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1976 Chicago Ravens

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Chicago RavensInternational Women’s Professional Softball Association (1976)

Born: January 1976 – IWPSA founding franchise.
Folded: Postseason 1976

Stadium: Windy City Softball Complex (4,000)

Team Colors:

Owner: Fred Huebner

IWPSA Championships: None


This cool-looking (if somewhat weathered) fast-pitch softball program comes from deep inside our One-Year Wonders file …

The Chicago Ravens were founding members in the International Women’s Professional Softball Association (WPS, for short) in the bicentennial summer of 1976.  WPS was yet another concoction of Dennis Murphy, the prolific promoter who helped launch countless pro leagues from the 1960’s through the 1990’s, including the American Basketball AssociationWorld Hockey Association and World Team Tennis.  The Ravens played at the Windy City Softball Complex, a facility with temporary seating for 4,000 fans in suburban Bridgeview, Illinois.

The Ravens’ top player was 28-year old Donna Lopiano, a former star with the Raybestos Brakettes, a legendary amateur team in her native state of Connecticut.  Lopiano played for the Brakettes from 1963 until 1972 before retiring to pursue a career in collegiate sports administration at the dawn of the Title IX era.  The Brakettes entered WPS in 1976 also, becoming the Connecticut Falcons franchise.  Lopiano reportedly agreed to play for Chicago rather than re-join her former teammates in the interests of creating more parity for the league.  She appeared only in weekend games for the Ravens, while holding down her job as Director of Women’s Athletics at the University of Texas during the week.

The Chicago Ravens finished their only season with a 57-63 record and then lost to the eventual champion Connecticut Falcons in the first round of the playoffs.  Following the 1976 season, six of the ten original WPS franchises went out of business, including the Ravens.  The shrunked league managed to hang on for three more summers before folding in the spring of 1980.

Donna Lopiano went on to become one of the most influential voices in women’s sports, most notably as CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation from 1992 to 2007.



IWPSA Programs






1976 Michigan Travelers

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Michigan Travelers SoftballInternational Women’s Professional Softball Association (1976)

Born: 1976 – IWPSA founding franchise.
Folded: Postseason 1976

Stadium: Memorial Park (4,000)

Team Colors: Orange, Royal Blue & White

Owner: Sally Johnson, et al.


The Michigan Travelers were a blink-and-you-missed them entry in the International Women’s Professional Softball Association (IWPSA) during the league’s inaugural season in the summer of 1976.  The IWPSA was the brainstorm of the tennis star and women’s sports pioneer Billie Jean King, the dominant female softball pitcher of the era Joan Joyce, and the serial sports promoter Dennis Murphy.  The league reportedly grew out of a casual conversation between King and Joyce at an ABC Superstars competition.  King brought in Murphy, who had been an executive in the upstart American Basketball Association and World Hockey Association and who had helped King launch the co-ed World Team Tennis in 1973.

Nancy Fedea Michigan TravelersThe IWPSA debuted on May 28th, 1976 with ten franchises scattered nationwide.  Besides Michigan, the league included the Buffalo Breskis, Chicago Ravens, Connecticut Falcons, Pennsylvania Liberties, Phoenix Bird, San Diego Sandpipers, San Jose Sunbirds, Santa Ana Lionettes, and Southern California Gems.  Each club played 60 doubleheaders for a total of 120 games between May and September.

IWPSA double-headers consisted on seven innings per game.  Single games, when played, would be nine innings.  Teams carried between 15 and 20 players on the active roster.  Pitchers were not allowed to appear as pitchers in consecutive games.

The Travelers played their lone season at Memorial Park in East Detroit.  They finished in 5th place (last) in the IWPSA’s Eastern Division with a 42-77 record.

The Connecticut Falcons defeated the San  Jose Sunbirds for the first league championship.  All ten franchises managed to complete the 1976 season, but several folded soon after and did not return for 1977, including the Michigan Travelers.

The IWPSA itself lasted four seasons, shutting down after the 1979 campaign.



1976 Michigan Travelers Roster



International Women’s Professional Softball Association Programs



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