World Team Tennis (1974-1978)
Born: 1973 – WTT founding franchise
Folded: March 1979
The Golden Gaters tennis team was the Bay Area franchise in the kooky co-ed World Team Tennis league of the mid-1970’s. Of the league’s original 16 franchises that debuted in 1974, the Golden Gaters were one of just two that remained standing in their original city when the league played its final season in 1978. (The Los Angeles Strings were the other).
Though the league considered the Golden Gaters to be its “San Francisco” franchise, the team played nearly all of its matches in blue-collar Oakland. The exception came in 1975, when the Gaters played a handful of playoff dates at the Cow Palace in Daly City.
World Team Tennis packaged tennis as a co-ed team sport played in major hockey arenas across the United States. Each contest consisted of five matches – a single set of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. Each game won equated to a point and cumulative team points determined the winner. The league also dispensed with the stuffy decorum expected on the pro tour. Loud cheering, rock music and cornball promotions were welcomed in World Team Tennis, often to the shock and befuddlement of the European tour pros who filled the league’s rosters.
The importance of the doubles game to WTT’s scoring system meant that the league attracted a lot of doubles specialists. South African star Frew McMillan, a doubles champion at Wimbledon, the French Open and the U.S. Open, served as the Golden Gaters player-coach for all five seasons of play. McMillan would earn WTT Coach-of-the-Year honors in 1975 and was named the league’s Male Most Valuable Player in 1977 and 1978.
Dutch stars Tom Okker and Betty Stove joined the Gaters in 1975 and helped the team to the first of two straight appearances in the WTT Championship Series. The Golden Gaters would lose in the finals to the Pittsburgh Triangles in 1975 and to the New York Sets in 1976.
Following the 1978 season, the league fell victim to a crisis of confidence among its investors. Eight of the ten franchises folded in October and November of 1978. The Golden Gaters hoped to continue, along with the Phoenix Racquets franchise. But with just two active clubs remaining, World Team Tennis bowed to reality and shut its doors in March 1979.
World Team Tennis re-booted on a much smaller scale in 1981 and returned to Oakland. But neither the Oakland Breakers (1981-1982) nor the Oakland Aces (1985-1986) managed to rekindle any enthusiasm for the Team Tennis concept and both clubs evaporated after just a handful of dates at the Coliseum Arena.
World Team Tennis Media Guides
World Team Tennis Programs