Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘World Team Tennis’ tag

1974 Toronto-Buffalo Royals

leave a comment

Buffalo-Toronto RoyalsWorld Team Tennis (1974)

Born: 1974 World Team Tennis founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1974 – The Royals cease operations.

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owner: John Bassett

 

The Toronto-Buffalo Royals were one 16 original franchises in World Team Tennis (1974-1978) in the summer of 1974.  The league was founded by Billie Jean King, her husband Larry, and serial sports promoter Dennis Murphy A few of the founding investors from Murphy’s World Hockey Association (1972-1979) signed on as investors in the new venture, including Royals owner John Bassett.  Bassett’s burgeoning sports empire included the WHA’s Toronto Toros and the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League.  All three of Bassett’s pro sports franchises were organized during a spree of activity in 1973 and early 1974.

The Royals’ star attraction was player-coach Tom Okker of the Netherlands, the 1968 U.S. Open finalist and a Top Ten-ranked singles player throughout the late Sixties and early Seventies.  Other members of the Royals’ six-person roster included Mike Estep, Jan O’Neill, Wendy Overton and Laura Rossouw.

In the “team” concept, each World Team Tennis club consisted of three male and three female players.  Matches consisted of a single set each of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles, with one point awarded to a team for each game won within a set.

A July 30, 1974 contest against the Pittsburgh Triangles at The Aud in Buffalo illustrates the league’s unique scoring system.  The match opened with Pittsburgh’s Evonne Goolagong overpowering Jan O’Neill 6-2 in the women’s singles set.  Then Goolagong and partner Peggy Michel edged O’Neill and Rossouw 7-6 in women’s doubles to open up a 13-8 lead for the Triangles.  The Royals pulled ahead during the men’s portion.  Okker beat Pittsburgh’s Ken Rosewall 6-2in singles and the Okker/Estep doubles team bested Rosewall and Gerald Battrick 6-4 in doubles.  The Royals entered the fifth and final set of the night – mixed doubles – holding a 20-19 lead in points.  The Estep/Overton duo held off Pittsburgh’s Battrick/Michel pairing 7-6 for a final score of 27-25 in favorite of Buffalo-Toronto.

The Royals finished the 1974 season with the second-worst record in the league at 13-31.  The Royals went out of business shortly after the season as World Team Tennis shrunk from 16 original teams to only 10 for the league’s second season.

 

==1974 Toronto-Buffalo Royals Match Results==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
7/9/1974 vs. Philadelphia Freedoms L 27-26 Program

 

==Links==

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

###

2000-2006 Hartford FoxForce

leave a comment

World Team Tennis (2000-2006)

Born: November 1999 – WTT expansion franchise.
Died: January 2007 – The FoxForce cease operations.

Venues:

  • 2000-2001: Hartford State Armory
  • ????-2006: Apple Arena at Blue Fox Run Golf Course (2,500)

Team Colors:

Owners: Brian Foley & Lisa Wilson-Foley

 

The Hartford FoxForce were members of Billie Jean King’s summer time World Team Tennis promotion for seven seasons between 2000 and 2006.  Founded by King and a few other partners in 1974, WTT has operated quietly for the better part of four decades.  The scale and ambition of the league has fluctuated over the years.  After starting out in gargantuan NHL and NBA arenas in the 1970’s, World Team Tennis has settled into a niche as a sort of low-key glorified exhibition circuit, which emphasizes intimate venues and affordable family entertainment (expect music & “wacky” sound effects between points) without the traditional stuffiness and formality of pro tour events.

World Team Tennis teams are co-ed.  Most of the league’s players are fairly anonymous low-paid tour professionals.  In the year 2000, when the FoxForce joined WTT as an expansion club, the minimum base salary was $4,000 for three weeks work, plus performance bonuses.  But each season, there are a handful of big name players who play for much larger appearance fees and provide the league with its box office appeal.

Boris Becker, James Blake and Monica Seles were among the top names to play for the FoxForce over the years.  Jimmy Connors, Anna Kournikova, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova and Pete Sampras were among the stars that came to Connecticut on opposing teams.

The FoxForce were owned by husband and wife Brian Foley and Lisa Wilson-Foley for their entire existence.  Brian Foley previously owned the Connecticut Pride basketball team of the Continental Basketball Association.  The team had a loyal following, first at the 3,000-seat State Armory in Hartford and later at a 2,500-seat outdoor tennis stadium at Blue Fox Run Golf Course in Avon.  In the winter following the 2006 season the Foleys shut down the FoxForce, citing a lack of corporate sponsorship support for the team.

 

==Links==

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

###

Written by andycrossley

February 16th, 2014 at 8:46 pm

1986 Corpus Christi Advantage

leave a comment

Domino’s Pizza TeamTennis (1986)

Born: 1986 – TeamTennis expansion franchise.
Died: Postseason 1986 – The Advantage cease operations.

Stadium: Corpus Christi Athletic Club

Team Colors: White on White

Owner: Bob Eagle

 

The Corpus Christi Advantage were a really obscure One-Year Wonder from Billie Jean King’s World Team Tennis league.  Or, as it was known during Corpus Christi’s lone season in the circuit:  Domino’s Pizza TeamTennis.

The TeamTennis format called for four-person teams consisting of two male and two female players.  A match included one set each of men’s and women’s singles, one set each of men’s and women’s doubles and one set of mixed doubles.

The Advantage roster included male players Dave Dowlen and Terry Moor and female players Sandy Collins and Ann Henricksson.

The 1986 TeamTennis season last only one month, from July 10th to August 10th.  After the 1986 season, the Advantage franchise faded quietly away and virtually no information about this short-lived sports venture has survived into the Internet age.

 

==Links==

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

###

Written by andycrossley

November 22nd, 2013 at 7:39 pm

1992-1994 Phoenix Smash

leave a comment

World TeamTennis (1992-1994)

Born: 1992 – WTT expansion franchise.
Died: February 7, 1995 – The Smash franchise is returned to the league.

Arena: America West Arena (9,000)

Team Colors: Black, Purple & Teal

Owner: Jerry Colangelo

 

The Phoenix Smash were a top franchise in World TeamTennis for three summers from 1992 to 1994.  WTT features 4-person teams (two men, two women), a unique scoring system, and a laid-back atmosphere that encourages fans to cheer and yell.  The league is now in its second incarnation.  A bigger budget version went under during the 1970’s, but a scaled back league was revived in 1981 and is currently in its fourth decade of play.  Tennis legend Billie Jean King has been TeamTennis’ driving force since the original league debuted in 1974.

The Smash were owned by the Colangelo family, owners of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.  At this time, the Colangelo’s were in the midst of assembling a small menagerie of second-tier pro sports franchises to fill summer dates at the newly opened American West Arena.  Besides the Smash, the Colangelo’s also launched the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League in 1992 and would add the Arizona Sandsharks of the Continental Indoor Soccer League a year later.

During the first season in 1992 the Smash featured a typically anonymous TeamTennis roster of pro tour journeymen, such as the immortal Dinky Van Rensburg.  But thanks to the pro sports expertise and infrastructure of the Colangelo family, the Smash established a new attendance record for the 13-year old TeamTennis league with announced average crowds of 3,823 per game.

In December 1992 the Smash added a big name, signing 39-year old American superstar Jimmy Connors.  In July 1993, the Smash hosted the Los Angeles Strings at America West Arena.  The Strings featured Bjorn Borg and the big attraction was the first set of competitive tennis between Connors and Borg since the 1981 U.S. Open.  The match drew a league record crowd of 7,693 fans.

Connors returned to the Smash for the 1994 season as well.  The Smash led the World Team Tennis in attendance in 1994 for the third consecutive season.

In early February 1995 the Colangelo’s gave up on the Smash after three seasons, citing the high operating costs of staging matches in an NBA arena.  They sold the franchise back to World TeamTennis management for an undisclosed sum.  This marked the end of the team, as TeamTennis was unable to find a new buyer and the Phoenix club was eventually deleted from the league’s 1995 schedule.

 

==Links==

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

###

 

Written by andycrossley

August 25th, 2013 at 7:40 pm

1985-1991 – Miami Beach Breakers / South Florida Breakers

leave a comment

World Team Tennis (1985-1991)

Born: 1985 – TeamTennis expansion franchise.
Died: 1991 – The Breakers cease operations.

Stadiums:

  • 1985-1987: Abel Holtz Stadium (5,100)
  • 1986: Boca Grove Plantation
  • 1988: Deer Creek Country Club (as South Florida Breakers)
  • 1989: Wellington Club West (as Wellington Aces)
  • 1990: Abel Holtz Stadium
  • 1991: Turnberry Country Club

Team Colors: Light Blue & Pink

Owners: 

 

The Breakers originally came to Miami Beach in 1985 as an expansion club in Billie Jean King’s TeamTennis under the patronage of Abel Holtz and his family.  Holtz was a Cuban exile banker and philanthropist who built a 5,000-seat tennis stadium for the City of Miami Beach in 1983 which bore his name.  Holtz’s son Javier ran the club and originally clad the team in light blue and pink, “Miami Vice colors” as the younger Holtz explained to The Sun Sentinel shortly after the team’s formation.

TeamTennis wasn’t a particularly desirable destination for pro tour players at the time.  The low budget league offered no base pay, with the league’s 32 players (two men and two women per team for eight member clubs) competing for a $400,000 bonus pool.  The Breakers landed the league’s biggest name by drafting the 15-year old Argentinean sensation Gabriella Sabatini and hiring Sabatini’s coach, Patricio Apey as the team’s coach.  The Breakers’ other female player would be Mercedes Paz, another Argentinean coached by Apey.  But with Sabatini’s star rising by the month, Apey announced that her young protégé would only appear in select TeamTennis matches during the season while continuing to compete in more lucrative and prestigious tour events.  Billie Jean King said the commitment to TeamTennis was all or nothing and kicked Sabatini off the Miami Beach roster, which also cost the Breakers’ the services of Apey and Paz two days before the team’s first season began.

The Breakers returned in 1986 with a few big names for the first and only time in their history.  Romanian legend Ilie Nastase hired on as player-coach and Rosie Casals and Tim Gullikson offered some name appeal for South Florida tennis aficionados.

The Breakers averaged fewer than 1,000 fans per match in Miami Beach in both 1985 and 1986.  The Holtz family sold the team after the 1987 season, which coincided with a complicated series of moves, name changes and franchise shifts under new owner Carl Foster.  Foster first moved the team to Deerfield Beach in 1988, renaming the team the “South Florida Breakers“.  In 1989, Foster moved north again, this time to Wellington and the team became known as the Wellington Aces.  TeamTennis returned to Miami Beach and Abel Holtz Stadium in 1990 with a new team known as the Breakers, even as the Wellington Aces continued to exist.

As I write this, I can’t imagine anyone would remotely care about these distinctions.  Anyway, it ceased to matter at the end of the 1991 season when both the Aces and Breakers franchises went out of business.

 

==Key Players==

  • Rosie Casals (1986)
  • Tim Gullikson (1986)
  • Ilie Nastase (1986)

 

 

==Links==

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

 

==Additional Sources==

“Breakers May Leave Miami Beach”, Alain Poupart, The Miami News, August 4, 1986

###