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 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.

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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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.

 

==Slideshow==

 

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

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

1980-81

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

 

==Key Players==

 

==Downloads==

1980 San Francisco Pioneers Draft Choices

 

==Links==

Women’s Professional Basketball Association Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball Association Programs

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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.

Arenas:

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.

 

==Downloads==

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

 

==Links==

Women’s Professional Basketball League Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 9th, 2013 at 2:32 am

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.

##

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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Written by andycrossley

January 8th, 2013 at 4:27 am