Born: January 1976 – IWPSA founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1976 – The Ravens cease operations.
Stadium: Windy City Softball Complex (4,000)
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 Association, World 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.