Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1978-1981 Chicago Hustle

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Chicago HustleWomen’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1981)

Born: June 18, 1978 – WPBL founding franchise
Folded: Postseason 1981

Arena: Alumni Hall (5,300)

Team Colors:

Owners: Sherwin Fischer, Lawrence Cooper & John Geraty

WPBL Championships: None

 

The Chicago Hustle were the finest operation in the Women’s Professional Basketball League, the first attempt to start a nationwide pro sports league for women. Bill Byrne, a former front office worker for the Chicago Fire of the World Football League, cooked up the idea for the league in late 1977. Byrne began selling franchises for $50,000 each and reached out to an enthusiastic but cash-poor Chicago sports promoter named John Geraty. Geraty, in turn, recruited the team’s financial backers, attorney Larry Cooper and personnel firm owner Sherwin Fischer, and the group purchased the WBL’s fourth franchise in June 1978. Long-time Cubs and White Sox PR exec Chuck Shriver signed on as General Manager and brought a level of promotional sophistication that would prove sorely lacking in the rest of the 9-team league.

Center Sue Digitale, forwards Liz Galloway and Debra Waddy-Rossow and guards Rita Easterling and Janie Fincher formed the starting five during the Hustle’s first season in the winter of 1978-79. The team played an aggressive, fast-breaking style under former DePaul women’s coach Doug Bruno. The 5′ 6″ Easterling, described by The Chicago Tribune’s Bill Jauss as “a combination of Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier” won league MVP honors. Chuck Shriver landed a TV contract with cable superstation WGN. The team passed out free Dr. Peppers to the 2,000+ regulars at DePaul’s Alumni Hall whenever the Hustle scored over 110 points at home. The Hustle triggered the promotion nearly a dozen times that first winter.

Liz Galloway – Forward (1978-1980)

“We had WGN television coverage. My family was able to watch all the way back in Texas. Great local coverage in The Sun-Times and The Tribune. We were treated like the other male sports teams. I met Ernie Banks and Walter Payton. Iowa had a great following too, but we had the best fans hands down! They gave us nicknames and wore shirts to support us, traveled to games all over the league.

More coming soon….

 

Chicago Hustle Memorabilia

 

Downloads

1981 Chicago Hustle Public Stock Offering

1979-80 Chicago Hustle Advertising Rate Card & Contract

1978-79 Women’s Professional Basketball League Brochure

 

Links

Women’s Professional Basketball League Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

January 30th, 2017 at 8:48 pm

1981 Chicago Fire

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Chicago Fire 1981American Football Association (1981)

Born: 1981 – AFA expansion franchise.
Folded:
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.

 

==Downloads==

1981 Chicago Fire Schedule & Results

 

==Links==

American Football Association Programs

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Written by AC

August 12th, 2015 at 3:02 am

1988-1996 Chicago Power

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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)

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

 

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

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

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

1990-91

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

 

==Links==

National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs

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

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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.

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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).

 

==Links==

Chicago Sting Home Page

St. Louis Steamers Home Page

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1976 Chicago Ravens

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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.

 

==Links==

IWPSA Programs

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