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…



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



Written by andycrossley

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.


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



“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


1978-1981 New Jersey Gems

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Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1981)

Born: 1978 – WPBL founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1981 – The WPBL ceases operations.


Team Colors: Royal Blue & Jersey Orange



The New Jersey Gems were one of eight founding franchises in the pioneering Women’s Professional Basketball League in the winter of 1978-79.  The WPBL was the first professional basketball league for women in the United States.  Of the eight original clubs, the Gems were one of only three to survive for all three of the league’s seasons.

The Gems featured two of the highest paid and best known players in the early years of the women’s game – Ann Meyers and Carol Blazejowski – but never seriously contended for a league championship.  They finally made the playoffs during the WPBL’s third and final season, but were shown a quick first round exit by the league’s third great star, Nancy Lieberman and her Dallas Diamonds.

In the WPBL’s inaugural season, the Gems fielded a largely anonymous roster and were the worst team in the league with a 9-25 record.

In November 1979, new Gems owner Robert Milo signed former UCLA star Ann Meyers to a three-year contract worth $130,000.   (Average pay in the WPBL at the time was around $10,000 per season).  At the time Meyers was the closest thing to a household name in women’s basketball.  A silver medalist on the 1976 U.S. Olympic team, Meyers led UCLA to a national championship as a senior in 1978.  She burst into national headlines in September 1979 when the Indiana Pacers of the NBA signed her to a rookie contract, making her the first female athlete to sign with a major American professional sports team.  Meyers was cut soon afterwards and moved into the broadcast booth for the Pacers until Milo came calling two months later.  Meyers would go on to win co-MVP honors in the WPBL in the 1979-80 season as the Gems finished 19-17, just missing the playoffs.

Meyers declined to return for the 1980-81 season, later telling The Christian Science Monitor that her paychecks stopped arriving in the summer of 1980.  Her pro career was over after a single MVP season.  The Gems replaced Meyers with another big name for their third season, signing former Montclair State star Carol Blazejowski to a three-year, $150,000 contract.

The Gems moved the South Mountain Arena in West Orange for the 1980-81 campaign and had their best season yet.  Blazejowski lit up the league as a rookie, leading the WPBL in scoring with 29.6 PPG.  The team finished 23-13 and made the postseason for the first time.    In the playoffs, the Gems ran into Lieberman and the Diamonds and lost 2 games to 1 in a best-of-three series.

Their Game 3 semi-final defeat in Dallas on April 6, 1981 turned out to be last game for the franchise.  The WPBL quietly faded away sometime in late 1981.  No formal announcement about the league’s fate was ever made, but the WPBL never staged a fourth season.


Former Queens College All-American Donna Geils played for the Gems during the 1979-80 season.  Under her married name Donna Orender, she later served as President of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) from 2005 to 2010.  Former Gem Carol Blazejowski also became a high-ranking executive in the WNBA, serving as VP/General Manager and later President of the New York Liberty franchise from 1997 to 2010.

The Gems also featured identical twin forwards Faye Young and Kaye Young during the 1979-80 season.  The “Yogurt Twins”  brought much needed notoriety to the publicity-starved league by starring in a Dannon Yogurt ad campaign.  Faye Young went on to co-author Winning Basketball For Girls, a coach’s handbook which has been through numerous print editions over the years.  Kaye Young married Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher and was known to Pittsburgh sports fans as Kaye Cowher.  She passed away in 2010.



==New Jersey Gems Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1978-79 12/17/1978 vs. Chicago Hustle ?? Program
1978-79 3/25/1979 @ Iowa Cornets ?? Program
1979-80 11/24/1979 vs. Chicago Hustle W 114-95 Program Game Notes
1979-80 3/1/1980 vs. St. Louis Streak ?? Program
1979-80 3/2/1980 vs. Dallas Diamonds W 98-80 Program Roster
1980-81 12/5/1980 @ Dallas Diamonds L 102-87  Line-Up Card Game Notes



Ann Meyers & Magic Johnson 7-Up commercial circa 1980



==Key Players==



==In Memoriam==

Gems forward Kaye Young died after a battle with skin cancer on June 23, 2010.  She was 54.




1978-79 Women’s Professional Basketball League Brochure

1978-79 New Jersey Gems Season Ticket Brochure

February 1980 “Gemstones” Team Newsletter

March 1980 “Gemstones” Team Newsletter



Women’s Professional Basketball League Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs



1979-1981 San Francisco Pioneers

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Women’s Professional Basketball League (1979-1981)

Born: 1979 – WPBL expansion franchise.
Died: Postseason 1981 – The WPBL ceases operations.

Arena: San Francisco Civic Auditorium (5,141)

Team Colors: Columbia Blue & Gold

Owners: Marshall Geller, et al.


The San Francisco Pioneers were an expansion franchise in the Women’s Professional Basketball League.  The team opened for business with the league’s sophomore season in the fall of 1979.  The WPBL was the first attempt to start a professional women’s basketball league in the United States, so the Pioneers nickname was especially appropriate.

Stockbroker Marshall Geller and his partners – who included actors Alan Alda of M*A*S*H* and Mike Connors of Mannix – acquired the club for a $100,000 expansion fee.

The Pioneers came on strong at the end of the 1979-80 season and made the playoffs with an 18-18 record. They defeated the defending champion Houston Angels in the quarterfinal round before losing to the eventual champion New York Stars in the semis.  Former UCLA star Anita Ortega finished fourth in the league in scoring with 24.1 points per game.  Marshall Geller was named the league’s “Owner-of-the-Year”, as the Pioneers finished near the top of the league in attendance at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium.

San Francisco Pioneers ProgramDuring the Pioneer’s second season, the team was wracked with internal conflicts.  Geller fired Head Coach and General Manager Frank LaPorte two months into the season and replaced him with former NBA player Dean Meminger.  Meminger was the league’s Coach-of-the-Year the previous season after leading the New York Stars to the 1980 WPBL title, but the Stars had disbanded leaving Meminger available.  Pat Mayo, a tri-captain and a fan favorite pictured on the cover of the team’s 1980-81 yearbook above, was so disgruntled with the situation that she retired from basketball at age 23 shortly after Meminger’s arrival.  Meminger quickly dismantled the rest of the unhappy bunch and by the season’s midway point only four players remained from the Pioneers’ opening night roster.

One new arrival was “Machine Gun” Molly Bolin, one of the league’s top scorers and self-promoters.  She printed up posters at her own expense and sold them at games.  Posters of the attractive blonde became sought after souvenirs in cities around the league.  Bolin was available at mid-season because she had signed on with a rival women’s league called the Ladies Professional Basketball Association in late 1980.  The LPBA went belly up after just a handful of games and Meminger quickly called Bolin in to San Francisco in January 1981.  Bolin was so highly regarded in the league that she was picked for the February 1981 All-Star game in Albuquerque, despite playing in the league for less than a month after her return from the LPBA.  She led all scorers in the game with 29 points.

The late season tinkering wasn’t enough to right the ship and the Pioneers finished out of playoff contention a disappointing 14-22 in 1980-81.  Following the season, the WPBL drifted into a state of limbo.  The college draft was cancelled in June 1980 and various club quietly shut down.  No formal announcement was ever made, but the Women’s Professional Basketball League was done after three seasons.




==San Francisco Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other


1980-81 1/15/1981 @ New England Gulls  W – Forfeit Program Roster


==Key Players==



1980 San Francisco Pioneers Draft Choices



Women’s Professional Basketball Association Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball Association Programs


Written by andycrossley

February 17th, 2013 at 4:17 pm

1978-1980 Houston Angels

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Houston AngelsWomen’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1980)

Born: 1978 – WPBL founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1980 – The Angels cease operations.


Team Colors: Powder Blue & Dark Blue

Owner: Hugh Sweeney


Trivia question: what city won the first ever championship for women’s professional basketball in the United States?

Answer: Houston, Texas, where the Houston Angels captured the league title during the inaugural season of the Women’s Professional Basketball League in April of 1979.  The WPBL was the first attempt to create a fully-fledged pro league for women. It lasted three seasons from 1978 to 1981.  The Angels managed to hang in there for the first two only.

At the WPBL’s inaugural draft at Essex House in Manhattan in July 1978, the Angels selected UCLA star Ann Meyers with the #1 overall pick.  But Meyers declined to sign with the league, preferring to remain an amateur for the 1980 Moscow Olympics (which the U.S. subsequently boycotted).  Meyers would later join the WPBL’s New Jersey Gems for the league’s second season in 1979-80.

Houston AngelsDespite losing out on Meyers, the Angels raced out to the WPBL’s best regular season record (26-8) under Head Coach Don Knodel.  Top performers Belinda Candler (19.9 PPG) and Paula Mayo (15.9 PPG) were both named All-Pro.  The Angels met the Iowa Cornets in the WPBL Championship Series.  The best-of-five series went the distance, with the deciding Game 5 held at the University of Houston’s Hofheinz Pavilion before a crowd of 5,976.  The Angels bested the Cornets 111-104, thanks to a 36 point, 22 rebound performance by Mayo.

Angels owner Hugh Sweeneywas a Houston-area tennis promoter and former professional player (he had some notoriety as the last man to compete in pro tennis wearing long pants during the 1950’s).  Sweeney was not an especially wealthy owner and midway through the Angels second season, he and the team fell prey to a bizarre hoax.  In December 1979 Sweeney announced the sale of the team to an organization called Sports Resources International, Inc. for the sum of $1 million.  It was an eye-opening figure, as Sweeney and the other initial investors paid just $50,000 for their franchises when the WPBL formed in early 1978.

The sale was announced in the press, but something wasn’t right.  The principal investor of Sports Resources International was a fellow named Richard E. Klingler.  Klingler presented himself to the team at a practice session and behaved strangely, barely raising his voice above an inaudible murmur in his remarks to the team, according to women’s basketball historian Karra Porter in her WPBL history Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women’s Professional Basketball League.  Klingler, it turned out, was a blue collar laborer seeking media attention.

“He was like a machinist in a machine shop, and didn’t any more have a million dollars than you or me,” former Angels assistant coach Greg Williams told Porter.

Once the hoax came to light, it seemed to knock the wind out of the Angels organization.  Sweeney was out of money and needed the sale.  Shortly after Klingler was exposed in January 1980, Sweeney fell behind on rent payment to Hofheinz Pavilion to the tune of $8,800, forcing the postponement of a scheduled game against the Dallas Diamonds.    The Angels remained competitive on the court and the team managed to complete the season, winning the Western Division with a 19-14 record.  Paula Mayo and Belinda Candler were named to the All-Star team again.  The San Francisco Pioneers eliminated the Angels in the playoff quarterfinals, ending Houston’s run as league champions.

The team folded after the 1979-80 season, with the official announcement of the team’s demise coming in October 1980.


==Houston Angels Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1978-79 12/22/1978 vs. Chicago Hustle ?? Program Roster
1978-79 2/15/1979 @ Chicago Hustle L 106-105 Program
1978-79 2/16/1979  @ Minnesota Fillies  L 105-95 Program


==In Memoriam==

Former Angels owner Hugh Sweeney passed away in September 2008 at the age of 79.



December 22, 1978 Houston Angels Inaugural Home Game Program

1978-79 Women’s Professional Basketball League Brochure

1978-79 Houston Angels Season Ticket Brochure

1979-80 Houston Angels Season Ticket Brochure



Women’s Professional Basketball League Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs



Written by andycrossley

January 9th, 2013 at 2:32 am