The Springfield Fame was a minor league basketball outfit that played two summer seasons in Western Massachusetts in the mid-1980’s. Springfield is the host city of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, which inspired the team’s name.
Though they lasted just two seasons, the Fame were noteworthy for two players that spent time on the roster. Michael Adams, an under-sized three-point specialist, played for the Fame in 1985 and 1986. (That’s him pictured on the team’s 1986 pocket schedule, above right). Adams kicked around the minor leagues in the USBL and the CBA for two years after graduating Boston College in 1985. He latched on for good in the NBA in the fall of 1986 and later became an All-Star for the Denver Nuggets. Adams retired in 1996 as one of the NBA’s all-time 3-point shooting threats.
In 1986, the Fame made national headlines by signing 27 year old women’s basketball legend Nancy Lieberman. Lieberman thus became the first female basketball player to play regular season minutes in a men’s pro league. Her contract reportedly paid the USBL’s league maximum salary in 1986 – $10,000 for the summer. Lieberman would play limited minutes throughout the first half of the USBL schedule before a thumb injury led to a premature ending to her historic season. Lieberman earned election to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.
The Fame won the USBL’s inaugural championship in 1985 by virtue of having the league’s best regular season record at 19-6. Playoffs were planned, but ultimately scrapped as the new league worked out the bugs. Guard Tracy Jackson was named co-Player of the Year for 1985 and head coach Gerald Oliver earned the USBL’s Coach-of-the-Year honor.
Springfield was outstanding again in 1986 with a 23-10 record under new coach Henry Bibby. Despite their winning ways, the Fame folded quietly following the 1986 season.
The Warriors’ big name was Bill Mosienko. The diminutive winger was a Winnipeg native who helped to launch the Warriors after completing a 14-year NHL career. At the time Mosienko retired from the NHL, he was the league’s 7th all-time leading scorer. He would go on to play four more seasons in the WHL, finally retiring in 1959 at the age of 38.
The Warriors won the President’s Cup as champions of the Western Hockey League during their charmed debut season of 1955-56.
The Warriors struggled financially at Winnipeg Arena and with the long travel distances required to reach WHL opponents in Alberta, British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. The club’s closest rival, the Calgary Stampeders, were 600 miles away. After a failed effort by Warriors owner to move the team to San Francisco in the spring of 1961, the Warriors ceased operations.
==Winnipeg Warriors Programs on Fun While It Lasted==
The NBA came to Cincinnati in the spring of 1957 when long-time Rochester Royals owners Lester and Jack Harrison moved their franchise to the Queen City.
One of the brightest stars on Cincinnati’s new team was 24-year old All-Star Maurice Stokes. The Rochester Royals drafted Stokes with the #2 overall pick in the 1955 NBA Draft out of St. Francis. The 6′ 7″ power forward won NBA Rookie-of-the-Year honors for 1956 and was named a league All-Star in each of his first three seasons.
On March 12, 1958 the Royals played the Minneapolis Lakers on the road. It was the final regular season game for the Royals’ debut season in Cincinnati. Stokes drew a foul on a drive to the hoop and had his legs taken out from under him. He crashed to the ground, banging his head on the court in the process. Stokes managed to finish the game and then suited up for the Royals again three nights later for a first round playoff contest with the Detroit Pistons. After the game, Stokes began vomiting in the Detroit airport. He managed to board the Royals’ plane but his condition deteriorated quickly. By the time the plane landed in Cincinnati, Stokes couldn’t move or speak. He was transported to a Cincinnati hospital and later diagnosed with post-traumatic encephalopathy as a result of his head injury in the Lakers game.
Stokes remained largely unable to move his limbs or speak for the rest of his life. His Royals teammate Jack Twyman petitioned the court to become Maurice Stokes’ legal guardian. Twyman was 23 years old at the time, eleven months younger than his ward. For the remainder of Stokes’ life, Twyman attended to his friend and raised money for his round-the-clock medical care. Twyman’s efforts included the annual “Stokes Game” fundraiser in the Catskills resort town of Monticello, New York. Maurice Stokes died of a heart attack in 1970 at age 36.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Royals nearly moved back to Rochester at the end of their first season in Cincinnati. The Harrison brothers struck a deal to sell the franchise to Rochester businessman Norman Shapiro in March 1958. But the NBA vetoed the sale, not wishing to see the team return to upstate New York. The Harrisons sold the team instead to Cincinnati businessman Thomas E. Wood. The Royals’ ownership would remain in flux for most of the 1960’s. Wood died in 1961 and majority interest in the Royals was held by his estate until 1963. Louis Jacobs acquired controlling interest in the Royals and their home arena, Cincinnati Gardens, in the spring of 1963. Jacobs himself then passed away in 1968, bequeathing the team to his sons Max and Jeremy.
Following the Stokes tragedy in 1958, the Royals re-stocked in the early 1960’s with the arrival of Oscar Robertson (University of Cincinnati) and Jerry Lucas (Ohio State) in the NBA’s territorial draft.
==Cincinnati Royals Games on Fun While It Lasted==
The Jacksonville Tea Men was a pro soccer outfit that played both outdoor and indoor soccer in north Florida during the early 1980’s. The franchise originated in New England in 1978 as an expansion team in the North American Soccer League, which was the top flight league in America at the time. In the Tea Men’s final years in Jacksonville, the club dropped down to lower division leagues in an effort to stem multi-million dollar financial losses.
The “Tea Men” identity was a tie-in to the franchise’s original owner, the Lipton Tea company. And it was also a play on New England’s revolutionary war history with the Boston Tea Party. The name made little sense following the club’s move to Florida, but was retained anyway.
Jacksonville interests lured the Tea Men south in November 1980 with a pledge of 14,000 season tickets for the 1981 outdoor season, but the promise never materialized. The Associated Press reported that the Tea Men sold fewer than 4,500 season tickets after arriving in Florida. By the end of 1981, Lipton’s patience with the NASL was nearly exhausted. The league had blown its national television contract with ABC and was now shedding franchises at an alarming rate. Lipton lost a reported $7M on the club between 1978 and 1981, including $1.7M during the first ten months in Jacksonville. In September 1981, the Tea Men were on the verge of folding before Lipton posted the required $150,000 bond with the league to stay in for the indoor season.
The Tea Men averaged a relatively strong 6,375 fans for indoor soccer at the Coliseum that winter. A group of local businessmen led by attorney Earl Hadlow struck a deal to lease the club from Lipton and operate it for the 1982 outdoor season. The momentum died when the team moved outdoors, however. On the field, the Tea Men regressed from the 18-14 playoff club of 1981 to a last-place 11-21 finish in 1982. Fan support dwindled as well. The Tea Men drew only 7,160 fans on average to the 68,000-seat Gator Bowl in 1982, second worst in the 14-team NASL. Hadlow’s group ran out of money during the season and returned the Tea Men to Lipton, who immediately began looking to unload the club once and for all. Deals were announced to sell the club to investors in Milwaukee, then Detroit. Both fell through.
In early 1983, local businessman Ingo Krieg rescued the Tea Men yet again and entered them in the lower level American Soccer League. The nonsensical Tea Men name endured, despite the fact that Lipton had finally pulled out entirely. The ASL had a long and rather weird history dating back to the Great Depression. Similar to the NASL, the ASL had gone on an expansion spree in the mid-1970’s, convinced that soccer’s moment had arrived. By the time Krieg and the Tea Men arrived on the scene in 1983, the ASL was in its death throes. Rebounding from 1982’s on-field disappointment, the Tea Men won the final ASL championship in 1983.
Dissatisfied with his partners in the ASL, Krieg mounted an insurrection in early 1984, peeling away the Dallas and Detroit franchises to form the United Soccer League in the spring of 1984. The Tea Men posted an 11-13 record and missed the playoffs. After countless near death experiences, the Tea Men folded once and for all after the 1984 campaign.
The Nashua Angels were a farm club of the California Angels that competed for just one season in the Class AA Eastern League during the summer of 1983. The franchise moved from Holyoke, Massachusetts one week before Christmas in 1982.
The team finished in sixth place in the eight-team Eastern League with a 60-80 record in 1983. Prominent future Major Leaguers on the club included pitcher Kirk McCaskill and outfielder Devon White.
Following the 1983 season, the Angels departed and were replaced by the Pittsburgh Pirates as Nashua’s Major League parent club. The Nashua Pirates played three more seasons in the Eastern League (1984-1986) before moving the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in late 1986.