Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1973 New York Golden Blades

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New York Golden BladesWorld Hockey Association (1973)

Born: May 30, 1973- Re-branded from New York Raiders
Died: November 20, 1973 – The Golden Blades relocate to Cherry Hill, NJ.

Arena: Madison Square Garden

Team Colors:

Owner: Ralf Brent, Lee Matison & Lawrence Stern

 

The New York Golden Blades lasted for just 24 games and marked the grim conclusion to the World Hockey Association’s hopes to plant its flag in New York.  The WHA, a 1970’s rival to the NHL, originally hoped to place its New York Raiders franchise in the brand new Nassau Coliseum on Long Island in 1972.  But the senior circuit blocked the WHA from Nassau by hastily awarding the New York Islanders expansion club to Long Island.  The Raiders wound up in Manhattan, getting pushed around by the New York Rangers at the Madison Square Garden.  The team’s original investors bailed and the league had to take over the Raiders two months into the WHA’s 1972-73 maiden season.

The league found a new buyer in the spring of 1973 with a consortium led by Ralf Brent.  Brent’s group took over the club and immediately changed the name from Raiders to “Golden Blades”.  The team, in fact, would wear white skates with gold colored blades.  The Golden Blades scored an early coup in the summer of 1973, signing the league’s reigning scoring champion Andre Lacroix away from the similarly troubled Philadelphia Blazers club.  Then things went south in a hurry.

The new owners were still saddled with the Raiders’ old lousy dates and expensive lease at the Garden.  And they turned out not to have any real money.  Brent & Co. missed their very first payroll in October 1973.  (At least the Raiders’ owners made two payrolls before evaporating the previous winter).  The WHA took over player payroll, but Brent and his partners were still responsible for funding the remaining operations of the Blades.  By November 1973 they were on the verge of eviction from Madison Square Garden.  The league stepped in on November 20th and seized the franchise.  The Golden Blades were swiftly shipped off to tiny 5,000 Cherry Hill Arena on the outskirts of Philadelphia and finished out the 1973-74 season as the “Jersey Knights”.

The WHA never returned to New York.  The league folded in 1979 following a merger that saw four of its teams join the NHL.

 

==Links==

World Hockey Association Media Guides

World Hockey Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

March 25th, 2015 at 2:25 am

1964 Wytheville A’s

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Wytheville Athletics ProgramAppalachian League (1964)

Born: 1964 – Affiliation change from Wytheville Twins.
Died:
1965 – Affiliation change to Wytheville Senators.

Stadium: Withers Field

Team Colors:

Owner:

 

The small Western Virginia town of Wytheville (Pop. 8,211 circa 2010) played hosted to professional baseball off and on from 1948 until 1989.  Major League parent clubs typically didn’t stay long – in 25 summers with baseball, the Wytheville club changed names 11 times.   The Kansas City Athletics one-summer partnership with Wytheville  in 1964 was typical of these short commitments.

As Kansas City’s Rookie League farm team in the Appalachian League, Wytheville hosted the A’s youngest prospects, most of whom were spending their first summer away from home playing pro ball.  The oldest players on the ball club were 22 years old and the Wytheville A’s even fielded a couple of 17-year olds.  One of the 17-year olds was Joe Rudi, who played 8 games for Wytheville in 1964 and would have the best Major League career of any one on the team.  Rudi later won three World Series and appeared in three All-Star Games for the Oakland A’s in the early 1970’s.

Following the 1964 season, Kansas City pulled out and the Washington Senators came in.  The team became the Wytheville Senators prior to the 1965 season.

Eric & Wendy Pastore have photos of what’s left of Withers Field in Wytheville on their excellent Digital Ballparks website.  The grandstand remains, but the diamond was converted into a public park in 1993.

 

==Links==

Withers Field on DigitalBallparks.com

Appalachian League Media Guides

Appalachian League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

March 16th, 2015 at 8:15 pm

1975 Pittsburgh Miners

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American Soccer League (1975)

Born: January 16, 1975 – ASL expansion franchise.
Died: Postseason 1975 – The Miners cease operations.

Stadiums:

Team Colors:

Owner: William Renton

 

The Pittsburgh Miners were a 2nd Division soccer club that competed in the American Soccer League in the summer of 1975.  The club had a miserable season, winning just one of 20 matches (1-16-3).  Coal executive William Renton of Cleveland owned the Miners.

The Miners’ roster was composed entirely of American players.  Among the best was Pennsylvania native and Pitt grad Joe Luxbacher, the Miners’ leading scorer with six goals.  He would later play for the Pittsburgh Spirit of the Major Indoor Soccer League, before becoming head coach at his alma mater in 1984.  As of 2014, Luxbacher has coached the University of Pittsburgh soccer team for 31 seasons.

Miners home games were originally scheduled at Martorelli Stadium at North Hills High School.  Midway through the season, the club shifted to a field in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  The team folded quietly at the end of the 1975 season.

 

==Links==

American Soccer League Media Guides

American Soccer League Programs

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1961 San Juan Marlins / Charleston Marlins

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Charleston MarlinsInternational League (1961)

Born: November 28, 1960 – The Miami Marlins relocate to San Juan, PR.
Died: October 8, 1961 – The Charleston Marlins relocate to Atlanta, GA.

Stadiums:

Team Colors:

Owner: Bill MacDonald

 

So how, exactly, did the capital of West Virginia end up with a minor league baseball team named for a tropical saltwater sport fish for a few short months in the summer of 1961?

At the dawn of the 1960’s, a colorful, corpulent South Florida multi-millionaire named Bill MacDonald bought the forlorn Miami Marlins of the Class AAA International League.  The Marlins were the top farm club of the Baltimore Orioles at the time.  MacDonald was a sportsman – he owned a stud farm, a share of the Tropical Park race track and he would later promote the first Sonny Liston-Cassius Clay fight in Miami.  The Marlins were rather unloved in Miami.  A particular sore point for MacDonald was the team’s lack of a profitable local radio deal.

After one summer at the helm in Miami, Bill MacDonald announce a scheme to move the Marlins to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where a lucrative radio contract beckoned.  The International League approved the shift in late November 1960.  It was a decision that MacDonald’s fellow I.L. owners would soon come to regret.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles transferred their Class AAA farm club to Rochester, New York and the Marlins became an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Cardinals stocked San Juan with several top prospects, including 19-year old catcher Tim McCarver, slick fielding shortstop Dal Maxvill and pitching ace Ray Washburn (16-9, 2.34).  All three would go on to spend most of the next decade in St. Louis.

The San Juan Marlins opened on April 17, 1961 against the Toronto Maple Leafs before 6,627 fans at Sixto Escobar Stadium.  Mark Tomasik at the St. Louis Cardinals blog Retrosimba notes that it was also opening night of the Bay of Pigs Invasion.  Not the most auspicious start to the I.L.’s latest Caribbean adventure.

Rival I.L. clubs immediately began complaining about high travel costs to San Juan.  Barely two weeks into the season, the league reversed course and demanded that Bill MacDonald return his team to the mainland.  The promoter balked at first, though Marlins attendance in San Juan plummeted following the promising opening night gate.  After 15 home dates, Marlins attendance in San Juan totaled only 25,759 fans.  MacDonald finally capitulated on May 17, 1961 after just one month in Puerto Rico.  But rather than try to make peace with Miami, MacDonald took his ball club all the way to Charleston, West Virginia.

Charleston’s long-running Class AAA team, the Charleston Senators, went under five months earlier.  The city was eager to get pro baseball back and offered MacDonald a $1.00 lease on Watt Powell Park.  The Charleston Marlins debuted in West Virginia on May 18, 1961, beating the Jersey City Jerseys (yes, their real name) in front of 3,608 locals.

The Marlins were strong ball club under field manager Joe Schultz, finishing 88-66.  But Charleston was still one of the smallest AAA cities in the country.  MacDonald wasted little time leaving town following the season.  On October 8, 1961, MacDonald moved his team to Atlanta, where the franchise became the Atlanta Crackers (1962-1965).

The International League has never returned to the Caribbean.

 

==Links==

The Many Faces of Mr. Mac“, Gilbert Rogin, Sports Illustrated, February 17, 1964

International League Media Guides

International League Programs

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1974 Florida Blazers

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Florida Blazers Media GuideWorld Football League (1974)

Born: May 1974 – The Virginia Ambassadors relocate to Orlando.
Died: Postseason 1974 – The Blazers cease operations.

Stadium: The Tangerine Bowl

Team Colors:

Owner: David Williams, Rommie Loudd, Will Gieger, Howard Palmer, et al.

 

The 1974 Florida Blazers enjoy a something of a cult following among pro football history buffs.  Fearsome on the field, the franchise was a train wreck in the front office.  The Blazers were put together by Rommie Loudd, a 41-year old former AFL linebacker and New England Patriots executive.  Loudd is occasionally cited as the first African-American owner of a “major league” American sports franchise for his time with the Blazers, but the team’s main money man was a Central Florida Holiday Inn franchisee named David Williams.  By December 1974, the Blazers were in the “World Bowl” championship game, the team’s best player had played the entire season without a paycheck, and Rommie Loudd was in jail.

But let’s back up a bit.  The franchise originated in late 1973 as the “Washington Ambassadors”, part of the startup World Football League that would challenge the NFL starting in the summer of 1974.  Original owner Joseph Wheeler couldn’t secure a lease or put together financing in Washington, so the team became the “Virginia Ambassadors” in the spring of 1974.  But Wheeler couldn’t get things off the ground in Norfolk, VA either, so in May 1974 the team was sold to Loudd’s Orlando-based syndicate.  Less than 60 days remained before the WFL’s scheduled opening day on July 10th, 1974.  Head Coach Jack Pardee had already opened training camp in Virginia, but the team loaded onto a train and decamped for Orlando.

Pardee had a solid veteran squad on both sides of the ball.  Bob Davis, a former back-up to Joe Namath on the New York Jets, earned the starting quarterback job. Linebackers Larry Grantham, a perennial AFL All-Star with the Jets in the 1960’s, and Billy Hobbs anchored a stout defense.

Florida BlazersThe Blazers’ breakout find was diminutive rookie running back Tommy Reamon, a 23rd round draft pick from the University of Missouri. Reamon scored 14 touchdowns and led the WFL with 1,576 yards rushing in 1974. At the end of the season, he was named one of the league’s “Tri-MVPs”, along with Southern California Sun quarterback Tony Adams and Memphis Southmen tailback J.J. Jennings. Reamon split a $10,000 prize with his co-MVPs. Decades later, Reamon revealed that his $3,333 MVP share was the only payment he received for the entire 1974 season.

The rest of Reamon’s teammates faired somewhat better, receiving paychecks during the league’s first couple of months. But things went poorly for the Blazers immediately in Orlando. Crowds failed to materialize at the Tangerine Bowl, which barely met pro standards back in the mid 1970’s, with 14,000 permanent seats supplemented by temporary bleachers. By late August, just six weeks into the season, Rommie Loudd was talking publicly of a midseason move to Atlanta. The move never occured, but paychecks stopped arriving not long afterwards. Promises and rumors of new investors or payroll support from the league office never came through, but Pardee kept the team together through three months without pay.

The Blazers overcame a 15-0 deficit on the road to upset the Memphis Southmen, the league’s best regular season team at 17-3, in the playoff semi-final to earn a trip to the World Bowl I championship game. Trailing 22-0 in the second half to the Birmingham Americans at Legion Field in Alabama, the Blazers mounted a furious late rally, only to fall short 22-21. In the WFL, touchdowns counted for seven points and an eighth point (or “action point”) could be earned by scoring from the two-and-a-half yard line. The Blazers failed to convert all three Action Points in the title game, and that was the difference in the outcome. That and a controversial call on the Blazers’ opening possession. Television replays on the TVS Network appeared to show Tommy Reamon break the plane in the first quarter, but officials on the field ruled that Florida’s star rookie fumbled the ball through the end zone for a touchback. Reamon, who had a strong game overall with 83 yards on the ground and a touchdown, also failed to convert the decisive action point in the 4th quarter that would have tied the game at 22-22.

The Blazers’ franchise was revoked by the league a few days after the World Bowl loss due to financial insolvency. Within three weeks, Loudd was in jail on charges of embezzling sales taxes collected on Blazers’ ticket sales. A few months later, narcotics trafficking charges were added to Loudd’s legal woes. He was convicted in late 1975 and sentenced to two fourteen-year sentences. Loudd ultimately served three years before being paroled. Loudd later became a minister and passed away in 1998.

Many of the Blazers players ended up playing for a new WFL expansion team in 1975 known as the San Antonio Wings. The Wings were better organized, certainly, than the Blazers. But the league itself went under in October 1975, failing to finish out its second season of operation.

Tommy Reamon played briefly in the NFL in 1976. He later became an actor, most notably playing the wide receiver Delma Huddle in the 1979 Nick Nolte football drama North Dallas Forty.  

 

==1974 Florida Blazers Results==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
7/10/1974 vs. The Hawaiians W 8-7 Program
7/17/1974 @ Detroit Wheels W 18-14 Program
7/24/1974 vs. Houston Texans W 15-3
7/31/1974 @ Houston Texans L 7-6
8/7/1974 @ Chicago Fire W 46-21
8/14/1974 vs. Jacksonville Sharks W 33-26 Program
8/21/1974 vs. Portland Storm W 11-7
8/28/1974 vs. Memphis Southmen L 26-18
9/2/1974 @ Birmingham Americans  L 8-7 Program
9/6/1974 @ New York Stars W 17-15
9/11/1974 vs. Detroit Wheels L 15-14
9/18/1974 vs. Philadelphia Bell W 24-21  Program
9/26/1974 vs. Chicago Fire W 29-0
10/2/1974 @ Philadelphia Bell W 30-7
10/9/1974 @ Chicago Fire W 45-17
10/16/1974 @ Memphis Southmen L 25-15 Program
10/23/1974 @ Charlotte Hornets W 15-11 Program
10/30/1974 @ Birmingham Americans  L 26-18 Program
11/7/1974 vs. Portland Storm W 23-0 Program
11/14/1974 @ Southern California Sun W 27-24 Ticket
11/21/1974 vs. Philadelphia Bell W 18-3
11/29/1974 @ Memphis Southmen W 18-15
12/5/1974 @ Birmingham Americans  L 22-21 Program

 

==Key Figures==

  • Bob Davis
  • Rommie Loudd
  • Jack Pardee
  • Tommy Reamon

 

==In Memoriam==

Blazers tight end Greg Latta passed away of a heart attack at age 41 on September 28, 1994.

Blazers GM Rommie Loudd died of complications from diabetes on May 9, 1998 at age 64.  New York Times obit.

Blazers linebacker Billy Hobbs died when his moped was struck by a car on August 21, 2004. Hobbs was 57.

Former Blazers head coach Jack Pardee died of cancer on April 1, 2013 at age 76.

 

==Links==

Florida Blazers Fans, Friends & Former Players Facebook Page

World Football League Media Guides

World Football League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

February 20th, 2015 at 3:19 pm