Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Baltimore Arena’ tag

1987-1990 Washington Commandos / Maryland Commandos

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Washington CommandosArena Football League (1987, 1989-1990)

Born: 1987 – Arena Football founding franchise
Folded: Postseason 1990

Arenas:

Team Colors: Silver & Red

Owner: Arena Football League

Arena Bowl Championships: None

 

The Washington Commandos were one of four original franchises in the Arena Football League when the AFL launched in 1987. The league’s inaugural season featured a brief six-week schedule between mid-June and early August 1987. Six games were broadcast nationwide on ESPN, including the Commandos home debut at the Capital Centre against the Denver Dynamite on June 27, 1987. The Commandos won that contest 36-20 in front of an announced crowd of 13,587.

The Commandos finished the 1987 season 2-4. Wide Receiver/Defensive Back Dwayne Dixon, Quarterback Rich Ingold, and lineman Jon Roehlk were named to the All-Arena 1st Team.

During the 1987 season all four of the league’s teams were owned centrally by AFL founder Jim Foster’s company Arena Sports Ventures Unlimited. In 1988, the AFL expanded to six teams and doubled its schedule to 12 games per team. Most significantly, Foster started licensing teams to local owner-operators. When no interested owners stepped forward for the Commandos, the team was closed down.

The AFL suffered a crisis after its second season in 1988. The league’s new crop of owners revolted against Foster and his licensing structure. Three of six clubs folded. The league scrambled to put on an abbreviated showcase schedule in 1989. The old Commandos gear was hauled out of storage and the Maryland Commandos were formed to fill out a tiny four-team league. Each club would play just four games in 1989, many in neutral site test markets around the country. The Maryland Commandos played one game at the Capital Centre in Landover and one at the Baltimore Arena. The Commandos went 0-4.

The AFL found itself on slightly more solid footing by the spring of 1990. As the league’s fourth season dawned, Foster successfully patented the league’s unique game system that March. Expansion teams in Albany and Dallas joined the league and the schedule grew back to 8 games.

The Commandos returned and took back their old “Washington” moniker instead of “Maryland” for the 1990 season. The team did not return to the 17,000-seat Capital Centre though. The 1990 Commandos played in the smaller, cheaper Patriot Center on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Wide receiver Charlie Brown, a Pro Bowl Selection on the Washington Redskins Super Bowl XVII championship team in 1983, suited up for the Commandos and caught 11 passes with 2 touchdowns.

The Commandos went 2-6 in 1990 and folded quietly at the end of the season.

Arena Football returned to the nation’s capital in 2017 when Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis  launched his Washington Valor franchise at the Verizon Center.

 

Commandos Video

 

In Memoriam

Head Coach Ray Willsey (Commandos ’89) passed away at age 85 on November 4, 2013.

Head Coach Bob Harrison (Commandos ’87) passed away on February 4, 2016 at age 78.

Lineman Jon Roehlk (Commandos ’87) died on March 13, 2016. The Arena Football Hall-of-Famer was 54 years old.

Lineman Patrick Cain (Commandos ’90) died on lung cancer at age 53 on March 14, 2016.

Quarterback Rich Ingold (Commandos ’87) died of pneumonia on February 15, 2017. Ingold was 53. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obituary.

 

Downloads

James F. Foster U.S. Patent #4,911,443 for Arena Football Game System and Method of Play. March 27, 1990

 

Links

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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1980-1992 Baltimore Blast

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Baltimore Blast Yearbook

Major Indoor Soccer League (1980-1992)

Born: May 1980 – The Houston Summit relocates to Baltimore, MD.
Folded: July 1992

Arena: Baltimore Arena (12,506)

Team Colors: Flaming Red-Orange, Fiery Yellow & White

Owners:

MISL Champions: 1984

 

The original Baltimore Blast were a popular, immensely entertaining entry on the Baltimore sports scene throughout the 1980’s.  The team arrived in Charm City in the spring of 1980 by way of Houston, Texas, where the franchise had failed to develop a following during the first two seasons of the Major Indoor Soccer League.  But in Baltimore, the Blast would find a rare and enviable situation – a “Major League” sports market with a distinct shortage of Major League teams.  Once the NFL’s Baltimore Colts snuck out of town on March 28th, 1984, the Blast had Baltimore’s winter sports scene all to themselves.

Sepp Gantenhammer Baltimore BlastBlast games at the Baltimore Civic Center were a spectacle, starting with the team’s elaborate pre-game introductions. The lights dimmed, Christopher Cross’ “Ride Like The Wind” boomed over the sound system and fog swirled. The Blast cheerleaders and players charged onto the arena floor from an exploding soccer ball-shaped spaceship that descended from the ceiling.  Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” was the Blast’s goal song and would be heard over and over again, as the high-scoring MISL averaged nearly 11 goals per match.

Beyond the marketing glitz, the Blast were a consistently terrific team under Head Coach Kenny Cooper. The Englishman moved with the franchise from Houston and guided the club for all 12 seasons in Baltimore.  The Blast had fierce divisional rivalries with the New York Arrows in the early part of the 1980’s and then with the Cleveland Force in the middle of the decade.

But the team’s toughest opponent was Ron Newman’s San Diego Sockers, the great indoor dynasty of the 80’s.  The Blast made the MISL playoffs eleven times in twelve seasons.  On five occasions (’83, ’84, ’85, ’89 and ’90) the Blast advanced to the Championship Series, losing the Newman’s club four times.  Baltimore’s only MISL title came in 1984, a season when the Sockers competed in the rival North American Soccer League.

On June 8th, 1984, the Blast defeated the St. Louis Steamers in Game 5 of the MISL finals to win the league championship.  This win would mark the peak of the team’s popularity and influence in Baltimore.  The Colts had just left town.  The Blast averaged a franchise record 11,189 fans per game at the Civic Center in 1983-84.  The victory was also a vindication of one of Kenny Cooper’s boldest moves.  Eleven months earlier, Cooper paid a league record $150,000 transfer fee to purchase an overweight Yugoslav striker named Stan Stamenkovic from the Memphis Americans.  Stamenkovic was known as “The Pizza Man” for his abominable dietary and conditioning habits. He led the MISL in scoring in both the regular season and playoffs and was the named the league’s Most Valuable Player for 1984.

Baltimore Blast YearbookThe Blast’s 1984 championship was sweet for original owner Bernie Rodin. He was last man standing among the MISL’s original owners from 1978 and the series marked his final involvement with the league.  Rodin sold the Blast for a league record $2.9 million to Nathan Scherr three months earlier. The ownership transfer took formal effect one week after the Blast’s finals victory.

The Blast continued to be a fixture in Baltimore for the rest of the decade, averaging over 10,000 fans per game through 1986.  The fortunes of both the MISL and the Blast began to flag as the decade drew to an end.  The league nearly folded in the summer of 1988.  Budget cuts saw the Blast’s vaunted pre-game pyrotechnics scaled back in the late 1980’s, even as previously conservative NBA and NHL teams began to co-opt the MISL’s flashy game presentation tactics.  Nathan Scherr’s early 1989 sale of the Blast to Ed Hale brought just $700,000, or less than 25% of what the team commanded five years earlier.

The Blast played their final matches in April 1992.  Appropriately, the team lost their last contests to Ron Newman and the San Diego Sockers in the 1992 playoff semi-finals.  Fewer than 5,000 fans turned out for each of the semi-final games at Baltimore Arena.

The MISL went out of business  in July 1992 and the Blast closed up shop along with the league.  Within a matter of days, a new indoor club called the Baltimore Spirit was organized with Kenny Cooper returning as Head Coach and Bill Stealey as the new owner.  The Spirit entered the lower-budget National Professional Soccer League, where they would compete for six seasons.  In 1998, former Blast owner Ed Hale purchased the Spirit from Bill Stealey and changed the name back to the Baltimore Blast.  This second version of the Blast continues to play today under Ed Hale’s ownership.

 

Baltimore Blast Shop


Blast Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max

 

Baltimore Blast Memorabilia

 

 

Blast Video

 

In Memoriam

Blast defender Mike Reynolds passed away at age 27 on July 1, 1991, two days after suffering a stroke at a Blast promotional event.

Former MISL MVP Stan Stamenkovic (Blast ’83-’88) died from a slip-and-fall in Serbia on January 28, 1996.  He was 39.

English forward Paul Crossley (Blast ’80-’83) died from a heart attack at the age of 47 on March 11, 1996.

Former Blast owner Nathan Scherr (’84-’88) died of Parkinson’s disease on November 21, 2003 at age 80. Baltimore Sun obit.

Canadian striker Domenic Mobilio (’89-’92) died of a heart attack on November 13, 2004 at the age of 35.

Paul Kitson (’83-’86) died of a heart attack while conducting a soccer clinic on August 25, 2005.  Kitson was 49.

Goalkeeper Slobo Ilijevski (Blast ’88-’89) passed away July 14, 2008 at age 58 after suffering a ruptured aorta during a soccer game.

Billy Ronson (’86-’92) passed away of undisclosed causes on April 8, 2015. Ronson was 58.

Downloads

2-3-1987 Baltimore Blast vs. Dynamo Moscow Game Program

 

Links

The Blast had one at last“, E.M. Swift, Sports Illustrated, June 18, 1984

Major It Never Was, but Covering Soccer Was a Blast“, Melody Simmons, The Baltimore Sun, July 19, 1992

Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs

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1981-1993 Baltimore Skipjacks

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1983-84 Baltimore Skipjacks ProgramAtlantic Coast Hockey League (1981-1982)
American Hockey League (1982-1993)

Born: September 1981 – Baltimore Clippers re-branded as the Skipjacks.
Move Announced: March 26, 1993 (Portland Pirates)
Final Game as Skipjacks: April 30th, 1993

Arena: Baltimore Civic Center (10,200)

Team Colors:

Owners:

  • 1981-????: Baltimore Hockey Advocates
  • 1987-1993: Tom Ebright and Baltimore Hockey Advocates.

Calder Cup Championships: None

 

The Baltimore Skipjacks were a minor league hockey club that served as a farm team to the Boston Bruins (1982-1983), Pittsburgh Penguins (1982-1987) and Washington Capitals (1988-1993).  Prior to the Skipjacks, Baltimore had a long and checkered history with pro hockey.  Going back to the World War II era, all of Baltimore’s various minor league clubs were named the “Clippers”.

The Skipjacks’ finest seasons came during the mid-1980’s when they served as a Penguins’ farm club and were coached by Gene Ubriaco.  In 1983-84, the Skipjacks had the best regular season record in the American Hockey League (46-24-10).  The 1983-84 squad kept their core talent together for much of the season, thanks in part to Pittsburgh’s conscious effort to tank the NHL season and win the right to select Mario Lemieux in the 1984 NHL draft.  At one point, the 1983-84 Skipjacks set an AHL record by winning 16 games in a row, but they were bounced in the Calder Cup semis by the Rochester Americans.

Baltimore Skipjacks ProgramThe following season, Ubriaco’s charges went further, advancing to the 1985 Calder Cup finals.  The Skipjacks’ captain that season was Steve Carlson, a minor league warhorse who played one of the Hanson Brothers in Slap Shot.  The 1984-85 team also included notorious tough guys Marty McSorley and Bennett Wolf.  Rookie goaltender Jon Casey, on loan from the Minnesota North Stars, was outstanding with a 30-11-4 mark and a 2.63 GAA.   But in the Calder Cup finals, Baltimore ran into the Sherbooke Canadiens and a young Montreal goaltending prospect named Patrick Roy.  Sherbrooke beat the Skipjacks 4 games to 2 behind Roy’s heroics in net.

During their 12-year run in Baltimore the Skipjacks played second fiddle to the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team, the ‘Jacks winter co-tenant at the Civic Center.  The Blast, whose original 1980-1992 run coincided closely with the Skipjacks’ lifespan, consistently outdrew the hockey team on a magnitude of about 3:1.

That meant that the Skipjacks consistently lost six figures a year.  After the 1986-87 season the Pittsburgh Penguins, who funded most of the club’s expenses, ran out of patience. They shifted their top farm club relationship to Muskegon of the IHL.  A businessman named Tom Ebright saved the team. He bought the club for $250,000 and operated the ‘Jacks as an independent club (without NHL affiliation) for the 1987-88 season.

Starting in 1988, the Skipjacks became the top farm club for the nearby Washington Capitals of the NHL.  With the switch, the Skipjacks dropped their black & yellow palate of the Penguins era in favor of a red, white & blue color scheme.  The Capitals era wasn’t particularly fruitful for Baltimore hockey fans. However, the ‘Jacks did help to produce two future NHL goaltending stars for Washington in Byron Dafoe and Olaf Kolzig.

Owner Tom Ebright lost an estimated $2.5 million on the Skipjacks over six years from 1987 to 1993.  In March of 1993 he threw in the towel and signed a deal to move the Skipjacks to Portland, Maine.  The Skipjacks became the Portland Pirates for the 1993-94 AHL season and continue to play under that identity today.

 

Baltimore Skipjacks Shop


Skipjacks Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max

Baltimore Skipjacks Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Former Skipjacks owner Tom Ebright passed away in 1997.

 

Links

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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1979-1981 Baltimore Clippers

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Baltimore ClippersEastern Hockey League (1979-1981)

Born: September 12, 1979 – EHL expansion franchise
Re-Branded: September 1981 (Baltimore Skipjacks)

Arena: Baltimore Civic Center (11,000)

Team Colors: Green, White & Yellow

Owners: Baltimore Hockey Advocates (James Watson, et. al) & Minnesota North Stars

 

The Baltimore Clippers name was a proud one in minor league hockey, used by several clubs operating in various different leagues from 1944 until 1977.  The longest tenured and most successful of these teams were the Clippers of the American Hockey League (1962-1975).  But the Clips fell on hard times in the mid-1970’s, shifting leagues and folding several times amidst the market upheaval caused by the NHL-WHA competition and the overall hard times for the  minor league hockey business in the 1970’s.

This 1979 incarnation – dubbed “The New Baltimore Clippers” on the program above right – was the final attempt to restore the Clippers name.  The Eastern Hockey League franchise was owned jointly by the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL and a group of 19 local investors and hockey boosters known as Baltimore Hockey Advocates.  The club served as a farm club for the North Stars and took their green, white & yellow color scheme from the parent club.

The Clippers’ top scorer during the 1979-80 season was Warren Young (53 goals, 53 assists).  Young later went on to have a 40-goal season with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL in 1984-85.  Clippers Head Coach and General Manager Gene Ubriaco went on to coach the Penguins in the late 1980’s.

The Eastern Hockey League folded in July 1981.  Baltimore Hockey Advocates decided to keep the club going in the new Atlantic Coast Hockey League, but dropped the historic Clippers name in favor of a new identity: the Baltimore Skipjacks.

 

==Baltimore Clippers Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1979-80 11/10/1979  vs. Richmond Rifles  ?? Program

 

==Links==

Eastern Hockey League Programs

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1999-00 Baltimore BayRunners

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International Basketball League (1999-2000)

Born: 1999 – IBL founding franchise
Folded :November 15, 2000

Arena: Baltimore Arena

Team Colors:

Owner: International Basketball League & Cal Ripken, Jr.

IBL Championships: None

 

The Baltimore BayRunners were one of eight founding franchises in the International Basketball League in the fall of 1999.   The IBL was a nationwide minor league, similar in nature to the rival Continental Basketball Association, with whom the IBL would merge after both leagues encountered financial problems in early 2001.  But by that time, the BayRunners franchise would already be out of business.

The IBL itself was headquartered in Baltimore, but the BayRunners were one of two franchises (along with the Las Vegas Silver Bandits) for whom the league could not find independent ownership.  In October 1999, Baltimore Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. agreed to a 10% stake in the team.  The league owned the other 90%.

Former Detroit Pistons coach Herb Brown signed on to coach the team.  Notable players included former Louisville star and Golden State Warriors 1st round draft bust Clifford Rozier and NBA veteran and New York City playground legend Lloyd Daniels. Brown released Rozier just three games into the season due to poor attitude.  Brown himself was let go at midseason after the BayRunners lost 20 of their first 30 games.  Things only got worse after Brown’s departure and Baltimore finished the 1999-00 season with a league-worst 17-47 record.

Two native Baltimoreans played key roles on the team.  5′ 4″ point guard Shawnta Rogers, a product of Lake Clifton High School, was a rookie out of George Washington University, where he was the 1999 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.  Forward Rodney Elliott (Dunbar High, University of Maryland) averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 rebounds and was named the BayRunners team MVP.

Following the season, the IBL believed it had a handshake deal with Cal Ripken to purchase controlling interest in the team. The agreement required the league to secure additional investment partners.  The league was unable to do so and the deal collapsed, leading to the dissolution of the BayRunners in the fall of 2000, shortly before the IBL’s second and final season got underway.

The BayRunners averaged approximately 3,800 fans per game in 1999-00 according to rough estimates provided by the IBL to Sports Business Journal.

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Thank you to Claude Jacques who sent in the image (above right) of the BayRunners pocket schedule.  You can browse Claude’s collection of pocket schedules at his website, www.suprfrog.com

 

Links

International Basketball League Media Guides

International Basketball League Programs

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