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The Promoters: Doug Verb

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Doug Verb HeadshotRecently, Fun While It Lasted had the pleasure of speaking to long-time sports executive Doug Verb for the latest entry in our Promoters Series.

Doug was one of the founding executives behind the Major Indoor Soccer League and the Arena Football League and served as President of the Chicago Sting soccer club from 1982 to 1986.

The Temple University grad has developed and consulted on sales promotions, event management and television deals for major sports and entertainment properties including the NBA, the Miss America Organization and numerous promotions in his home base of Las Vegas, Nevada. Doug’s company Action Sports America (www.giantjersey.com) is a promotional consultant and supplier to major and minor professional sports teams.

I asked Doug for 20 minutes of his time and came away with nearly two hours of great stories about the boom & bust years of American pro soccer in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

I hope you enjoy the highlights of our conversations below.  You can download the entire interview here.

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FWiL:

How did you break into pro sports, Doug?

Philadelphia AtomsDoug Verb:

With the 1976 Philadelphia Atoms of the North American Soccer League. We were the worst professional franchise in America, and I think we may still hold the title to this day.

We had a lot of the same problems that other teams had. We were terrible on the field. There was no money for marketing. We had a terrible schedule – if it was Easter Sunday or Mother’s Day or the 4th of July, that meant the Atoms had a home game. And we had absentee owners. The Atoms were owned by the four 1st Division teams in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Like I said, lots of soccer teams had those problems back then. But we also had a problem that nobody else had: no one on the Atoms spoke English and we played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

FWIL:

You were the Chivas USA of your day!

Doug Verb:

Well, yeah, but it wasn’t set up that way! We didn’t quite have a Hispanic market in Philadelphia. We couldn’t even find a place for the guys to eat.

The local President of the Atoms was an American named Ed Tepper. Ed previously owned the Philadelphia Wings indoor lacrosse team that played at the Spectrum. Somebody recommended me to Ed to be the Atoms’ PR Director. After two or three days on the job, I went to see Ed Tepper and said ‘Ed, why are we doing this?’

Ed says ‘We’re doing this to learn about soccer. We’re gonna do indoor soccer.’

Philadelphia Atoms Indoor SoccerThe day the Mexicans got off the plane in Philadelphia, I took them right to the Spectrum. There’s no translator. I brought them out onto an Astroturf carpet that didn’t quite fit over the hockey rink. These guys clearly think that they’re just in this building to loosen up and see the locker rooms – Veterans Stadium was right next door.

I tell them “No, we’re playing a game here a las siete, at seven o’clock.”

They went back to the locker room and said no, no, no, they’re going home. So I took what they thought were their plane tickets home and I just stood in the middle of the locker room and ripped them up. Of course, it was just their receipts. I kept hearing them call me ‘Loco! Loco Verb-o!’ while I’m trying to explain indoor soccer – that it’s only five players on the field and just try it, it’s going to be fun.

And so they played an indoor exhibition that night against some local semi-pros and they did have fun. I think we had five or six thousand people in the Spectrum and afterwards I told Ed Tepper ‘There is something to this’. Indoor was fast and fun and exciting.

Anyway, then we moved outdoors and had a horrible year. The Mexicans had never seen Astroturf before. The NASL was mostly a league of English guys and our undersized players just got pounded into the turf week after week by the English players. We played on Bicentennial weekend and nobody came. I announced the attendance as 1,776. And the worst part of it all was that only one of these players ever went back and played professionally in Mexico.

So the Atoms went away. I went back to sports writing. And then two years later I got a call from Ed and another guy named Earl Foreman.

FWiL:

The founders of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL).

Doug Verb:

Yes. I was one of the four guys that started the MISL, along with Ed, Earl and a Ph.D from the University of New Haven named Joe Machnik, who was the soccer guy.

After the Atoms folded, I worked for The Trenton Times.  I covered soccer in Philly and New York including the New York CosmosThe Times was owned by The Washington Post so occasionally my Cosmos stories got picked up by the national Post news service.

Earl Foreman MISLEd called on my birthday. Friday the 13th of October 1978. The other guy on the phone was Earl Foreman. Earl was the closest guy that I ever met to a genius. But also on that fine line of being maniacal. Earl was a big-time lawyer. He had a lot of sports experience as an owner in the American Basketball Association, where he’d signed Julius Erving out of college, as a part owner of the Eagles, and with the old Washington Whips soccer team. His brother-in-law was Ed Snider who owned the Flyers and Earl restructured the lease for the Flyers and made the Spectrum into the country’s #1 arena. Ed Tepper convinced Earl that indoor soccer was the way to go.

They said we have this idea of Americanizing soccer. Why don’t you come over and we’d like to talk to you about how the media will look at it?

“I don’t need to come by. I’ll tell you right now. They’ll ignore you. They’ll hate you. Sports editors hate it. They don’t like soccer. The only reason I get to write a little here is because it’s the Cosmos.”

I had to cover a New Jersey Nets game that night, so I told them I had to go and I went to take a nap. The phone rang a few hours later and it was Ed and Earl again.

“We got our sixth team and we’re ready to start.”

I said “Start what?”

I started working for the MISL two days later on October 15, 1978. The only known piece we had going for us was Pete Rose, who was a part-owner of our Cincinnati Kids franchise. Pete was great. He was on his free agency trail, which was relatively new back then. I went on the road with Pete as he met with Major League teams in all of the six cities we had for the league. Pete drew throngs of reporters and he always made it a point to talk to the press about indoor soccer.

We launched the league in 69 days. We played our first game on December 22nd, 1978 with Pete Rose kicking out the first ball at the Nassau Coliseum.

Putting together the league in the fall of ’78 was like getting my Master’s degree in the sports business. The Ph.D. came when Earl Foreman said ‘Look. When we get a new franchise, you need to go there, whether it’s for the first two weeks or two months and make sure we stay away from the ‘Brother-in-Law effect’”.

Sure enough, we go into Wichita, Kansas for the first round of expansion in 1979. So Joe Machnik and I went to Wichita to meet with the <new owner>. And Joe asks ‘What about the soccer operations side?’

And of course this guy says ‘Oh, I’ve got that covered. My brother-in-law has been involved in youth soccer here in Wichita for seven years.’

I started laughing and Joe kicked me under the table. Joe told him ‘Look, this is a professional organization. I have list for you of coaches and general managers with experience in pro soccer.’

And the guy is heartbroken. He’s thinking what am I going to tell my wife?

 

FWiL:

Let’s talk about the Chicago Sting.

Doug Verb:

After five years in the MISL league office I wanted to go run a franchise. I was hired to be the President of the Chicago Sting. This was 1982. The Sting were playing soccer year-round – outdoors and indoors – in the North American Soccer League.

Chicago Sting YearbookMy guy in Chicago was Lee Stern. He was everything that was great about soccer in Chicago. He built the foundation of soccer in that town. Because of his stick-to-itiveness and his willingness to absorb what I’d estimate to be $20 million in losses over about 15 years of owning the Sting. The Sting won a couple of titles and had a big championship parade down LaSalle Street when they won the Soccer Bowl in 1981, just like the big boys did.

And yet, Lee was everything that was wrong with owners as well.

Lee would call sports editors at 2:30 in the morning and want to know why the Sting were on the second page when we’d just won a playoff game. When I got there I said to Lee ‘<The editors> all think you’re an asshole.’

And he looked at me like ‘What do you mean?’

‘No one’s ever told you this?!’

‘No!’

Once I’d been there for a little while, I realized why people weren’t being straight with him. In the early years, it was all soccer guys running the Sting. And they were all stealing from Lee. Coaches would do player deals and they’d get a piece of it on the back end. That was the way in soccer back then. The soccer guys did the equipment deals too and they were a joke. We got hardly any money from Adidas. Well, the coach was selling the equipment! Not out of the back of his car, but out of a friend’s car.

FWiL:

Who were some of the most memorable characters on those Sting teams?

Doug Verb:

Karl-Heinz Granitza was the man. He was suave and European. He was a man about town. He had limitations in his game. He wasn’t fast, he wasn’t quick. He kind of played a post-up game and he scored a lot of goals that way. He also had a trendy restaurant and some other business ventures, but he ended up leaving a lot of paper around town and he had to eventually just leave Chicago a few years after the Sting ended. It was a lot of money.

Pato Margetic was a scrawny half-German half-Argentine guy with wild blond hair. He reminded me of an indoor soccer version of Pete Maravich. He was a guy who got the ball on his foot and the crowd just stood up. I never had anything to do with player contracts, except for Pato’s. Pato wanted more money and wanted to stay in Chicago, so I got involved with his contract. We made him a model for one of our sponsors who made blue jeans to get him the extra money.

And then there were the Americans. The leader was Rudy Glenn who was from one of the Chicago suburbs and played at the University of Indiana. He was a big strong defender and he did more camps and clinics than anyone else.

In 1984 we signed a kid named Frankie Klopas who was 16 or 17 years old and underage. He went to Mather High School in Chicago, but he was born in Greece. There’s a big Greek community in Chicago. After we signed Frankie, I couldn’t walk into a Greek restaurant in Chicago – from Greektown to all the little hamburger joints – without them clearing a table for me and never letting me pay. And, of course, I didn’t have anything to do with signing him. Frankie went on to become a national team player for the U.S.

 

FWiL:

What was the impact on the Sting on bouncing around between Wrigley, Comiskey and Soldier Field every year? Why couldn’t the team settle in one place?

Doug Verb:

The impact was that even the players got confused and would go to the wrong stadium on the wrong day. So how could the fans possibly know where we were playing?

The two baseball teams didn’t want us at all. Lee Stern was a part-owner of the White Sox and he just kind of imposed his will to play at Comiskey. The White Sox were at least very cordial to us. But when I walked into Wrigley for the first time, the Cubs made it very obvious that we weren’t wanted there. Mainly for the reason of ‘you’re going to chew up the field’, which never happened.

And Soldier Field was just too big. They were all too big. We put all the fans on the TV side, so one time (coach) Willy Roy’s sons sat all alone in a huge section of empty seats. We had them hold a sign saying “Willy Roy’s Fan Club”

That was the pre-soccer specific stadium era, so everyone faced the same problem. Now my belief is that is not what kept the crowds down for the Sting outdoors. It was just the game of outdoor soccer. It just wasn’t in the blood here. Lots of kids were starting to play soccer but here’s the analogy I’ll make: Everybody bowls. But how many go to see a PBA bowling event?

And again, the Sting were exciting and high-scoring and the players were known and did all sorts of camps and clinics. I used to say to Lee Stern ‘Let’s do All-Star Games, international matches, camps and clinics and merchandise’. But forget all these year-round league games.Those we lose money on.

Lee’s response was “What am I going to do? Buy a bigger boat to take down to Florida?”

FWiL:

What did the economics of the Sting look like?

Chicago Sting ProgramDoug Verb:

The second year I was there, Lee called me and said ‘Kid, you did great. The numbers came in. You lowered the loss to a million dollars.’

The loss had been $1.7 million a year when I got there. I said ‘Oh. OK. If you’re happy that’s great. I’m not happy. I want us to make money.’

Lee says ‘I want to bonus you. I just bought you a unit of soybeans.’

Lee was a commodities broker. That’s how he made his money.

‘What does that mean?’ I asked.

‘Don’t worry, they’re not going to back a truck of beans up to your house. I’ll take care of you.’

The next day Lee calls and says ‘Kid, you’re out of the soybeans. I sold your unit.’

‘You did? Why?’

‘I put the $5,000 in your account.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I bought them at one price, I sold them at another. You made 5 Gs.’

So, of course I said ‘Thanks! Can we do it again tomorrow?’

‘No, kid. It’s not that easy.’

FWiL:

In 1984, the North American Soccer League folded the day after the Sting won the league’s final Soccer Bowl championship. The Sting moved indoors permanently after that. What are your memories of that time?

Doug Verb:

Three weeks after we won the last Soccer Bowl, we were back playing indoor soccer at Chicago Stadium. We had joined the MISL when the NASL folded.

Indoor soccer was a show. We’d turn out the lights and introduce the team to Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Everybody would go crazy. That fan experience was new at the time. Something we started at the MISL.

40% of our indoor fans were women, which was very unusual at the time. They loved the players – these were average-sized guys running around in their underwear. Once the players figured that out, they’d start greasing up their legs. I’ll never forget – I had a woman come up to me who said ‘give me those two seats right there next to the bench and I’ll give you a hundred dollars a ticket.’ I think those tickets were $25 at the time.

FWiL:

What led to the end of the Sting? Was it the move to the Rosemont Horizon in 1986?

Doug Verb:

Well, I initiated the talks with the Horizon. Because it was the suburbs.

But I loved the old Chicago Stadium. How could you not? It was an incredible building. I never heard from anybody who said ‘oh no, I won’t go down there’. But I did start looking at it because we had so many fans out in the suburbs. My plan was to play maybe four or five games a year at the Horizon and continue to play the rest of the schedule at Chicago Stadium. I knew there could be some issues for indoor soccer at the Horizon.

1986 MISL All-Star Game @ Chicago. February 18, 1986We hosted the MISL All-Star Game at Chicago Stadium in February 1986. The day after that game I quit/was fired. Lee and I had just had enough of each other. My replacement committed to play the entire 1986-87 season at the Horizon, which I never would have done.

The biggest issue we, the front office, encountered was our coach Willy Roy. And I never tried to get rid of him. Willy had won Lee two Soccer Bowl titles in the NASL. But Willy would not learn indoor soccer. Remember, an outdoor coach does nothing during a game. Limited number of substitutions, can’t really call plays. Just sits there – maybe yells at a referee once in a while. Willy was great at finding talent and he trained the players hard. But for whatever reason, he would never learn the nuances of the indoor game

In contrast to a guy like Kenny Cooper, the coach of the Baltimore Blast. Kenny was English and he went to ice hockey coaches to learn about shift changes and power plays. He said ‘what’s this about going in one door and out the other’? Willy couldn’t get his players to come off the field for shift changes. Time after time we’d get beat because other teams would go on fast breaks and Willy couldn’t get his players in and out of the door!

We had the best talent, at least as good as anyone in league, with great crowds behind us. But we couldn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs. And in the MISL, that’s where you made your gravy. Playoff revenue was all yours to keep. If we would have had 5 or 6 playoff games instead of 1-2, we would have come pretty damn close to breaking even.

Who knows what might have happened if I had gotten rid of Willy and hired someone who was an indoor coach? Camps were great, we finally had sponsors paying the right amount for sponsorships and we’d put together a small TV network throughout the Midwest of Sting games that was getting decent ratings. We might not still be alive — because there’s not major market indoor soccer anymore — but we had things cooking.

And I had the time of my life. It sure was fun while it lasted.

 

==Links==

Doug Verb Full Interview Transcript

Doug’s Website – Action Sports America

Chicago Sting Home Page

More Interviews from the Promoters Series

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1975-1988 Chicago Sting

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Chicago StingNorth American Soccer League (1975-1984)
Major Indoor Soccer League (1982-1983 & 1984-1988)

Born: October 31, 1974 – NASL expansion franchise
Folded: July 8, 1988.

Stadiums:

Arenas:

Team Colors:

  • Black & Yellow (1983)
  • Black, Gold & White (1987)

Owners:

 

The Chicago Sting were an accomplished pro soccer club that enjoyed success both outdoors and indoors during a thirteen-year run from 1975 through 1988.   The Sting were formed on Halloween day 1974 as an expansion franchise in the North American Soccer League.

During the Sting’s early seasons under the direction of former Manchester United defender Bill Foulkes (1975-1977), the roster had a dominant British presence.  The Sting were not a factor in the NASL championship hunt during this era (despite a division title in 1976) and drew very poorly as the team shuffled games between Comiskey Park, Soldier Field and Wrigley Field each summer.   As late as 1978, the Sting had the worst attendance in the entire 24-team NASL, pulling just 4,188 fans per game.

It’s somewhat remarkable that Sting owner Lee Stern, a Chicago commodities broker, hung in during such a long stretch of lean years.  In fact, Stern would prove to be one of the most steadfast owners in American soccer, backing the money-losing club for its entire 13-year existence.  And as the 1980’s approached, the Sting’s fortunes began to improve.

Karl-Heinz Granitza Chicago StingThe 1978 season started disastrously.  Under new Head Coach Malcolm Musgrove (another British import), the Sting set a league record losing their first ten games of the season.  Musgrove would be fired without ever registering a win for the Sting.  But the English-heavy complexion of the club had already begun to shift under Musgrove.  1978 marked the arrival of West German striker Karl-Heinz Granitza, who would become the club’s greatest star, along with fellow German Arno Steffenhagen, another key contributor, and Danish winger Jorgen Kristensen.  German assistant coach Willy Roy took over the coaching reigns from Musgrove and improbably led the 0-10 Sting into the 1978 playoffs (thanks to the NASL’s very generous playoff system).

In 1980 the Sting won a division title with the 3rd best record in the league (21-11).  Granitza established himself as one of the NASL’s mostly consistently productive scorers.  In 1981, the Sting were even better – division champs again with a 23-9 record, tied for the best mark in the league with the defending champion New York Cosmos. Pato Margetic, a dynamic 21-year old Argentinean arrived to team with Granitza up top and spark the most potent offense in the NASL.  Margetic became an immediate fan favorite.  Sting crowds had tripled since the low water mark of 1978, up to nearly 13,000 per match in 1981.

The team’s growing popularity in Chicago was due in part to the Sting’s rivalry with and uncanny mastery of the New York Cosmos.  The Cosmos were an international super club before such a concept really existed, featuring a collection of world all-stars such as Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia.  By 1981, the New Yorkers had won three of the past four NASL championships.  And the Sting absolutely owned them.   Cosmos derbies became a big draw in Chicago.  A June 1981 regular season match against New York drew a franchise record 30,501 to Wrigley field for a thrilling 6-5 Sting victory.  (The Cosmos PR department later produced a short highlight reel of this match calledThe Greatest Game in NASL History.)

In September 1981, a new record crowd of 39,623 came out to Comiskey Park on a cold Monday night to watch the Sting eliminate the San Diego Sockers in Game Three of the playoff semi-finals to earn a trip to Soccer Bowl ’81, the NASL’s championship match.  They would play their arch rivals, the Cosmos, at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium on September 26, 1981.  Improbably, the NASL’s two highest scoring teams played a scoreless regulation and overtime period.  That sent the game into the NASL’s unusual “shootout” format to determine a league champion…

 

The Sting’s victory in Soccer Bowl ’81 gave the Windy City its first major professional sports since the Bears won the NFL championship in 1963.  And if you think calling the Sting and the NASL “major” seems like a stretch, consider this: nearly 10,000 fans greeted the Sting at O’Hare Airport on their return home from Toronto and over 100,000 more lined LaSalle Avenue for a ticker tape parade a few days later.

Chicago StingAs the Sting were developing into one of the NASL’s best outdoor clubs at the dawn of the 1980’s, the league also began to experiment with indoor soccer.  The Sting played their first indoor season in the winter of 1980-81 at the old Chicago Stadium downtown. They reached the indoor finals that first season, losing in a two-game sweep at the hands of the Edmonton Drillers.

The Sting quickly became a box office hit indoors.  Their league-leading average indoor crowd of 13,322 at Chicago Stadium for the 1981-82 season was better than the average for any outdoor season the Sting ever played. The team’s popularity was due in part to their near invincibility at home.  Going into the 1981-82 indoor playoffs, the Sting had an incredible 18-game winning streak at Chicago Stadium.  On Valentine’s Day 1982, the Sting beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies 10-9 in an overtime thriller at Chicago Stadium.  The standing room crowd of 19,398 was the largest ever to see an indoor soccer game in the United States at the time.  As the NASL began to wither – shrinking from 24 clubs in 1980 to just 9 by the beginning of the 1984 season, many began to assert that the Sting were better off simply playing indoors.

By 1984, the NASL was on its last legs.  The Sting defeated the Toronto Blizzard to win the NASL’s final championship in October of that year, but the buzz around Chicago was nothing like when the Sting won the Soccer Bowl in 1981.  There would be no massive parade with 100,000 fans lining the streets of downtown Chicago.  The Cubs were in the playoffs with a chance to win the pennant for the first time in decades, for one thing. For another, Sting owner Lee Stern had already formally pulled his club out of the dying NASL by the time the final whistle blew on the team’s championship victory.  The Sting were accepted into the Major Indoor Soccer League in August of 1984.  The club’s future was now exclusively as an indoor team.

By the time the Sting moved permanently indoors in the fall of 1984, the club’s moment was already in eclipse.  The team finished with a strong 28-20 record and averaged over 10,000 fans for the final time.  But a pair of 1st round home playoff losses to the Cleveland Force drew small crowds.  The following season the Sting finished with a losing record and the team fired Willy Roy after eight years and two championships.  Attendance crashed by 30%.  After the 1985-86 season, the Sting left Chicago Stadium for the suburban Rosemont Horizon, citing the deteriorating neighborhood around the Stadium and their belief that the team’s core audience lived in the suburbs.  Attendance dropped a further 20% during the Sting’s first season at the Horizon in 1986-87.  Karl-Heinz Granitza was suspended for insubordination in early 1987, ending his nine-year run with the Sting.

Chicago Sting MISLThe Sting mounted one last big counter offensive against the indifference swallowing the club in the summer of 1987.  Lee Stern brought on advertising executive Lou Weisbach as an investment partner and hired Chicago Bulls VP of Marketing David Rosenberg to re-energize the fan base.  Weisbach and Rosenberg boosted the front office staff to an all-time high of 21 employees and created a marketing campaign around “The New Chicago Sting”.  The center piece of the campaign was a reported $1 million investment in post-game concerts for two-thirds of the Sting’s home dates at the Rosemont Horizon.  In July 1987, Rosenberg unveiled the line-up of schlocky soft rock and oldies acts and cornball comedians, including the likes of Marie Osmond, Buddy Hackett, Fabian, Susan Anton and Jeffrey Osborne.

Whether the marriage of indoor soccer and live pop music was doomed from inception or whether it was the desperately unhip line-up of acts that the Sting procured, the campaign was a flop.  One month into the season, attendance was flat at under 6,000 per game and the Sting began lopping the concerts of the schedule.  A Granitza-less last place club under the direction of Roy’s successor Erich Geyer didn’t help matters.

By the end of the season, the Sting were done in Chicago.  A possible sale and relocation to Denver was explored and abandoned.   The Sting officially folded on July 8, 1988.

 

Chicago Sting Shop


Sting Throwback Jersey by Ultras


Sting Retro T-Shirt by Ultras

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

Chicago Sting Memorabilia

 

Chicago Sting Video

 

 

 

 

Sting vs. Cosmos indoors at the Brendan Byrne Arena in New Jersey, circa 1981.

 

The Sting in their final declining years at Rosemont Horizon.  December 19, 1986 against the New York Express.  Note the unusual clear Plexiglass boards at the Horizon.

 

 

==In Memoriam==

Former Sting Head Coach Malcolm Musgrove died on September 14, 2007 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease at age 74.

Rudy Keller, who played one game at midfield for the Sting during the 1975 season, died in February 2011 at age 68.

 

 

==Downloads==

1981 Chicago Sting Playoff Portfolio prepared for Soccer Bowl ’81 

January 1987 Chicago Sting “Bee Lines” Newsletter

February 1987 Chicago Sting “Bee Lines” Newsletter

March 1987 Chicago Sting “Bee Lines” Newsletter

April 1987 Chicago Sting “Bee Lines” Newsletter

May 1987 Chicago Sting “Bee Lines” Newsletter

1987-88 MISL Rule Book & Schedule

 

 ==Links==

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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September 18, 1984 – Chicago Sting vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

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Chicago Sting ProgramChicago Sting vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
September 18, 1984
Comiskey Park
Attendance: 5,484

North American Soccer League Programs
24 pages

 

This was one of the last games ever played by the venerable North American Soccer League (1968-1984).  Game 1 of the best-of-three Semi-Final playoff series from the NASL’s final season in 1984.

The pitiful crowd of 5,484 that turned out at Chicago’s Comiskey Park to watch the Chicago Sting take on the Vancouver Whitecaps was evidence of the decay that had taken hold of the NASL by this point. In fact, just two weeks earlier Sting owner Lee Stern announced his club’s departure from the NASL after ten seasons, committing full-time to indoor soccer and the Major Indoor Soccer League.

The match itself was tightly contested, as befit two clubs that finished with identical 13-11 records in the regular season.  The game headed into extra time knotted at 0-0 and then into a second overtime period before Whitecaps forward Carl Valentine finally put the winner past Sting goalkeeper Victor Nogueira.

The No. 1-seeded Sting recovered five days later at Vancouver’s B.C. Place, scoring a 3-1 victory to send the series back to Chicago for a deciding Game Three.  Pato Margetic scored twice to lead the Sting to a 4-3 victory and on to Soccer Bowl ’84 against the Toronto Blizzard.  The Sting won the NASL’s final Soccer Bowl in a two-game sweep.  Game 1 on October 1st, 1984 was the last outdoor soccer match the Sting ever hosted.  The game drew only 8,352 to Comiskey Park.  The NASL folded a few months later.

The Sting continued to play indoor soccer for another four seasons, before closing their doors in the summer of 1988.

 

Downloads

Chicago Sting Roster, September 18, 1984

 

Links

Chicago Sting Home Page

Vancouver Whitecaps Home Page

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Written by AC

February 9th, 2013 at 6:24 pm

May 9, 1978 – Chicago Sting vs. Cuba

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Chicago Sting vs. Cuban National Soccer Team
May 9, 1978
Soldier Field
Attendance: 4,153

North American Soccer League Programs

 

This rare soccer program is from the back end of an historic home-and-home series between the Chicago Sting (1975-1988) of the North American Soccer League and the National Team of Cuba in the spring of 1978.

The set began when the Sting accepted an invitation to visit Havana for an exhibition friendly on March 21st , 1978.  In doing so, the Sting became the first American professional sports team to visit Cuba in nearly 18 years. After Fidel Castro started nationalizing foreign-owned businesses in 1960, Major League Baseball Commissioner Ford C. Frick pulled the Cincinnati Reds’ triple-A farm club, the Havana Sugar Kings, out of Cuba in mid-season. Even before the Sugar Kings’ demise, playing baseball in Cuba in the months after the Revolution already require a sense of adventure at the least, if not a flak jacket.  The previous summer, Frank Verdi of the Rochester Red Wings and Leo Cardenas of the Sugar Kings both suffered superficial gunshot wounds after Sugar Kings fans began firing off tommy guns in the grandstand to celebrate the anniversary of Castro’s 26th of July movement.

Dave Wasser over at www.davebrett.com has archival video of the pre-game intros for the Sting in Havana, which someone has now posted to Youtube:

Chicago Sting vs. Cuba Video

After the Havana friendly, the Cubans accepted an invitation from Sting President Clive Toye to visit the United States for a rematch at historic Soldier Field on May 9th, 1978.

I believe in sporting diplomacy a great deal,” Toye told The Chicago Sun-Times.  “It’s the best way to cross frontiers, whatever they may be, psychological or physical.  You’re less likely to stick a gun into the stomach of someone you know.”

Despite the political and historical significance of the game, the match drew little interest on a Tuesday night in Chicago.  Only 4,153 turned out at Soldier Field for the match, which was a 1-1 draw.   The Sting had a long history in Chicago under steadfast owner Lee Stern, who funded 13 money-losing seasons of outdoor and indoor soccer from 1975 to 1988.  The Sting never really drew well outdoors as they shuttled from week to week between Soldier Field, Wrigley and Comiskey Park taking open dates wherever they could find them.  So perhaps the poor turnout for a weeknight friendly was inevitable.

Today those 1978 Sting-Cuba games are pretty much forgotten.   Considerably more attention was devoted to a 1999 home-and-home baseball series between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban National Baseball Team.  Years in the negotiating, the series drew 55,000 in Havana and 48,000 in Baltimore.  The Cubans’ trip to the United States was marred by the defection of retired National Team star Rigoberto Betancourt who was allowed to travel to America as a dignitary in the Cuban delegation.

 

Links

Chicago Sting Home Page

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Written by AC

August 12th, 2012 at 6:13 pm

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