Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1975 San Diego Sails

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San Diego SailsAmerican Basketball Association (1975)

Born: June 1975 – Re-branded from San Diego Conquistadors
Folded: November 11, 1975

Arena: San Diego Sports Arena

Team Colors:

Owner: Frank Goldberg & Bud Fischer

ABA Championships: None


San Diego furniture dealers Frank Goldberg and Bud Fischer took over the American Basketball Association’s long-troubled San Diego Conquistadors franchise in June 1975. ABA executives undoubtedly hoped the pair could work the same magic on the debt-ridden Q’s that they had with the league’s Denver Nuggets franchise. Those hopes were misplaced.

Goldberg and Fischer bought the ABA’s 5-year old Denver Rockets franchise in 1972. In their first full season of ownership, the Rockets finished tied for last place with the always woeful Conquistadors. The new owners then presided over a remarkable transformation. They re-branded the team as the Denver Nuggets in 1974. On the court, the Nuggets enjoyed a stunning reversal of fortune. Attendance jumped 50% while the Nuggets went 40-2 at home in 1974-75. Then, just as the Nuggets prepared to move into state-of-the-art McNichols Arena in 1975, Goldberg and Fischer sold the team to local investors and went home to take ownership of the horrid Conquistadors.

As they did in Denver, Goldberg and Fischer euthanized the brand identity of a last place club. The Conquistadors name, in dubious taste to begin with, was dumped during the summer of 1975. In its place came the “San Diego Sails” along with a jaunty new green, blue and white color palette. The team also had a stable lease at the 14,000-seat San Diego Sports Arena. This was in contrast to the Q’s who spent their first two seasons wandering around in small gyms thanks to a dispute with Sports Arena impresario Peter Graham.

But San Diego was not Denver. Goldberg and Fischer’s financial resources were depleted by big spending on the Nuggets’ 1974-75 roster upgrades and by an ill-conceived investment in a World Team Tennis franchise, the Denver Racquets. There would be no worst-to-first revival of the Q’s/Sails. The ABA itself was on its last legs heading into the 1975-76 campaign. The league’s Memphis franchise – another chronic headache – moved to Baltimore, only to embarrass the ABA by folding during training camp four days before the regular season opener.

The Sails’ first game at the Arena was a showcase: an inter-league exhibition against the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and their superstar center Bill Walton on October 15, 1975. But the contest failed to whet the appetites of local fans. Only 3,060 showed up for the Sails’ regular season debut on October 24, 1975 against Goldberg & Fischer’s former team, the Denver Nuggets.

The league schedule saw the Sails play much of the first month of the season on the road. By November 11th, the Sails’ record stood at 3-8. The team had played just three games at home with a combined attendance of only 7,126 fans. By now, the main focus of ABA clubs was pursuing a merger with the NBA. The Sails owners lost confidence in being included in an eventual merger deal. They folded the team on November 11, 1975 after playing just 11 games.

After the Sails’ demise, the club’s roster was put out to auction among the ABA’s eight remaining clubs. Guard Bo Lamar, and big men Mark Olberding and Dave Robisch were the only Sails players to receive bids. The exception was the team’s best player, All-Star center Caldwell Jones. ABA Commissioner Dave DeBusschere held Jones out of the auction as a “special case”. His contract was sold to the Kentucky Colonels in a separate transaction shortly thereafter.

The ABA’s troubled 1975-76 season ground on. The Utah Stars folded three weeks after the Sails on December 2, 1975 – the third ABA franchise to fold since the opening of training camp in October. The league folded in the spring of 1976, after four of the surviving seven teams were admitted via merger into the NBA.


San Diego Sails Shop

Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto


San Diego Sails Memorabilia


In Memoriam

Head coach Bill Musselman passed away on May 5, 2000 at the age of 59. New York Times obituary.

Guard Bob Warren died on August 25, 2014 at age 68. The Tennessean obituary.

All-Star Center Caldwell Jones died of a heart attack on September 21, 2014. He was 64 years old. New York Times obituary.



American Basketball Association Media Guides

American Basketball Association Programs


1967 Los Angeles Toros

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Los Angeles TorosNational Professional Soccer League (1967)

Born: 1967 – NPSL founding franchise
Moved: 1968 (San Diego Toros)

Stadium: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (93,000)

Team Colors: Red & Black

Owner: Dan Reeves & Clarence Martin

NPSL Championships: None


The Los Angeles Toros were a One-Year Wonder in the start-up National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) in 1967. The team was part of a soccer war between the NPSL and another 1967 start-up, the United Soccer Association (USA). Both leagues placed franchises into the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in the spring of 1967. The Toros, owned by L.A. Rams owner Dan Reeves, fought for fans and prime dates against the USA’s Los Angeles Wolves, backed by L.A. Lakers and Kings chief Jack Kent Cooke.

The Toros finished 1967 in last place in the NPSL’s Western Division with a league-worst 7-10-15 mark. Attendance of 3,595 per game was 8th best in the 10-team circuit. 20-year old Brazilian striker Eli Durante finished 4th in the NPSL in scoring with 15 goals and 5 assists.

After the 1967 season, the NPSL and the USA merged to form the North American Soccer League. Jack Kent Cooke’s Wolves club kept the L.A. market and the Toros moved south to become the San Diego Toros for the 1968 NASL season. The team went out of business after one last season in San Diego in 1968.

Trivia: the General Manager of the Wolves was Yugoslav ex-patriate footballer, restaurateur and occasional actor Dan Tana, proprietor of the famous late-night Hollywood eatery Dan Tana’s. Robert Urich’s character Dan Tanna in the 1970’s private detective drama Vega$ was named after the Toros exec.


Los Angeles Toros Slider


In Memoriam

Goalkeeper Blagoje Vidinic passed away on December 29, 2006 at the age of 72.



National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs


1967 Pittsburgh Phantoms

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1967 National Professional Soccer League YearbookNational Professional Soccer League (1967)

Born: 1967 – NPSL founding franchise
Folded: 1968

Stadium: Forbes Field (35,714)

Team Colors: Purple & White

Owners: Peter Block & Richard George, et al.

NPSL Championships: None


The Pittsburgh Phantoms soccer team played for a single season at Forbes Field in the summer of 1967. The Phantoms were one of ten original franchises in the National Professional Soccer League, a circuit formed in the wake of the 1966 World Cup, the first to be broadcast in the United States. Peter Block and Richard George, a pair of 32-year old stockholders in the city’s new NHL franchise, the Pittsburgh Penguins, headed the Phantoms 20-man ownership group.

The Phantoms endured a bumpy campaign, cycling through four coaches en route to a 10-14-7 5th place finish. The team also suffered several losses in the courtroom. The worst was a $50,000 settlement paid to Sparta Rotterdam for signing 27-year old defender Theo Laseroms while he was still under contract to the Dutch club.

FGerman striker Manfred Rummel paced the team in scoring with 14 goals and 4 assists. Former Dutch National Team player and Ajax star Co Prins earned a bid to the NPSL’s post-season All-Star team at forward, Pittsburgh’s only selection. Prins also briefly served as head coach of the club.

The Phantoms folded after the 1967 season citing a $750,000 financial loss.

In 1994, a Roller Hockey International franchise called the Pittsburgh Phantoms began play at the Civic Arena. Like the soccer Phantoms of the 1960’s, the roller hockey Phantoms were backed financially by the owners of the Pittsburgh Penguins and lasted for only one season.


Pittsburgh Phantoms Shop

Phantoms Logo T-Shirt by Ultras

Pittsburgh Phantoms Memorabilia


In Memoriam

Player-coach Co Prins died of a heart attack while playing soccer on September 26, 1987. Prins was 49.

Defender Theo Laseroms suffered a fatal heart attack on April 25, 1991 at age 51.

Phantoms co-owner Peter Block died of cancer at age 82 on December 13, 2015. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obituary.

Striker Manfred Rummel passed on July 27, 2017 at age 79.



National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs


Written by Drew Crossley

January 30th, 2018 at 12:20 pm

1967 Chicago Spurs

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Chicago SpursNational Professional Soccer League (1967)

Born: 1967 – NPSL founding franchise
Moved: January 1968 (Kansas City Spurs)

Stadium: Soldier Field (100,000)

Team Colors: Red & White with Blue trim

Owner: William Cutler & Al Kaczmarek

NPSL Championships: None


The Chicago Spurs were one of ten founding franchises in the outlaw (non-FIFA sanctioned) National Professional Soccer League launched in 1967. The club finished 10-11-11 in their lone season of competition and failed to make the playoffs. The team was also a flop at the box office, attracting fewer than 3,000 fans per match to 100,000-seat Soldier Field.

Following the 1967 season, the NPSL merged with the rival United Soccer Association to form the North American Soccer League. The USA had a Windy City franchise as well, the Chicago Mustangs. The Spurs moved to Kansas City in January 1968 while the Mustangs took the Chicago slot in the NASL.

The Spurs played three more seasons in Kansas City and won the NASL title in 1969. The club closed down after the 1970 season.


Chicago Spurs Memorabilia



National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs


Written by Drew Crossley

January 30th, 2018 at 11:27 am

1967 Philadelphia Spartans

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Philadelphia SpartansNational Professional Soccer League (1967)

Born: 1967 – NPSL founding franchise
Folded: January 6, 1968

Stadium: Temple University Stadium (20,000)

Team Colors: Maroon & Gold

Owners: Art Rooney, Patrick Rooney, John Macartney

NPSL Championships: None


The Philadelphia Spartans were a One-Year Wonder pro soccer entry in the National Professional Soccer League during the summer of 1967. The Rooney family, owners of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, were the financial backers of the club. The NPSL also had a Pittsburgh franchise, the Phantoms, but they were owned by the ownership group of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team.

The team finished 14-9-9 in their only season of play. Although good enough for a second place finish in the NPSL’s Eastern Division, the Spartans did not make the playoffs. The NPSL’s postseason format saw the league’s two regular season division winners advance directly to a two-game championship series.

The Spartans 34-year old Argentine midfielder Ruben Navarro was named the NPSL’s Most Valuable player in 1967, despite scoring only one goal. Fellow Argentine Orlando Garro led the club in scoring with 12 goals and 2 assists.

The Rooney family folded the Spartans in January 1968 citing operating losses of half a million dollars.

A different version of the Philadelphia Spartans began play in the lower-division American Soccer League in 1969 and played until 1972.


Philadelphia Spartans Memorabilia


In Memoriam

Spartans owner Arthur J. Rooney died on August 25, 1988 at age 87. New York Times obituary.

Argentine defender Ruben Navarro, the NPSL’s 1967 MVP, passed away on July 14, 2003 at the age of 70.



National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs




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