Boston Lobsters vs. Hawaii Leis
May 9, 1974
Walter Brown Arena
World Team Tennis Programs
A near capacity crowd of 3,574 curious spectators turned out at Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena on May 9th, 1974 to watch the local debut of America’s newest sporting novelty – World Team Tennis. The idea of World Team Tennis was to take the sport out of stuffy country clubs and re-package it as a team sport played in giant hockey arenas, complete with rowdy fans, cheerleaders and pop music blaring over the speakers.
16 clubs saw action for the league’s debut season in the summer of 1974. Many of the team identities were bland references to tennis lingo and equipment (Chicago Aces, Cleveland Nets, Denver Racquets, New York Sets). The Boston Lobsters were easily the cleverest of this bunch. The Lobsters opponents on this night, the Hawaii Leis, took another path and doubled down on the sexual entendre. Before relocating to Honolulu, the franchise was originally going to be called the San Diego Swingers.
This early season match was one of only a handful played under WTT’s original scoring system. Each match consisted of two halves. Both halves consisted of one set of women’s singles, men’s singles and mixed doubles. Players could compete in two different sets in a match, but only in one set per half. WTT further rankled tennis purists by getting rid of the traditional love-15-30-40 scoring system and replacing it with a simpler “no-ad” system. Scoring was just 1-2-3-4 with the first player to four points winning the game.
Two weeks into the 1974 season, it was clear the format wasn’t working. Matches were slogging along past the three hour mark. WTT officials made a change on the fly, scrapping the “halves” format with its six sets. The new scoring system saw a shortened format of five sets – one each in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. This hasty revision is the format WTT still uses today nearly forty years later.
The Lobsters beat the Leis 33-25 on this night to win their home debut, but a late season collapse led to a losing record of 19-25. Original Lobsters owner Ray Ciccolo, owner of a local Volvo dealership, lost $300,000 on the 1974 season and the club went into bankruptcy. It looked like World Team Tennis was one-and-done in Boston. But in early 1975 a new ownership group led by future New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft bought the Philadelphia Freedoms franchise, moved it to Boston, and revived the Lobsters for the 1975 season. Kraft would own the Lobs until the league’s demise in late 1978.
World Team Tennis went dark for two years in the late 1970′s, but founder Billie Jean King rebooted a lower-budget version in 1981 which continues to play today. In 2005, Boston-area businessman Bahar Uttam purchased an expansion franchise in the new World Team Tennis and revived the Boston Lobsters name once again. The modern-day Lobsters continue to play today out of the Ferncroft Country Club in Middleton, Massachusetts.
May 9, 1974 Boston Lobsters vs. Hawaii Leis Game Notes