Major Indoor Soccer League (1980-1992)
Born: May 1980 – The Houston Summit relocates to Baltimore, MD.
Folded: July 1992
Arena: Baltimore Arena (12,506)
Team Colors: Flaming Red-Orange, Fiery Yellow & White
The original Baltimore Blast were a popular, immensely entertaining entry on the Baltimore sports scene throughout the 1980’s. The team arrived in Charm City in the spring of 1980 by way of Houston, Texas, where the franchise had failed to develop a following during the first two seasons of the Major Indoor Soccer League. But in Baltimore, the Blast would find a rare and enviable situation – a “Major League” sports market with a distinct shortage of Major League teams. Once the NFL’s Baltimore Colts snuck out of town on March 28th, 1984, the Blast had Baltimore’s winter sports scene all to themselves.
Blast games at the Baltimore Civic Center were a spectacle, starting with the team’s elaborate pre-game introductions. The lights dimmed, Christopher Cross’ “Ride Like The Wind” boomed over the sound system and fog swirled. The Blast cheerleaders and players charged onto the arena floor from an exploding soccer ball-shaped spaceship that descended from the ceiling. Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” was the Blast’s goal song and would be heard over and over again, as the high-scoring MISL averaged nearly 11 goals per match.
Beyond the marketing glitz, the Blast were a consistently terrific team under Head Coach Kenny Cooper. The Englishman moved with the franchise from Houston and guided the club for all 12 seasons in Baltimore. The Blast had fierce divisional rivalries with the New York Arrows in the early part of the 1980’s and then with the Cleveland Force in the middle of the decade.
But the team’s toughest opponent was Ron Newman’s San Diego Sockers, the great indoor dynasty of the 80’s. The Blast made the MISL playoffs eleven times in twelve seasons. On five occasions (’83, ’84, ’85, ’89 and ’90) the Blast advanced to the Championship Series, losing the Newman’s club four times. Baltimore’s only MISL title came in 1984, a season when the Sockers competed in the rival North American Soccer League.
On June 8th, 1984, the Blast defeated the St. Louis Steamers in Game 5 of the MISL finals to win the league championship. This win would mark the peak of the team’s popularity and influence in Baltimore. The Colts had just left town. The Blast averaged a franchise record 11,189 fans per game at the Civic Center in 1983-84. The victory was also a vindication of one of Kenny Cooper’s boldest moves. Eleven months earlier, Cooper paid a league record $150,000 transfer fee to purchase an overweight Yugoslav striker named Stan Stamenkovic from the Memphis Americans. Stamenkovic was known as “The Pizza Man” for his abominable dietary and conditioning habits. He led the MISL in scoring in both the regular season and playoffs and was the named the league’s Most Valuable Player for 1984.
The Blast’s 1984 championship was sweet for original owner Bernie Rodin. He was last man standing among the MISL’s original owners from 1978 and the series marked his final involvement with the league. Rodin sold the Blast for a league record $2.9 million to Nathan Scherr three months earlier. The ownership transfer took formal effect one week after the Blast’s finals victory.
The Blast continued to be a fixture in Baltimore for the rest of the decade, averaging over 10,000 fans per game through 1986. The fortunes of both the MISL and the Blast began to flag as the decade drew to an end. The league nearly folded in the summer of 1988. Budget cuts saw the Blast’s vaunted pre-game pyrotechnics scaled back in the late 1980’s, even as previously conservative NBA and NHL teams began to co-opt the MISL’s flashy game presentation tactics. Nathan Scherr’s early 1989 sale of the Blast to Ed Hale brought just $700,000, or less than 25% of what the team commanded five years earlier.
The Blast played their final matches in April 1992. Appropriately, the team lost their last contests to Ron Newman and the San Diego Sockers in the 1992 playoff semi-finals. Fewer than 5,000 fans turned out for each of the semi-final games at Baltimore Arena.
The MISL went out of business in July 1992 and the Blast closed up shop along with the league. Within a matter of days, a new indoor club called the Baltimore Spirit was organized with Kenny Cooper returning as Head Coach and Bill Stealey as the new owner. The Spirit entered the lower-budget National Professional Soccer League, where they would compete for six seasons. In 1998, former Blast owner Ed Hale purchased the Spirit from Bill Stealey and changed the name back to the Baltimore Blast. This second version of the Blast continues to play today under Ed Hale’s ownership.
Baltimore Blast Memorabilia
Blast defender Mike Reynolds passed away at age 27 on July 1, 1991, two days after suffering a stroke at a Blast promotional event.
Former MISL MVP Stan Stamenkovic (Blast ’83-’88) died from a slip-and-fall in Serbia on January 28, 1996. He was 39.
English forward Paul Crossley (Blast ’80-’83) died from a heart attack at the age of 47 on March 11, 1996.
Former Blast owner Nathan Scherr (’84-’88) died of Parkinson’s disease on November 21, 2003 at age 80. Baltimore Sun obit.
Canadian striker Domenic Mobilio (’89-’92) died of a heart attack on November 13, 2004 at the age of 35.
Paul Kitson (’83-’86) died of a heart attack while conducting a soccer clinic on August 25, 2005. Kitson was 49.
Goalkeeper Slobo Ilijevski (Blast ’88-’89) passed away July 14, 2008 at age 58 after suffering a ruptured aorta during a soccer game.
Billy Ronson (’86-’92) passed away of undisclosed causes on April 8, 2015. Ronson was 58.
Baltimore Blast Video
Blast vs. San Diego Sockers. 1983 MISL Championship Series Game 4 at Baltimore Arena. May 19, 1983.
“The Blast had one at last“, E.M. Swift, Sports Illustrated, June 18, 1984
“Major It Never Was, but Covering Soccer Was a Blast“, Melody Simmons, The Baltimore Sun, July 19, 1992