Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Chicago’ tag

1981 Chicago Fire

leave a comment

Chicago Fire 1981American Football Association (1981)

Born: 1981 – AFA expansion franchise.
Spring 1982

Stadium: Soldier Field

Team Colors: 

Owners: Bill Feda and Howard Miller


The 1981 Chicago Fire were a pro football outfit that competed in the summer-season American Football Association.  The club was a brand re-boot of the old Chicago Fire of the World Football League, resuscitating that team’s name, logo and helmet design (visible in the schedule poster top right).

Unlike the WFL, which made a brief go of challenging the NFL for elite talent in 1974 and 1975, the American Football Association was a decidedly minor league operation.  Club officials spotted an opportunity with the 1981 Major League Baseball strike, which wiped the Cubs and the White Sox off the map from early June to mid-August. WGN-TV, scrambling for summer sports programming during the strike, broadcast a Fire game from Soldier Field on June 27, 1981.  But lukewarm ratings led the pioneering cable superstation to cancel Fire broadcasts scheduled for later in the season.

The Fire won the AFA’s Western Division with an 8-4 record in 1981 and advanced to the league title game.  The Fire traveled to Charleston, West Virginia on August 30th, 1981 and lost to the defending league champion West Virginia Rockets 29-21.

As late as May 1982 Fire owners Bill Feda and Howard Miller were still trying to scrape together funds to play a second season in the AFA. But the team was in financial straits and the formation of the big-budget United States Football League on May 11th, 1982 drove a final nail into the coffin.  The Fire folded quietly shortly thereafter. The USFL’s Chicago Blitz would begin play at Soldier Field in the spring of 1983.  Ex-Fire General Manager Ron Potocnik would become (briefly) GM of the Blitz in 1984.



1981 Chicago Fire Schedule & Results



American Football Association Programs


Written by andycrossley

August 12th, 2015 at 3:02 am

1988-1996 Chicago Power

leave a comment

Chicago Power ProgramAmerican Indoor Soccer Association (1988-1990)
National Professional Soccer League (1990-1996)

Born: 1988 – AISA expansion franchise.
Moved: August 23, 1996 (Edmonton Drillers)


Team Colors:




The Chicago Power were an indoor soccer club formed in 1988.  The Power were basically a lower-budget successor to the Chicago Sting (1975-1988), the city’s popular and long-running pro side that went out of business in July of 1988.  Several weeks after the Sting closed their doors, a former Sting investor named Lou Weisbach purchased an expansion franchise in the American Indoor Soccer Association (AISA) and arranged a lease with the Sting’s former home, the Rosement Horizon, for the winter of 1988-89.

Karl-Heinz Granitza, the German striker who had been the Sting’s greatest star from 1979-1987, signed on as player-coach and part-owner.  Other former Sting regulars such as Batata, Bret Hall, Manny Rojas, and Teddy Krafft soon signed with the Power as well.

The team had a promising expansion campaign, advancing to the AISA championship series before losing to the Canton Invaders.  The Power’s sophomore season was less fortunate. Granitza, the club’s top scorer, broke his ankle in December 1989.  Two months later, he was fired as coach by Power owner Lou Weisbach during a lengthy losing streak and relinquished his 25% ownership stake in the team.

Weisbach fired the staff in the summer of 1990nd was on the verge of closing the team when white knight businessman Ron Bergstrom stepped in to rescue the Power on the eve of the 1990-91 season.  Bergstrom tried to lure back Granitza, but the German had had enough.  Instead, the new owner turned to Pato Margetic, another popular ex-Sting star of the early 80’s, for the player-coach role.

Margetic led the Power to their first and only championship season in the newly renamed National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) in the spring of 1991.  The Power swept the Dayton Dynamo in three straight games in the finals.

The Power’s fortunes faded after Ron Bergstrom withdrew financial support of the team following the 1993-94 season.  New owners failed to materialize but the NPSL was loath to lose the Chicago market, so the team tottered along as a league-operated doormat for two final seasons in 1994-95 and 1995-96.  The team also lost its long-time home at the suburban Rosemont Horizon after the popular Chicago Wolves minor league hockey team launched in 1994.

The Power were finally euthanized in August 1996 when Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington purchased the carcass of the club from the NPSL and moved it north of the border to Edmonton.


==Chicago Power Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other


1988-89 11/11/1988 @ Canton Invaders ?? Program
1988-89 12/30/1988 @ Canton Invaders ?? Program
1988-89 2/26/1989 @ Canton Invaders L 19-4 Program


1989-90 2/19/1990 @ Milwaukee Wave W 11-9 (OT) Program


1990-91 11/25/1990 vs. Illinois Thunder ?? Program Game Notes



National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs


Chicago Sting vs. St. Louis Steamers. April 16, 1988

one comment

Ernie Buriano Chicago StingChicago Sting vs. St. Louis Steamers
April 16, 1988
Rosemont Horizon
Attendance: 4,604

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
52 Pages


A quiet, downbeat ending to two proud American soccer franchises on a spring Saturday night in suburban Chicago.  The St. Louis Steamers hung a 4-3 overtime defeat on the host Chicago Sting in what would prove to be the final game for both franchises.  As the Sting’s Chicago Tribune beat writer, the late John Leptich, put it the next morning: “The term sudden death never had more applications.”

The Sting, at the time, were the longest continuously operating pro soccer club in the United States.  Founded on Halloween 1974 by commodities Lee Stern, the Sting won two outdoor soccer championships in the North American Soccer League in the early 1980’s before moving permanently indoors in 1984.  The team drew huge crowds at Chicago Stadium for indoor soccer early in the decade.  But a 1986 move to the suburban Rosemont Horizon coincided with a loss of form on the field.  Attendance cratered from over 10,000 per match during the 1984-85 campaign to fewer than 6,000 two years later.  By the spring of 1988, ever a stalwart backer like Stern was exhausted and a possible sale and relocated to Denver or Milwaukee was rumored.

If the Major Indoor Soccer League itself survived, that is.  As this final weekend of the 1987-88 regular season calendar approached, the MISL was at loggerheads with its Players’ Association over a new collective bargaining agreement.  League owners wanted to slash the salary cap from the existing $1.25M to $898,000 per season.  The owners held all the leverage.  On April 5th, 1988, league officials threatened to cancel the 1988 MISL playoffs and fold the league if the players didn’t capitulate.  The union signed off on the new deal just before midnight on April 14th, 1988.  The playoffs would happen after all, but that mattered little to Chicago or St. Louis, who had each clinched last place in their respective divisions.

The St. Louis Steamers, founded in 1979, were in worse shape than the Sting in April 1988.  Once the MISL’s model franchise, the Steamers outdrew the NHL’s St. Louis Blues every winter from 1980 through 1984.  Their 1981-82 season average of 17,107 fans per game remains the highest in the history of indoor soccer.  But ownership turnover and questionable trades eroded the club competitively and at the box office in the mid-1980’s.  The day before this match, the Steamers failed to make payroll and the team arrived in Chicago clutching IOUs.

Poli Garcia St. Louis SteamersOn “Fan Appreciation Night” at the Horizon, many of the Sting’s fan favorites were in street clothes.  Pato Margetic, Frank Klopas, Frantz Mathieu, Heinz Wirtz and Chris Vaccaro watched from the Chicago bench.  Nevertheless, the hosts carried a 3-2 lead into the final quarter.  With eight minutes to go, St Louis’ Boki Bandovic beat Chicago’s reserve goalkeeper Jay McCutcheon to know the match at 3-3 and send it to overtime.

Four minutes in, Poli Garcia of the Steamers struck for his 50th goal of the season to give St. Louis a 4-3 sudden death victory.

“I guess the way to win games is not to pay the players,” Lee Stern remarked to The Tribune afterwards, noting the Steamers’ two-game winning streak after their final paychecks bounced.

Poli Garcia’s golden goal ended not just the game, but the season and the existence of both clubs.  The Steamers were booted from the MISL two months later and the Chicago Sting closed up shop in early July 1988.  Indoor soccer would soon return to both cities.  The Chicago Power (1988-1996) of the lower-budget AISA started up in the fall of 1988 with a collection of ex-Sting players.  The MISL expanded back into St. Louis with the St. Louis Storm (1989-1992) a year later.  But neither club would recapture the following of the Sting or the Steamers in their early 80’s prime.


Chicago soccer trivia from the Sting’s final match that only Peter Wilt may care about:

  • Match referee Bill Maxwell also called the Sting’s final outdoor match, the club’s NASL Soccer Bowl victory on October 4, 1984
  • Pato Margetic was the only player on both the Sting’s final outdoor roster in 1984 and final indoor roster in 1988.
  • Brazilian forward Batata, a four-time MISL All-Star, scored the final goal in Sting history.
  • Ernie Buriano (Sting ’86-’88) appeared on the cover of the final Sting game program (top right).



Chicago Sting Home Page

St. Louis Steamers Home Page


Written by andycrossley

March 4th, 2015 at 12:35 pm

1976 Chicago Ravens

leave a comment

Chicago Ravens ProgramInternational Women’s Professional Softball Association (1976)

Born: January 1976 – IWPSA founding franchise.
Folded: Postseason 1976

Stadium: Windy City Softball Complex (4,000)

Team Colors:

Owner: Fred Huebner


This cool-looking (if somewhat weathered) fast-pitch softball program comes from deep inside our One-Year Wonders file …

The Chicago Ravens were founding members in the International Women’s Professional Softball Association (WPS, for short) in the bicentennial summer of 1976.  WPS was yet another concoction of Dennis Murphy, the prolific promoter who helped launch countless pro leagues from the 1960’s through the 1990’s, including the American Basketball AssociationWorld Hockey Association and World Team Tennis.  The Ravens played at the Windy City Softball Complex, a facility with temporary seating for 4,000 fans in suburban Bridgeview, Illinois.

The Ravens’ top player was 28-year old Donna Lopiano, a former star with the Raybestos Brakettes, a legendary amateur team in her native state of Connecticut.  Lopiano played for the Brakettes from 1963 until 1972 before retiring to pursue a career in collegiate sports administration at the dawn of the Title IX era.  The Brakettes entered WPS in 1976 also, becoming the Connecticut Falcons franchise.  Lopiano reportedly agreed to play for Chicago rather than re-join her former teammates in the interests of creating more parity for the league.  She appeared only in weekend games for the Ravens, while holding down her job as Director of Women’s Athletics at the University of Texas during the week.

The Ravens finished their only season with a 57-63 record and then lost to the eventual champion Connecticut Falcons in the first round of the playoffs.  Following the 1976 season, six of the ten original WPS franchises went out of business, including the Ravens.  The shrunked league managed to hang on for three more summers before folding in the spring of 1980.

Donna Lopiano went on to become one of the most influential voices in women’s sports, most notably as CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation from 1992 to 2007.



IWPSA Programs






1967-1968 Chicago Mustangs

leave a comment

Chicago Mustangs Media GuideUnited Soccer Association (1967)
North American Soccer League (1968)

Born: 1967 – USA founding franchise
Folded: Postseason 1968

Stadium: Comiskey Park

Team Colors:

Owner: Arthur Allyn Jr.


The Chicago Mustangs soccer club was a charter member of the United Soccer Association, a mid-1960’s effort to launch a first division professional league here in the States.  There were 12 member franchises representing 10 U.S. cities, plus Toronto and Vancouver.  Most of the clubs were backed by heavy-hitter investors from Major League Baseball, the NFL and the National Hockey League.  The owner of the Mustangs was Chicago White Sox boss Arthur Allyn Jr. and the soccer club played in Allyn’s South Side baseball stadium, Comiskey Park.

The founders of the United Soccer Association intended to begin play in 1968, but they felt compelled to bump their plans up a year when a rival circuit, the National Professional Soccer League, signed a TV contract with CBS and decided to start play in 1967.  With the accelerated timetable, the USA decided to import entire foreign clubs from Europe and South America to represent the league’s 12 cities in 1967.  The Chicago Mustangs were actually Cagliari Calcio, from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.  Cagliari was enjoying a run of success in the Italian Serie A at the time – they would win their only Scudetto in 1970.  However, the Italians did not bring all of their stars to Chicago.  Gigi Riva, the greatest player in club history and the all-time leading scorer for the Italian National Team, stayed home.

The Mustangs/Cagliari struggled through their only season in the United Soccer Association.  The club finished out of the postseason hunt with a 3-7-2 record.  Attendance was dismal too, with an announced match average of just 4,207 at Comiskey.  A bright spot was 23-year old striker Roberto Boninsegna, who led the circuit in scoring with 10 goals in 9 appearances.  Boninsegna would go on to score Italy’s only goal in the 1970 World Cup final against Brazil.

After the 1967 season concluded in financial ruin for both the USA and the NPSL, the former rivals merged to form the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1968.  That meant the contraction of one franchise in Chicago, as both leagues fielded a Windy City franchise in 1967.  The NPSL’s Chicago Spurs, based out of Soldier Field, moved to Kansas City, so the Mustangs continued on for a second season in 1968.   Cagliari and the other foreign ringer clubs would not return.  In 1968, all of the NASL clubs built their own rosters.

The all-new, multi-ethnic Mustangs were much improved in 1968.  Polish émigré Janusz Michalik led the NASL with 30 goals and 9 assists and won league MVP honors.  The club improved to 13-10-9, but this wasn’t quite good enough for playoff spot.  Attendance continued to be terrible though, dipping to under 2,500 fans per game at 45,000-seat Comiskey Park.

The NASL nearly folded after the 1968 season.  Membership shrunk for 17 clubs in 1968 to just 5 survivors for 1969.  The Mustangs were one of the casualties, withdrawing from the league in late 1968.  A semi-pro version of the Mustangs reportedly continued to play into the 1970’s.

Don’t miss Vadim Furmanov’s “A Sardinian Summer: the Forgotten Story of the Chicago Mustangs” over at Café Futbol.


==Chicago Mustangs Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other


1967 6/4/1967 @ Washington Whips T 1-1 Program


1968 5/8/1968  @ Los Angeles Wolves T 1-1 Program
1968 7/14/1968 @ New York Generals L 4-3 Program


==Key Players==

  • Roberto Boninsegna
  • Janusz Kowalik


==In Memoriam==

Former Mustangs owner Arthur Allyn Jr. passed away on March 22, 1985 at age 71.



A Sardinian Summer: the Forgotten Story of the Chicago Mustangs“, Vadim Furmanov, Café Futbol, August 7, 2013.

From Amateur to MVP: Janusz Kowalik and the Chicago Mustangs“, Grant Czubinski, A Moment of Brilliance, February 11, 2014

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs


Written by andycrossley

December 20th, 2014 at 9:01 pm