“Good Seats Still Available” is a curious little podcast devoted to the exploration of what used-to-be in professional sports. Each week, host Tim Hanlon interviews former players, owners, broadcasters, beat reporters, and surprisingly famous "super fans" of teams and leagues that have come and gone…
While American tackle football has long been considered an exclusively male sport, this week's guest Russ Crawford ("Women's American Football: Breaking Barriers On and Off the Gridiron") takes us on an eye-opening journey over the decades that highlights the persistent and still-growing interest of women playing the game - including professionally. Anecdotal evidence abounds of amateur football competitions, collegiate intramural leagues, and even an 1926 NFL halftime exhibition featuring Frankford's "Lady Yellow Jackets" - proving women's intrigue with the sport. The women's game became more organized in 1965 with the launch of sports entrepreneur Sid Friedman's aspirational Women's Professional Football League, and later more forcefully in 1974 with the founding of the pioneering National Women's Football League - featuring notable teams such as the Houston Herricanes, Dallas Bluebonnets, Toledo Troopers, Oklahoma City Dolls, and Detroit Demons. Today, two robust national semi-pro outdoor leagues (the 60+ team Women's Football Alliance; the 18-club Women's National Football Conference), plus an increasingly evolved/credible indoor "X League" (fka as both the infamous "Lingerie," and later "Legends" Football League) - keep the women's gridiron game alive, with undoubtedly more pioneering to come. + + + PURCHASE Russ Crawford's book "Women's American Football: Breaking Barriers On and Off the Gridiron" in either hardcover or Kindle electronic versions NOW!
We point our GPS towards the Garden State this week, for a return to the days of pro hoops in places like the "RAC" (Piscataway's Rutgers Athletic Center), the "Rock" (Newark's Prudential Center), and the strangely iconic Meadowlands - as we look back at 35 seasons of the oft-forgotten New Jersey incarnation of NBA basketball's peripatetic Nets franchise with sports historian Łukasz Muniowski ("Turnpike Team: A History of the New Jersey Nets, 1977-2012"). Though replete with memorable moments both before (as the inaugural American Basketball Association's New Jersey Americans, and later the twice-champion, Julius Erving-led, Nassau Coliseum-based New York Nets) - and after (as the thoroughly rebranded, Barclays Center-domiciled Brooklyn Nets, since 2012) - it is the club's time as the New Jersey Nets that stands out to fans and scribes alike as the most colorful, bewilderingly forlorn and oddly endearing period of its existence. Join us for memories of players like Bernard "Sky B.B." King, "Super John" Williamson, Buck Williams, Sam Bowie, Derrick Coleman, Stephon Marbury, Jason Kidd, and Vince Carter - and a team that twice came this close to an NBA Finals championship (2001-02; 2002-03), unwittingly solidifying a decades-old inferiority complex that arguably still permeates the franchise today. + + + PURCHASE Łukasz Muniowski's book "Turnpike Team: A History of the New Jersey Nets, 1977-2012" in either paperback or Kindle electronic versions NOW!
In 2014, Major League Baseball's Official Historian John Thorn and veteran baseball journalist Alan Schwarz published an authoritative and thought-provoking list of "Baseball's 100 Most Important People" - including more than its fair share of surprisingly influential figures. Nestled between National Baseball Hall of Famers "Hammerin'" Hank Greenberg and "King" Kelly at number 79 on that list is this week's guest: "More than anyone, Miles Wolff is responsible for the modern renaissance of minor-league baseball, as it emerged from the lean years of the 1960s and '70s to the boom of the 1980s and '90s. Wolff bought the Carolina League's Durham Bulls for just $2,666 in 1979, nurtured it into a local success, and owned the franchise as it became a national symbol of the minor leagues after the release of the film "Bull Durham" in 1988. He sold the team in 1990 for $4 million just as the minors began to flourish again. "A baseball purist at heart, Wolff grew frustrated at the money- and marketing-driven approach exhibited by the regular minor leagues, whose clubs were beholden to the major-league organizations to which they fed players. (Communities rarely got to know the best players, because they were promoted to the next level within three or sixth months.) So in 1993, Wolff re-established the Northern League, a circuit in the upper Midwest made up of teams that operated outside the sphere of Organized Baseball. The Northern League's six clubs signed players — often minor-league veterans on their way down or overlooked collegians — to stock their rosters. The Northern League was an instant success and spawned imitators across the country. "Wolff's first baseball job came in 1971 as the general manager of the Double-A Savannah (Georgia) Braves, and he subsequently was a GM in Anderson, South Carolina., and Jacksonville, Florida. "Wolff also owned Baseball America, the Durham-based magazine of the minor leagues, for most of its lifetime. He bought the magazine from founder Allan Simpson in 1982 and served as president and publisher until selling the company in 2000." + + + PRE-ORDER Miles Wolff's soon-to-be-released memoir "There's a Bulldozer on Home Plate: A 50-Year Journey in Minor League Baseball" AND/OR the upcoming final (4th) edition of the indispensable "Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball: A Complete Record of Teams, Leagues and Seasons, 1876-2019" NOW!
[We celebrate the amazing life of the legendary Pelé with a reissue of our 2018 conversation with the man chiefly responsible for coaxing the "Black Pearl" out of retirement in 1975 to join the NASL's then-fledgling New York Cosmos - Clive Toye!] + + + Soccer America columnist (and Episode #6 interviewee) Paul Gardner summed up this week's Hall of Fame guest in his May 2015 commentary: “The debt owed by American soccer to Clive Toye is a vast one. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say, flatly, that without Toye's blind faith in the sport in the 1970s, pro soccer in the USA would have withered and died. Yes, Phil Woosnam and Lamar Hunt and Bob Hermann were there too. But in those unpromising years it was Toye's voice -- it came in a steady flow of ridiculously optimistic press releases and grandiose plans for a future that few others even dared to ponder -- that called loudest. “The New York Cosmos general manager credited with turning that league's fortunes around when he signed Pele to a contract in 1975. Toye, who was born in England and came to the United States in 1967 at the age of 33, was president of three North American Soccer League teams – the Cosmos, Chicago Sting and Toronto Blizzard – and general manager of the [original National Professional Soccer League and subsequent NASL] Baltimore Bays. [He] was an official of the NASL in helping it through its crisis year of 1969 and in its final months in 1985 – and helped to found the third American Soccer League in 1988. “There has always been the spirit of a showman in Toye, and surely it was that spirit that enabled Toye to overlook the virtual collapse of the old North American Soccer League and to see instead a glittering future for the sport in the USA, even to declare to anyone who was listening -- and not many were in those days -- the preposterous notion that the USA should begin preparing to stage the World Cup. “And when the NASL, by the skin of its teeth and by the mad devotion of Toye et al., did survive, it was Toye who gave the reborn league its glittering image with his invention of the Cosmos, with his canny maneuvering and dealing, who brought Pele and Beckenbauer to New York. Showmanship indeed.” Toye (A Kick in the Grass: The Slow Rise and Quick Demise of the NASL; Anywhere in the World) joins host Tim Hanlon for a lyrical and anecdote-filled journey through the pro league that he helped create, later put to rest, and which ultimately shored up the long-term foundation of the “beautiful game” in America.
[We kick off our holiday break this week with a deep descent into the "Good Seats" archives - and an eyebrow-raising revisit of the enigmatic Continental Indoor Soccer League of the 1990s with former play-by-play broadcaster Kenn Tomasch!] Former sportscaster and fellow defunct pro sports enthusiast Kenn Tomasch joins host Tim Hanlon to dig deep into the two-season saga of the Indiana (née Indianapolis) Twisters of the Continental Indoor Soccer League – the mid-90s summertime indoor soccer circuit hatched by a collective of team and arena owners from the NBA and NHL to keep their facilities humming during their respective “off”-seasons. CISL franchises controlled by entities outside the big-league fraternity were also part of the mix (accounting for half of the eventual 18 teams during the league's five-year run from 1993-97) – including the tumultuously tenuous Twisters, who cycled through two separate ownership groups as well as a temporary spell of league receivership during its brief 21-month existence. As the radio “Voice of the Twisters,” Tomasch was there for all of it, including: A rousing home debut on June 21, 1996 at Indianapolis' Market Square Arena that saw the club drop an entertaining 7-6 overtime decision to the Washington Warthogs; Dwindling announced home-game crowds of barely 2,000+ just months later; Co-owner Rodney Goins ceding his role as president mid-season to become an active player on the Twisters roster – debuting as US pro sports' first-ever player-owner on August 23, 1996; Becoming “wards of the league” two weeks later when Goins and his co-owner brother suspend operations – and team radio broadcasts; New ownership, team name, logo, colors – and a surprising second-place regular season finish in 1997; Losing home-field playoff advantage due to a scheduling conflict, and ultimately an early exit from a potential title run; AND The abrupt folding of the venerable San Diego Sockers just days before the 1997 season that foreshadowed the CISL's demise later in the year.
In 1966, when a still-young Dallas Cowboys franchise ended six years of NFL futility with its first winning season and a championship game appearance, the team's founder/owner Clint Murchison, Jr. was already dreaming bigger. In order to vault his club into the league's elite, Murchison knew he needed a better home situation than as a renter at the aging Cotton Bowl in Dallas' Fair Park - one where he could eventually generate his own direct revenue streams, while simultaneously elevating fans' game-day experience. Clint, Jr.s' s son Burk Murchison and Dallas Morning News writer Michael Granberry ("Hole in the Roof: The Dallas Cowboys, Clint Murchison Jr., and the Stadium That Changed American Sports Forever") join the podcast this week to help us delve into the history and mythology of Texas Stadium - the Cowboys' groundbreaking suburban Irving, TX home for 38 seasons (1971-2008) that not only fulfilled their owner's ahead-of-its-time vision, but also became the de facto template for modern-day sports facility expectations - for better or worse.
We're back from our extended Thanksgiving break with an inside look at the venerable sports venue that single-handedly elevated 1960s-era Atlanta to "major league" status, and cemented its place among the most important American cities. Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium - known simply as "Atlanta Stadium" when it opened in 1965 - was the long-time home of Major League Baseball's Braves (1966-96), the National Football League's Falcons (1966-91), two incarnations of the North American Soccer League's Atlanta Chiefs, and college football's postseason Peach Bowl (1968-92). And nobody knew its inner workings better than the facility's hard-working "ground crew" who tended to the whims and vicissitudes of the teams, players, owners, and even fans that called the stadium home for 30+ memorable years. 1970s stadium crew members Harvey Lee Frazier and David Fisher - along with "as-told-to" author Austin Gisriel ("Ground Crew Confidential") - join the podcast to share a bevy of little-known "behind-the scenes" memories of the facility that helped put Atlanta on the map - with the help of influential figures like Hank Aaron, Phil Woosnam, Ted Turner, the Beatles, and even high-wire great Karl Wallenda.
[We near the end of our Thanksgiving leftovers this week with a June 2018 archive re-release favorite featuring US Soccer Hall of Fame broadcaster JP Dellacamera - currently in Qatar covering this year's FIFA World Cup for Fox Sports!] Fox Sports soccer play-by-play broadcaster extraordinaire JP Dellacamera joins the podcast this week to discuss a pioneering career in sports announcing spanning over 30 years – including calling this year's 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia – his ninth consecutive men's quadrennial assignment since Mexico '86. Widely acknowledged as the original voice of US Soccer, Dellacamera's calls have become synonymous with some of modern-day American soccer's most indelible moments – including his accounts of the US Women's National Team's dramatic penalty kick shootout victory over China in the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, and Paul Caligiuri's historic “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” against Trinidad & Tobago in the final game of 1989 CONCACAF qualifying that punched the US Men's National Team's ticket for Italy '90 – ending a 40-year World Cup finals drought, and reorienting the sport's trajectory in the ‘States for decades to come. The road to broadcasting global soccer's marquee events has by no means been a straight and narrow one, however, and we (of course) chat with Dellacamera about some of the more memorable “forgotten” stops made along the way, including: Talking his way into his professional debut calling local TV games for the 1978 NASL expansion Detroit Express; Handling radio play-by-play for the American Soccer League's ALPO dog food-sponsored Pennsylvania Stoners; Parlaying years of minor league hockey broadcast experience into lead announcing duties for indoor soccer's Pittsburgh Spirit of the fledgling MISL; Cementing his stature as the voice of US women's soccer as the play-by-play lead for the 2001 launch of the WUSA; and Returning to his first love of pro hockey – finally at the NHL level – with the short-lived Atlanta Thrashers.
[Our Thanksgiving gift this week is a December 2017 archive re-release favorite with world-renowned singer/entertainer Pat Boone!] We usher in the holidays and round out our debut season with the inimitable Pat Boone – an American entertainment legend and inveterate business entrepreneur, with a life-long passion for the sport of basketball. In a career spanning over six decades (and counting!), the incomparable Boone has just about done it all in the fields of music, film, television, and stage, as well as the pursuit of a wide variety of business interests – including being the majority owner of the American Basketball Association's charter Bay Area franchise, the Oakland Oaks. Denied the ability to play its NBA All-Star marquee signing (and cross-town San Francisco Warriors star) Rick Barry for the inaugural 1967-68 ABA season, Boone's Oaks endured a league-worst 22-56 record, amid dismally low crowds at the brand-new Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena. Barry's official arrival the next season (despite a knee injury that curtailed his play after only 35 games), paired with the hiring of two-time NBA champion head coach Alex Hannum, and an influx of future perennial All-Star talent like Doug Moe and Larry Brown, instantly rejuvenated the club's competitive profile, as the Oaks zoomed to a league-leading 60-18 “worst-to-first” regular season record and a dominating run in the playoffs to capture the 1968-89 league championship. Despite the reversal of fortune on the hardwood, Boone lost a fortune at the box office (in excess of $2 million in just two seasons), as neither Barry nor a title provided any significant lift in ticket sales – or visible hope of near-term future improvement in the competitive Bay Area market. Former Baltimore Bullets NBA owner (and later Major Indoor Soccer League co-founder) Earl Foreman purchased the franchise (and its debts) from Boone for $2.6 million in August of 1969 and moved them to the Nation's Capital, where they became the one-year Washington Caps, replete with a reluctant Barry in tow. In this revealing conversation, Boone recounts: the events that led him to become a pro basketball owner; the tortuous journey of landing Rick Barry; the thrill of winning an ABA championship; the unwitting blank check that kept the Oaks financially afloat, but nearly sank Boone personally and professionally; and why, despite his continued passion for the sport, he never pursued another professional basketball ownership opportunity in the decidedly more stable NBA in later years. Plus: a ring more expensive Elizabeth Taylor's; dunking over Bill Russell; comparing pro titles with Mark Cuban; and our quest for footage of the 1978 CBS/NBA Three-on-Three Tournament!
In 1974, a small Midlands underwear firm changed soccer forever when it won the contract as official kit supplier for England's national team - featuring a tradition-busting combination of bright colors, definitional striping, and, uniquely, prominently positioned manufacturer's logos on both shirt and shorts. Admiral Sportswear's bold designs and distinctive branding - soon outfitting storied club sides like Manchester United, Leicester City, Norwich City, West Ham, and Sheffield United - quickly caught fans' attention with their detailed "replica" versions, which offered the most ardent supporters a novel opportunity to literally dress like their favorite pro players. Sports documentarian/author Andy Wells ("Get Shirty: The Rise & Fall of Admiral Sportswear") tells us the story of how Admiral unwittingly invented today's now-multi-billion-dollar replica jersey industry - while revolutionizing the worlds of sports commerce and street fashion alike. If you followed any of the franchises from the late 1970s/early 1980s North American Soccer League or Major Indoor Soccer League (or even the American Soccer League's Columbus Magic) - chances are you remember (or even owned) an Admiral shirt!
An important but surprisingly little-remembered story in the history of pro football - and a turning point in the city of New Orleans' eventually successful pursuit of an NFL franchise - is the subject of this week's hugely intriguing conversation with Erin Grayson Sapp, author of "Moving the Chains: The Civil Rights Protest That Saved the Saints And Transformed New Orleans". From the book's dust-jacket: We remember the 1966 birth of the New Orleans Saints as a shady quid pro quo between the NFL commissioner and a Louisiana congressman. Moving the Chains is the untold story of the athlete protest that necessitated this backroom deal, as New Orleans scrambled to respond to a very public repudiation of the racist policies that governed the city. In the decade that preceded the 1965 athlete walkout, a reactionary backlash had swept through Louisiana, bringing with it a host of new segregation laws and enough social strong-arming to quash any complaints, even from suffering sports promoters. Nationwide protests had assailed the Tulane Green Wave, the Sugar Bowl, and the AFL's preseason stop-offs, and only legal loopholes and a lot of luck kept football alive in the city. Still, live it did, and in January 1965, locals believed they were just a week away from landing their own pro franchise. All they had to do was pack Tulane Stadium for the city's biggest audition yet, the AFL All-Star game. Ultimately, all fifty-eight Black and white teammates walked out of the game to protest the town's lingering segregation practices and public abuse of Black players. Following that, love of the gridiron prompted and excused something out of sync with the city's branding: change. In less than two years, the Big Easy made enough progress to pass a blitz inspection by Black and white NFL officials and receive the long-desired expansion team. The story of the athletes whose bravery led to change quickly fell by the wayside. Locals framed desegregation efforts as proof that the town had been progressive and tolerant all along. Furthermore, when a handshake between Pete Rozelle and Hale Boggs gave America its first Super Bowl and New Orleans its own club, the city proudly clung to that version of events, never admitting the cleanup even took place.
There are few moments in sports more thrilling, compelling, or inspiring than a comeback story. From the resurgence of a sports figure to a team that defies the odds for an unexpected win, to someone who never quite made it, finally getting their shot, these stories are the lifeblood of sports. Nobody knows this more than former NFL star linebacker, Ryan Shazier who scratched and clawed his way back from paralysis after a devastating on-field hit, to walk back on a football field just a few years later under his own power. It's the stuff movies are made of -- and now it's the stuff "Don't Call It A Comeback" will bring you each week. "Don't Call It A Comeback" will spotlight the biggest sports comeback story of the week and dive deep into every aspect of what makes each tale more incredible than the last. Hosted by Ryan Shazier and his pal, TV writer, radio personality, and sports superfan, Dave Dameshek, "Don't Call It A Comeback" will shout out the underdogs, Cinderellas, unlikely heroes, and surprising achievements all across the sports landscape -- and explore the highs, lows and hurdles each subject faced on their triumphant comeback journey. Listen to "Don't Call It A Comeback" now wherever you pod!
As preparations for next month's 2022 FIFA World Cup spectacle in Qatar enter their final stages, we turn our attention back to the pitch for an intriguing look back at a seminal international "friendly" tournament earnestly designed to crown a world club soccer champion - and the unwitting genesis for today's officially-sanctioned FIFA Club World Cup competition. Soccer writer and part-time English lower-division amateur coach Dan Williamson ("When Two Worlds Collide: The Intercontinental Cup Years") takes us on a journey from 1960 to 2004, when the Intercontinental Cup (later known as the one-match "Toyota Cup" from 1980-onward) ambitiously sought to determine the world's best club team by annually pitting the champions of the two historically strongest continents - Europe and South America - against each other in front of an internationally televised audience. Although never formally recognized by the sport's governing body at the time, soccer media and fans alike reveled in clashes featuring some of the modern era's most iconic franchises and legendary players - and had no problem acknowledging each year's victors as the not-so-unofficial club champions of the world. We dig into the Cup's controversial (and sometimes violent) clashes of the late 1960s; its decline (including numerous team boycotts) during the 70s; a competition-saving, Japanese-sponsored rebirth in 1980 - and the eventual absorption and expansion of the series into FIFA's formal orbit in the 2000s - replete with the retroactive (and ironic) reclassification of its winners as (now-)"official" world champions. + + + REMEMBER: Get up to $100 in matching deposit credit when you sign up to try PrizePicks - and use promo code GOODSEATS!
Fans of Americana music may recognize the name Bob Carlin as one of the country's leading practitioners of the classic "clawhammer" style of banjo. His myriad recordings, historical writings and frequent performances across the US and around the world have won him plaudits from old-time banjo scholars and aficionados alike. But when he's not downpicking in the studio or performing on stage, Carlin is likely to be found elsewhere on the road, obliging one of his life's other passions - chronicling the histories of North American "lost" baseball parks. Carlin's new book, "New York's Great Lost Ballparks," gives us the perfect excuse to delve into both ends of the Empire State's (and the Big Apple's) sizable trove of past professional baseball diamonds - from the iconic and memorable (like the Bronx's original Yankee Stadium, and the four versions of Manhattan's fabled Polo Grounds), to upstate Binghamton's oft-forgotten Johnson Field (RIP: 1968), the decades-long home of the Parlor City's various minor league league teams (e.g., Bingos, Brooms and Triplets). And, of course - everything in between! + + + DON'T FORGET: Get up to $100 in matching deposit credit when you sign up to try PrizePicks - and use promo code GOODSEATS!
Pittsburgh-native sports historian (and previous Episode 242 guest) Dave Finoli ("Where Pittsburgh Played: Oakland's Historic Sports Venues") returns to the pod for a deep dive into the notable histories of the Steel City's important first generation of modern-day sports venues. We dig into some of the memorable (and many not-so) professional teams and leagues that called the city's Oakland neighborhood home, in places like: Pitt Stadium (NFL football's Steelers); the Duquesne Gardens (the early NHL Pirates & numerous minor-league hockey clubs; the BAA basketball Ironmen); and of course, the legendary Forbes Field - which not only housed baseball's Pirates, but also the same-named (pre-Steelers) sister football franchise, two WWII-era NFL contractions (1943's "Steagles" & 1944's "Card-Pitt"), the Negro Leagues' iconic Homestead Grays, and even the 1967 one-and-only season of the NPSL soccer Phantoms. PLUS: we "send in" a special collegiate nod to the still in-use Fitzgerald Field House ! + + + AND: Get up to $100 in matching deposit credit when you sign up to try PrizePicks - and use promo code GOODSEATS!
The Hartford Whalers were a beloved hockey team from the moment of their founding in 1972 as the World Hockey Association's New England Whalers. Playing in the National Hockey League's smallest market and arena after the 1979 WHA merger/absorption/expansion, the Whalers struggled in a division that included both the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens - but the club's fans were among the NHL's most loyal. In 1995, new owners demanded a new arena - and when plans fell through, moved the team to Ralegh, North Carolina - where they became today's Carolina Hurricanes. Astonishingly, the Whalers remain as popular as ever in their former home town and previous incarnation. Even though more than two decades have passed since Connecticut's only professional sports team relocated, nobody has truly forgotten the team, its history, or its uniquely memorable (and still highly profitable) logo. And while the NHL continues to thrive without them, the Whalers' impact stretches far beyond the ice and into a still very-much-alive cultural phenomenon. Boston Globe sportswriter Christopher Price ("Bleeding Green: A History of the Hartford Whalers") grew up in Connecticut as a diehard Whalers fan, experiencing firsthand the team's bond with the community. Drawing from all aspects of the team's past, he shares an uncensored history of the region's still-favorite professional sports franchise. PLUS: Listen for your chance to win a free copy of "Bleeding Green"! + + + AND: Get up to $100 in matching deposit credit when you sign up to try PrizePicks - and use promo code GOODSEATS!
He's enshrined as a member of the College Football Hall of Fame for his record-breaking, two-time consensus All-American fullback rushing career at Syracuse in the mid-1960s. He's an inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, most notably for his dominant rushing prowess with the Don Shula-coached Miami Dolphins of the early 1970s - and his leading role in the club's three consecutive Super Bowl appearances, two back-to-back NFL titles, and its unparalleled perfect undefeated season in 1972. But in our conversation this week with legendary gridiron star Larry Csonka ("Head On: A Memoir"), we digress (and obsess) into some of the lesser-known chapters of an impressively unique career - including his first professional years with Miami as part of the old American Football League in the late 60s; a bombshell move (along with Dolphin teammates Paul Warfield and Jim Kiick) to the upstart World Football League's Memphis Southmen (née Toronto Northmen) in 1974; and front office roles with the original USFL's Jacksonville Bulls (1984-85). + + + Get up to $100 in matching deposit credit when you sign up to try PrizePicks - and use promo code GOODSEATS!
We welcome budding sports historian - and previous Episode 190 guest - Alan Bass ("Ed Snider: The Last Sports Mogul") back to our microphones this week, this time to delve into the life and times of modern-day Philadelphia's patron saint of professional sports. The dust jacket for The Last Sports Mogul makes the case: "Most sports team owners make their money elsewhere and purchase a team as an extravagant hobby - but that is not the story of Ed Snider. One of the few owners in history to get control of a franchise by mortgaging nearly everything to his name, the longtime Philadelphia Flyers chairman would go on to form the billion-dollar empire of Comcast-Spectacor and cement his standing as one of the most influential businessmen in the city's history. "Snider was ambitious and entrepreneurial, though extraordinarily demanding of those who worked for him. He was affectionate with his loved ones, yet often showed a surprising lack of emotional intelligence. His staunch capitalist beliefs contrasted his progressive-minded views on the business of hockey and in sharing his wealth with those in need. "The Last Sports Mogul embraces all sides of Snider to form a complex portrait of the unparalleled figure once named Philadelphia's greatest mover and shaker of the millennium."
Fans of the original NHL version (1979-96) of the Winnipeg Jets, as well as the first ten seasons (1997-2007) of their subsequent incarnation as the Phoenix Coyotes, will surely remember the dulcet tones of team radio and TV play-by-play broadcaster Curt Keilback (Two Minutes for Talking to Myself: Jets, Coyotes, Tales, Opinions). For 27 seasons - spanning some 2400+ games - Keilback was the signature voice of the since-rebranded Arizona franchise, a seemingly lone constant amidst the club's steady stream of existential change from 1970s World Hockey Association dominance, to NHL small-market competitive frustration, to (supposedly) "greener pastures" in the Valley of the Sun. Keilback takes us on clear-eyed journey back through some of the more memorable moments of his Jets/Coyotes broadcasting career, including: the original (and much-copied) "Winnipeg White Out;" the ill-fated 1996 "Save the Jets" campaign; how he kept his job despite the Jets' impending move; the not-so-great coaching tenure of "The Great One;" and his call of "The Goal" - then-Washington Capital rookie Alexander Ovechkin's impossible-to-describe, body-prone, behind-the-back score against the Coyotes in 2006. PLUS: we debate the current wisdom and likely future of the current Arizona-labeled version of the franchise - and whether it will EVER work!
Author/team biographer Steve Guinan (We Are the Troopers: The Women of the Winningest Team in Pro Football History) helps us celebrate the return of football this week - with a look back at the unheralded story of the most dominant women's team of the 1970s -the Toledo Troopers. Winners of seven consecutive championships across two different leagues - Sid Friedman's barnstorming Women's Professional Football League (1971-72), and the pioneering true-pro successor National Women's Football League (1974-77) - the Troopers compiled an astounding 58-4-1 record over its nine years of life, including six seasons of undefeated play. Led by the league's most recognizable star Linda Jefferson and overseen by its hard-charging owner/head coach Bill Stout - the Troopers' roster was an unlikely assemblage of housewives, factory workers, hairdressers, former nuns, high school teachers, bartenders, mail carriers, pilots, and would-be drill sergeants - whose combined spirit, tenacity and simple "love for the game" helped create what even the hallowed Pro Football Hall of Fame officially recognizes as the “winningest team in professional football history.”
As a young girl growing up in tiny, rural Throckmorton, Texas in the mid-1950s, memoirist Addie Beth Denton ("108 Stitches: A Girl Grows Up With Baseball") had only a vague understanding of what her father and uncle did for a living - except that they seemed to always be talking about baseball. Only as she grew older did she come to realize all that discussion - not to mention her bevy of annual summertime excursions to professional parks all over the country - was much more than just a passing family curiosity. In fact, she discovered that her uncle Harry Craft had not only been a respectable big-league outfielder with the Cincinnati Reds for nearly six seasons (1937-42) before joining the Navy in the war effort - but was now in the midst of a fledgling managerial career that saw him skippering numerous New York Yankees farm clubs, as well as two of the majors' newest: the 1955 Kansas City As (relocated from Philadelphia) and the 1962 expansion Houston Colt .45s. Along the way, Denton recalls innumerable childhood brushes with baseball greatness - Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Billy Martin, Rusty Staub - all of whom credited Craft for his valuable tutelage during their careers. And unwittingly willed a lifetime of memories and love for the game for a certain Texas farm girl.
The Athletic Major League Soccer staff writer Pablo Maurer steps into our vortex of what-used-to-be in professional sports this week, with a look back at some of the more confounding and overlooked stories of the not-so-distant past of US pro soccer. It's our deepest dives yet into memorable North American Soccer League gems like 1977's one-year wonder Team Hawaii; 1983's divisive US Men's National Team-as-pro-franchise Team America; the curious Stateside detours of world greats like Bayern Munich superstar Gerd Müeller, Dutch legend Johan Cruyff and Manchester United icon George Best - plus, of course, the NASL's inventive ahead-of-its-time 35-yard-line Shootout tie-breaker. We also tackle some of the already forgotten early days of Major League Soccer - including its own version of the Shootout; LA's ill-fated "first" second franchise Chivas USA; and impossible-to-forget franchise monikers like Wiz, Burn, Clash, and MetroStars. PLUS: the unheralded pre-MLS rules experiments of the mid-90s USISL minor league pyramid. AND: the incomparable (if not incomprehensible) Socker Slam!
Obscure trivia answers abound this week, as we return to the pro rinks of the 1970s with Twin Cities sports fan extraordinaire Dan Whenesota ("A Slap Shot in Time") for a look back at the not one, but two World Hockey Association franchises known as the Minnesota Fighting Saints. The first team was one of the WHA's original twelve franchises, playing from 1972 until mid-1976; the second was the rebirth of the league's hastily relocated Cleveland Crusaders, and played for part of 1976-77 season. Neither incarnation completed its final season of play. Save for a few games in the early months of the first version's inaugural season, both Fighting Saints played in the uniquely configured St. Paul Civic Center - where clear acrylic glass dasher boards offered fans completely unobscured views of all the action. As for action, there was plenty - both in terms of fan-friendly uptempo offensive play, and aggressive, often penalty-drawing physicality - befitting of the team's name and iconic logo. If you remember the WHA, the cross-town rival NHL North Stars, the movie "Slap Shot" (not-so-loosely based on the Saints and its minor league affiliate Johnstown [PA] Jets), or even simply where you were on June 27, 1972 when Bobby Hull stunned the sports world by signing with the upstart league - this is the episode for you!
We spotlight the new Amazon Prime Video series "A League of Their Own" - an inventively reimagined telling of the story of the World War II-era All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (and originally made famous in the 1992 Penny Marshall-directed motion picture of the same name) - with writer and executive producer Desta Tedros Reff. Decidedly more "dramedy" in tone than the comedic approach of the namesake film (or even its short-lived, lesser-remembered CBS-TV primetime sitcom spinoff the following year), the new League still builds its rich storyline around the AAGPBL's four-time champion Rockford (IL) Peaches - while notably incorporating race and gender identity themes not previously addressed (or even acknowledged) in the original. Tedros Reff takes us inside the myriad of challenges behind the making of the series, including: the persistent curveballs thrown by COVID-era production scheduling; the purposeful approach to historical accuracy (yes, various scenes were shot in Rockford); and the obvious, but important risks of reframing the lighthearted plot of a modern-day film classic into an authentic narrative befitting the true legacy of the league's pioneering women players.
Life has come full circle for TV news reporter-turned-Triple-A baseball play-by-play broadcaster Mike Capps ("Grinders: Baseball's Intrepid Infantry") - now the longtime radio voice of the Pacific Coast League's Round Rock Express. As a kid in early-1960s North Texas, Capps grew up immersed in the exploits of Dallas-Fort Worth's minor league Rangers, Cats and Spurs - intrigued by rotating rosters of determined pay-your-dues hopefuls bouncing up and down between baseball's majors and minors - players his grandfather called the "engine" of the sport. After an intense award-winning professional career covering hard news for local Metroplex TV stations and early 1990s Gulf War-era CNN, Capps found solace and renewed purpose in those early childhood memories of the "grinders" of the game he fell in love with - reinventing himself in their mold into a second post-journalism work life as an (also) award-winning baseball play-by-play man for minor-league clubs in outposts like Tyler, TX (the former Texas-Louisiana League WildCatters), Sioux Falls, SD (Canaries), Atlantic City, NJ (the former Atlantic League Surf), and Nashville (Sounds). By 2000, Capps' pressbox grinding paid off with an offer by Nolan Ryan to help inaugurate suburban Austin's expansion Express as its radio voice and director of broadcasting - a run that's lasted some 3000+ games (and counting).
It wasn't easy being a soccer fan in the United States in the 1980s. While the 24-team North American American Soccer League ushered in the decade with an air of stability and momentum (the league even sold a pennant proclaiming the game the “Sport of the 80's”), it wasn't long before big-time American pro soccer was dangerously on the ropes (the NASL shrank to just nine franchises by 1984) – and then seemingly gone for good when the league officially sank into oblivion in early 1985. For a nascent generation of US fans newly hooked on the world's “beautiful game,” it felt like an abandonment – and an air of disillusionment beset the American soccer scene in the immediate years that followed. Slowly and awkwardly, Americans slowly got wise – miraculously qualifying for the 1990 World Cup in Italy, hosting the event four years later, and re-birthing the pro game with Major League Soccer in 1996 – and ultimately evolved it into one of the most popular sports in the country. Sportswriter/author Hal Phillips ("Generation Zero: Founding Fathers, Hidden Histories & the Making of Soccer in America") joins the podcast this week to help trace the timeline of events that led to this epic transformation in American sports, by spotlighting the national team players and fans - raised on the game and tempered by hardship - who made it happen. PLUS: Your chance to win a free copy!
Pro hockey history enthusiast/author Steve Currier (Episode 37; "The California Golden Seals: A Tale of White Skates, Red Ink, and One of the NHL's Most Outlandish Teams") returns to the show after a five-year absence - this time to accompany us deep down the rabbit hole of one of the National Hockey League's most overlooked adventures of the 1970s. In his new book "When the NHL Invaded Japan: The Washington Capitals, the Kansas City Scouts and the Coca-Cola Bottlers' Cup", Currier recounts the story behind the NHL's long-forgotten, but historically relevant 1976 promotional exhibition series (colloquially known as the "NHL Japan Series") between the league's two most lamentable teams that year - the sophomore-twin Washington Capitals (11W-59L-10T) and Kansas City Scouts (12-56-12) - and their curious mission to introduce professional hockey to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Chicago sports fans of a certain age may remember the name Charlie Evranian atop the masthead of the executive suite (behind inimitable owner Lee Stern, of course) of the 1981 outdoor version of the North American Soccer League's Chicago Sting - when that club delivered the first major pro championship to the Windy City since 1963's NFL Bears. (Not to mention the team's first two barn-burning indoor NASL seasons at the former "Madhouse on Madison".) But Evranian's time leading the Sting of the early 1980s was merely a brief mile-marker along a fascinatingly peripatetic 20+ year journey across a litany of (mostly forgotten) teams and leagues in both the majors and minors of professional sports management - laden with unbelievable twists and turns that only a podcast of a certain genre could love. Evranian takes us on a wild ride alongside the likes of legendary front office figures like Bill Veeck, Ted Turner, Pat Williams, and Earl Foreman - for memorable stops including: leading baseball's Class A Greenwood (SC) Braves to two league championships; co-founding AHL hockey's minor league Richmond Robins; reinventing the mid-70s' Chicago White Sox; AND cleaning up an endless array of messes as the Major Indoor Soccer League's deputy commissioner.
Fresno Grizzlies baseball TV play-by-play broadcaster (and Episode 208 guest) Dan Taylor ("Lights, Camera, Fastball: How the Hollywood Stars Changed Baseball") returns to the podcast - this time with the story of one of the most unheralded players in pro football history. In his new book "Walking Alone: The Untold Journey of Football Pioneer Kenny Washington," Taylor writes the first solo biography devoted to collegiate star and original Los Angeles Rams standout running back Kenny Washington (1918-71) - perhaps the best known of the pro game's "Forgotten Four" (the others: Woody Strode, Bill Willis, and Marion Motley) - collectively recognized as the first Black athletes to permanently break pro football's color barrier in 1946. Of the group, it was Washington - a one-time UCLA teammate of Jackie Robinson in both baseball and football - who officially re-integrated the NFL by signing with the just-relocated-from-Cleveland Rams (he convinced the club to later sign Strode). While Willis and Motley were doing similarly with the challenger All-America Football Conference (and later NFL-absorbed) Cleveland Browns - ultimately earning them selections to the Pro Football Hall of Fame - Washington has yet to join them in such recognition, despite being the first of any of them to achieve the feat. Of course, there is MUCH more to the story - including Washington's prolific minor league football exploits, frequent small-part film roles, and local LA celebrity status. By the end of this episode, you too will be convinced that Washington deserves a place in the Canton's hallowed Hall.
We're back from vacation with a 50th anniversary rewind of 1972's iconic "Summit Series" between "Team Canada" (featuring the NHL's best from north of the border) and the then-Soviet Union - with veteran sports journalist/hockey analyst Scott Morrison ("1972: The Series That Changed Hockey Forever"). It's a deep dive into the curious, yet now-iconic battle between the hockey's two top superpowers at the time - played against the backdrop of global 1970s-era Cold War tensions - that morphed from a relatively unassuming cultural exchange-oriented pre-season "exhibition" into the defining hallmark of each country's rich hockey heritage. All culminating with Toronto Maple Leaf forward Paul Henderson's dramatic and decisive late-third-period "goal heard around the world" (on September 28, 1972) to clinch the eighth and final game of an epic month-long hockey series that, to this day, remains Canada's most enduring professional sports triumph.
[We celebrate eminent North-of-the-border sportswriter Ed Willes' selection to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame's media wing last week - with a June 2018 archive re-release of one our most popular episodes!] As Johnny Manziel's pro football comeback journey wraps up a promising pre-season with the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, we take a moment this week to reminisce on the approaching 25th anniversary of the CFL's bold, but ultimately ill-fated attempt to bring its exciting brand of pigskin south of the border in 1993. When the NFL put the brakes on its two-year World League of American Football experiment in the summer of 1992 (which included a franchise in Montreal, dubbed the “Machine”), an economically wobbly CFL sensed an opportunity to fill the gap in US markets newly comfortable with the notion of pro football, as well as a potential growth path for the tradition-rich Canadian game to expand outside the Provinces. In fact, two WLAF owners, Fred Anderson (Sacramento Surge) and Larry Benson (San Antonio Riders) "crossed over" to the Canadian League and were awarded newly rechristened franchises for 1993 – Anderson's Sacramento Gold Miners and Benson's San Antonio Texans. While the Gold Miners were the only ones to make it into the following season's expanded CFL schedule (Benson literally – and ominously – left the league at the altar by bowing out the day of the league's press conference announcing the expansion), the door was open to a wild three-season adventure that brought the wide-open Canadian game to far-flung American outposts in Baltimore, Las Vegas, Shreveport, Memphis, Birmingham, and, ironically (via eventual relocation from Sacramento), San Antonio. Longtime Vancouver Province sportswriter Ed Willes (End Zones and Border Wars: The Era of American Expansion in the CFL) joins the podcast to discuss the league's short-lived American expansion effort, which then-commissioner Larry Smith had hoped to eventually encompass ten US teams in a fully expanded 20-team league. Among the misadventures, Willes recounts: the 1995 champion Baltimore Stallions (who operated as the nickname-less “CFLers” the previous season in a trademark dispute with the NFL over the “Colts” moniker); the woefully attended Las Vegas Posse (who practiced on the Strip in the Riviera Hotel's parking lot and were forced to play their last “home” game in Edmonton); the Memphis Mad Dogs' unique approach to fitting the longer/wider CFL field into the Liberty Bowl; why football-mad Birmingham couldn't draw flies for Barracuda games once college and high school seasons started; and the “Great Tucker Caper” – featuring the infamous brothers Glieberman and their attempt to steal away the Shreveport Pirates to the greener pastures of Norfolk, VA.
[A June 2017 archive re-release favorite with one of the true insiders behind the initial success of the legendary original 1970s/80s Major Indoor Soccer League!] This week, Tim Hanlon buckles up for a wild ride through the tumultuous early years of the original Major Indoor Soccer League with sports PR veteran Michael Menchel, in our longest and most anecdote-filled episode yet! Menchel takes us on a head-spinning audio journey across some of the most memorable (and forgettable) franchises in professional indoor soccer history – including stops in Long Island, NY (the Arrows trade for Pete Rose!); New Jersey (scoring champ Fred Grgurev's unique approach to car maintenance!); Houston (the “Summit Soccer” borrows its name from the arena it plays in and its players from the NASL's Hurricane!); Baltimore (the marketing genius of Tim Leiweke!); and Hartford (what the hell is a “Hellion”?). Plus, Menchel: hits the road with Frank Deford; spends a year outdoors among the Caribou(s?) of Colorado; has a bad day in Rochester, NY; and “settles down” in St. Louis wondering when and where the NFL football Cardinals will move next.
It's a special "retcon" episode this week, as we dig into both the original and revisionist histories of the NBA's Charlotte Hornets - with the first incarnation's most recognizable player, and the second iteration's most logical keeper-of-the-flame: Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues. Over a 14-year pro NBA career, Bogues ("Muggsy: My Life From a kid in the Projects to the Godfather of Small Ball") was best known for his ten standout seasons of on-court wizardry with the 1988 expansion version of the Hornets - which lit up the league in attendance (highest in the NBA for seven seasons, including an unprecedented string of 364 consecutive sellouts in the 22,500-seat Charlotte Coliseum [aka "The Hive"]); dynamic up-tempo style (featuring a bevy of budding stars like Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Glen Rice, and Dell Curry, as well as future Naismith Basketball Hall of Famers Robert Parish and Vlade Divac); and unique, ahead-of-their-time Alexander Julian-designed purple and teal uniforms. Bogues regales us with some of his most memorable moments from the OG Hornets - as well as other career highlights like: a rookie-of-the-year summer season with the 1987 USBL Rhode Island Gulls; two seasons of head coaching the WNBA Charlotte Sting; and stealing some scenes in the iconic 1996 film "Space Jam". And, of course, we debate the vagaries of the original Hornets team history in relation to the "revived" Charlotte franchise narrative - despite the club's move to New Orleans (now today's Pelicans) in 2002, and the subsequent expansion Bobcats' retroactive bending of the time-space continuum.
Society for American Baseball Research historian/chronicler Justin Mckinney (Baseball's Union Association: The Short, Strange Life of a 19th-Century Major League) joins the podcast this week to weigh in on the debate that continues to swirl around baseball's curious one-season Union Association - namely, was it a truly major league? As first broached in our Episode 73 with Jon Springer, the National League was less than a decade old back in 1884, and the rival American Association, which had been established two years earlier, was nipping at its heels. "Organized Baseball" had just been formed to help codify the still-gestating professional version of the game. But when a maverick millionaire and spurned team-owner aspirant named Henry Lucas established a new third major league that year - the Union Association - the pro game erupted into chaos. Come for the pennant-winning St. Louis Maroons (who won 94 of their 113 regular season games, and bested the second-place Cincinnati Outlaw Reds by a whopping 21 games), but stay for the litany of replacement teams (e.g., Wilmington Quicksteps, St. Paul Saints, Altoona Mountain Citys, Kansas City Cowboys, etc.) that folded just as soon as they arrived.
We're taking a few days of early summer vacation this week - but not before sitting down for a very fun interview with pro football enthusiast and friend-of-the-show Arnie Chapman - as a guest on his popular Sports History Network podcast "The Football History Dude." Tim and Arnie dive into some of the most memorable football-related episodes of "Good Seats Still Available" thus far - and wax nostalgic on mutually favorite former circuits like the World Football League, the first XFL, the World League of American Football, and the original USFL, among others. Please enjoy this conversation we recorded a few weeks back - and be sure to check out all the other great podcasts across the Sports History Network!
While more than a few generations of NBA fans believe the Sacramento Kings franchise began its life when the team played (and lost) its very first exhibition game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the warehouse-converted ARCO Arena (I) on October 25, 1985 - serious students of the game know better. Indeed, a very rich and colorful series of previous incarnations dating back to nearly a century earlier - beginning as the primordial semi-pro "industrial league" Rochester (NY) Seagrams in the mid-1920s, and evolving into the NBL, BAA and eventually NBA versions of the Rochester Royals - historically confirm the Kings as one of the sport's oldest consecutively run professional outfits. Gerry Schultz (Cincinnati's Basketball Royalty: A Brief History) joins the podcast this week to delve into the club's pivotal, and, at times, legendary, 15-year stint as the Cincinnati Royals (1957-72) - when the franchise and the league both came of age by virtue of the play of some of the NBA's greatest all-time performers. Join us for a trek back to the old Cincinnati Gardens (and frequently, other "home" courts in Cleveland, Dayton, Columbus, and even Omaha, NE) - as we look back at the exploits of eventual basketball Hall of Famers like Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas, Maurice Stokes, Clyde Lovellette, Wayne Embry, and Jack Twyman - and ponder how today's Kings might better memorialize the legacy of the club's mostly forgotten time in the Queen City. THANKS to OldSchoolShirts.com for their sponsorship of this week's show (promo code "GOODSEATS" for 10% off all orders!)
"Dave Bancroft should not be in the Hall of Fame." That's how this week's guest Tom Alesia's new book "Beauty at Short: Dave Bancroft, the Most Unlikely Hall of Famer and His Wild Times in Baseball's First Century" starts - a curious way to begin the first (and only) biography of one of Cooperstown's most underappreciated inductees. A competent, if not unremarkable major league shortstop (Philadelphia Phillies, New York Giants, Boston Braves, Brooklyn Robins), and manager (Braves; All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Chicago Colleens, South Bend Blue Sox) - Bancroft was well short on statistical credentials (e.g., .279 lifetime batting average; just 32 career HRs; .406 managerial winning percentage) to warrant obvious inclusion. But his solid play with the two-time World Series winning Giants in the early 1920s came in handy when two of his fellow players from those teams - Bill Terry and Frankie Frisch - became influential members of the Hall's Veterans' Committee in the late 1960s, and squinted hard to tap their collegial teammate for induction in 1971. Part of a stable of early 1970s enshrinees labeled as "Giant cronies" of Terry and Frisch (e.g., Jessie Haines, Chick Hafey, Ross Youngs, George Kelly, Jim Bottemley, Freddie Lindstrom), Bancroft was nonetheless one of his era's more prominent and popular figures - a "player's player," both on and off the field. By the end of this conversation with Alesia, you'll understand why Bancroft's membership in the Hall of Fame actually makes sense.
We revisit the endlessly fascinating World Football League - and its enigmatic founder/first commissioner Gary Davidson - with ESPN.com senior writer Ryan Hockensmith ("The Renegade Who Took On the NFL [And the NBA and the NHL]"). Drawing on recent interviews with Davidson, former NFL defectors Larry Csonka & Paul Warfield, and previous podcast guests Howard Baldwin & Upton Bell, Hockensmith delves into some of the more memorable (and a few of the truly unbelievable) historical moments in the WFL's brief mid-1970s existence - all one-and-a-half seasons of it. The tales are tall, but the history is real - and Hockensmith makes it seem as fresh and vivid as the original events themselves nearly 50 years after its flashy debut and quickly spectacular flameout.
Hollywood film producer (Ray; The Game of Their Lives; Sudden Death) and original New England/Hartford Whalers founder/owner Howard Baldwin (Slim and None: My Wild Ride from the WHA to the NHL and All the Way to Hollywood) returns after a three-year absence to help fill in some of the gaps left over from Episode 100, and to dish on "new" territory from his hard-to-believe career, including: The contagious indefatigable spirit of WHA founder Dennis Murphy Who really paid for Bobby Hull's headline-grabbing contract (and who didn't) How Houston and Cincinnati went from being "in" the June 1978 WHA-NHL "merger," to being "out" of the senior league's "expansion" a year later The early 1990s saga of the HC CSKA Moscow "Red Army" team (aka the "Russian Penguins") Why the way to San Jose stopped first in Pittsburgh and then Minnesota; AND The World Football League's (almost) "Boston Bulls"
With the rebooted (though still potentially trademark-infringing) USFL now in full swing, we take a look back at one of the clubs from the original version that didn't make the cut this time around - the Washington Federals. Washington Post sports reporter Jake Russell ("As the USFL Restarts, A Look Back at the Washington Federals") takes us inside his pursuit to decode the numerous curiosities of one of the first league's poorest-performing franchises - both on the field (a 7-22 record over two seasons), and in the stands (the USFL's second-worst average home attendances each year at venerable RFK Stadium). Snakebitten from the start by: an initial owner who instead swapped for a franchise in Birmingham, AL; a convoluted, decision-slowing three-company joint venture/limited-partnership ownership structure; and a newly ascendant Redskins team celebrating its first NFL title in 41 years just weeks before the new team's debut - the Federals' journey in the USFL was beset by revenue shortfalls, poor timing and just plain bad luck. Still, the Feds had their moments - and Russell takes us inside some of his conversations with notable names in the team's brief, but colorful history (including one of the league's best logo/color schemes) like veteran QB Kim McQuilken, rookie QB Mike Hohensee, RB Craig James, and WR Joey Walters.
It's the 60th year of New York Mets baseball, and we celebrate this week with a look back at the transformational multipurpose facility they called home for 45 seasons - including three of the club's four NL pennants and its only two World Series championships - Shea Stadium. Matthew Silverman (Shea Stadium Remembered: The Mets, The Jets, and Beatlemania) takes us back to the origin story behind the conceptually named "Flushing Meadow Park Municipal Stadium" - which began almost immediately after the Dodgers' and Giants' relocation to California in 1958 as a lure for a new expansion franchise to replace them. Through the combined political efforts of New York City mayor Robert Wagner, city urban planning power broker Robert Moses, and Continental League founder (and future stadium namesake) William Shea, the Queens-based facility opened in 1964 as the mutual home of not only the NL expansion Mets, but also the newly reincarnated AFL football New York Jets (née Titans). We delve into more than four decades of Shea memories, including the 1969 "Miracle Mets," the Jets' 1968 AFL Championship, Bill Buckner's ill-fated error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, and the insane year of 1975 - when the AL Yankees and football Giants also called the stadium home. And, of course, the iconic first stop on the Beatles' 1965 tour of North America - the biggest-ever grossing concert of the era that became synonymous with "Beatlemania."
We take it hard to the tin this week, with a lively roundtable reminiscence of the oft-overlooked, but undeniably influential Women's Professional Basketball League (WBL) of 1978-81 - with four of its pioneering players that helped pave the way for today's flourishing female pro hoops scene. Liz "Bandit" Galloway McQuitter (Chicago Hustle); Charlene McWhorter Jackson (Hustle, Washington Metros, Milwaukee Does, St. Louis Streak); Adrian Mitchell-Newell (Hustle, Streak; LPBA Southern California Breeze); and episode 28 guest "Machine Gun" Molly Bolin Kazmer (Iowa Cornets, San Francisco Pioneers; Breeze; WABA Columbus Minks), join for an intimate discussion about the rapid rise, untimely fall, and heartening modern-day rediscovery of the WBL - catalyzed by their collective involvement in Legends of the Ball, a new nonprofit dedicated to preserving the foundational history of the league and all that's come because of it.
Baseball historian, Minnesota Twins official scorer and Episode 114 guest Stew Thornley ("Metropolitan Stadium: Memorable Games at Minnesota's Diamond on the Prairie"), returns for a fond look back at the semi-iconic structure that helped secure "major league" status for the Twin Cities in the early 1960s. Known simply as "The Met" by area locals (or even the "Old Met" to distinguish from the downtown Minneapolis Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome that effectively replaced it in 1982), Bloomington's Metropolitan Stadium opened in April of 1956 with the stated hope of luring a Major League Baseball franchise to the region - just as the sport was beginning to chart its modern-era manifest destiny. While ultimately luring Calvin Griffith's Washington Senators to become the Twins in 1961 - as well as the expansion NFL football Vikings that same year - the Met was mostly the exclusive home of the minor league American Association Minneapolis Millers for its first five years of existence, save for a handful of annual NFL preseason exhibition games and two regular season Chicago Cardinals matches in 1959. In 1976, it also became the popular outdoor home of the North American Soccer League's Minnesota Kicks - and its legions of young tailgate-crazy fans. Ahead of its time in the mid-50s, Met Stadium was nearly obsolete by the end of the 70s - decent for baseball, not so much for football - and rumors of at least the Vikings absconding for another to-be-built stadium in the area (including concepts for a domed enclosure or a new football-only facility between it and the nearby indoor Met Center) swirled around the community as early as 1970. Alas, after only 21 seasons each for the Twins and the Vikings (six for the Kicks), Metropolitan Stadium succumbed to poor maintenance and the allure of a new, winter-proof Metrodome. Demolished in 1985, the Met gave way to what is now the country's largest shopping center - the Mall of America.
Long-time Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) contributor and "Mover and Shaker: Walter O'Malley, the Dodgers, and Baseball's Westward Expansion" author Andy McCue joins the podcast to discuss his provocative new book "Stumbling Around the Bases" - a persuasive account of the American League's consistently haphazard approach to expansion and franchise relocation during baseball's modern era: "From the late 1950s to the 1980s, baseball's American League mismanaged integration and expansion, allowing the National League to forge ahead in attendance and prestige. While both leagues had executive structures that presented few barriers to individual team owners acting purely in their own interests, it was the American League that succumbed to infighting—which ultimately led to its disappearance into what we now call Major League Baseball. "Stumbling Around the Bases" is the story of how the American League fell into such a disastrous state, struggling for decades to escape its nadir and, when it finally righted itself, losing its independence. "The American League's trip to the bottom involved bad decisions by both individual teams and their owners. The key elements were a glacial approach to integration, the choice of underfinanced or disruptive new owners, and a consistent inability to choose the better markets among cities that were available for expansion. The American League wound up with less-attractive teams in the smaller markets compared to the National League—and thus fewer consumers of tickets, parking, beer, hot dogs, scorecards, and replica jerseys. "The errors of the American League owners were rooted in missed cultural and demographic shifts and exacerbated by reactive decisions that hurt as much as helped their interests. Though the owners were men who were notably successful in their non-baseball business ventures, success in insurance, pizza, food processing, and real estate development, didn't necessarily translate into running a flourishing baseball league. In the end the National League was simply better at recognizing its collective interests, screening its owners, and recognizing the markets that had long-term potential."
A pro football player who protests against the actions of his government, is shunned by the league establishment, and eventually winds up out of the game, working for social justice. No, it's not Colin Kaepernick; it's the 1960s NFL saga of a former St. Louis Cardinals linebacker named Dave Meggyesy. A 17th-round draft pick in 1963 out of Syracuse, Meggyesy was a steady presence and reliable performer for seven mostly mediocre Cardinal seasons (save for a 1964 season-ending Bert Bell Benefit [aka "NFL Playoff"] Bowl victory over Green Bay) - when he quit at the height of his career, repulsed by a game he saw rife with problems and injustices, and a nation fighting an increasingly futile war in Vietnam. In 1970, he wrote a bombshell exposé of a book called "Out of Their League" – a blistering assault on football and the institutions that enabled it - in which he detailed multiple ills of the game, many of which still exist today. Racism, corruption, militarism, institutionalized violence, drug abuse, collegiate "amateurism," and the relentless inevitability of injuries and their lasting effects - blunt and searing insights that not only shocked fans of the NFL, but also shook up the broader 1970s sports establishment. Still, at its heart, Meggyesy's memoir was also a moving depiction of his individual struggle for social justice and personal liberation, the contents of which were both ahead of its time - and as timely as ever.
[A September 2017 archive re-release favorite with the production wizard behind behind early network TV coverage of the World Football League & North American Soccer League of the 1970s!] On January 20, 1968, a frenzied crowd of 52,693 packed the Houston Astrodome to witness the #2-ranked University of Houston Cougars nip the #1 (and previously undefeated) UCLA Bruins in a college basketball spectacle that legendarily became the sport's “Game of the Century.” In addition to the record-sized gate, it was the first-ever college game to be televised nationally in prime time – and it was sports entrepreneur Eddie Einhorn's scrappy little independent network of affiliated stations called the TVS Television Network that brought it to millions of TV viewers. Calling all the shots from the production truck was veteran TV sports director Howard Zuckerman – who quickly became the backbone for the fledgling ad hoc network's subsequent coverage of not only college hoops, but also two of the most colorful pro sports leagues of the 1970s – the World Football League and the North American Soccer League. Zuckerman joins host Tim Hanlon to recount some of his most memorable (and forgettable) moments in TVS history, including: Surviving a power outage in the middle of the WFL's first-ever national telecast from Jacksonville; Managing a motley crew of rotating guest commentators for WFL broadcasts, including the likes of George Plimpton, Burt Reynolds and McLean Stevenson; Hastily reorienting weekly WFL production travel plans as teams suddenly relocated or folded; Faking on-field injuries during NASL telecasts to allow for ad hoc commercial breaks; The origins of the specially-composed TVS theme song and its orchestral big band sound; and Post-TVS work, including the Canadian Football League's Las Vegas Posse, and the worldwide music landmark event Live Aid.
Pat Jordan grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut where, in the mid-1950s, he became a highly pursued pro baseball prospect as a young pitching phenom in local Little League and as a high school ace at Fairfield Prep. On July 9, 1959, after being pursued by more than a dozen Major League Baseball organizations (MLB's first amateur draft didn't start until 1965), Jordan signed a then-record $36,000 "bonus baby" bounty to join the National League's Milwaukee Braves - where he reported to the McCook Braves of the Class D Nebraska State League, playing alongside future big leaguers Phil Niekro and Joe Torre. Despite being one of the minors' hardest-throwing pitchers at the time, Jordan floundered through three seasons across obscure Braves posts such as Waycross (GA), Davenport (IA), Eau Claire (WI) and Palatka (FL), and by the end of 1961, was out of the game for good - a victim of injury, hubris and the realities of adulthood. Baseball's loss was ultimately sports journalism's gain, as Jordan pivoted hard into a prolific, long-form, non-fiction writing career that began in earnest with the publishing of 1975's clear-eyed memoir "A False Spring" - which Time magazine called “one of the best and truest books about baseball, and about coming to maturity in America,” and Sports Illustrated has consistently listed as one of the best sports books of all time. Like his brusque, straight-ahead writing style, Jordan holds back nothing in this wide-ranging conversation - featuring a multitude of stories featuring some of modern-day sports' most fascinating characters such as softballer Joan Joyce, Tom Seaver ("Tom Seaver and Me"), pro volleyballer/hoopster Mary Jo Peppler ("Broken Patterns"), Wilt Chamberlain, Renee Richards, and even the 56-year-old version of himself attempting a comeback with the the independent Northeast League's Waterbury Spirit in 1997 ("A Nice Tuesday: A Memoir").
We traverse a fascinating litany of top-tier North American professional indoor soccer leagues with pioneering player, record-setting coach and now, current Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) commissioner Keith Tozer. In a pro career spanning more than 40 years, Tozer has literally done it all in the indoor game: Playing on original Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) sides like the Cincinnati Kids, Hartford Hellions and Pittsburgh Spirit; Dually playing/coaching for the American Indoor Soccer Association's (AISA) Louisville Thunder and Atlanta Attack; and Coaching both the last two seasons of the MISL's Los Angeles Lazers and, legendarily, winning six titles in 22 seasons across four leagues with the Milwaukee Wave Tozer is not only the winningest coach in indoor pro soccer history (amassing over 700 wins), but one of the most successful overall US soccer coaches of all time. Buckle up for a wild ride across the rocky terrain of professional indoor soccer - including an outdoor detour with the American Soccer League Pennsylvania Stoners, coaching US teams for international futsal tournaments, and whatever happened to Mark Cuban's much-hyped Professional Futsal League. And, of course, an analysis of the present state of the pro indoor game - and where Tozer hopes the MASL can take it in the years ahead.
We reminisce about the original Arena Football League and its curious dalliances with the New York metropolitan area, with veteran Newsday sports writer/columnist Gregg Sarra - who not only regularly covered franchises like the 1997-98 New York CityHawks and the Long Island-based New York Dragons (2001-08), but also even played an actual game with one of them - and lived to tell (and write) about it. After beat-reporting two woeful seasons' worth of CityHawks games at the "World's Most Famous Arena" (Madison Square Garden had hastily lobbied the league for its own expansion club when it got wind of a team coming to the nearby New Jersey Meadowlands: the Red Dogs) - Sarra was both surprised and giddy when he heard yet another team would be coming to the market - this time to his hometown Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Dragons were actually the relocated Iowa Barnstormers (1995-2000) - a smaller-market sensation owned by league founder (and episodes 43 & 44 guest) Jim Foster - who sold the franchise to New York Islanders NHL owner Charles Wang, with the blessing of an AFL management eager to finally succeed in the nation's largest media market. On April 8, 2001, Sarra got the literal "inside story" of the new club - when, at Wang's suggestion, he suited up for and saw last-minute action in the Dragons' first-ever home preseason match - a Plimptonian participatory experience that gave his Newsday readers a true sense of what the indoor game was all about. Did you know that every week, nearly 40 million job seekers visit LinkedIn? Post your job for free at https://linkedin.com/GoodSeats.
It's another bucket-list conversation with one of Tim's favorite players from the legendary New York Cosmos of the original North American Soccer League - defender extraordinaire (and de facto club keeper-of-the-flame) Werner Roth. A childhood émigré of his native Yugoslavia in the mid-1950s, Roth spent the bulk of his youth in New York City - cutting his semi-professional teeth in the heavily ethnic, regionally competitive and historically influential German American Soccer League with German-Hungarian SC - where he eventually caught the attention of the new local NASL expansion franchise in 1971. Roth joined the Cosmos the next year as one of its precious North American players, helping the club secure its first-ever league title and quickly establishing himself as a reliably solid defensive back whose presence could be counted on - especially as the team's ambitions grew. By 1977, Roth had become captain of a high-wattage international superstar lineup featuring the likes of Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto, and Giorgio Chinaglia - winning back-to-back Soccer Bowl titles and a global following. We talk about all of it - plus Roth's time on the US National Team, his role in the cult classic WWII soccer movie Victory, thoughts on the current state of soccer in the US, and the potential for a Cosmos television miniseries in the not-so-distant future.
[We dig out from last week's major winter storm with a fan-favorite Archive Re-Release from 2018!] By the summer of 1959, the absence of two former National League franchises from what was once a vibrant New York City major league baseball scene was obvious – and even the remaining/dominant Yankees couldn't fully make up for it. Nor could that season's World Series championship run of the now-Los Angeles Dodgers – a bittersweet victory for jilted fans of the team's Brooklyn era. Fiercely determined to return a National League team to the city, mayor Robert Wagner enlisted the help of a Brooklyn-based attorney named William Shea to spearhead an effort to first convince a current franchise to relocate – as the American League's Braves (Boston to Milwaukee, 1953), Browns (St. Louis to Baltimore, 1954), and A's (Philadelphia to Kansas City, 1955) had recently done. When neither Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, or even MLB Commissioner Ford Frick, could be convinced by the opportunity, Shea and team moved on to an even bolder plan – an entirely new third major league, with a New York franchise as its crown jewel. Financial backers from not only New York, but also eager expansionists in Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Toronto, Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, and Buffalo joined in the effort – christened the “Continental League” – and recruited longtime pioneering baseball executive Branch Rickey to do the collective's bidding. In preparation for an inaugural 1961 start, Rickey immediately preached the virtues of parity, and outlined a business plan that included TV revenue-sharing, equally accessible player pools, and solid pension plans; properly executed, it would take less than four years for the new league to be a credible equal of the National and American Leagues. His plan: poach a few established big-league stars, and supplement rosters with young talent from a dedicated farm system that would quickly ripen into a formidable stream of high-caliber players and, in turn, a quickly competitive “major” third league. That, plus an aggressive legal attack on MLB's long-established federal antitrust exemption – designed to force greater player mobility and expanded geographic opportunities. Suddenly pressured, MLB owners surprisingly responded in the summer of 1960 with a hastily crafted plan for expansion, beginning in 1962 with new NL teams in New York (Mets) and Houston (Colt .45s) – undercutting the upstart league's ownership groups in those cities, and promising additional franchises in the years following. Within weeks, the Continental League was no more, and the accelerated expansionary future of the modern game was firmly in motion. Original Continental League minor leaguer Russ Buhite (The Continental League: A Personal History) joins host Tim Hanlon to share his first-person account (as a member of the proposed Denver franchise's Western Carolina League Rutherford County Owls in 1960) of both the build-up to and letdown of the “league that never was” – as well as the broader history of the unwittingly influential circuit that changed the economic landscape of modern-day Major League Baseball.