Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1967-1977 St. Louis Stars

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St. Louis Stars NASLNational Professional Soccer League (1967)
North American Soccer League (1968-1977)

Born: 1967 – NPSL founding franchise
Moved: October 1977 (California Surf)

Stadia:

  • 1967-1968: Busch Memorial Stadium (50,000)
  • 1969-1970: Francis Field
  • 1971-1974: Busch Memorial Stadium
  • 1975-1977: Francis Field

Team Colors: Red & White with Blue Piping (1967)

Owner: Robert Hermann, et al.

NPSL Championships: None
NASL Championships: None

 

The St. Louis Stars were the first professional soccer team to make their home in the Gateway City. Relatively speaking, the Stars were a beacon of stability in the turbulent American pro soccer scene of the late 1960’s and 1970’s. Of the 22 American pro clubs that began play during the country’s 1967 pro soccer boom, only the Dallas Tornado (1967-1981) outlived the Stars.

The Stars began play as one of ten original franchises in the National Professional Soccer League. The first Stars club in 1967 consisted largely of European imports, including a large number of Yugoslavian players. The team was competitive, finishing 2nd in the NPSL’s Western Division with a 14-11-7 record. Only the two divisional champions advanced to the NPSL’s two-game championship playoff, so the Stars were left out of the postseason. St. Louis was the most popular of the league’s ten clubs at the turnstiles, attracting average crowds of 7,613 per match to the city’s Major League Baseball stadium.

After the 1967 season, the NPSL merged with its rival, the United Soccer Association, to form the North American Soccer League.  17 clubs took part in the 1968 NASL season. But league investors pulled out en masse at the end of the year, reducing the NASL to just 5 clubs for 1969. The Stars were one of the few survivors who struggled onward into the 1970’s. The team departed Busch Stadium for the cheaper, more appropriately scaled confines of Francis Field on the campus of Washington University. Attendance dipped to around 2,000 per match at the start of the new decade.

Beginning in 1969 the Stars began to focus on recruiting local St. Louis players. This was a departure from the rest of the NASL, which became known as something of a retirement home for aging Englishmen of the era. St. Louis University was a soccer powerhouse throughout the 1960’s and into the early 70’s. The Americanization approach helped the Stars earn a loyal (if still small-ish) core audience. Attendance began to rebound hitting a new high of 7,773 per match in 1972. The Stars also reached the NASL final for the only time in 1972, losing 2-1 to the New York Cosmos.

The team reached peak Americanization in 1974 when the entire roster consisted of U.S. citizens with the exception of English player-coach John Sewell. In 1975, the team would gradually begin to add more foreign players, including Peter Bonetti, the reserve goalkeeper on England’s 1966 World Cup champion team. But the bulk of the Stars roster would always remain American.

The club continued to bounce back and forth from Busch Stadium to Francis Field throughout the 1970’s. Attendance peaked at 9,794 per match in 1977. But this proved to be the team’s last season in St. Louis. The club moved to Anaheim, California in October 1977.

College soccer’s Hermann Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s best male and female players, is named in honor of Stars founder and long-time patron Robert Hermann.

 

St. Louis Stars Shop

Rock n’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life & Fast Times of the North American Soccer League by Ian Plenderleith

 

St. Louis Stars Memorabilia

 

Stars Video

 

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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1979-1988 St. Louis Steamers

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Carl Rose St. Louis SteamersMajor Indoor Soccer League (1979-1988)

Born: July 31, 1979 – MISL expansion franchise
Folded: June 22, 1988

Arena: The Checkerdome / St. Louis Arena

Team Colors:

Owners:

MISL Championships: None

 

Text coming soon…

 

St. Louis Steamers Shop


Steamers Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max

 

St. Louis Steamers Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Steamers goalkeeper Slobo Ilijevski (1980-1988) died of a ruptured aorta during an amateur soccer game on July 14, 2008. He was 58 years old.

Ian Anderson (Steamers ’82-’83) passed away November 5, 2008 at age 54 in Scotland.

 

St. Louis Steamers Video

1984-85 St. Louis Steamers promo video:

 

1979-1981 St. Louis Streak

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Women’s Professional Basketball League (1979-1981)

Founded: 1979 – WPBL expansion franchise
Folded: Postseason 1981

Arena: Kiel Auditorium

Team Colors:

Owner: Vince Gennaro

WPBL Championships: None

 

The St. Louis Streak were a two-season entry in the pioneering Women’s Professional Basketball League (1979-1981), the first professional hoops league for female players.  The Streak entered the WPBL as an expansion franchise during the league’s second season and played their home games at Kiel Auditorium, the former home of the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks.

The Streak’s finest player was a 28-year old first-time pro from Canada named Liz Silcott.  “Liz The Whiz” had a tempestuous history with the Canadian National Team, from which she was repeatedly dropped and reinstated during the 1970’s.  Silcott was viewed by many as an emotionally immature, un-coachable player and despised teammate who loathed practice and had little interest in defense.  She was also, without doubt, one of the most talent players of her era.  Silcott didn’t play during the first season of the WPBL in 1978-79, but signed a $6,000 contract to play for St. Louis in the 1979-80 season.

Silcott’s dreadful habits were on full display in the Streak’s training camp and she quickly came to loggerheads with the team’s fire-breathing Head Coach Larry Gillman.  Gillman was a 30-year screamer from the men’s college ranks who was viewed by Streak players with a mixture of fear and loathing, according to Karra Porter, author of the definitive WPBL history, Mad Seasons.

“<Gillman> is the worst that ever lived,” former University of Maryland star Martha Hastings put it simply to Porter, describing her experience with the Streak in their first season.  Others were harsher.

“Let me tell you the man had “666” written across his skull,” former Streak player Ann Platte told Porter.

Silcott went home to Canada in training camp and the Streak started their debut season 0-4 without her.  Then Silcott returned in late 1979 and led the Streak on a 10-2 run, which included a league record 50-point performance at home against the Minnesota Fillies.  The local press began to take notice of the team, which offered a public platform for Silcott and Gillman to continue their bickering.

By February 1980, the Streak were contenders, but coach and star were at a breaking point.  Silcott, the WPBL’s leading scorer at 33.1 ppg, was shipped off to the San Francisco Pioneers for a lowly 5th round draft pick and a role player who refused to report to St. Louis.  Essentially, Silcott was given away for nothing.  Without Liz the Whiz, the Streak collapsed and finished in last place with a 15-21 record.

Silcott finished the season on the suspended list for the San Francisco Pioneers after exhibiting the same recurring behavioral problems in her new surroundings.  She finished the 1979-80 season as the WPBL’s second leading scorer  -and never played another pro season.  In 1986, a former college professor spotted Silcott living in Montreal’s Dorval Airport and muttering incoherently about confronting the Prime Minister of Canada.  She was later diagnosed with a long-standing psychiatric illness.  According to Mad Seasons author Karra Porter, as of the mid-2000’s, Silcott lives in a group home in Canada, on medication and a disability pension and with little memory of her basketball career.

The Streak came back for a second season under Larry Gillman and fielded a team with eight rookies.  The team remained uncompetitive and finished out of the playoffs with a 14-21 record.  At the end of the 1980-81 season, the Streak folded along with the rest of the league.

Streak owner Vince Gennaro was a young businessman with a passion for baseball and data analytics.  He became an early champion of the Sabermetrics movement in baseball.   Today he is the President of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and a consultant to Major League Baseball clubs.

 

St. Louis Streak Shop

Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women’s Professional Basketball League 1978-1981 by Karra Porter

Links

Women’s Professional Basketball League Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs

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Written by AC

October 6th, 2013 at 1:11 am

1985 St. Louis Slims

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TeamTennis (1985)

Born: 1985 TeamTennis expansion franchise
Folded:
Postseason 1985

Arena: St. Louis Arena

Team Colors:

Owner: Harry Ornest

TeamTennis Championships: None

 

The St. Louis Slims were a One-Year Wonder that played in the Domino’s Pizza TeamTennis league at the St. Louis Arena during the summer of 1985.  (Yes, that was the league’s official name that summer – it would later revert back to World Team Tennis, as a better-publicized predecessor league was known during the 1970’s).

The league in 1985 consisted of eight teams, each with two male and two female players from the pro tour.  Players received no salary, but earned between $2,500 and $60,000 for a month’s work from an incentive package based on wins.  The total prize purse for all 32 players was only $400,000, which meant that no major stars took part in the league during the 1985 season.  The best known star in the league was 36-year Rosie Casals of the Chicago Fire.  (The Miami Beach Breakers also featured a pre-stardom 15-year old Gabriela Sabatini that summer).

The Slims roster was typical of the journeymen nature of the league.  The Slims featured Sandy Collins, John Mattke, Terry Moor and Candy Reynolds.

The Slims played a brief 14-match schedule between July 10 and August 13, 1985.  TeamTennis matches consists of five single sets – one each of men’s and women’s singles and doubles, plus a mixed doubles set.

The Slims were owned by St. Louis Blues owner Harry Ornest.  Ornest’s son Maury owned the league’s San Diego Buds franchise during the same summer.  Neither Ornest returned for the 1986 season, folding both the Slims and the Buds after one summer of operation.

World Team Tennis continues to operate today, opening its 33rd season later this month.

 

==Links==

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

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Written by AC

July 17th, 2013 at 1:02 am

1993-1999 St. Louis Vipers

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Roller Hockey International (1993-1997, 1999)

Born: 1993 – RHI founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1999 – RHI ceases operations.

Arenas:

Team Colors:Red, Black & Yellow Gold

Owners: Bernie Federko, Dale Turvey, et al.

 

The St. Louis Vipers were one of 12 original franchises in Roller Hockey International, which began play during the summer of 1993.  RHI was an attempt to cash in on the inline skating phenomenon of the early 1990’s and the league did establish a minor footprint in the middle of the decade, securing an ESPN/ESPN2 contract and attracting investment from a few NHL owners, including Dr. Jerry Buss and Howard Baldwin.

Longtime St. Louis Blues star Bernie Federko was the frontman for the Vipers’ ownership group and also served as the team’s Head Coach for the 1993 and 1994 seasons.  Another Blues connection was Perry Turnbull, the #2 overall pick in the 1979 NHL amateur draft, who played two stints with the Blues between 1979 and 1988.  Turnbull finished out his playing career with the Vipers in 1993 and 1994 and then took over head coaching duties from Federko in 1995.

The Vipers played their first two seasons at the old St. Louis Arena, before moving to the brand new Kiel Center in 1995.

Most of the Vipers’  players were ice hockey minor leaguers keeping in shape and pocketing extra money during the offseason.  The Vipers all-time leading scorer was Christian Skoryna (118 goals) was a typical story.  Skoryna came to RHI out of junior hockey after being passed over in the NHL draft.  He played all six seasons that RHI existed and later played six years of pro ice hockey, almost entirely in low-level independent leagues.

RHI was a chronically unstable league, with teams coming and going in large numbers every season.  The Vipers were one of the most stabled franchise.  Along with the Anaheim Bullfrogs, they were one of only two clubs to survive for all six seasons that RHI existed from 1993 to 1999.  But the Vipers weren’t immune to the league’s problems.  According to a December 1996 St. Louis Business Journal profile, the franchise lost $1.5 million over its first four seasons of operation and required a lifeline from the owners of the St. Louis Blues and the Kiel Center to return for a fifth season in 1997.

After the 1997 season, RHI suspended operations and cancelled the 1998 campaign.  The league re-organized under former Major League Baseball executive Bernie Mullin and managed to get a chaotic and under-capitalized 1999 season off the ground.  The Vipers returned from the one-year layoff and won the final Murphy Cup championship in the summer of 1999.  Roller Hockey International died of exhaustion shortly thereafter.

 

==YouTube==

The Vipers host the Buffalo Stampede at Kiel Arena in 1995.

 

==Links==

Roller Hockey International Media Guides

Roller Hockey International Programs

St. Louis Vipers All-Time Roster on HockeyDB.com

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