The Niagara Falls Pirates were the short-season Class A farm club of the Pittsburgh Pirates throughout the 1970’s. Future Pittsburgh regulars such as Dale Berra, Omar Moreno, Ed Ott and Rod Scurry all began their climb to the Major Leagues in Niagara Falls.
The team managed only three winning seasons out of ten. Niagara Falls’ finest hour came during the summer of 1972 when the club won the New York-Penn League pennant with a 48-22 record.
The Pirates’ final season in Niagara Falls was the summer of 1979. The NY-Penn League returned to Sal Maglie Stadium in 1982 with the arrival of the Niagara Falls White Sox.
The Miami Fusion were Major League Soccer’s early misfire in the South Florida market. Cellular One founder Ken Horowitz paid a $20 million expansion fee for the club in the spring of 1997. He paid an additional $5 million to renovate Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium into a 20,000-seat soccer-specific venue. The club began play in 1998 with Colombian National Team captain Carlos Valderrama as its top drawing card.
The Fusion stumbled through three losing campaigns. Attendance bottomed out at a league-worst 7,460 per game game in 2000 and the team struggled to attract any corporate sponsorship interest. MLS, which controls all players contracts at the league level, returned the unhappy Valderrama to his original MLS club, the Tampa Bay Mutiny, early in the 1999 season. The Fusion received nothing in return for their top player.
The Fusion’s fortunes revived with the hiring of charismatic former Fort Lauderdale Strikers star Ray Hudson as manager midway through the 2000 season. Hudson and Fusion General Manager Doug Hamilton put a thrilling team on the field in 2001. Newly acquired midfielder Preki dished out assists to forwards Alex Pineda Chacon and Diego Serna, who finished 1-2 in MLS in scoring. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando and fullbacks Carlos Llamosa and Pablo Mastroeni anchored the stout defense. The Fusion earned Major League Soccer’ Supporters Shield with a league best regular season record of 16-5-5. Hudson’s squad was upset by the San Jose Earthquakes in the playoff semi-finals.
Though the Fusion’s attendance rose nearly 4,000 fans during the 2001 campaign, the franchise still ranked at the bottom of MLS in team revenues. Team owner Horowitz grew exhausted with the team’s losses. Major League Soccer contracted the Fusion, along with the similarly trouble Tampa Bay Mutiny club, on January 8th, 2002.
Miami Fusion Memorabilia
1998 Fusion Media Guide
1998 Fusion Schedule Postcard. Carlos Valderrama
Fusion vs. MetroStars. June 7, 1998
1999 Fusion Media Guide
2000 Fusion Media Guide
2001 Fusion Media Guide
Miami Fusion Video
Former Fusion General Manager Doug Hamilton passed away March 9, 2006. Hamilton was General Manager of the Los Angeles Galaxy at the time and on a flight with the team when he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was just 43.
The Toronto Falcons played two seasons of pro soccer at Varsity Stadium during the late 1960’s. The roots of the team traced back to the Toronto Italia-Falcons of the Eastern Canada Professional Soccer League. Italia-Falcons owner Joe Peters backed the promotion of the team into the ambitious National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) in 1967. The NPSL was one of two start-up North American pro leagues that launched in 1967. The NPSL’s rival, the United Soccer Association (USA), also featured a Toronto entry – Toronto City, owned by future Toronto Maple Leafs owner Steve Stavro.
Peters hired former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid manager Ferdinand Daucik to coach the Falcons in 1967. Daucik came as a package deal with members of his soccer-playing family, including son Yanko Daucik, son-in-law Ladislav Kubala and Kubala’s son Branko. “Laddie” Kubala, as Falcons officials referred to the 40-year old Hungarian, was one of the greatest strikers to ever play for FC Barcelona. He would score 5 goals in 19 appearances with the Falcons in 1967 in his final playing campaign. But it was Yanko Daucik who lit up the NPSL with a league best 20 goals in 1967.
Despite Yanko Daucik’s offensive heroics, the 1967 Falcons finished out of the NPSL playoff picture with a 10-17-5 record.
The USA and the NPSL merged to form the North American Soccer League at the end of 1967. As part of the deal, the new league bought out Toronto City owner Steve Stavro for $160,000, clearing the marketplace for Joe Peters and the Falcons.
Ladislav Kubala replaced Ferdinand Daucik as club manager for the 1968 season. Yanko Daucik showed flashes of his 1967 scoring touch with five goals, but managed to appear in just four matches in 1968. The team improved slightly to 13-13-6, but missed the playoffs once again.
The Falcons folded after the 1968 season, along with 11 of the other 16 NASL franchises. The league managed to survive with just five club in 1969 and returned to Toronto with the formation of the Toronto Metros in 1971.
Operator: Genesee County Baseball Club, Inc. (Community-owned)
New York-Penn League Championships: None
The Batavia Trojans were a community-owned baseball club that played for 22 seasons in Western New York. The club, formed in 1966, took its name from the Trojan wheel loader tractors manufactured in Batavia at the Yale and Towne plant. Pictures of the tractors frequently adorned the team’s programs and marketing materials up through the 1980’s.
The team lost its Major League affiliation in 1987 following a decade-long stretch as a Cleveland Indians farm club. The following summer, the franchise took back the Batavia Clippers name used by the city’s original Pony League club from 1939 to 1953. The former Trojans/Clippers ball club continues to play today as the Batavia Muckdogs. However, the money-losing club’s future has been cloudy for years and is likely not long for Batavia.