Lively Tales About Dead Teams

2010-2012 Sioux Falls Fighting Pheasants

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Sioux Falls Fighting PheasantsAmerican Association (2010-2012)

Born: February 17, 2010 – Re-branded from Sioux Falls Canaries
Re-Branded: March 26, 2013 (Sioux Falls Canaries)

Stadium: Sioux Falls Stadium (“The Birdcage”)

Major League Affiliation: Independent

Owner: Bill Sexton, Gary Weckwerth, Don Dunham Jr., Chuck Hey & Brian Schoenborn

American Association Championships: None

 

Sioux Falls, South Dakota has been one of the most stable outposts of the independent baseball movement. The Sioux Falls Canaries were one of the founding franchises in the Northern League in 1993 and will embark on their 26th season in the spring of 2018.

The Canaries did experience a disruption in the force from 2010 through 2012 when new owners re-branded the ball club with grim results. The transition started in December 2009 when the owners of Sioux Falls’ popular amateur hockey team, the Sioux Falls Stampede, purchased the Canaries from long-time owners Terry Prendergast and Mike Veeck. Bill Sexton, the new ownership group’s main financier, was a part-owner of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves. New Managing Partner Gary Weckwerth had a history with the Canaries. He served as the Canaries’ first General Manager from 1993 to 1995.

Sioux Falls Fighting PheasantsThe new owners changed the ball club’s identity in February 2010. The Fighting Pheasants were “a lot tougher and meaner bird”, noted Weckwerth, and better represented South Dakota’s hunting heritage. The change also name-checked South Dakota’s old Aberdeen Pheasants minor league club (1946-1971). More changes were afoot. The team parted ways with the Canaries’ energetic long-time President John Kuhn and merged the team’s front office operations with the Stampede USHL hockey team.

Local fans were less than enthusiastic about the changes. On the field, the Pheasants were phantastic fantastic. Sioux Falls had the best record in the American Association at 63-33 under manager Steve Shirley. They lost the league championship series to the Shreveport-Bossier Captains. But box office at the Birdcage nosedived 35% from 2009. The team’s gate of 86,518 was off nearly 50,000 fans from the Canaries’ numbers the prior summer.

By June 2011, one month into the Fighting Pheasants’ second season, Weckwerth was sounding alarm bells in the press. Ticket sales dipped another 12% to 76,549.

Sioux Falls Sports, LLC unloaded the Pheasants on the eve of the 2012 American Association season. The new ownership group, fronted by long-time sports exec Tom Garrity, took over in May 2012 just two weeks before opening day. The team played out a third and final season under the Pheasants name. Fortunate weather helped attendance surge back over the 130,000 mark – in line with Canaries numbers in the years before the re-branding.

Garrity’s group changed the ball club’s name back to Canaries in March 2013.

 

Links

American Association Programs

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1985-1990 Jacksonville Expos

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Jacksonville ExposSouthern League (1985-1990)

Born: 1985 – Re-branded from Jacksonville Suns
Re-Branded: 1991 (Jacksonville Suns)

Stadium: Wolfson Park

Major League Affiliation: Montreal Expos

Owner: Peter Bragan Sr.

Southern League Championships: None

 

Professional baseball was on life support in Jacksonville, Florida when Birmingham, Alabama car dealer Peter Bragan purchased the city’s Class AA Southern League franchise in 1984. The city had allowed 30-year old Wolfson Park to fall into disrepair. The park’s roof, which covered the entire, grandstand was rotting. Bragan recalled to The Florida Times-Union in 2004 that he often came to the stadium in the mid-1980’s to find homeless people sleeping in the bleachers.

Jacksonville’s ball club had been known as the “Suns” since 1962. But Bragan agreed to adopt the branding of the team’s Major League parent club, the Montreal Expos, for the 1985 season. Attendance was meager during the Bragan family’s first season – 82,907 fans for a 72-game home calendar.

But the Bragans set about fixing up Wolfson Park as best they could and Montreal began to stock Jacksonville with outstanding prospects. Attendance doubled to 164,772 in 1986 and continued to rise every year for the rest of the 1980’s. Future Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson won eleven games for Jacksonville in 1987 while future National League MVP Larry Walker belted 26 homers. The Expos finished with the best record in the Southern League that summer at 85-59.

The Expos pulled out of Jacksonville after the 1990 season. The Bragans signed a new working agreement with the Seattle Mariners and restored Jacksonville’s traditional “Suns” identity for the 1991 season. Peter Bragan Sr. owned the Expos/Sun until his death in 2012. His family sold the Suns ball club to Ken Babby in 2015 for a sum in excess of $20 million. Peter Bragan Sr. paid $330,00 for the team in 1984. In November 2016, Ken Babby changed the name of the former Expos/Suns franchise to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

 

Jacksonville Expos Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Expos owner Peter Bragan Sr. died of heart failure on July 7, 2012 at the age of 89. Florida Times-Union obituary.

Links

Southern League Media Guides

Southern League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

December 10th, 2017 at 8:00 pm

1974-1978 Hampton Gulls

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Hampton GullsSouthern Hockey League (1974-1977)
American Hockey League (1977-1978)

Born: October 1974: The Fayetteville Arsenal relocates to Hampton, VA
Folded: January 31, 1977
Re-Born: 1977
Folded Again: February 10, 1978

Arena: Hampton Coliseum

WHA Affiliation: Cincinnati Stingers

Team Colors:

Owners:

SHL Championships: None
Calder Cup Championships (AHL): None

 

Virginia’s Hampton Gulls hockey team formed in 1974 as an expansion franchise in the tiny Southern Hockey League. The club was intended for Fayetteville, North Carolina but arena problems there led to the hasty relocation to Hampton just days before the start of the 1974-75 season. Hampton’s 10,000-seat Coliseum was available because the American Hockey League’s Virginia Red Wings vacated the building that fall to move to the nearby Norfolk Scope.

The Southern Hockey League worked as a farm system to the World Hockey Association, the 1970’s major league rival to the NHL. The WHA’s Cincinnati Stingers served as the parent club of the Gulls.

The Gulls offered their head coaching job to 41-year old John Brophy. Often cited as the inspiration for Paul Newman’s Reggie Dunlop character in Slap Shot, Brophy was a legendary minor league enforcer over 18 seasons in the Eastern Hockey League. The Gulls job was Brophy’s first full-time coaching gig and he would stay with the Gulls for the team’s entire run in Hampton. He later became a head coach in both the WHA (Birmingham Bulls) and the NHL (Toronto Maple Leafs).

The Gulls played for the Southern Hockey League championship in the spring of 1976, losing to the Charlotte Checkers in the finals.

The Southern Hockey League folded on January 31, 1977, midway through the circuit’s fourth season. The Gulls were in first place with a 32-16-2 when the league closed its doors.

The Gulls re-grouped to join the American Hockey League for the 1977-78 season, but their stay was a short and unhappy one. The franchise folded on February 10th, 1978 after playing just 46 games of an 81 game calendar. The Gulls had the worst record in the AHL at 15-28-3 when they closed their doors.

Pro hockey returned to the Hampton Coliseum 11 months later with the formation of the Hampton Aces of the Northeastern Hockey League.

John Brophy returned to the region to coach the Hampton Roads Admirals of the East Coast Hockey League in 1989. The Admirals, who played out of the Scope in Norfolk, won three ECHL championship under Brophy during the 1990’s.

 

Hampton Gulls Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Ex-Gulls coach John Brophy died in his sleep on May 23, 2016 at age 83. CBC Obituary.

Former Gulls owner Charles Wornom died on February 26, 2017 at the age of 88. The Daily Press obituary.

 

Links

Southern Hockey League Programs

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

December 7th, 2017 at 4:44 am

1963-1969 Harrisburg Capitols

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1969 Harrisburg Capitol-Colts ProgramAtlantic Coast Football League (1963-1969)

Born: 1963
Folded: Postseason 1969

Stadiums: 

Team Colors:

Owners: Mike Castiglia, et al.

ACFL Championships: None

 

The Harrisburg Capitols were a minor league football outfit in Pennsylvania’s capital city during the mid/late 1960’s. The Capitols were members of the Atlantic Coast Football League. The ACFL was a bus league with clubs clustered in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.

In 1968 and 1969 the team served as a farm club for the NFL’s Baltimore Colts and went by the name “Capitol-Colts”.

After a promising 8-3-1 debut season in 1963, the Capitols were consistently awful. The team endured six straight losing seasons from 1964 until the club’s demise, including a winless 0-11 campaign in 1967 and a 1-11 mark in 1969.

Harrisburg Capitols

 

Harrisburg Colts Memorabilia

 

Links

Atlantic Coast Football League Media Guides

Atlantic Coast Football League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

December 2nd, 2017 at 4:14 am

1978-1979 Indy Daredevils

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Indy DaredevilsAmerican Soccer League (1978-1979)

Born: 1978 – The New England Oceaneers relocate to Indianapolis, IN
Folded: Postseason 1979

Stadium: The Butler Bowl

Team Colors:

Owner: Bob Stoppenhagen

ASL Championships: None

 

The Indy Daredevils were a short-lived 2nd Division soccer club that played at the Butler Bowl in Indianapolis during the late 1970’s.

The 1978 Daredevils squad posted a 8-13-3 record, good for 3rd place in the American Soccer League’s Eastern Division. The Daredevils lost to the New Jersey Americans in the first round of the 1978 playoffs. Forward Steve Newman tied for second in the ASL with 14 goals despite missing five matches. The club selected goalkeeper Pete Mannos as it’s Most Valuable Player.

Off the field, the ‘Devils led the 10-team league in attendance in 1978, with a reported average of 4,376 fans per game.

Indy’s second campaign was a mess from the outset. The Daredevils ran out of money early in the season. Club owner Bob Stoppenhagen and head coach Sam Donnelly raged against one another in the pages of The Indianapolis Star. Stoppenhagen fired the second year coach. At one point, the ‘Devils went through five head coaches in the span of one month. The team finished the under the direction of Dr. Martin Funderberger, a local opthamologist who volunteered to coach the team for free for the final two months of the season.  The team finished 8-17-3 and out of the playoffs.

The Daredevils played their final game at the Butler Bowl on August 26, 1979, pulling out a 4-1 victory against the Columbus Magic. The club folded during the winter of 1979-80. The American Soccer League went out of business in early 1984.

 

Indianapolis Daredevils Shop

Daredevils Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max


American Soccer League Logo T-Shirt by Ultras

 

Indianapolis Daredevils Memorabilia

 

Downloads

1978 American Soccer League Attendance Summary

 

Links

American Soccer League Media Guides

American Soccer League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

December 1st, 2017 at 3:34 am

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