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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

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Written by andycrossley

March 4th, 2015 at 12:35 pm

1976 Chicago Ravens

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

Born: January 1976 – IWPSA founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1976 – The Ravens cease operations.

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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Written by andycrossley

December 21st, 2014 at 3:30 am

1967-1968 Chicago Mustangs

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

Born: 1967 – USA founding franchise.
Died: 1968 – The Mustangs cease operations

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 Matches 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.

 

==Links==

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

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Written by andycrossley

December 20th, 2014 at 9:01 pm

May 10, 1981 – Chicago Sting vs. Dallas Tornado

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George Best San Jose EarthquakesChicago Sting vs. Dallas Tornado
May 10, 1981
Wrigley Field
Attendance: 1,861

North American Soccer League Programs

 

We’ve already got a ton of Chicago Sting programs posted on FWIL, but I’ll throw another one on here just as an excuse to add a new George Best game day mag to the archive. Best, playing his final season in U.S. in 1981, is pictured on the cover of the afternoon’s match program as a member of the San Jose Earthquakes, the last of the three NASL clubs he played for during his five-year American adventure.

Best and the rest of the ‘Quakes were hundreds of miles from Chicago’s Wrigley Field on this Mother’s Day afternoon and that was to their immense good fortune.  Wind, rain and temperatures in the 30’s left Sting officials eager to re-schedule the match, despite the opportunity to curb stomp what was easily the worst side in the NASL in 1981: Lamar Hunt’s Dallas Tornado.  The Tornado were the last remaining active club from the NASL’s first season back in 1968, but were suffering through a miserable 5-27 campaign that would ultimately end with the club’s closure in September 1981.

Rudy Glenn Chicago StingThe shivering assembly of 1,861 souls at Wrigley may have been smallest NASL crowd of the post-Pele era.  (Anybody know for sure? Comment below).  On the plus side, no one had to rush the gates early to claim one of the 1,000 daisies set aside for Mother’s Day or the 5,000 t-shirts sponsored by R.C. Cola.  The weather was so nasty (and the pre-sale presumably so grim) that Sting executive Charles Evranian called Tornado General Manager Kent Kramer three hours before kickoff to suggest postponing the match until the next day.  Kramer dismissed the proposal, but his players seemed to feel differently.  Although the match went off as scheduled, the Tornado never seemed to get off the bus.

Rudy Glenn, the second-year American midfielder from Indiana University, was the offensive hero for Chicago.  Glenn scored the first and last goals for Chicago in a 5-0 blowout.  It was the first multi-goal performance of Glenn’s outdoor career.  It’s not clear if he ever did it again – the Oklahoma native scored just 13 more goals in his 130-game NASL career.   Glenn would, however, score the decisive penalty kick to win Soccer Bowl ’81 for the Sting over the New York Cosmos four months later in September 1981.

 

==Links==

Chicago Sting Home Page

Dallas Tornado Home Page

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Written by andycrossley

November 29th, 2014 at 10:49 pm

1974 Chicago Fire

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Chicago Fire Media GuideWorld Football League (1974)

Born: October 1973 – WFL founding franchise.
Died: January 1975 – The Fire ceases operations.

Stadium: Soldier Field

Team Colors:

Owner: Tom Origer

 

Chicago apartment developer Tom Origer was the first man to buy into the World Football League in October 1973, paying a reported $440,000 to acquire his Chicago Fire franchise.  It did not turn out to be a happy investment for the 41-year old builder.

The Fire featured a handful of names familiar to local football fans, including ex-Chicago Bears Virgil Carter (QB) and Jim Seymour (WR).  Rookie receiver James Scott was a breakout star.  After the demise of the WFL Scott would play seven seasons for the Bears from 1976 to 1983.  Another rookie – Chicago native Mark Kellar - was one of the league’s most productive running backs until a mid-season injury.

The Fire started out hot, winning seven of the first nine games in 1974.  The team was also a fairly popular draw, averaging 29,220 fans for 10 home dates at Soldier Field, despite competing for fans with the Bears during the WFL’s fall season.  But injuries and bad luck took their toll and the Fire lost their final 11 games to finish 7-13 in what would prove to be their only season.  Origer, fed up, forfeited the team’s final contest rather than travel to Pennsylvania to play the Philadelphia Bell on November 13, 1974.

The team muddled along in semi-existence until January 1975, when Origer laid off the Fire’s final few staff members and closed up shop.  The World Football League quickly put a new team into Chicago – the Chicago Winds – for the 1975 season.  But the Winds went belly up after only 5 games in 1975, and the league itself closed down on October 22, 1975 without managing to complete its second campaign.

 

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

Date Opponent Score Program Other
8/29/1974 vs. Birmingham Americans  L 22-8 Program
9/2/1974 @ Southern California Sun W 32-22 Program
9/7/1974 @ Birmingham Americans L 41-40 Program
9/18/1974 vs. Memphis Southmen L 25-7 Program

 

==Key Players==

  • Virgil Carter
  • James Scott
  • Jim Seymour

 

==YouTube==

Footage from the July 17, 1974 Chicago Fire at Jacksonville Sharks WFL game from the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.

 

 

==Downloads==

July 1974 Chicago Fire “Line of Fire” Newsletter

 

==Links==

World Football League Media Guides

World Football League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

October 22nd, 2014 at 1:54 am