Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Women’s Sports’ Category

November 26, 1980 – Dallas Diamonds vs. Chicago Hustle

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Anne Donovan Old DominionDallas Diamonds vs. Chicago Hustle
Pre-season Exhibition Game
November 26th, 1980
Old Dominion Field House (Norfolk, VA)
Attendance:

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs
64 Pages

 

Here we have a terrific program that Fun While It Lasted recently acquired from the collection of women’s basketball historian John Molina.  This comes from a rare college/pro doubleheader hosted by the Old Dominion University Lady Monarchs in November 1980.  The front end of the double dip was a pre-season exhibition game between the Chicago Hustle and the Dallas Diamonds of the short-lived Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1981).

At the time, Old Dominion was the powerhouse team in women’s college basketball.  In 1980, the Lady Monarchs were two-time defending AIAW national champions.  And the Norfolk, Virginia school produced the top two draft picks in the 1980 Women’s Professional Basketball League draft.  Nancy Lieberman, widely considered the greatest female basketball player in the United States, went #1 overall to the Dallas Diamonds.  After a three-month holdout, Lieberman signed a record-breaking $100,000 contract with the financially shaky Diamonds, double the benchmark $50K deal inked by UCLA’s Ann Meyers a year earlier.  6′ 5″ Danish center Inge Nissen went #2 overall to the Hustle.  No less dominant than Lieberman, Nissen cut a much lower public (and financial) profile.

The University imported the Diamonds and the Hustle for this pre-season tune-up and then retired Lieberman and Nissen’s numbers at halftime of the ODU-James Madison contest that followed.  According to The Associated Press, it was the first time a university retired the jerseys of its alumni in the (relatively short) history of women’s college basketball.

Inge Nissen Old DominionTo the delight of the ODU faithful, Lieberman (20 pts. for Dallas) and Nissen (18 pts. for Chicago) led all scorers in Dallas’ 80-66 victory.

Despite losing two future Hall of Famers in Lieberman and Nissen in 1980, the cupboard was hardly bare at Old Dominion heading into the 1980-81 college basketball season.  For one thing, the Lady Monarchs still had the unstoppable 6′ 8″ sophomore center Anne Donovan.  Lieberman (appearing “short” at 5′ 10″), Donovan and Nissen are pictured on the cover of the evening’s game program (above right).   ESPNW writer Mechelle Voepel notes that the iconic photo of the three future Hall-of-Famers hung in the ODU Field House for years.

Donovan would lead the Lady Monarchs to a third consecutive Final Four appearance in 1981.  But unlike Lieberman and Nissen, she would never get the chance to play pro basketball in the United States.  The Women’s Professional Basketball League folded in 1981 at the conclusion of Lieberman and Nissen’s rookie seasons.  Donovan played overseas and gold medals with the U.S. Olympic team in 1984 and 1988.

Donovan and Lieberman were enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in the mid-1990’s.  Both went on to coach in the WNBA and Donovan coached the U.S. women to Olympic Gold in 2008.   Inge Nissen, as always, has remained in the background in comparison to her legendary ODU teammates.  Nissen was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012, but still lacks that most basic credential of modern day notoriety – her own Wikipedia entry.

 

==Downloads==

November 26, 1980 Chicago Hustle Pre-season Roster

November 26, 1980 Dallas Diamonds Pre-season Roster

 

==Links==

Dallas Diamonds Home Page

Nissen gets her time in the spotlight“, Mechelle Voepel, ESPNW, June 8, 2012

 

 

Written by andycrossley

November 23rd, 2014 at 5:59 pm

1996-1998 Atlanta Glory

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Theresa Edwards Atlanta GloryAmerican Basketball League (1996-1998)

Born: 1995 – ABL founding franchise.
Died: 1998 – The Glory ceases operations.

Arenas:

Team Colors: Blue, Red & Nugget Gold

Owner: American Basketball League

 

The Atlanta Glory was a short-lived women’s basketball team that competed in the American Basketball League for two seasons in the mid-1990’s.  The team split its home games between two downtown Atlanta college campuses, playing most dates at the brand new 5,700-seat arena at Morehouse College, built for the 1996 Olympic Games.

Teresa Edwards, a Cairo, Georgia native, former UGA Bulldog, and four-time U.S. Olympic basketball medalist, was the Glory’s featured attraction.  But despite Edwards’ presence, the Glory struggled to find a following in Atlanta.  During the ABL’s 1996-97 inaugural season, the Glory’s average attendance of 2,780 fans was 2nd lowest in the league.  The team also missed the playoffs with an 18-22 record.

Edwards took on double duty as the Glory’s player-coach for the second ABL season in the winter of 1997-98.  The team went backwards to 15-29, missing the playoffs again.  Announced attendance picked up 40% to 3,898 per game, but that wasn’t enough to save the Glory from the axe.  All teams in the single-entity ABL were centrally owned by the league itself.  With the league bleeding cash at an alarming pace, the ABL contracted the Atlanta franchise shortly after the 1997-98 season concluded.

The ABL launched a 3rd season in November 1998, but ran out of money one month later and folded on December 22, 1998.

Women’s pro hoops returned to Atlanta in 2008 with the formation of the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA.

 

==Links==

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

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1978-79 Dayton Rockettes

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Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1979)

Born: 1978 – WPBL founding franchise.
Died: 1979 – The Rockettes cease operations.

Arena: Hara Arena

Team Colors: Kelly Green & Silver

Owner: Louis Deitelbaum

 

The Dayton Rockettes were one of eight original franchises in the Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1981).  The WPBL, which debuted in December 1978, was the first professional basketball league for women, pre-dating the WNBA by nearly 20 years.

Even by the standards of this league, which scraped and scratched for media and fan attention without consistent success, the Rockettes were a particularly obscure franchise.  They played in the league’s smallest market in a minor league hockey arena.  The Rockettes encountered financial problems early in their maiden season and folded quietly in the spring or summer of 1979, earning a place in our One-Year Wonders file.

The Dayton Rockettes were 12-22 in their only season of existence.

FWIL is actively looking for a program or other memorabilia from this team to improve this entry.  Email andy@funwhileitlasted.net if you can help.

 

==Dayton Rockettes Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
1/4/1978 @ Chicago Hustle W 102-95 Program
4/1/1979 @ Iowa Cornets  L 115-84 Program Roster

 

==Downloads==

1978-79 Women’s Professional Basketball League Brochure

 

==Links==

Women’s Professional Basketball League Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs

Written by andycrossley

November 10th, 2014 at 3:04 pm

2001-2003 San Jose CyberRays

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2003 San Jose Cyberrays Media GuideWomen’s United Soccer Association (2001-2003)

Born: 2000 – WUSA founding franchise.
Died: September 15, 2003 – The WUSA ceases operations.

Stadium: Spartan Stadium (16,000)

Team Colors: Dark Purple, Light Purple, Orange & Black

Investor/Operators: John Hendricks & Amos Hostetter

 

In the relatively short history and small sample size of women’s professional team sports in North America, I’d hand the Weirdest Name prize to the Bay Area CyberRays of the Women’s United Soccer Association.  After their debut season, in the summer of 2001, the league seemed to realize it was an appallingly stupid name and they changed it … to the San Jose CyberRays.

But anyway, back to that first season.  The team was actually pretty damn good under the direction of former Stanford coach Ian Sawyers.  The big star was the 1999 U.S. World Cup hero Brandi Chastain, but the offense was powered by a pair of standout Brazilians: midfielder Sissi (10 assists) and forward Katia (7 goals).  Australian Julie Murray was the team’s leading scorer with 9 tallies.

CyberRays advanced to the 2001 Founders Cup final and won the first WUSA championship by defeating the Atlanta Beat on penalty kicks before 21,078 fans at Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts on August 25, 2001.  Murray scored in regulation and converted the final PK to earn Player of the Match honors in her final pro match before retirement.

The CyberRays were unable to recapture their first season form and missed the WUSA playoffs in 2002 and 2003.  (Maybe it’s bad mojo to change your name, however slightly, immediately after winning the championship.)

The CyberRays were somewhat of an orphan club from inception.  The team was jointly “operated” in the centrally-owned WUSA cable TV barons Amos Hostetter and league founder John Hendricks.  Both men lived on the Eastern seaboard and were more actively engaged with the WUSA franchises they operated in their local communities – Hostetter with his Boston Breakers and Hendricks with the league’s flagship Washington Freedom franchise.  According to Sports Business Journal the pair were actively seeking to unload the CyberRays to local investors in 2003, but couldn’t find any takers.  One rumored scenario had the club moving to Los Angeles for the 2004 season under the management of Anschutz Entertainment Group, owners of the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer.  But instead the entire WUSA went out of business on September 15th, 2003, rendering the matter moot.

Women’s pro soccer returned to the Bay Area with the formation of FC Gold Pride of Women’s Professional Soccer in 2009.  Like the CyberRays, F.C. Gold Pride also won a league championship.  But they too were short-lived and folded after just two seasons.

 

==San Jose CyberRays Matches on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
2001 4/14/2001 @ Washington Freedom L 1-0 Program
2001 6/10/2001 @ New York Power T 0-0 Program
2001 8/25/2001 Atlanta Beat W 4-2 (PK) Program
2002 6/29/2002 @ Boston Breakers T 1-1 Program
2002 8/10/2002 @ Boston Breakers L 1-0 Program
2003 5/3/2003 @ Atlanta Beat  W 1-0 Program
2003 5/17/2003 @ Atlanta Beat  L 1-0 Program
2003 6/22/2003 @ Washington Freedom T 2-2 Program
2003 8/2/2003 @ Washington Freedom L 5-0 Program

==Key Players==

 

==YouTube==

60-second radio spot promoting what turned out to be the final CyberRays game ever played, August 10, 2003.

 

==Links==

Women’s United Soccer Association Media Guides

Women’s United Soccer Association Programs

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September 14, 2002 – Michelle Akers Testimonial Match

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Michelle Akers Boston Breakers

Photo courtesy of Tony Biscaia

Boston Breakers vs. Washington Freedom
Michelle Akers Testimonial Match
September 14, 2002
Nickerson Field
Attendance: 10,279

 

We’re preparing to put our house on the market, so I’ve been rifling some old boxes from my women’s pro soccer adventures in the course of clearing out the attic.  I came across this gem on a beat-up old VHS tape…

This is the in-stadium tribute video created by the original Boston Breakers of the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) for Michelle Akers farewell/testimonial match in September 2002.  (Scroll to the bottom of this post for the video embed).

Akers was arguably the first transcendent star of the U.S. Women’s National Team program.  A Hermann Trophy winner, Olympic gold medalist, two-time World Cup champion and FIFA’s Female Player of the Century.  The WUSA attracted investors and got off the ground thanks in part to Akers’ heroics during the 1990’s, and the tens of thousands of young girls and women inspired by both her relentless, physical playing style and by her battle with chronic fatigue syndrome throughout her career.

But by the time WUSA launched in April 2001, Akers was 35 years old and retired from international play.  She had had 13 knee surgeries, several concussions, and faced her fourth and fifth shoulder operations in 2001.  She was the only player among 20 so-called “Founders” of the WUSA – top players from the U.S. National Team pool who were given an equity stake in the league – who didn’t play during the 2001 inaugural season.  In October 2001, Akers announced her final retirement from soccer and that she had abandoned her hopes of playing in the WUSA.

Michelle Akers WUSA

Photo Courtesy of Tony Biscaia

11 months later, on September 14, 2002, the Boston Breakers hosted a postseason Testimonial Match to honor Akers’ legendary career.  FOr one night only, Akers would don her old number 10 for the Boston Breakers.  The opponents were the WUSA’s Washington Freedom who brought with them the biggest drawing card in the women’s game – Akers’ former U.S. teammate Mia Hamm.  At the time, Hamm and Akers were the top two scorers in the history of the U.S. National Team.

The exhibition had huge appeal in Boston.  Akers, Hamm and Breakers’ star Kristine Lilly threw out ceremonial first pitches at the Boston Red Sox game the night before.  The Testimonial Match sold out Nickerson Field in advance.  In fact, the crowd of 10,279 was the second largest in the 9-year history of the various incarnations of the Breakers, trailing only the club’s inaugural WUSA game in May 2001.

The Breakers won the match 1-0.  An interesting footnote – the Breakers finished a disappointing 2002 campaign a month earlier and fired Head Coach Jay Hoffman.  The club’s new Head Coach would be Pia Sundhage, the Swedish-born manager who would later lead a restoration of the U.S. National Team program from 2008 to 2012.  It would have been a compelling cross roads – the dominant star of the 1990’s in her final match and the woman who would become one of the key figures for U.S. Soccer in the early 21st century managing her first game (albeit an exhibition) in the States.   But as it was, Sundhage hadn’t arrived in Boston yet and the Breakers were guest-managed on this evening by former Harvard coach Jape Shattuck.

 

==YouTube==

Michelle Akers Tribute Video, played in-stadium during halftime of her Testimonial Match at Nickerson Field.

 


 

 


Written by andycrossley

August 22nd, 2014 at 3:01 pm