players got confused and would go to the wrong stadium on the wrong day. So how could the fans possibly know where we were playing?

The two baseball teams didn’t want us at all. Lee Stern was a part-owner of the White Sox and he just kind of imposed his will to play at Comiskey. The White Sox were at least very cordial to us. But when I walked into Wrigley for the first time, the Cubs made it very obvious that we weren’t wanted there. Mainly for the reason of ‘you’re going to chew up the field’, which never happened.

And Soldier Field was just too big. They were all too big. We put all the fans on the TV side, so one time (coach) Willy Roy’s sons sat all alone in a huge section of empty seats. We had them hold a sign saying “Willy Roy’s Fan Club”

That was the pre-soccer specific stadium era, so everyone faced the same problem. Now my belief is that is not what kept the crowds down for the Sting outdoors. It was just the game of outdoor soccer. It just wasn’t in the blood here. Lots of kids were starting to play soccer but here’s the analogy I’ll make: Everybody bowls. But how many go to see a PBA bowling event?

And again, the Sting were exciting and high-scoring and the players were known and did all sorts of camps and clinics. I used to say to Lee Stern ‘Let’s do All-Star Games, international matches, camps and clinics and merchandise’. But forget all these year-round league games.Those we lose money on.

Lee’s response was “What am I going to do? Buy a bigger boat to take down to Florida?”

FWiL:

What did the economics of the Sting look like?

Chicago Sting ProgramDoug Verb:

The second year I was there, Lee called me and said ‘Kid, you did great. The numbers came in. You lowered the loss to a million dollars.’

The loss had been $1.7 million a year when I got there. I said ‘Oh. OK. If you’re happy that’s great. I’m not happy. I want us to make money.’

Lee says ‘I want to bonus you. I just bought you a unit of soybeans.’

Lee was a commodities broker. That’s how he made his money.

‘What does that mean?’ I asked.

‘Don’t worry, they’re not going to back a truck of beans up to your house. I’ll take care of you.’

The next day Lee calls and says ‘Kid, you’re out of the soybeans. I sold your unit.’

‘You did? Why?’

‘I put the $5,000 in your account.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I bought them at one price, I sold them at another. You made 5 Gs.’

So, of course I said ‘Thanks! Can we do it again tomorrow?’

‘No, kid. It’s not that easy.’

FWiL:

In 1984, the North American Soccer League folded the day after the Sting won the league’s final Soccer Bowl championship. The Sting moved indoors permanently after that. What are your memories of that time?

Doug Verb:

Three weeks after we won the last Soccer Bowl, we were back playing indoor soccer at Chicago Stadium. We had joined the MISL when the NASL folded.

Indoor soccer was a show. We’d turn out the lights and introduce the team to Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Everybody would go crazy. That fan experience was new at the time. Something we started at the MISL.

40% of our indoor fans were women, which was very unusual at the time. They loved the players – these were average-sized guys running around in their underwear. Once the players figured that out, they’d start greasing up their legs. I’ll never forget – I had a woman come up to me who said ‘give me those two seats right there next to the bench and I’ll give you a hundred dollars a ticket.’ I think those tickets were $25 at the time.

FWiL:

What led to the end of the Sting? Was it the move to the Rosemont Horizon in 1986?

Doug Verb:

Well, I initiated the talks with the Horizon. Because it was the suburbs.

But I loved the old Chicago Stadium. How could you not? It was an incredible building. I never heard from anybody who said ‘oh no, I won’t go down there’. But I did start looking at it because we had so many fans out in the suburbs. My plan was to play maybe four or five games a year at the Horizon and continue to play the rest of the schedule at Chicago Stadium. I knew there could be some issues for indoor soccer at the Horizon.

1986 MISL All-Star Game @ Chicago. February 18, 1986We hosted the MISL All-Star Game at Chicago Stadium in February 1986. The day after that game I quit/was fired. Lee and I had just had enough of each other. My replacement committed to play the entire 1986-87 season at the Horizon, which I never would have done.

The biggest issue we, the front office, encountered was our coach Willy Roy. And I never tried to get rid of him. Willy had won Lee two Soccer Bowl titles in the NASL. But Willy would not learn indoor soccer. Remember, an outdoor coach does nothing during a game. Limited number of substitutions, can’t really call plays. Just sits there – maybe yells at a referee once in a while. Willy was great at finding talent and he trained the players hard. But for whatever reason, he would never learn the nuances of the indoor game

In contrast to a guy like Kenny Cooper, the coach of the Baltimore Blast. Kenny was English and he went to ice hockey coaches to learn about shift changes and power plays. He said ‘what’s this about going in one door and out the other’? Willy couldn’t get his players to come off the field for shift changes. Time after time we’d get beat because other teams would go on fast breaks and Willy couldn’t get his players in and out of the door!

We had the best talent, at least as good as anyone in league, with great crowds behind us. But we couldn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs. And in the MISL, that’s where you made your gravy. Playoff revenue was all yours to keep. If we would have had 5 or 6 playoff games instead of 1-2, we would have come pretty damn close to breaking even.

Who knows what might have happened if I had gotten rid of Willy and hired someone who was an indoor coach? Camps were great, we finally had sponsors paying the right amount for sponsorships and we’d put together a small TV network throughout the Midwest of Sting games that was getting decent ratings. We might not still be alive — because there’s not major market indoor soccer anymore — but we had things cooking.

And I had the time of my life. It sure was fun while it lasted.

 

==Links==

Doug Verb Full Interview Transcript

Doug’s Website – Action Sports America

Chicago Sting Home Page

More Interviews from the Promoters Series

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1980-1992 Baltimore Blast

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Baltimore Blast Yearbook

Major Indoor Soccer League (1980-1992)

Born: May 1980 – The Houston Summit relocates to Baltimore, MD.
Folded: July 1992

Arena: Baltimore Arena (12,506)

Team Colors: Flaming Red-Orange, Fiery Yellow & White

Owners:

 

The original Baltimore Blast were a popular, immensely entertaining entry on the Baltimore sports scene throughout the 1980’s.  The team arrived in Charm City in the spring of 1980 by way of Houston, Texas, where the franchise had failed to develop a following during the first two seasons of the Major Indoor Soccer League.  But in Baltimore, the Blast would find a rare and enviable situation – a “Major League” sports market with a distinct shortage of Major League teams.  Once the NFL’s Baltimore Colts snuck out of town on March 28th, 1984, the Blast had Baltimore’s winter sports scene all to themselves.

Sepp Gantenhammer Baltimore BlastBlast games at the Baltimore Civic Center were a spectacle, starting with the team’s elaborate pre-game introductions. The lights dimmed, Christopher Cross’ “Ride Like The Wind” boomed over the sound system and fog swirled. The Blast cheerleaders and players charged onto the arena floor from an exploding soccer ball-shaped spaceship that descended from the ceiling.  Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” was the Blast’s goal song and would be heard over and over again, as the high-scoring MISL averaged nearly 11 goals per match.

Beyond the marketing glitz, the Blast were a consistently terrific team under Head Coach Kenny Cooper. The Englishman moved with the franchise from Houston and guided the club for all 12 seasons in Baltimore.  The Blast had fierce divisional rivalries with the New York Arrows in the early part of the 1980’s and then with the Cleveland Force in the middle of the decade.

But the team’s toughest opponent was Ron Newman’s San Diego Sockers, the great indoor dynasty of the 80’s.  The Blast made the MISL playoffs eleven times in twelve seasons.  On five occasions (’83, ’84, ’85, ’89 and ’90) the Blast advanced to the Championship Series, losing the Newman’s club four times.  Baltimore’s only MISL title came in 1984, a season when the Sockers competed in the rival North American Soccer League.

On June 8th, 1984, the Blast defeated the St. Louis Steamers in Game 5 of the MISL finals to win the league championship.  This win would mark the peak of the team’s popularity and influence in Baltimore.  The Colts had just left town.  The Blast averaged a franchise record 11,189 fans per game at the Civic Center in 1983-84.  The victory was also a vindication of one of Kenny Cooper’s boldest moves.  Eleven months earlier, Cooper paid a league record $150,000 transfer fee to purchase an overweight Yugoslav striker named Stan Stamenkovic from the Memphis Americans.  Stamenkovic was known as “The Pizza Man” for his abominable dietary and conditioning habits. He led the MISL in scoring in both the regular season and playoffs and was the named the league’s Most Valuable Player for 1984.

Baltimore Blast YearbookThe Blast’s 1984 championship was sweet for original owner Bernie Rodin. He was last man standing among the MISL’s original owners from 1978 and the series marked his final involvement with the league.  Rodin sold the Blast for a league record $2.9 million to Nathan Scherr three months earlier. The ownership transfer took formal effect one week after the Blast’s finals victory.

The Blast continued to be a fixture in Baltimore for the rest of the decade, averaging over 10,000 fans per game through 1986.  The fortunes of both the MISL and the Blast began to flag as the decade drew to an end.  The league nearly folded in the summer of 1988.  Budget cuts saw the Blast’s vaunted pre-game pyrotechnics scaled back in the late 1980’s, even as previously conservative NBA and NHL teams began to co-opt the MISL’s flashy game presentation tactics.  Nathan Scherr’s early 1989 sale of the Blast to Ed Hale brought just $700,000, or less than 25% of what the team commanded five years earlier.

The Blast played their final matches in April 1992.  Appropriately, the team lost their last contests to Ron Newman and the San Diego Sockers in the 1992 playoff semi-finals.  Fewer than 5,000 fans turned out for each of the semi-final games at Baltimore Arena.

The MISL went out of business  in July 1992 and the Blast closed up shop along with the league.  Within a matter of days, a new indoor club called the Baltimore Spirit was organized with Kenny Cooper returning as Head Coach and Bill Stealey as the new owner.  The Spirit entered the lower-budget National Professional Soccer League, where they would compete for six seasons.  In 1998, former Blast owner Ed Hale purchased the Spirit from Bill Stealey and changed the name back to the Baltimore Blast.  This second version of the Blast continues to play today under Ed Hale’s ownership.

 

Baltimore Blast Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Blast defender Mike Reynolds passed away at age 27 on July 1, 1991, two days after suffering a stroke at a Blast promotional event.

Former MISL MVP Stan Stamenkovic (Blast ’83-’88) died from a slip-and-fall in Serbia on January 28, 1996.  He was 39.

English forward Paul Crossley (Blast ’80-’83) died from a heart attack at the age of 47 on March 11, 1996.

Former Blast owner Nathan Scherr (’84-’88) died of Parkinson’s disease on November 21, 2003 at age 80. Baltimore Sun obit.

Canadian striker Domenic Mobilio (’89-’92) died of a heart attack on November 13, 2004 at the age of 35.

Paul Kitson (’83-’86) died of a heart attack while conducting a soccer clinic on August 25, 2005.  Kitson was 49.

Goalkeeper Slobo Ilijevski (Blast ’88-’89) passed away July 14, 2008 at age 58 after suffering a ruptured aorta during a soccer game.

Billy Ronson (’86-’92) passed away of undisclosed causes on April 8, 2015. Ronson was 58.

 

Baltimore Blast Video

Blast vs. San Diego Sockers. 1983 MISL Championship Series Game 4 at Baltimore Arena. May 19, 1983.

==Downloads==

2-3-1987 Baltimore Blast vs. Dynamo Moscow Game Program

 

==Links==

The Blast had one at last“, E.M. Swift, Sports Illustrated, June 18, 1984

Major It Never Was, but Covering Soccer Was a Blast“, Melody Simmons, The Baltimore Sun, July 19, 1992

Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs

###

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