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1974-1976 Pittsburgh Triangles

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Pittsburgh Triangles World Team Tennis (1974-1976)

Born: May 22, 1973 – World Team Tennis founding franchise
Folded: December 1976

Arena: Pittsburgh Civic Arena

Team Colors:

Owners:

Bancroft Cup Champions: 1975

 

The Steelers and the Pirates were not the Steel City’s only championship team during the 1970’s. Pittsburgh also had the Triangles – a co-ed, six-player World Team Tennis franchise that brought home a title in 1975 with the help of three Grand Slam champions.

World Team Tennis formed in 1973 and played its first campaign in 1974. Matches consisted of five sets – one each in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. Teams earned a point for each game won. Clubs played a 44-match spring/summer schedule in air conditioned NBA and NHL arenas with a three-week break for Wimbledon in June. WTT made a deliberate effort to break from tennis’ reputation as a stuffy country club pastime with hushed crowds and shushing umpires. The league embraced arena rock music, raucous cheering from fans and goofy mascots, much to the initial bewilderment of the league’s many foreign players.

Pittsburgh was one of sixteen original franchises. The face of the co-ed league was Billie Jean King. King was at the peak of her fame. The 30-year old was fresh off a Wimbledon championship in 1973 and her historic take down of Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” exhibition at the Houston Astrodome in September 1973. An estimated 48 million Americans watched the Battles of the Sexes on television – more than a fifth of the U.S. population at the time. King was the biggest star to sign with the controversial league and promoted the Team Tennis concept relentlessly. She played for the Philadelphia Freedoms franchise.

The Triangles also boasted an impressive roster. Eight-time Grand Slam champion Ken Rosewall coached the Triangles for their first season in 1974, but did not suit up for the team. Rosewall’s squad included 1971 Wimbledon & French Open women’s champion Evonne Goolagong of Australia along with her doubles partner Peggy Michel. The Triangles also signed 19-year phenom Vitas Gerulaitis, the “Lithuanian Lion”. Gerulaitis quickly became a fan favorite at Pittsburgh Civic Arena with his own cheering section: The G-Men.

After a 30-14 regular season in 1974, the Triangles lost to Billie Jean King’s Philadelphia Freedoms in the playoff semi-finals.

1975 was the magic season for the Triangles. Goolagong’s mentor Vic Edwards replaced Rosewall as the Tri’s coach. The team raced to a league-best 36-8 record in the regular season. On July 26th, 1975 a league-record crowd of 10,236 turned out at the Civic Arena to cheer on the first place Triangles against King’s new team, the New York Sets. Goolagong beat King 6-4 singles play, then teamed with Peggy Michel to topple King and her doubles partner Mona Schallau.

In August 1975, the Triangles faced the Golden Gaters in the WTT’s best of 3 championship series. After dropping the first match in an upset at Oakland, the Triangles returned to the Civic Arena needing back-to-back wins on August 24th and 25th. They got them, putting away the Golden Gaters 21-14 in the decisive 3rd game before 6,882 fans. Goolagong was named the league’s Female MVP while Gerulaitis was MVP of the postseason.

Early in the 1974 season, Frank Fuhrer purchased controlling interest in the Tri’s from the team’s original partnership group. Fuhrer was a tough-minded insurance executive and he mused frequently in the media about pulling the Triangles out of the league over various frustrations. He bickered publicly with Civic Arena officials about the availability of prime dates. And he had a short leash with his coaches. Two weeks after the Triangles won the 1975 championship, Fuhrer dismissed head coach Vic Edwards.

The Triangles third and final season was tumultuous. Goolagong was hobbled by tendinitis in her Achilles tendon. The team started slowly under player-coach Mark Cox, tabbed by Fuhrer to replace Vic Edwards. With a losing record in July,  Cox returned to player status. Fuhrer named the team’s 25-year old PR man-turned-General Manager Danny McGibbeny as the new coach. McGibbeny had never played a competitive game of tennis in his life. The Triangles responded with a 9-game winning streak and roared back into playoff contention. Then McGibbeny had to be hospitalized with blood clots. The Triangles team doctor took over as head coach. Pittsburgh made it back to the playoff semi-finals, finally losing to Billie Jean King and her eventual champion New York Sets club.

The Triangles played their final match at the Civic Arena in August 1975. Fuhrer folded the club four months later. In three seasons of play, the Triangles never fared worse than a trip to the playoff semi-finals.

Although Pittsburgh no longer had a team to call their own, World Team Tennis did return for one more summer at the Civic Arena in 1977. The Cleveland Nets franchise split their home schedule between the Civic Arena and the Richfield Coliseum in Ohio.

 

Pittsburgh Triangles Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Dan McGibbeny, the Triangles’ young publicity director-turned-coach, died of lymphoma on September 6, 1977 at age 26.

Vic Edwards, the Triangles coach in their 1975 championship season, died of cancer on November 11, 1984. He was 75 years old.

Triangles star Vitas Gerulaitis (Tri’s ’74-’76) died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping at a friend’s home on September 17, 1994. He was only 40 years old. New York Times obituary.

British Davis Cup veteran Gerald Battrick, who played for the Triangles in 1974 and 1975, passed away on November 26, 1998 after battling a brain tumor. He was 51 years old.

Links

Love Triangles: Pittsburgh adored its World Team Tennis Franchise“, Rick Shrum, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 10, 2000

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

November 22nd, 2017 at 5:09 am

1987-1995 New Jersey Stars

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1987 New Jersey Stars ProgramWorld TeamTennis (1987-1995)

Born: 1987
Died: 1995

Venues:

Team Colors: Blue & Gold

Owner: Larry Rosenthal

WTT Champions: 1994 and 1995

 

Long-running franchise in the co-ed summer World TeamTennis league.  The New Jersey Stars won the league championship during their final two seasons of play.

Martina Navratilova was the team’s top attraction during the 1994 championship campaign. The Czech superstar moonlighted in TeamTennis habitually throughout her career, starting soon after her defection to the United States in 1975.

 

==Links==

World TeamTennis Media Guides

World TeamTennis Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

April 28th, 2016 at 7:27 pm

1987-1991 Charlotte Heat

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World TeamTennis (1987-1991)

Born: 1987
Folded: 1991

Venue: Old Providence Racquet Club

Team Colors: Blue and Orange

Owner: Robert Benson

TeamTennis Champions: 1987 and 1988

 

The Charlotte Heat were a co-ed professional tennis club that competed in Billie Jean King’s summertime TeamTennis promotion for five seasons between 1987 and 1991.  The Heat won the league championship in each of their first two seasons of play.

Team owner Bob Benson previously owned the Carolina Lightnin’ (1981-1983), Charlotte’s first foray into professional soccer, during the early 1980’s.

 

Links

World TeamTennis Media Guides

World TeamTennis Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

April 28th, 2016 at 7:03 pm

2014-2015 Austin Aces

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Austin AcesWorld Team Tennis (2014-2015)

Born: November 2013 – The Orange County Breakers relocate to Austin, TX.
Moved: December 2015 (Orange County Breakers)

Venues:

Team Colors: Red, Black, Blue, Yellow & White

Owner: Lorne Abony

WTT Championships: None

 

The Austin Aces were a co-ed World TeamTennis squad that had a brief run in the Texas state capital in 2014 and 2015. Tech entrepreneur Lorne Abony purchased WTT’s Orange County Breakers franchise in late 2013 and arranged to move the team to Austin.

The Aces’ top attractions in 2014 were Austin-native and former World No. 1 men’s player Andy Roddick and 2013 Wimbledon women’s singles champion Marion Bartoli. The Aces played seven home matches at the indoor Cedar Park Center near Austin in 2014.

The Aces returned in 2015 without Roddick or Bartoli and at a new venue – Gregory Gym on the campus of the University of Texas.  What Austin now lacked in starpower, they made up in wins as the Aces had the best record (12-2) in the 2015 World TeamTennis regular season. The team lost to the Washington Kastles in the WTT Championship Match on August 2, 2015.

Attendance dropped during the Aces’ second and final season in Austin. In December 2015 the team announced it would return to its old home in Newport Beach, California and take back its former Orange County Breakers identity for the 2016 season.

 

==YouTube==

2014 Austin Aces promotional video:

 

Austin Aces vs. Springfield Lasers at Cedar Park Center, July 2014:

==Downloads==

2014 World Team Tennis Media Guide

 

==Links==

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

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Written by AC

December 21st, 2015 at 7:30 pm

1978 Anaheim Oranges

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1977 Anaheim Oranges Pocket ScheduleWorld Team Tennis (1978)

Born: December 6, 1977 – WTT expansion franchise.
Folded: Postseason 1978

Arena: Anaheim Convention Center

Team Colors:

Owners: Dr. Jerry Buss, Frank Mariani & Billie Jean King

WTT Championships: None

 

The Anaheim Oranges were an expansion franchise during the final season of World Team Tennis in 1978.  Anaheim received a full-fledged franchise of its own after the Anaheim Convention Center hosted 10 league contests as a neutral site in 1977.

The Oranges were owned by Dr. Jerry Buss and his business partner Frank Mariani, who also backed the league’s other Southern California franchises, the Los Angeles Strings and San Diego Friars.  Tennis superstar and league co-founder Billie Jean King reportedly owned 29 percent of the franchise, though she played for the rival New York Apples team in 1978.

World Team Tennis was a co-ed league and featured top touring pros from all over the world who played in the league during breaks between Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and other summer tournaments.  Key players for the ’78 Oranges included Rosie Casals, Cliff Drysdale and 15-year old Tracy Austin, who appeared in three matches for Anaheim as an unpaid amateur.

The franchise folded along with the rest of the World Team Tennis organization in late 1978. Billie Jean King revived a lower-budget version of the league in 1981 and a re-boot of the Oranges (the “California Oranges”) returned to the Anaheim Convention Center that summer. The new Oranges lasted from 1981 to 1983 before fading into history.

Links

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

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