Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Softball’ Category

1976 Chicago Ravens

leave a comment

Chicago Ravens ProgramInternational Women’s Professional Softball Association (1976)

Born: January 1976 – IWPSA founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1976 – The Ravens cease operations.

Stadium: Windy City Softball Complex (4,000)

Team Colors:

Owner: Fred Huebner

 

This cool-looking (if somewhat weathered) fast-pitch softball program comes from deep inside our One-Year Wonders file …

The Chicago Ravens were founding members in the International Women’s Professional Softball Association (WPS, for short) in the bicentennial summer of 1976.  WPS was yet another concoction of Dennis Murphy, the prolific promoter who helped launch countless pro leagues from the 1960’s through the 1990’s, including the American Basketball AssociationWorld Hockey Association and World Team Tennis.  The Ravens played at the Windy City Softball Complex, a facility with temporary seating for 4,000 fans in suburban Bridgeview, Illinois.

The Ravens’ top player was 28-year old Donna Lopiano, a former star with the Raybestos Brakettes, a legendary amateur team in her native state of Connecticut.  Lopiano played for the Brakettes from 1963 until 1972 before retiring to pursue a career in collegiate sports administration at the dawn of the Title IX era.  The Brakettes entered WPS in 1976 also, becoming the Connecticut Falcons franchise.  Lopiano reportedly agreed to play for Chicago rather than re-join her former teammates in the interests of creating more parity for the league.  She appeared only in weekend games for the Ravens, while holding down her job as Director of Women’s Athletics at the University of Texas during the week.

The Ravens finished their only season with a 57-63 record and then lost to the eventual champion Connecticut Falcons in the first round of the playoffs.  Following the 1976 season, six of the ten original WPS franchises went out of business, including the Ravens.  The shrunked league managed to hang on for three more summers before folding in the spring of 1980.

Donna Lopiano went on to become one of the most influential voices in women’s sports, most notably as CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation from 1992 to 2007.

 

==Links==

IWPSA Programs

###

 

 

 

 

Written by andycrossley

December 21st, 2014 at 3:30 am

1997-1999 Durham Dragons

leave a comment

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

##

Written by andycrossley

August 15th, 2014 at 12:48 am

1978-1980 Philadelphia Athletics

leave a comment

American Professional Slo-Pitch League (1978-1980)

Born: 1978
Died: 1980

Stadiums:

Team Colors:

Owner: Valentino “Butch” Piacentino, Jr.

 

The Philadelphia Athletics of 1978-1980 were a men’s slo-pitch softball team competing in the American Professional Slo-Pitch League.  The team revived both the name and the old elephant logo of Philadelphia’s former American League baseball franchise, which departed for Kansas City in 1954.

The APSPL was concentrated on the East Coast and Upper Midwest.  The league signed a few big-name retired Major League Baseball players, such as Norm Cash of the Detroit Caesars and Joe Pepitone of the Trenton Statesmen.  The Athletics had one of the most unusual signings in the league though.  During the 1978 season Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, All-Pro kick returner for the NFL’s Houston Oilers, appeared in 25 games for the Athletics before NFL training camp opened.   He hit .349 (lowest average on the club) with 4 home runs.

The Athletics folded after the 1980 season.

 

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

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1978 8/27/1978 vs. Chicago Storm ?? Ticket

 

==Downloads==

1979 American Professional Slo-Pitch League Franchise Sales Brochure

 

==In Memoriam==

Athletics team owner Butch Piacentino passed away on April 4, 2014 at age 66.

 

==Links==

Men’s Pro Softball Media Guides

Men’s Pro Softball Programs

##

Written by andycrossley

June 29th, 2014 at 9:06 pm

1977-1982 Pittsburgh Hardhats

leave a comment

1977 APSPL Pro Softball MagazineAmerican Professional Slo-Pitch League (1977-1980)
United Professional Softball League (1981-1982)

Born: 1977 – APSPL founding franchise.
Died: 1983 – The UPSL ceases operations.

Stadiums:

Team Colors:

Owners: Jim DiLorio and Josephine DiLorio

 

The Pittsburgh Hardhats softball team played for six seasons during the short-lived Pro era of men’s slo-pitch softball.  The Hardhats competed in the first men’s pro league – the American Professional Slo-Pitch League – and, later, in its the APSPL’s successor league, the United Professional Softball League.

The Hardhats were a mom-and-pop operation funded by Jim & Josephine DiLorio, proprietors of Jim’s Sports Shop in Edgewood, Pennsylvania.  In practice, the Hardhats were really more of a semi-pro operation.  Hardhats players earned a few hundred dollars to play, but had to hold down other jobs during the season.  As a result, all league games were played only on weekends, typically as doubleheaders.

After three seasons, the team had lost a reported $100,000, but the DiLorio’s kept the club going, even in the face of new competition that arrived in 1980.  In June 1979, Ted Stepien, the President of the APSPL and owner of the league’s Cleveland franchise, got into a snit with other league owners.  He split off to form his own rival league in 1980 called the North American Softball League.  Stepien struggled to find partners for his rebel league and ended up owning most of the teams himself, including the newly formed Pittsburgh Champions who tried to loot the Hardhats roster of players.  Stepien and the DiLorio’s wound up in court over the matter.

Ultimately both Pittsburgh teams took the field in 1980.  The Hardhats were one of the best teams in the APSPL and advanced to the league’s championship series, where they lost to the Rochester Express 5 games to 4.  Stepien’s Pittsburgh Champions team finished last in their division and folded along with the rest of the North American Softball League at the end of 1980.

The Hardhats played two more seasons in the United Professional Softball League in 1981 and 1982.  The team changed stadiums frequently and never really developed much of a following, attracting only a few hundred fans per game in the early 1980’s.

The UPSL went dark in 1983 and attempted to re-organize for a return to play in 1984.  But the league was never heard from again and the Pittsburgh Hardhats went down with the ship.

 

==Downloads==

1979 American Professional Slo-Pitch League Franchise Sales Brochure

 

==Links==

Men’s Pro Softball Media Guides

Men’s Pro Softball Programs

###

 

 

Written by andycrossley

June 23rd, 2014 at 3:33 pm

1979 Fort Wayne Scouts

leave a comment

Fort Wayne ScoutsAmerican Professional Slo-Pitch League (1979)

Born: 1979 – APSPL expansion franchise.
Died: Postseason 1979 – The Scouts cease operations.

Stadium: Tah-Cum-Wah Recreation Center

Team Colors: Red & White

Owner: Johnnie Walker

 

The Fort Wayne Scouts softball team was a One-Year Wonder in the American Professional Slo-Pitch League (1977-1980).  The club took its name from the Scout off-road vehicle, an early SUV that was manufactured by Fort Wayne’s International Harvest Company.  In the late 1970’s more than 1,400 local factory workers built 200 Scouts a day on the production lines at International Harvester’s New Haven Avenue plant.

The Scouts were organized by a guy named Johnnie Walker, who had previously worked in the APSPL as the PR Director for the league’s Philadelphia Athletics franchise.   Walker hired former Major League outfielder Jim Rivera to manage the team.  Rivera was a popular figure on the Chicago White Sox in the 1950’s but also a controversial one.  Rivera was sentenced to life in prison in the 1940’s for attempted rape during a stint in the army, but was paroled after five years, thanks partly to the efforts of a minor league baseball promoter who saw him play on his prison team.

Rivera’s Scouts team was truly, historically awful.  The club went 8-56 – a .172 winning percentage – which was the worst record in the short history of the APSPL.

After the 1979 season the APSPL split in two.  Ted Stepien, owner of the Cleveland franchise (and also the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA), split off and formed his own rival league known as the North American Softball League.  The Scouts fell by the wayside sometime that winter.  Whether or not this was related to the fortunes of International Harvester is unclear, but the truck giant built its final Scout vehicle in 1980.

Fort Wayne got a new men’s pro softball entry in Stepien’s league in 1980.  With International Harvester out of the picture, the team got a new major sponsor: a local lollipop company that named the club after one of its popular sucker lines: the Fort Wayne Huggie Bears.

I’m not kidding.

The Huggie Bears and the rest of the NASL folded after the 1980, bringing the pro softball era to an end in Fort Wayne.

 

==Downloads==

1979 American Professional Slo-Pitch League Franchise Sales Brochure

 

==Links==

Men’s Pro Softball Media Guides

Men’s Pro Softball Programs

##

Written by andycrossley

May 23rd, 2014 at 2:46 am