Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1967-1969 Oakland Clippers

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Oakland ClippersNational Professional Soccer League (1967)
North American Soccer League (1968)
Independent (1968-1969)

Born: 1967 – NPSL founding franchise
Folded: June 4, 1969

Stadiums: 

Team Colors:

Owners: Joseph O’Neill, H.T. Hilliard & William Brinton

NPSL Champions: 1967
NASL Championships: None

 

The Oakland Clippers were one of ten founding franchises in the National Professional Soccer League of 1967. The league featured investors from Major League Baseball and the National Football League and was one of the first efforts at launching a true top flight soccer league in the United States. The team was initially known as the California Clippers when the NPSL kicked off in the spring of 1967, then switched to the Oakland Clippers moniker midway through the season.

With a roster full of Yugoslavs, the Clippers were the class of the NPSL in 1967. They compiled a league-best 19-8-5 record and went undefeated at the Oakland Coliseum. Serbian midfielder Ilija Mitic led the squad in scoring with 13 goals and 3 assists.

The Clippers faced the Baltimore Bays in the two-game NPSL championship series in September 1967. After dropping the 1st leg on the road in Baltimore, the Clippers took the title with a commanding 4-1 victory over the Bays in Oakland on September 9, 1967. Midseason pick-up Dragan Djukic put the game away with a first half hat trick.

 

Oakland Clippers Shop

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

 

Oakland Clippers Memorabilia

 

California Clippers Video

Clippers vs. Dynamo Kiev friendly at Kezar Stadium. February 23, 1969.

 

Links

National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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1976 Oakland Buccaneers

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1976 Oakland BuccaneersAmerican Soccer League (1976)

Born: 1976 – ASL expansion franchise
Folded: Postseason 1976

Stadiums: 

Team Colors:

Owner: Jaime Ruiz Llaguno, Juan Jose Camacho, Leon Crosby, et al.

ASL Championships: None

 

The Oakland Buccaneers (also known as the Golden Bay Buccaneers) were an obscure U.S. pro soccer club that played one season in the summer of 1976.  The team was a typical lower-division disaster of the era, beset by bounced paychecks, non-existent promotion and vanishing owners.  The penniless club operated the final months of the 1976 season without so much as a working phone line, a subject of frequent mockery by The Oakland Tribune and the Fremont-based Argus, both of which somewhat inexplicably gave the team coverage.

The Buccs were founded in early 1976 as part of a nationwide expansion of the 43-year old American Soccer League. The ASL was traditionally a Northeastern semi-pro collection of ethnic clubs. But the league became fully professional in the 1970’s and became the de facto 2nd Division of American soccer. Clubs in Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento and Salt Lake City were added in 1976 to give the ASL a true national footprint for the first time. All but the Los Angeles Skyhawks franchise turned out to be poorly-organized basket cases.

The founder and principal owner of the Buccs was a tequila exporter from Guadalajara named Jaime Ruiz Llaguno.  Llaguno signed former C.D. Guadalajara manager Javier De La Torre to coach the team and talked of playing at the Oakland Coliseum.  That grandiose plan fell through and the Buccs wound up at Edwards Stadium, the track and field venue at California-Berkeley. Midway through the season, Llaguno abandoned the club. Without any sort of announcement, the team left Berkeley and shifted its games to Tak Fudenna Stadium, a high school football field in Fremont. The players and a couple of staff members soldiered on without pay and somehow managed to complete 18 of 21 scheduled games. The Oakland Buccaneers finished their only season with a record of 6-10-2.

The American Soccer League went out of business in 1984.

 

Oakland Buccaneers Shop


American Soccer League Logo T-Shirt by Ultras

 

Oakland Buccaneers Memorabilia

 

Downloads

June 6, 1976 Oakland Buccaneers vs. Cork Hibernians (Ireland) Program

June 1976 Oakland Buccaneers Fan Survey

 

Links

American Soccer League Media Guides

American Soccer League Programs

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1974-1978 Golden Gaters

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Frew McMillan Golden GatersWorld Team Tennis (1974-1978)

Born: 1973 – WTT founding franchise
Folded: March 1979

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owners:

WTT Championships: None

 

The Golden Gaters tennis team was the Bay Area franchise in the co-ed World Team Tennis league of the mid-1970’s.  Of the league’s original 16 franchises that debuted in 1974, the Golden Gaters were one of just two that remained standing in its original city when the league played its final season in 1978. (The Los Angeles Strings were the other).

The league considered the Golden Gaters to be its “San Francisco” franchise, but the team played nearly all of its matches in blue-collar Oakland.  The exception came in 1975, when the Gaters played a handful of playoff dates at the Cow Palace in Daly City.

World Team Tennis packaged tennis as a co-ed team sport played in major hockey arenas across the United States.  Each contest consisted of five matches: a single set of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.  Each game won equated to a point and cumulative team points determined the winner.  The league also dispensed with the stuffy decorum expected on the pro tour.  Loud cheering, rock music and cornball promotions were welcomed in World Team Tennis, often to the shock and befuddlement of the European tour pros who filled the league’s rosters.

The importance of the doubles game to WTT’s scoring system meant that the league attracted a lot of doubles specialists.  South African star Frew McMillan, a doubles champion at Wimbledon, the French Open and the U.S. Open, served as the Golden Gaters player-coach for all five seasons of play.  McMillan would earn WTT Coach-of-the-Year honors in 1975. He was also named the league’s Male Most Valuable Player in 1977 and 1978.

Dutch stars Tom Okker and Betty Stove joined the Gaters in 1975 and helped the team to the first of two straight appearances in the WTT Championship Series.  The Golden Gaters lost in the finals to the Pittsburgh Triangles in 1975 and to the New York Sets in 1976.

Following the 1978 season, the league suffered a crisis of confidence among its investors. Consequently, eight of the ten franchises folded in October and November of 1978.  The Golden Gaters and the Phoenix Racquets hoped to soldier on.  But with just two active clubs remaining, World Team Tennis bowed to reality and shut its doors in March 1979.

World Team Tennis re-booted on a more modest scale in 1981 and returned to Oakland.  But neither the Oakland Breakers (1981-1982) nor the Oakland Aces (1985-1986) managed to rekindle any enthusiasm for the Team Tennis concept. Both clubs evaporated after just a handful of dates at the Coliseum Arena.

 

Golden Gaters Memorabilia

 

Links

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

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1978 Oakland Stompers

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Oakland StompersNorth American Soccer League (1978)

Born: September 1977 – The Connecticut Bicentennials move to Oakland.
Moved:
February 22, 1979 (Edmonton Drillers)

Stadium: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (50,900)

Team Colors: Blue, Burgundy & Gold

Owner: Milan Mandaric and Bill Graham

Soccer Bowl Championships: None

 

The Oakland Stompers were a One-Year Wonder in the North American Soccer League during the a  spring and summer of 1978.  Club founder Milan Mandaric previously started up the NASL’s other Bay Area franchise, the popular San Jose Earthquakes, in 1974.  In late 1977 he divested himself of the Earthquakes and bought the league’s struggling Connecticut Bicentennials club and moved it across the country to the Oakland Coliseum.  It was bold move considering that many at the time wondered if the Bay Area could even support its two Major League Baseball franchises.  But the NASL was riding at a peak of investor enthusiasm in 1978 amidst the belief that pro soccer would be the Sport of the 80’s.

The Stompers identity derived from Northern California’s burgeoning wine industry.  The club’s cheerleading squad was called the “Corkpoppers”.  And the team distributed a free match day supplement called Grapevine to supplement the NASL’s KICK Magazine game programs.

The Stompers, who were ultimately unsuccessful in competition, were best known for signing iconoclast goalkeeper Shep Messing to a $100,000 contract for the 1978 season, which was then the largest contract ever offered to an American-born soccer player.

Messing was the primary goalkeeper on the New York Cosmos’ Soccer Bowl championship team in 1977.  The Harvard-educated goalkeeper was an aggressive self-promoter – he infamously posed nude for Viva magazine in 1974 – but in New York he was overshadowed by the Cosmos’ menagerie of international superstars.  Messing was also a laggard in training and seemed to view leadership as synonymous with antagonizing his head coaches early in his career.  By his own later admission, Messing struggled with technical aspects of the outdoor game, such as dealing with crosses into the box, despite his tremendous reflexes and athleticism.  The Cosmos were willing to let him go (and indeed would repeat as league champions without him in 1978).

Shep Messing SkoalIn Oakland, finally, Messing was the face of the franchise and the subject of most of the club’s national media attention. This included a lengthy profile by J.D. Reed in the July 10th, 1978 issue of Sports Illustrated  But Stompers’ General Manager Dick Berg ripped Messing in the article, noting that his star’s appetite for publicity rare extended to team functions.

“Shep is only interested in his own promotion,” Berg told Reed.  “Every time we have a ticket-selling banquet or a shopping-center promotion set up for him, he threatens to put himself on the injured list.  Chewing tobacco on network television doesn’t put fans in the seats.”

The Stompers made their debut at Oakland Coliseum on April 2, 1978 to an impressive crowd of 32,104.  Messing reportedly rejected Berg’s request to enter the stadium riding atop an elephant.  The big crowd was somewhat misleading as the Stompers were playing their Bay Area rivals, the San Jose Earthquakes.  The Associated Press noted that half of the big crowd appeared to be rooting for San Jose.  The club would never see a home crowd anywhere near that size again.  Eight of the Stompers remaining fourteen home matches at the Coliseum drew fewer than 10,000 fans.

Messing was fantastic in the Stompers’ debut.  Late in the match he stopped a penalty kick from the ‘Quakes Ilija Mitic, the NASL’s all-time leading scorer at the time, to preserve a 0-0 tie.  The NASL didn’t have ties in 1978 though, so after an uneventful 15-minute overtime period, the game was decided by the “Shootout”, which featured five players from each club attempting to score during a timed, undefended breakaway.  Messing turned away four of five shooters from the Quakes.  Rookie Andy Atuegbu, a college standout from the University of San Francisco, and Polish import Franz Smuda found the net for the Stompers in the Shootout to give the hosts a 1-0 opening day triumph.

After a 9-9 start the Stompers wilted through the back end of the 1978 campaign, finishing 12-18 and out of playoff contention.  In late March 1979, on the eve of what would have been the Stompers’ sophomore season, owner Milan Mandaric sold the team to Peter Pocklington, the owner of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team.  Pocklington moved the club to Edmonton and renamed it the Edmonton Drillers.  The Drillers played four seasons before folding in 1982.  The NASL went out of business after the 1984 season.

Mandaric owned several other unsuccessful American soccer clubs in the 1980s’ and 1990’s, mostly in the indoor leagues.  In the 2000’s, he turned his attention to Europe, where he enjoyed much greater success in ownership stints with Portsmouth, Leicester City and Sheffield Wednesday in England.

Former Stompers defender Franz Smuda later became manager of the Polish National Team from 2009 to 2012.

 

Oakland Stompers Shop

Stompers Retro T-Shirt by Ultras


The Short Life & Fast Times of the North American Soccer League by Ian Plenderleith

 

Oakland Stompers Memorabilia

 

Stompers Video

Shep Messing pimps Skoal Tobacco circa 1978:

 

Links

Support Your Local Keeper!” J.D. Reed, Sports Illustrated, July 10, 1978

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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1981-1982 Oakland Breakers

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TeamTennis (1981-1982)

Born: 1981 – WTT founding franchise
Folded: Postseason 1982

Arena: Oakland Coliseum

Team Colors: Blue & Green

Owner: Bill Schoen

 

The Oakland Breakers were one of four original franchises in the low-key, California-only relaunch of World Team Tennis in 1981.  The original World Team Tennis, founded in part by superstar Billie Jean King, existed from 1974 to 1978 and included a Bay Area franchise known as the “Golden Gaters”.  The Breakers, like the Gaters before them, made their home at the Oakland Coliseum.

The original league played 44-game, four-month long summer seasons and succeeded in luring many of the top players of the era, especially on the women’s side.  In addition to King, the original World Team Tennis signed Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Evonne Goolagong, Ilie Nastase and Martina Navratilova among others.  But the league collapsed under its own weight in late 1978.

King and her then-husband Larry King re-booted the league in 1981 on a modest footing.  The season was only three weeks long and the four participating clubs were all in California.  In addition to Oakland, there were Team Tennis franchises in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Diego.  King served as player-coach of the Oakland Breakers and was the league’s only household name, other than Navratilova, who played for the Los Angeles Strings.  Other members of the 1981 Breakers included Fritz Buehning,Phil Dent andAnn Kiyomura.

The Breakers returned in 1982 with an entirely new cast of characters.  King departed and was supposed to be replaced by her former mixed doubles partner from the 1970 French Open, South African Bob Hewitt.  But Hewitt left the team shortly before the season and was replaced by Larry Stefanki.  The all-new Breakers players for 1982 included Leslie Allen, Rosie Casals and Peter Rennert.

The team folded after the 1982 season.  Oakland got a new World Team Tennis franchise in 1985 – the Oakland Aces – but that team would also last only two money-losing summers at the Coliseum before going out of business.  World Team Tennis remains active enters its 34th season in 2014.

Bob Hewitt, intended to be the Breakers star attraction in 1982, had his plaque removed  from the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2012 in the wake of a Boston Globe article that alleged Hewitt sexually assaulted and harassed numerous young girls from the 1970’s through the 1990’s.  The disgraced former champion currently faces a rape trial in South Africa scheduled to start in May 2014.

 

==Links==

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

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Written by AC

March 16th, 2014 at 1:24 am

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