Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Anaheim Convention Center’ tag

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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1978-1981 California Surf

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North American Soccer League (1978-1981)

Born: October 1977 – The St. Louis Stars relocate to Anaheim, CA
Folded: September 16, 1981

Stadium: Anaheim Stadium (43,200)

Arenas:

Team Colors: Light Blue, Dark Blue & Lime Green

Owners:

Soccer Bowl Championships: None

 

The California Surf soccer club was a short-lived and unloved entry in the North American Soccer League (NASL), who played four outdoor and two indoor seasons between 1978 and 1981.  The Surf traced their ancestry back to the St. Louis Stars, one of the founding clubs in the National Professional Soccer League in 1967.  The following year, the NPSL merged with the rival United Soccer Association to form the NASL.

By 1977, St. Louis Stars owner Bob Hermann was one of only two investors still standing from the original group of soccer backers of the late 1960’s.  Lamar Hunt of the Dallas Tornado was the other. But the NASL seemed to be on the rise in 1977.  League-wide attendance topped one million fans for the first time in 1975 and continued to grow.  Six clubs averaged over 15,000 fans per game, paced by the New York Cosmos, who drew 34,142 per match in their first season at the brand new Giants Stadium in New Jersey.  Consequently the Stars’ home ground at Francis Field appeared increasingly inadequate – the stadium held only 10,000  fans.

California Surf NASLIn October 1977 the NASL approved a transfer of the ten-year old Stars to Anaheim, California and the 43,200-seat Anaheim Stadium.  The NASL already had a club in nearby Los Angeles, but Orange County was the epicenter of a youth soccer explosion. League officials salivated over the favorable demographics in Anaheim.  Hermann continued as Chairman of the club, and continued to be very active in NASL affairs as Chairman of the league’s Executive Committee.

(Pause for a bit of trivia here – the Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, is named for the former Stars/Surf owner).

Anaheim never turned into the kind of boom town that the NASL hoped for.  Attendance peaked in 1978 at 11,171 per match. Most nights found a desolate morgue-like atmosphere at Anaheim Stadium.  The Orange County Register frequently jabbed the team, suggesting that even the meager announced attendance figures were inflated.  The team itself was a mediocrity, never finishing above .500 or advancing beyond the first round of the NASL’s overly-inclusive playoff format.  Although primarily remembered as an outdoor club, the Surf also took part in two NASL indoor soccer seasons in the winters of 1979-80 and 1980-81.  Surf indoor matches were played at the Long Beach Arena.

California Surf soccerBy 1980, midway through the Surf’s third season, it was clear that Orange County’s youth soccer  boom had not translated into significant support for professional soccer.  Rumors circulated that the Surf would merge with the NASL’s Los Angeles Aztecs, or return to St. Louis, or be sold and shifted to Calgary or New Orleans.  Instead, the club was rescued by a consortium of ten Orange County businessmen led by Henry Segerstrom, who bought up 100% of the team’s stock to keep the team in Anaheim.

The new owners ran the Surf through one winter indoor season (1980-81) and one final demoralizing outdoor season in the summer of 1981.  The one noteworthy event of the 1981 season was the team’s acquisition of former Brazilian World Cup captain Carlos Alberto, a world superstar who played on the mighty New York Cosmos teams of the late 1970’s.  Despite Alberto’s presence, the Surf posted a franchise-worst 11-21 record and missed the playoffs for the first time.  The new investors lost a couple of million dollars and folded the club on September 16, 1981, a few days before the NASL’s Soccer Bowl championship game.

 

California Surf Soccer Shop

Ian Plenderleith’s definitive chronicle of “The Short Life & Fast Times of the North American Soccer League”

California Surf replica jerseys by Ultras 

California Surf Memorabilia

 

California Surf Video

California Surf visit the New York Cosmos at Giants Stadium. July 2, 1978

 

 

California Surf Downloads

1978 California Surf ownership group

 

Links

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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1979-80 California Dreams

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Women’s Professional Basketball League (1979-1980)

Born: 1979 – WPBL expansion franchise.
Folded: March 2, 1980

Arenas:

Team Colors: Orange, Brown & Yellow

Owners: Larry Kozlicki, Terrell Iselhard & Gerald Schenk

WBL Championships: None

 

The California Dreams were a one-year wonder in the pioneering Women’s Professional Basketball League.  The club failed to complete its only season of play in the winter of 1979-80 after insolvency and game cancellations compelled the league office to revoke the franchise several weeks before the end of the regular season.

Heading into its second season in the winter of 1979-80, the WPBL and its Commissioner Bill Byrne embarked on and aggressive and disorganized expansion campaign, swelling the circuit from eight to fourteen teams.  It quickly became apparent the Byrne greenlit some of the expansion clubs without securing committed investors.  The league suffered national embarrassment when it had to shut down the ownerless Philadelphia Fox and Washington Metros expansion clubs less than a month into the season in December 1979.

The Dreams did have an ownership group – a trio of Chicago attorneys led by Larry Kozlicki.  By his own account, Kozlicki got hooked on women’s pro basketball when he wandered into a Chicago Hustle game at DePaul’s Alumni Hall during the league’s first season.  The Hustle were league’s flagship franchise and occasionally played to crowds ranging from 2,000 to 5,000.  It was a standard that Kozlicki’s Dreams would not live up to.

Kozlicki originally hoped to set up the Dreams at the Anaheim Convention Center in Orange County, former home of the old Anaheim Amigos of the American Basketball Association.  But the Convention Center could only accommodate a handful of the Dreams’ eighteen home games, so the club played the bulk of its schedule at Long Beach Arena.

Mel Sims, a former men’s assistant coach at Cal-State Fullerton, signed on as Head Coach.  Sims signed the Dreams’ best player Nancy Dunkle, a CS-Fullerton alum who won played on the U.S. Olympic silver medal-winning team at Montreal in 1976.  Dunkle reportedly signed a two-year deal with the Dreams worth $50,000/year. Such a salary would have placed her among the highest paid players in the WPBL.

Indeed, Kozlicki seemed willing to spend money on his team during the initial early excitement of owning a pro sports franchise.  In addition to shelling out for Dunkle, he paid to enroll all of the Dreams’ players at the John Robert Powers charm school where the Dreams’ players received lessons in applying make-up, walking on runaways and other essential basketball skills.

The Dreams made their debut on November 16, 1979. The team lost a 118-113 road game against the Chicago Hustle in Kozlicki’s home town.  An odd game schedule did the Dreams few favors in the standings or at the box office.  The club played only one home game during the season’s first month, going 1-7 during a cross-country trek.  The Dreams returned home in mid-December for a glut of three home games in six days.  On December 15th, 1979 the Dreams played what would be their only home game in Anaheim.  A meager crowd of 258 fans rattled around in the nearly 9,000-seat arena.

The wheels came off quickly after the turn of the New Year.  Attendance was equally abysmal in Long Beach – a February game against the Houston Angels drew less than 100 fans.  Paychecks stopped arriving in mid-January and the Dreams played through the month of February without pay.  Years later, players interviewed by WPBL historian Karra Porter for her book Mad Seasons recalled a road trip to New Jersey where the teams discovered their air fare was only booked one way.  The entire squad was stranded on the East Coast with no way to get back home.  The team finally made it back to California when the parents of Dreams player Patti Bucklew bought the team plane tickets on their own dime.

On the bright side, Dunkle and Jane Cook were selected to represent the Dreams at the WPBL’s midseason All-Star Game at Chicago.

By the end of February 1980, the Dreams players were ready to strike over six weeks of missed payrolls.  General Manager Bob Joseph cancelled the Dreams’ home game against the Minnesota Fillies, incurring the wrath of owner Larry Kozlicki who fired him immediately.  Joseph responded through the press that he could not have fielded a team, due to the threatened walkout.  He also pointed out that the team owed $15,000 in back salaries – including his own.  Three days later the league revoked the Dreams franchise, over the pleas of Kozlicki, who wanted an exemption from the league’s minimum roster standard of eight players in order to forge on with any players he could muster up.

The Dreams officially closed for business on March 2nd, 1980.

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California Dreams Women's Basketball LeagueBizarrely, the Women’s Basketball league let Larry Kozlicki back in a few months after the Dreams debacle as the lead investor in the new Nebraska Wranglers expansion franchise.  The Wranglers were sometimes mistakenly referred to in the media as the relocated California Dreams, but they were in fact two completely separate franchises owned by the same man.

Kozlicki’s Wranglers won the final WPBL championship in April 1981 – despite another series of missed paychecks.  The WPBL quietly faded into oblivion after the 1980-81 season without ever formally announcing its demise.

Women’s professional basketball returned to Long Beach in 1997, with the Long Beach Stingrays of the American Basketball League.  The Stingrays lasted only a single season before the struggling ABL contracted the club in August 1998.

Former Dreams guard Muffet McGraw took over Head Coach duties at Notre Dame in 1987. She has led the Fighting Irish to three Final Four appearances and one national championship (2001) as of this writing.

 

California Dreams Shop

Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women’s Professional Basketball League 1978-1981 by Karra Porter

 

California Dreams Memorabilia

 

Downloads

1979-80 California Dreams Season Ticket Brochure

California Dreams Sources

 

Links

Women’s Professional Basketball League Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs

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1975-1978 Los Angeles Stars / Orange County Stars

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Orange County Stars VolleyballInternational Volleyball Association (1975-1978)

Born: 1975 – IVA founding franchise.
Folded: March 12, 1979 – Merged with San Diego Breakers.

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

Deion Sanders entered the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame this month and it reinvigorated the eternal debate about the most enthralling two-sport athletes of all-time.  Deion or Bo Jackson?  Jim Thorpe or the late Bob Hayes?  Reading the coverage, I realized that I had completely forgotten what a skilled baseball player Sanders was.  Which is kind of weird since I was a college student in Atlanta during Sanders’ heyday with the Falcons and Braves.  This is a guy who hit .533 in the 1992 World Series on a broken foot.  And who led the Majors in triples that year despite skipping one-third of the season.  But in my memory, unfairly as it turns out, Deion isn’t a real baseball player.  He’s a cameo artist.  A novelty act more in line with Charlie O. Finley’s “designated runner” Herb Washington than a true two-sport prodigy like…well…like Bo Jackson.

ANYWAY, this got me thinking about the most intriguing forgotten two-sport athletes.  Guys who were superstars in the mainstream sports world but who also hocked their wares on the gray market, moonlighting in the weird latitudes.  John Lucas is hard to beat in this regard.  The NBA’s 1976 #1 overall draft pick of the Houston Rockets was also a gifted tennis player.  During the NBA offseason of 1978, Lucas signed on with the New Orleans Nets of the gimmicky World Team Tennis outfit.  With the Nets, Lucas paired in mixed doubles with Renee Richards, until recently an early-middle aged male opthamologist who had become a semi-formidable women’s tennis star after sex-reassignment surgery (and a series of lawsuits) at the age of 41.

So that’s kind of awesome, but Lucas’ tennis career in fascinating mostly by luck of the draw.  It’s the reflected notoriety of Richards that makes Lucas’ tennis adventures compelling. Wilt Chamberlain, on the other hand, took a more pro-active role as a player, executive and owner while pursuing his passion for volleyball with the International Volleyball Association of the 1970’s.  The IVA started up in 1975, a five-team circuit in California and Texas started by entertainment executives impressed by the volleyball competitions at the 1972 Munich Olympics.  Chamberlain invested in the Southern California Bangers franchise and suited up for five matches during the summer of 1975.

Linda Fernandez VolleyballThe Bangers were also rans, finishing 6-18 and tied for last place in the IVA’s first season.  The league title went to the Los Angeles Stars, owned by the Hollywood producer and IVA President David L. Wolper.  The Stars had a line-up of top American stars, including the setter Dodge Parker, IVA kill leader Jon Stanley, and  female star Linda Fernandez, who later won two ABC Sports’ Superstars competitions in the late 1970’s.

The Stanley-led Stars advanced to the IVA finals in 1976 with a 25-15 record, despite losing Fernandez and Parker.  Parker won the 1976 IVA Most Valuable Player award with the San Diego Breakers who defeated the Stars 3 games to 1 in the championship series.  Chamberlain was nowhere to be found in 1976, having divested himself of the Bangers.  He failed to play in any IVA matches that summer.

By the end of the 1976 season, Wolper and the rest of the celebrity owners had moved on as well.  Forum Communications, publisher of Volleyball Magazine, took an equity stake in the league and imposed centralized cost controls of $150,000 per club in total annual operating expenditures.  A California mortgage banker named David Whiting formed a consortium to purchase the Stars and relocate them out of the city to Irvine’s University High School for the 1977 season.  Dodge Parker returned from San Diego to serve as player-coach for the re-branded Orange County Stars.  Chamberlain, meanwhile, re-surfaced in the figurehead role of IVA President and also signed a player contract to appear in select matches for Whiting’s Stars.

Former Star Linda Fernandez, now a member of the rival Santa Barbara Spikers, assessed the 7′ 1″ Chamberlain’s volleyball skills in a 1977 interview with People Magazine.  “He’s huge, but he’s got a weakness.  He’s not quick.”

Orange County Stars International Volleyball AssociationWith Parker as player-coach and Chamberlain appearing in 15 of the club’s 36 matches, the Stars returned to the IVA finals in 1977, defeating the El Paso-Juarez Sol three games to two.  Parker, the 1976 MVP as a player, was named IVA Coach of the Year for 1977.  In the league’s first three seasons, Parker’s team had now won the championship every year.

At the turnstiles, the Stars averaged 1,602 fans per game for 18 home matches in 1977, slightly below the league’s stated average of 1,902 spectators.  Whiting rented out the larger Anaheim Convention Center for three of the home games featuring Chamberlain, expending the team’s entire advertising budget to promote these select matches.  The club lost money, in line with the expectations of Whiting and his syndicate of twenty-odd investors who had each pumped between $5,000 and $20,000 into financing the Stars.

For the 1978 season, the Stars relocated to Fountain Valley High School seeking to draw a larger Inland audience than had come out to Irvine the year before.  Dodge Parker’s wife Melody Parker joined the Stars’ 7-person roster.  Chamberlain, still serving as IVA President in 1978, left the Stars to appear for the league’s expansion Seattle Smashers instead.

The Dodge Parker stranglehold on the IVA came to an end during the 1978 season.  The Santa Barbara Spikers eliminated the Stars in IVA semi-finals on September 3rd, 1978 before 2,424 at UC-Santa Barbara’s Robertson Gym.  This proved to be the final match in Stars history.  Parker gave an eerily portentious summary of the loss to Elliott Almond of The Los Angeles Times:

I believe things are pre-destined,” Parker told the reporter.  “Our team has had a strange attitude all season.  Don’t ask me why.  I know my drive wasn’t as hard this year.  I probably should have worked everyone harder in practice.  It seemed like there was a big weight on everyone (in the finals) that wouldn’t let us let loose and go for it.”

On March 8th, 1979 Parker collapsed and died of a heart attack while jogging.  He was only 29 years old.  Four days later on March 12th, 1979, David Whiting closed down the team, merging his Stars with the San Diego Breakers to form the Salt Lake Stingers.  Whiting kept a minority interest, but the club relocated to Utah under new controlling ownership.  Chamberlain, meanwhile, explored an NBA comeback in late 1978 and his cameo volleyball appearances for obscure IVA clubs outside the California volleyball heartland like the Seattle Smashers and the Albuquerque Lasers attracted little attention and became increasingly sporadic.

The IVA lasted a little more than a year after the Stars shut down. The league folded in the middle of its fifth season of play in July 1980.

 

Orange County Stars Memorabilia

 

Downloads

1977 Wilt Chamberlain IVA President’s Letter

Los Angeles / Orange County Stars Sources

 

Links

International Volleyball Association Media Guides

International Volleyball Association Programs

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