Lively Tales About Dead Teams

1997-1999 Raleigh Cougars

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1997 Raleigh Cougars Pocket ScheduleUnited States Basketball League (1997-1999)

Born: 1997
Folded: June 7, 1999

Arena: Dorton Arena

Team Colors:

Owner: Clyde Austin

USBL Championships: None

 

The Raleigh Cougars low-level minor league basketball outfit founded by former N.C. State star and Harlem Globetrotter Clyde “The Glide” Austin. The team’s name recalled the old Carolina Cougars club that played in the American Basketball Association in the early 1970’s. The original ABA Cougars played in various arenas around North Carolina, including Raleigh’s Dorton Arena, where Austin’s team set up shop a quarter century later.

The Cougars’ biggest name was Lorenzo Charles, who famously slammed home a buzzer-beating dunk to life N.C. State to the 1983 NCAA championship over the University of Houston.

As the Cougars prepared for their third season in the United States Basketball League in 1999, it was clear that something wasn’t right. The team held no training camp. Clyde Austin no-showed a league owner’s meeting and bounced his payroll. The Raleigh Cougars managed to play 13 games, posting a 5-8 record, before USBL Commissioner Daniel Meisenheimer euthanized the club on June 7th, 1999 with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

It later emerged the Clyde Austin was running a multi-state pyramid scheme during the time he was involved in the USBL. Serving as a pastor in churches from North Carolina to Nevada, Austin swindled parishioners out of an estimated $16 million between 1996 and 2000. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison in 2004.

Links

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Written by Drew Crossley

May 29th, 2017 at 7:36 pm

1995-2000 Kissimmee Cobras

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Kissimmee CobrasFlorida State League (1995-2000)

Born: October 4, 1994 – Re-branded from Osceola Astros
Folded: September 2000

Stadium: Osceola County Stadium

Major League Affiliation: Houston Astros

Team Colors:

Owner: Houston Astros (Drayton McLane ,Jr.)

Florida State League Champions: 1999

 

The Kissimmee Cobras were a Class A Florida State League farm club of Houston Astros from 1995 through 2000.  The partnership between the Astros and Osceola County dated back to 1984 with the formation of the Osceola Astros. The team adopted the “Cobras” identity during a re-branding effort in late 1994. Osceola County Stadium was also Houston’s spring training home during this era.

Key players during the Cobras era in Kissimmee included: Lance Berkman (Cobras ’97), Freddy Garcia (Cobras ’97), Brad Lidge (Cobras ’99-’00) and Roy Oswalt (Cobras ’00).

The Cobras defeated the Dunedin Blue Jays to win their lone Florida State League crown in 1999.

Cobras attendance consistently placed at or near the bottom of the Florida State League. On July 20, 2000 the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues announced a plan to re-balance the Class A level by contracting two teams from the Florida State League and adding two to the South Atlantic League. The Cobras were marked for elimination along with the St. Petersburg Devil Rays. The Cobras ceased operations at the conclusion of the 2000 season.

The Florida State League returned to Kissimmee and Osceola County Stadium in 2017 with the arrival of the Florida Fire Frogs, a farm club of the Atlanta Braves.

 

Kissimmee Cobras Memorabilia

 

Links

Florida State League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

May 29th, 2017 at 4:39 pm

1966-1970 Orlando Panthers

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1967 Orlando Panthers ProgramContinental Football League (1966-1969)
Atlantic Coast Football League (1970)

Born: 1966 – The Newark Bears relocate to Orlando, FL
Folded: Postseason 1970

Stadium: The Tangerine Bowl

Team Colors:

Owners:

Continental Football League Champions: 1967 & 1968

 

Text coming soon…

 

Orlando Panthers Memorabilia

 

Links

Recalling Orlando Panthers: Their Legend is Quite Major“, Brian Schmitz, The Orlando Sentinel, August 24, 1986

Continental Football League Media Guides

Continental Football League Programs

Atlantic Coast Football League Media Guides

Atlantic Coast Football League Programs

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1968-1970 Pottstown Firebirds

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Pottstown FirebirdsAtlantic Coast Football League (1968-1970)

Born: 1968
Folded: May 2, 1971 – The Firebirds merge with the Norfolk Neptunes

Stadium: Franklin Field

Team Colors: Green & White

Owner: Ed Gruber

ACFL Champions: 1969 & 1970

 

Minor league football is – and always has been – so far off the radar in this country that it’s impossible to speak of there being any iconic teams.  The sport offers nothing like the Hershey Bears hockey team or Rochester Red Wings baseball club that have entertained locals for upwards of a century. To the extent that minor and semi-pro football at least has a cult favorite team – the sport’s answer to the Durham Bulls – it’s likely the short-lived Pottstown Firebirds of the defunct Atlantic Coast Football League.

The Firebirds were a colorful and talented bunch. They played at the local high school football stadium in Pottstown, 40 miles north of Philadelphia. The team was backed by a local underwear manufacturer named Ed Gruber and took their name and team color from a loose affiliation with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. Though the club lasted only three seasons, they won two minor league titles.

The team’s 15 minutes of fame came thanks to Steve Sabol’s NFL Films. The young company documented the Firebirds’ final championship season in 1970. More than a year after the team’s demise, the documentary Pro Football Pottstown PA aired prior to the national broadcast of Super Bowl VI in January 1972. The following year, the author Jay Acton published The Forgettables, a book that chronicled the Firebirds behind the scenes during that same 1970 season. (Acton later became a serial minor league baseball investor himself).

The Firebirds dominated the Atlantic Coast Football League thanks to a fine cast of characters. Carousing quarterback James “King” Corcoran was characterized by Acton (and many others) as a sort of Joe Namath of the minor leagues. Tight end Bob Tucker went on to an 11-year NFL career. Receiver Jack Dolbin took half a decade to catch on in the NFL after leaving Pottstown, but ended up spending five seasons with the Denver Broncos in the late 1970’s.

In March 1971, Ed Gruber tried to sell the Firebirds to a group of businessmen that planned to move the team to Hershey, Pennsylvania. But the deal fell through. Gruber then decided to buy the rival Norfolk (VA) Neptunes instead in May of 1971.  He merged the two clubs, shuttering the Pottstown operation and moving the team’s best players to Virginia.

The Atlantic Coast Football League folded in 1973. The following year, the World Football League launched. The WFL hoped to take on the NFL head-to-head for top talent much as the American Football League did in the 1970’s. The league’s Philadelphia Bell franchise hired former Firebirds assistant Ron Waller as Head Coach. Waller loaded the Bell with former Firebirds, including Corcoran at quarterback and starting running back John Land.

 

Pottstown Firebirds Memorabilia

 

Pottstown Firebirds Video

NFL Films ‘ Pro Football Pottstown PA chronicled the Firebirds’ third and final season in the fall of 1970. The one-hour film aired nationwide prior to the broadcast of Super Bowl VI in January 1972.

Links

Legendary football Firebirds back in Pottstown for reunion“, Rosemarie Ross, The Delaware County Daily Times, November 30, 2010

Atlantic Coast Football League Media Guides

Atlantic Coast Football League Programs

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1979-1981 Hampton Aces

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1979 Hampton Aces ProgramNortheastern Hockey League (1979)
Eastern Hockey League (1979-1981)

Born: January 1979 – The Jersey Aces relocate to Hampton, VA
Folded: Postseason 1981

Arena: Hampton Coliseum

Team Colors:

Owners: Mike Schmidt and Jim Humphrey

 

The Hampton Aces were a low-level minor league hockey team in the Tidewater region of Virginia. The club started out as the Jersey Aces in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in the fall of 1978. Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt was one of the team’s financial backers. After the team flopped in the Philly suburbs, Schmidt and his partner abruptly moved the club to Virginia midway through the club’s debut season.

The Aces played for the Northeastern Hockey League championship in the spring of 1979. They were defeated by the Erie Blades.

Prior to the club’s second season, the Northeastern Hockey League re-branded itself as the Eastern Hockey League. The league struggled to stay afloat with just six members. The Aces also struggled, finishing in last place in 1980 and again in 1981.

The Aces folded along with the rest of the EHL in the summer of 1981.

 

Hampton Aces Video

 

Links

Eastern Hockey League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

May 13th, 2017 at 2:46 am

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