Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘WPBL’ tag

December 5, 1980 – Dallas Diamonds vs. New Jersey Gems

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Dallas Diamonds vs. New Jersey Gems
December 5, 1980
Moody Coliseum
Attendance: 2,217

 

This is a really awesome find that comes to FWIL courtesy of Tom Davis, a former assistant coach from the Houston Angels and Dallas Diamonds of the Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1981).  Tom has shared his files for the Diamonds 1980-81 season home opener against the New Jersey Gems.  Scroll to the bottom for the some fascinating downloads.

What’s special about this game is that it was the pro debut for two future members of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame – Nancy Lieberman of the Diamonds and Carol Blazejowski of the Gems.  The struggling league was counting on the duo to breathe renewed life into the organization (after the similarly hyped Ann Meyers failed to do so the previous season).  Although they were both just rookies, Lieberman and Blazejowski were far and away the two highest paid players in the WPBL.

Only 2,217 fans showed up at Moody Coliseum on the campus of Southern Methodist University to see the pro debut of the Diamonds’ new superstar.  Perhaps they were justifiably skeptical.  Dallas finished in dead last place  at 7-28 the previous season without Lieberman.  As the season went on, Diamonds’ crowds grew and occasionally topped 6,000.

Carol Blazejowski was the game’s high scorer, netting 24 points on 8-22 shooting from the floor, plus a perfect 8-for-8 from the stripe.  Nancy Lieberman was nearly identical, pacing the Diamonds with 21 points.  She was 8-20 shooting and hit 5 out of 6 from the line.  Dallas took the night though, winning 102-87 thanks largely to a 34-16 run in the 2nd quarter.

The two teams would meet again in the WPBL playoff semi-finals the following spring, with Dallas coming out on top in the Best-of-3 series.  The Diamonds later lost to the Nebraska Wranglers in the league championship series in April 1981.  Those were the final games in the league’s short history.  It folded later in 1981.

The death of the WPBL ended Carol Blazejowski’s pro career after just one season.   She entered the Hall of Fame in 1994 on the strength of her legendary amateur career.  Nancy Lieberman continued to find places to play sporadically through the 1980’s and 1990’s, including a brief and ill-fated revival of the Dallas Diamonds in 1984, a stint in the men’s United States Basketball League in the mid-1980’s and finally a valedictory appearance in the first year of the WNBA in 1997 as the league’s oldest player at age 39.  By that time, “Lady Magic” was already a Hall-of-Famer, having joined Blazejowski there in the 1996 induction class.

Diamonds coach Tom Davis squirreled away the official scorer’s reports, line-up cards and press releases from this game some 30+ years ago.  You can view and download them all here…

 

==Downloads==

December 5, 1980 Dallas Diamonds Game Notes

December 5, 1980 Dallas Diamonds vs. New Jersey Gems Lineup Card

December 5, 1980 Dallas Diamonds vs. New Jersey Gems Official Scorer’s Report

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Written by AC

August 9th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

1980-1981 New England Gulls

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New England Gulls ProgramWomen’s Professional Basketball League (1980-1981)

Born: 1980 – WPBL expansion franchise.
Died: January 27, 1981 – The Gulls fold in midseason.

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owner: Joseph Reither

 

The New England Gulls were a trainwreck of a women’s basketball franchise that operated for two months in December 1980 and January 1981.  It was no fault of the players, of course.   The Gulls had a couple of pretty good ones, including 6′ 3″ center Althea Gwynn and Canadian National Teamer Chris Critelli.  Former Boston Celtics star “Jungle” Jim Loscutoff was the Head Coach (briefly).

The Gulls’ problems started and ended with owner Joseph Reither, a Massachusetts liquor store owner who was allergic to making payroll and had an antagonistic relationship with the Gulls’ players.

Moving into the second month of the 1980-81 season, the Gulls were in disarray.  During the first week of January 1981, Loscutoff was either fired or quit with the team 0-6.  24-year old assistant coach Dana Skinner took over and led the Gulls to a couple of quick wins.  But Skinner’s primary duty seemed to be to negotiate with Reither on behalf of the starving Gulls players, who were unpaid for weeks and couldn’t afford rent, gas or groceries.  During a January 8th, 1981 home game against the Minnesota Fillies, the Gulls placed black patches on their jerseys and walked off the court in protest.  They were coaxed back to play the game after Skinner was able to secure a few hundred dollars from the gate receipts.

One week later, the Gulls were due to play a match at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine.  According to a 2011 Boston Globe retrospective by T.D. Thornton, Reither promised he was going to put some marketing muscle behind the game, the Gulls’ first “home” game away from their usual venue at Merrimack College’s Volpe Athletic Center in North Andover, Massachusetts.  A packed house in the big arena would allow the owner to get current on his salary obligations to the players.  But when Skinner traveled up to Portland a week in advance to look at the building, he found that the Civic Center authorities had no idea what he was talking about.  Reither hadn’t even booked the arena, according to Skinner, let alone organized the promised promotions.

On the night of the Portland match, only about 100 fans drifted around the arena.  For the Gulls it was the last empty promise.  Reither stood on one sideline and the Gulls’ players on the other in a standoff over playing the game.  Finally, Reither relented and offered the team the gate receipts of $500 – with the stipulation they had to pay the game officials out of their own pockets.  That was the last straw for the Gulls, who trudged back to the bus and rode home.  The game was ruled a forfeit in favor of their opponents, the San Francisco Pioneers.

Five days later, Women’s Professional Basketball League Commissioner Sherwin Fischer kicked the Gulls out of the league, a decision that was re-affirmed by an 8-0 vote of the other franchises one week later on January 27, 1981.  The Gulls became the league’s third franchise to fold in midseason in the span of 13 months.

The remaining members of the Women’s Basketball League managed to finish out the 1981 season but  the league went out of business soon afterwards.

 

==1980-81 New England Gulls Results (Partial)==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
12/4/1980 vs. New Orleans Pride L 99-86
12/9/1980 vs. Dallas Diamonds L 102-92
12/18/1980 @ Chicago Hustle L
1/4/1981 @ San Francisco Pioneers W 94-88
1/6/1981 @ San Francisco Pioneers L 92-87
1/8/1981 vs. Minnesota Fillies L 83-80
1/9/1981 @ Nebraska Wranglers W 96-90
1/11/1981 vs. San Francisco Pioneers L 104-102 (OT)
1/15/1981 vs. San Francisco Pioneers L Forfeit Program

 

==Links==

“Disorder On The Court”, T.D. Thornton, The Boston Globe, January 16, 2011

Women’s Professional Basketball Association Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball Association Programs

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1978-1980 New York Stars

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New York Stars ProgramWomen’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1980)

Born: 1978 – WPBL founding franchise.
Died: Summer 1980 – The Stars cease operations.

Arenas:

Team Colors: Royal Blue & Silver

Owner: Ed Reisdorf & Terry Reisdorf

 

The New York Stars were one of the earliest women’s professional basketball teams in the United States, formed in 1978 with the inception of the Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1981).  Although the Stars would exist for just two years, the team enjoyed a number of highlights, including a league championship, doubleheaders with the New York Knicks in the Madison Square Garden, and a pair of striking twins who were cast in national advertising campaigns.

The Stars played their first season in the winter of 1978-79 on the campus of Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.  Iona’s Mulcahy Center (known today as the Hynes Athletic Center) was tiny, holding less than 3,000 fans.  But this was sufficient for the first year of the WPBL, where most clubs struggled to draw more than 1,500 fans per game.

The Stars were a strong club during their first year, finishing 19-15 before losing to the eventual champion Houston Angels in the 1979 playoff semi-finals.  Local product Althea Gwynn, a 6′ 2″ center out of Queens College, was New York’s best player, leading the circuit in rebounding and finishing third in scoring with 23.2 points per game.

To the extent that the media took an interest in the Stars and the WPBL, they largely ignored the league’s emerging black stars like Gwynn, in favor of a handful of telegenic blonde players, including Iowa’s Molly Bolin, Chicago’s Janie Fincher and, especially, Kaye and Faye Young, identical 5′ 11″ twins out of North Carolina State who played for the Stars from 1978 to 1980.  The Young sisters were even cast in a nationwide Dannon Yogurt ad campaign – one of the earliest first endorsement deals in women’s pro basketball.

The Stars lost $350,000 playing in the obscurity of New Rochelle in 1978-79.  For the club’s second season, the Stars upped their profile by moving to Manhattan and signing former New York Knicks star Dean Meminger as Head Coach.

“With rental costs of $300,000, we don’t expect to make money,” Stars President Ed Reisdorf told Sports Illustrated in 1979.  “but the Garden is the sports Mecca of New York and the world.  We are no longer a secret.”

The Stars played all of their 1979-80 games in the Garden, splitting time between the Main Arena (typically as the matinee half of doubleheaders with the Knicks) and the more appropriately sized Felt Forum for most stand along matches.

The Stars were even strong under Meminger, posting a league-best record of 28-7 in 1979-80.  The Stars defeated the Iowa Cornets in the WPBL championship series in April 1980, but these would prove to be the final games the Stars franchise ever played.  The club went shut down during the 1980 off-season and did not defend their title in the WPBL’s third and final season in the winter of 1980-81.

The WPBL itself folded in late 1981, unable to launch a fourth season.

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Kaye Young married her college sweetheart from North Carolina State University, NFL linebacker Bill Cowher, in 1981.  She was better known as Kaye Cowher to Pittsburgh Steelers fans during her husband’s Super Bowl-winning tenure as Head Coach of the Black & Gold.  Sadly, Kaye Cowher passed away from skin cancer in 2010 at the age of 54.

Seventeen years after the demise of the New York Stars, women’s professional basketball returned to Madison Square Garden in the summer of 1997 with the formation of the NBA-backed Women’s National Basketball Association and the arrival of the New York Liberty franchise.

 

==New York Stars Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

1978-79

1978-79 12/14/1978 @ Chicago Hustle L 137-107 Program
1978-79 12/17/1978 @ Iowa Cornets L 99-87 Program
1978-79 1/12/1979  @ Minnesota Fillies L 96-90 Program

 

==Downloads==

1978-79 Women’s Professional Basketball League Brochure

 

==Links==

Women’s Professional Basketball League Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs

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December 4, 1979 – Dallas Diamonds vs. Minnesota Fillies

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Dallas Diamonds vs. Minnesota Fillies
December 4, 1979
Dallas Convention Center Arena
Attendance:

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs
8 pages

 

This rare program – actually an eight-page fold-out pamphlet – is from the early pioneering days of women’s professional basketball in the late 1970’s.   The Dallas Diamonds were a 1979 expansion franchise during the sophomore season of the Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1981).  This program comes from the team’s third home game at the dimly-lit Dallas Convention Center, played on December 4th, 1979 against the Minnesota Fillies.

A slim historical record of this game exists in the Diamonds 1980-81 media guide, noting that the Diamonds lost this game 102-91, despite a 29-point effort from 6′ 3″ Dallas center Alfredda Abernathy, the team’s #1 draft pick out of Alabama State University.

The team’s former PR Director, Nancy Nichols, wrote a wonderful retrospective on the Diamonds for Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas in 2005.  You can read it here.  Nichols notes that attendance was poor that first season, averaging somewhere around 1,500 per night according the Nichols.   Team owner Judson Phillips, a 28-year old Dallas-area McDonald’s franchisee, expected to lose $100,000 on the team over its first three seasons.  He lost it in the first two months instead.

On January 18, 1980, less than halfway through the Diamond’s 36-game schedule, Phillips called a press conference and announced he was folding the team in mid-season.  (The WPBL already lost expansion franchises in Philadelphia and Washington to financial collapse the previous month).  The league managed to keep the team going for a few more days until an angel investor stepped in.

A 33-year old local real estate executive named Michael Staver saw the press coverage and came forward to save the Diamonds.  Staver kept the Diamonds going through 1981 and forged them into a model franchise by WBL standards, but the Diamonds vanished along with the rest of the league in the summer of 1981.

A revived version of the Diamonds came back in 1984 as part of the new Women’s American Basketball Association.

 

==Downloads==

December 4, 1979 Dallas Diamonds vs. Minnesota Fillies game program

December 4, 1979 Diamonds vs. Fillies article sources

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Written by AC

October 12th, 2012 at 6:51 pm

February 16, 1979 – Minnesota Fillies vs. Houston Angels

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Minnesota Fillies vs. Houston Angels
February 16, 1979
The Met Center
Attendance:

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs
28 pages

 

This attractive yearbook from the 1978-79 Minnesota Fillies of the historic Women’s Professional Basketball League showed up in the mail yesterday afternoon.  The WPBL was the first attempt to launch a nationwide professional league for women.  The original owner neatly scored the book for a February 16, 1979 game between the Fillies and the Houston Angels at the old Met Center in Bloomington, Minnesota and pasted in a newspaper summary of the game as well.

Hours before this game, the Fillies traded away the league’s leading scorer Brenda Chapman (27.0 ppg) to the Milwaukee Does.  The Angels went on to defeat the Fillies 105-95 on this night en route to a league-best 26-8 record.  The Fillies were one of the few clubs in the eight-team league to employ a female Head Coach – 29-year old Julia Yeater – during the WPBL’s inaugural season.

Of the eight franchises that launched the Women’s Professional Basketball League in December 1978, the Fillies were one of only three that managed to play all three seasons of the league’s existence.  The Fillies were the centerpiece of a lengthy Sports Illustrated profile by Sarah Pileggi in March 1980, towards the end of their second season.

The Houston Angels went on to win the first pro championship in women’s basketball in the spring of 1979.  They disbanded in 1980 after the conclusion of the WPBL’s sophomore season.  The Fillies closed up shop along with the rest of the WPBL in 1981.

 

==Links==

Houston Angels Home Page

Minnesota Fillies Home Page

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Written by AC

April 21st, 2012 at 12:40 pm

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