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1975 Portland Thunder

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Portland Thunder Media GuideWorld Football League (1975)

Born: 1975
Folded: October 22, 1975.

Stadium: Civic Stadium (33,000)

Team Colors: Royal Blue, Kelly Green & White

Owner: William Tatham Sr.

World Bowl Championships: None

 

The Portland Thunder were a doomed pro football franchise that took part in the abbreviated second season of the World Football League in the autumn of 1975.

The WFL’s debut season was an utter disaster, plagued by teams relocating and folding in midseason, bounced paychecks, epic PR blunders and an estimated $20 million in red ink.  It was somewhat surprising that a small cabal of surviving owners, led by Chris Hemmeter of The Hawaiians franchise, regrouped to stage a second season in 1975.  Even more surprising was the continued inclusion of Portland, Oregon where the WFL’s Portland Storm franchise had been one of the league’s more embarrassing efforts.  The Storm started 0-7-1 and managed to complete the season only because the players were willing to continue playing games without paychecks for the season’s final two months.  The IRS slapped a lien on the Storm and the discredited (literally) club was more or less out of business by December 1974.

Portland Thunder WFLIn early 1975, Hemmeter and a few other holdovers reorganized the insolvent league as a new corporation and attempted to start over again.  A twelve-team league was put together for 1975, featuring eleven holdover cities from 1974 (plus San Antonio).  Most of the owners and investors were brand new.  Portland came back with a new identity and a new owner: Fresno-based William Tatham.   A handful of Storm players returned, despite the broken contracts and promises of the previous year.  This included 5′ 5″tailback Rufus Ferguson who led Portland in rushing during both seasons of the WFL.

But Portland had seen enough of the World Football League.  A meager 7,700 turned out at Civic Stadium for the Thunder’s regular season home opener in August 1975.  This was about half what the Storm averaged a year earlier.  In several ways, the Thunder just seemed like a chintzier knockoff of Harris’ discredited club.  Not only was the name similar, but the Thunder retained the old colors of blue and green and slapped new logo stickers on the Storm’s old helmets to save money on equipment.

By October 1975 – around the point in the season that the Storm ran into serious financial trouble the year before – the Thunder were on the verge of collapse.  The other ten WFL franchises had to take up a collection of $300,000 to keep Portland in business.  The rest of the league was in terrible shape as well and two weeks later the owners decided to cut their losses.  The World Football League shutdown on October 22, 1975 without managing to complete its second season of play.  The Thunder finished their only campaign with a 4-7 record.

Pro football returned to Portland and Civic Stadium a decade later with the arrival of the Portland Breakers of the United States Football League.  For local football fans, it was deja vu all over again.  The Head Coach of the Breakers was Dick Coury, the same man who coached the Storm in 1974.  And like Portland’s previous entries in the WFL, the Portland Breakers lasted only one season and left town owing unpaid wages to their players and debts to local businesses.

Portland Thunder owner William Tatham also got involved with the United States Football League in the 1980’s.  Tatham and his son owned the USFL’s Oklahoma/Arizona Outlaws in 1984 and 1985.

 

Portland Thunder Shop


Portland Thunder Retro T-Shirt from Throwback Max

Thunder Light Blue Heather T-Shirt

Portland Thunder Memorabilia

 

Downloads

1975 World Football League Standard Player Contract

 

Links

1975 Portland Thunder statistics on JustSportsStats.com

World Football League Media Guides

World Football League Programs

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1975-1982 Portland Timbers

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Portland Timbers NASLNorth American Soccer League (1975-1982)

Born: January 23, 1975 – NASL expansion franchise
Folded: October 21, 1982

Stadium: Civic Stadium (27,525)

Arena: Portland Memorial Coliseum (10,169)

Team Colors: Kelly Green, Gold & White

Owners:

Soccer Bowl Championships: None

 

The Portland Timbers were an iconic soccer franchise that helped earn Portland the nickname “Soccer City U.S.A.”.  The original Timbers (1975-1982) sparked a youth soccer boom in the Rose City and inspired numerous reunions, revivals and re-births over the years, culminating in the acceptance of a new Portland Timbers club into Major League Soccer in 2011.

The Timbers were formed in January 1975 as an expansion franchise in the North American Soccer League.  The NASL had fumbled around in obscurity since 1968, but in 1975 the league sprang into new prominence when the New York Cosmos franchise signed the world’s most famous player, the Brazilian legend Pele. Portland Timbers

The Timbers got a late start with barely three months to put a squad together before the season began in May.  Most of coach Vic Crowe’s roster were British players on offseason loan from their English clubs.  A modest crowd of 6,913 showed up for the Timbers’ first match against the Seattle Sounders at Civic Stadium on May 2, 1975.  But Crowe’s team started winning and with each victory came more fans.  By June, the Timbers were consistently drawing 15,000 for their home matches.  By the end of July, 25,000.

The Timbers won the NASL’s Western Division with a 16-6 record. Portland opened the 1975 playoffs with a 2-1 overtime victory over the Seattle Sounders at Civic Stadium.  The crowd of 31,523 was a new team record, but it stood for only five days.  On August 17th, the Timbers shutout the St. Louis Stars 1-0 before a sell-out crowd of 33,503 and earned a trip to San Jose’s Spartan Stadium to play another expansion team, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, in Soccer Bowl ’75.

In past NASL seasons, Portland would have earned the right to host the championship game.  But the NASL introduced the “Soccer Bowl” concept in 1975 in deliberate imitation of the NFL’s  neutral site Super Bowl format.  The previous season, the NASL’s weakly supported Miami Toros club earned home field advantage for the final, but with only two weeks to promote the match, the Toros embarrassed the league with only 15,000 fans on hand for the title game, which was broadcast on national television.

At Soccer Bowl ’75 in San Jose, the Timbers charmed season came to an end.  Portland lost to the Rowdies 2-0.

Portland TimbersIn 1976 the Timbers regressed to 8-16.  Despite the NASL’s generous postseason qualification format, the Timbers would miss the playoffs for three of the next four seasons.  The large crowds stayed for another season or two, but the Timbers formally ceded Hottest Ticket in Town status to the Bill Walton-era Portland Trailblazers, who won the NBA title in 1977 and launched an 18-year (814-game) sellout streak in April of 1977, just as the Timbers third season got underway.

The Timbers had one more great season left.  In 1978 the Timbers interrupted their stretch of late 1970’s futility and won a club record 20 games.  In the playoffs they advanced to the semi-final, losing a two-game series to the eventual champion New York Cosmos.  The decisive match – a 4-0 blowout for the New Yorkers – was played at Giants Stadium in front of 65,287 fans.  Despite the terrific season, Bermudian forward and leading scorer Clyde Best (12 goals, 9 assists) was the only Timber selected for All-NASL honors, hooking an honorable mention citation.

By the end of the 1979 season, the original investor group that formed the Portland Timbers four years earlier was financially exhausted.  The Timbers, like virtually all NASL clubs, ran seven figure deficits annually.  The team was in danger of bankruptcy until the Louisiana-Pacific Corp., a Portland-based lumber and building products giant, purchased and re-capitalized the team late in 1979. LP’s intervention kept the Timbers going but failed to turn around the club’s fortunes on the field or at the box office.

The rest of the NASL was falling apart as well, contracting from a record 24 clubs in 1980 to just 14 entering the 1982 season, Portland’s eighth year in the league.  Timbers attendance fell to an all-time low of 8,786 fans per match.  In August 1982, Louisiana-Pacific announced the club would fold in September unless a buyer could be found.  A possible sale and relocation to New Orleans came to nothing.   Then a local businessman named James Horne stepped forward to save the Timbers for Portland.  Horne reached a tentative agreement to buy the club for LP in September 1982 but backed out a month later.

The Portland Timbers officially folded on October 21, 1982. In addition to the outdoor games that the Timbers are best remembered for, the club also played two seasons of NASL indoor soccer at Memorial Coliseum in the winters of 1980-81 and 1981-82.

Fun trivia:  Timbers historian Michael Orr, author of The 1975 Portland Timbers: The Birth of Soccer City USA, points out that the 1979 Portland Timbers were the first soccer club ever to strike an apparel deal with Oregon-based Nike.

 

Portland Timbers Shop


The 1975 Portland Timbers: The Birth of Soccer City, USA by Michael Orr

Major League Soccer Timbers Stretch Fit Hat by ’47 Brand

 

Portland Timbers Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Midfielder Tommy McLaren committed suicide on July 23, 1978 at age 29.

Timbers co-founder and former NFL star Don Paul died on September 7, 2001.  Paul was 75 years old.

Midfielder Glenn Myernick passed away on October 9, 2006, four days after suffering a heart attack while jogging.  He was 51.

Timbers co-founder John Gilbertson passed away June 12, 2008 at 85 years of age.

Two-time Timbers Head Coach Vic Crowe (1975-1976 & 1980-1982) passed away on January 21, 2009 at age 76.

 

Portland Timbers Video

The Timbers defeat the Seattle Sounders in sudden death overtime at Civic Stadium.  NASL quarterfinal playoffs, August 12, 1975.

 

Links

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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May 30, 1979 – Portland Timbers vs. Bristol City F.C.

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Portland Timbers vs. Bristol City F.C. (UK)
May 30, 1979
Civic Stadium
Attendance: 6,579

North American Soccer League Programs
110 pages

 

This was the third and final match of a brief tour through the Pacific Northwest cities of the North American Soccer League by English club Bristol City F.C. in the spring of 1979.  Earlier in the week the Robins defeated the Seattle Sounders 1-0 at the Kingdome and then played the Vancouver Whitecaps to a 1-1 draw.

This was the second consecutive year that they travelled to Oregon for a friendly against the NASL’s Portland Timbers.  In 1978, Bristol City defeated the Timbers 1-0. Bristol City F.C. was traditionally a 2nd and 3rd division club back in England, but their late 1970’s tours to the United States coincided with a brief renaissance under manager Alan Dicks which saw the club promoted to the 1st division from 1976 through 1980.

The Timbers won this match 2-1, getting a goal from 21-year old midfielder John Bain, a former Bristol City F.C. player who came over to Portland in 1978 and would go on to play five seasons for the Timbers up through the club’s demise in 1982.

English superstar Trevor Francis of the NASL’s Detroit Express club is pictured on the cover of the evening’s match day program.

 

Downloads

May 30, 1979 Portland Timbers Roster

May 30, 1979 Bristol City F.C. Roster

 

Links

More NASL International Friendlies

Portland Timbers Home Page

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1974 Portland Storm

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Portland StormWorld Football League (1974)

Born: 1974 – WFL founding franchise
Folded: Postseason 1974

Stadium: Civic Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner: Bob Harris

WFL Championships: None

 

Big league professional football came to the Rose City in 1974 with the formation of the World Football League (1974-1975).  The WFL planned an audacious challenge to the National Football League, much like the American Football League had in the 1960’s.  (Only the WFL was without the benefit of Lamar Hunt’s hundreds of millions of dollars in oil money.)

Portland’s original entry in the league was the Portland Storm.  The Storm franchise passed like a hot potato through multiple hands and proposed homes during the league’ start up phase before landing at Portland’s Civic Stadium under the direction of Canadian businessman Bob Harris.  The Storm was the 12th and final franchise to be solidified for the WFL’s debut season, which launched in July 1974.

WFL rosters featured a lot of veteran NFL talent.  The Storm were one of the less experienced clubs and were expected to be one of the weakest under Head Coach Dick Coury.  In fact, the biggest name was in the Storm’s front office, where recently retired All-Pro tackle Ron Mix handled General Manager duties.  (Mix would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979).  Another notable was linebacker/assistant coach Marty Schottenheimer, an AFL veteran who returned to the sport after a three-year layoff from pro football.  Portland was Schottenheimer’s first pro coaching experience and, of course, he went on to a long head coaching career in the NFL with the Chiefs and the Chargers.

The Storm started even worse than expected, going 0-7-1 through the first eight weeks.  The franchise got its first win in bizarre fashion on Labor Day 1974.  Scheduled to play the the winless and neatly bankrupt Detroit Wheels (0-8) in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Storm owner Bob Harris offered the Wheels a $30,000 payday to move the game across the border to his hometown of London, Ontario.  There the Storm got their first victory – a 18-7 win before a couple of thousand Canadian curiosity seekers in the aptly named Little Stadium (capacity: 11,000).

Harris spoke at the time of building a 44,000-seat stadium and putting a WFL expansion franchise in London by 1976.  But within a month of the London game, Harris was either soured on the league and just flat run out of money.  The Storm started to turn things around on the field,bolstering their lineup with NFL vets Pete Beathard (QB) and Ben Davidson (DE), the latter a friend and former Oakland Raiders teammate of Storm GM Ron Mix.  The Storm would win six of their final ten games.   But in October 1974, owner Bob Harris stopped making payroll. The problem was hardly unique to Portland.  The Detroit and Jacksonville franchises shut down in mid-season.  Philadelphia was eviscerated in the press after admitting to fabricated attendance figures.  Players in several cities went unpaid for weeks or months.

Portland’s players initially took a wait-and-see attitude, putting faith in Coury and Mix and hoping that the paychecks would resume after a temporary interruption.  By the time Storm players and staff finally lost faith in Harris – he never did pay up – there was only a week or so left in the season and the Storm elected to finish things out as a matter of pride.

The former Oakland Raider Ben Davidson was hurt late in the the season and placed on injured reserve.  Ironically, as Davidson told WFL historian Kevin Smith, this meant he was one of the few Storm players to draw an income.  The state of Oregon paid him the princely sum of $176/week in workers comp.

The Portland Storm finished their first and only season in December 1974, with the players and staff unpaid nearly two  months and a $168,000 IRS tax lien on the team.  After the 0-7-1 start, the Storm’s final record was 7-12-1.

 

==Portland Storm Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other

1974

1974 9/2/1974 @ Detroit Wheels W 18-7 Program
1974 10/31/1974 @ Shreveport Steamer W 14-0 Program
1974 11/7/1974 @ Florida Blazers L 23-0 Program
1974 11/13/1974 @ The Hawaiians L 23-0 Program

 

Written by AC

December 17th, 2012 at 4:25 am

August 18, 1957 – Portland Beavers vs. San Francisco Seals

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Luis Marquez Portland BeaversPortland Beavers vs. San Francisco Seals
August 18, 1957
Multnomah Stadium
Attendance:

Pacific Coast League Programs
20 pages

 

Great vintage program from the 1957 Portland Beavers of baseball’s Pacific Coast League.  This one caught my eye because of the small photo of Beavers outfielder Luis Marquez on the cover.  By 1957 Marquez’ brief Major League career was behind him (68 games with the Boston Braves, Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1951 to 1954).  Despite his journeyman status, Marquez is an interesting figure in the early history of Puerto Rican players in the Major Leagues.

Marquez began his pro career in the Negro National League with the New York Black Yankees at the age of 19 in 1945.   The fleet-footed outfielder spent four seasons in the Negro National Leagues from 1945 to 1948.  Negro League records are spotty at best, but this 1949 profile of Marquez in The Afro American newspaper suggests that he led the league in stolen bases for three straight years with Pittsburgh’s Homestead Grays from 1946 to 1948.

The New York Yankees General Manager George Weiss acquired Marquez from the Negro National League’s Baltimore Elite Giants in early February 1949 and assigned the 23-year old to the Yankees farm club in Newark.  Marquez thus became the first black player ever to sign with the Bronx Bombers.  But Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck quickly challenged the signing, claiming to have a 120-day option on acquiring Marquez negotiated with his previous Negro League club, the Homestead Grays.  Major League Baseball Commissioner A.B. “Happy” Chandler ruled in Veeck’s favor in May 1949 and Marquez’ rights were assigned to the Indians.

Marquez played most of the 1949 season with the Portland Beavers.  Along with his 32-year old Panamanian teammate Frankie Austin, Marquez pioneered the racial integration of the Pacific Coast League that summer.  Marquez hit .294 in 132 games and led the Beavers with 32 steals.  The next season, he returned to Portland and hit over .300, again leading the club in steals.

Marquez made his Major League debut with the Boston Braves on April 18, 1951, becoming the only the third player of Puerto Rican heritage to play Major League Baseball.  He didn’t stick for long with the big club and spent the entire 1952 and 1953 seasons back in the minors.  Marquez narrowly lost the American Association batting title with a . 345 average for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1952.  Marques finished out his Major League career with brief stints in Chicago and Pittsburgh in the summer of 1954, but was never able to translate his Negro League and minor league success to the big stage.  He continued to play minor league and Puerto Rican winter ball for years afterwards, which is what brought him back to the Portland Beavers once again from 1955 to 1958.  He played his 19th and final professional season with Poza Rica of the Mexican League in 1963.

After his baseball career, Marquez returned to Puerto Rico.  He lost his life on March 1st, 1988 in his native city of Aguadilla, tragically shot dead by his son-in-law while trying to intervene in a domestic dispute.

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