By Phil Hecken, with John Pulsinelle
Readers will recall several weeks ago, John Pulsinelle graced us with a wonderful post on pro football teams that never took the field, which generated a flurry of comments (on UW as well as on Twitter), and several commenters unearthed additional teams than also never took the field. In a few back-and-forths I had with John, we decided a follow-up column (as opposed to say, a sub-lede) would be the best way to address all of these. So I’m pleased to again bring John back with with what we’ll simply call…
Pro Football Teams that Never Took the Field ”˜2’
By John Pulsinelle
Thank you, Uni Watch readers, for the feedback and additional team suggestions. What a terrific group of football historians! There were certainly enough omissions from the original post to warrant a ”˜Pro Football Teams that Never took the Field, ”˜2’. Finding information for many of these additions was certainly challenging, but discovering even morsels of material was most rewarding. Let’s start with the NFL.
The Memphis Kings were introduced to the NFL in 1971 by a prominent group of African-American businessmen and entertainers including Sammy Davis Jr. and Sidney Poitier. ”˜Kings’ was selected in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King and the city of Memphis in memory of his assassination in 1968.
According to a Sept. 1971 Jet Magazine article, “early reports from Boston indicated that the Memphis franchise would not have an all-Black team, but would have ownership and management positions, including that of head coach, manned by Blacks”. According to rumor, all-time Cleveland Brown great Jim Brown, and Hall of Fame Baltimore Colts tight end John Mackey were to have top positions with the team.
Unfortunately I was unable to find additional information about the Kings to track their journey and eventual demise.
There would be another King in town, or at least a proposed one; this time in the great Northwest. Headed by Minnesota businessman Wayne Field, the Seattle Sea Lions investment group was founded. Of note, establishment of this group coincided with the 1968 King County voter’s approval to issue $40M in municipal bonds to construct the Seattle Kingdome (officially King County Multipurpose Domed Stadium).
Former Washington Husky and NFL Hall of Fame great Hugh McElhenny joined the Sea Lions group in 1971. Soon after McEllenny’s hire, the Sea Lions would become the Kings. It’s unclear why the name was changed, but clearly a number of factors would influence it; Kingdome stadium located on King Street in King County, and not to mention McElhenny’s playing day nickname ”˜The King’.
The Kings would later gain additional backing from Edward Nixon, brother of former president Richard Nixon. Nixon’s stated to a New York Times reporter, “it is a delight for me to announce that I have joined Wayne Field and Hugh McElhenny as one of the new owners of the Seattle Kings … my family has intense interest in all sports, but especially in professional football”. Even with Nixon in their corner, the investment group could not “go the distance”. Their match, Seattle Professional Football, Inc., formed by a group of Seattle businesses and community leaders.
The NFL would award the franchise to Seattle Professional Football, Inc. two years later. The nickname Seahawks was the result of a public naming contest. According to reports, the Kings were undercapitalized. Their speculated expansion cost of $10M skyrocketed to $16M at time of entry.
Another investment group led by former NFL and CFL player Rommie Loudd appeared on scene in 1973 with hopes of placing an NFL franchise in Orlando Florida. The team was to be known as the Florida Suns. Unfortunately the Suns ”˜NFL’ journey fell short, missing the ”˜cut’ in February 1974. Although decisions about expansion would be delayed (until late April), the NFL ”˜narrowed the field’ of city expansion candidates to five. Unfortunately for Loudd’s group, Orlando was not one of them. The prospective cities included Honolulu, Seattle, Memphis, Phoenix, and Tampa.
After Loudd’s opportunity with the NFL ended, his investment group continued to seek opportunities with the newly formed WFL. Aware of a declining opportunity in Washington, league president Gary Davidson put Loudd in touch with Joseph Wheeler. Wheeler’s fading attempt in Washington, Baltimore, and Virginia eventually led to the sale of his team to Loudd’s group. Discussion of Wheeler’s franchise (Washington Ambassadors) is cited in previous article. The team name would remain the Florida Suns until it was discovered that ”˜Suns’ (or Sun) was already righted to Larry Hatfield and his Southern California Sun franchise. Loudd changed the team name to the Florida Blazers. Loudd’s Blazers would go on to dominate the WFL Eastern Division with a 14-6 record and participate in the one and only World Bowl. Of note, Loudd became the first African-American senior executive of a professional team in North America.
My NFL research concludes with the Arizona Firebirds. Founded in 1984, the Arizona investment group included former American Football League Commissioner Joe Foss, and team President Robert Whitlow. Whitlow had former ties to the World Hockey Association. The ownership later announced former Green Bay Packer QB great Bart Starr as head coach and director of football operations.
The Firebirds would face competition from the USFL Arizona Wranglers owner Bill Tatham Jr’s group, but it would be Bill Bidwell’s announcement to move his St. Louis Cardinal franchise to Arizona to end the Firebirds hope.
My research now moves to a different season (spring to be exact) and different league. If you haven’t already guessed it’s the USFL. The story of The Spirit of Miami starts with the plight of the Washington Federals. Starting their USFL debut season with a rough 4-14 start, season two offered even less hope. According to sportsencyclopedia.com, “their future was summed up in the first game of season as they suffered a 53-14 humiliating loss to the expansion Jacksonville Bulls. Following the loss all three starting linebackers were cut and Ray Jauch (head coach) was fired.”
Fan support for season two was almost nonexistent, averaging only 7,700 fans per game including a record low 4,432 against the Memphis Showboats. With six games left, owner Berl Bernhard gave up and sold his franchise to real estate developer Woody Weiser. Weiser announced his plans to move the Federals to Miami renaming the franchise The Spirit of Miami. Weiser’s plans were dampened with the August 22, 1984 announcement to move the USFL to the fall. Weiser knew he couldn’t compete with the NFL Miami Dolphins and terminated the deal.
Fortunate for Bernhard, a Tampa Bay Bandits part owner would come to the rescue. Don Dizney went on to purchase the Federals and moved the team to Orlando. The Federals were renamed the Orlando Renegades and would participate in their one and only 1985 final season of the USFL.
My research continues with our neighbors to the north. In May, 1982, the CFL board of governors collectively approved a conditional expansion franchise to the Maritime Professional Football Club. Seeking a team name that would recognize the four Atlantic Provinces, team executives J. Albrecht and John Donaval selected the Atlantic Schooners. Other name considerations included the Atlantic Storm and the Atlantic Windjammers. Attractive team colors (or colours) included silver, maritime blue, nautical brass, and white.
Scheduled to kick-off in 1984, the Schooners proposed to construct a $6M, 34,000 seat stadium on a leased parcel of land in the city of Dartmouth. Unfortunately the ownership group was unable to meet the financial obligations for the new stadium and comply with the league’s deadline for completion. Regrettably, the ownership group was forced to withdraw their franchise application in June, 1983.
Similar to my initial post, my article concludes with an entire professional football league. Fittingly referred to as ”˜The First NFL Europe’, the Intercontinental Football League (IFL) provided outline for the NFL to promote their product abroad. Origin for NFL globalization appeared to start in May, 1972. According to Wikipedia, “forty-two players (including Dan Pastorini, Bob Hayes, Jim Kiick, Jan Stenerud, Alan Page, Matt Snell and Merlin Olsen) had demonstrated ‘le rugby Americaini before 8,000 in Paris. NFL Bleu beat NFL Rouge that day, 16-6, in a game that closely followed the script. Two years later, interest in overseas play was revived.”
The teams were announced at a 1974 NFL press conference. There the NFL decided on six European cities divided in two divisions. One of the divisions was to include the cities of Munich, West Berlin, and Vienna (all German speaking). Barcelona, Rome, and Istanbul were to make up the second division. Each of the teams rosters were to include NFL rookies and reserve players, ”˜borrowed’ star players from NFL teams, and local European soccer stars to handle the kicking game. The proposed team nicknames follow.
- Munich Lions (Germany)
- Vienna Lipizzaners (Austria)
- Berlin Bears (Germany)
- Rome Gladiators (Italy)
- Barcelona Almogovares (Spain)
- Istanbul Conquerors (Turkey)
Planned expansion for the 1976 season included the following teams;
- Paris Lafayettes (France)
- Copenhagen Vikings (Denmark)
- Rotterdam Flying Dutchman (Netherlands)
- Milan Centurions (Italy)
The IFL eventually met its fate at an NFL owners meeting in March, 1975. According to a ”˜Coffin Corner’ article, Commissioner Rozelle reported “the state of the economy, both in the United States and Europe, made such a project impractical at this time.” Wikipedia adds, “Europe just wasn’t ready for American football, competition with the World Football League, and the NFL player strike that summer” contributed to the final decision. The following photo and graphics define some of the nicknames that could be unfamiliar. We can only imagine what the logos might have looked like had these teams fully materialized.
This concludes my research for Part 2 of “Pro Football Teams that Never Took the Field”, at least until you fine historians uncover others.
Thanks John — and great job on following up with all those who added to your original post!
In Search of…
…the “Perfect” Baseball Card
Earlier this year, I ran a post in which reader Ray Hund described his quest — and “rules” — for a “Perfect” baseball card. I had asked readers to submit their own submissions for what they considered to be their own version of the perfect card. I’ll run these periodically. If you have a submission for your own “Perfect” baseball card, shoot me an email with a short(ish) writeup and of course, an image (or images) of your own perfect card.
We begin today with Mark Rybczyk:
By far, the most perfect card, in my opinion: 1991 Topps Roger Clemens.
First, I love that Topps used the team’s font for their ’91 cards. Secondly, Clemens leaning against the iconic Green Monster next to the phrase Strike Out. I’ve seen that scoreboard a million times, but I never put the word’s ”˜Strike’ and ”˜Out’ together until I saw this card. Plus, I have always love when Topps shows a horizontal photos, which they usually only reserve for star players.
The moment I unwrapped this, I thought it to be the perfect baseball card.
And we conclude today with Bryan Moore:
The quintessential baseball card for me is the 1991 Benito Santiago Topps Card. I was 8 years old when this set debuted and while I can remember opening cards with my mother as far back as 1986, this is the first set I collected in its entirety through packs obtained over the year in trips to the grocery store and hobby shops.
I distinctly remember a baseball magazine given to little league players in the summer of that year featuring a review of the Top-10 Topps cards of the year. Among these cards were a fantastic Clemens card featuring the Rocket leaning against the Green Monster, a surreal Wade Boggs low-angle batting stance with a billowing cloud backdrop, and this Santiago gem, of which the author described his utter delight in the high angle shot of Santiago about to snag a high popped ball and marveled in the contrast of brown and white and that the dirt “looked so brown!”
To this day, whenever I think of anyone mentioning visually pleasing cards, this is the first one to pop to mind. The brown and orange borders on white trim perfectly match the brown and white of Santiago’s uniform and the aforementioned dirt and chalk lines. The warm browns seem to pop against the cool blue in the shadowing of Santiago and the focused expression on his face has this oddly calm but intense feel to it that I always found captivating.
Interestingly enough, a similar image was used on the cover of a Sports Illustrated baseball preview that year, praising Benny Santiago as one of the game’s rising stars.
I almost ran out of submissions, but a couple of you stepped up to the plate this week with some new ones, but if you guys want to keep this little show & tell going, please send me your “perfect” card, my e-mail address is above.
In Case You Missed It…Paul’s Latest ESPN Piece
At first glance, Chris Paul and David West don’t appear to have much in common. But Paul and West share an unusual uni-related distinction: They are the last two NBA players to have worn a captain’s “C” on their jerseys. It happened in 2011, when they served as co-captains for the New Orleans Hornets.
In case you missed it on Friday, Paul’s latest ESPN column looks back at NBA players who’ve worn the captain’s “C” (including the 10 players who’ve done so for the Bucks, by far the most of any team).
If you didn’t read Paul’s latest piece, here ya go.
Good stuff there!
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: At the Baseball Hall of Fame: a stunning artifact tells an important story in U.S. history. This one is a must read (h/t Tom Shieber). … This was in my twitter stream, and it’s too good not to share: A fantastic Wrigley Field scoreboard photo taken by Paul Plaine from 40 years ago. … We’ve seen this before, but once again couldn’t hurt: This uniform that never was and plaque by the Washington Nationals at Nats Park tells a great story; also see how it was shown in this 1974 Topps card (from Rob Bergeron). … You always wanted to see Babe Ruth in a sombrero, right? Of course you did (h/t Bruce Menard). … Here’s a couple of Cinco de Mayo caps for the San Diego Padres (from Maximiliano”). … I know we’ve seen photos before (on here) of the Cleveland ballclub wearing red pants with white tops (from their Caveman days), but now that photo has made it into Bill Henderson’s Gameworn Guide (good spot by Robert Hayes). … Here’s a gorgeous shot of 18-year old phenom Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians as he waits to take a few cuts at Fenway Park, 1937 (from Alex Cheremeteff”). And here’s another great photo form Alex: Bobby Doerr (Red Sox) & Eric McNair (White Sox) @ Fenway Park, 1939. Former teammates — Doerr replaced McNair at 2B for Boston in 1937. … I’m not a sneaker guy, and certainly not a Vans guy, but apparently Vans with MLB logos are now a thing (from Zane Tuck). … These Omaha Storm Chasers Boba Fett jerseys were outstanding — they wore them for last evening! … Here’s a look at the jerseys in ‘action’. And check out the closeup of the cap logo! … North Carolina baseball is pretty proud of their jerseys and they’d like you to let them know (from James Gilbert). … Check out these great caps the Portland Sea Dogs have (from MiLB Promos). … “I’m sure we’ve seen this but the Cubs gave Derek Jeter a 2 from the scoreboard when he retired,” says Chris Howell. … The Frisco Rough Riders wore these jerseys for Cinco de Mayo. … I know you want to just grab the first image that comes up in a google search, CBS New York, but that Marlins logo is like…six years old (good spot by Dan Snider). … Our buddy Chris Creamer has a look at the 2017 World Series & Post Season logos, from the 2017 Umpire Media Guide. … Great thrift job by Andrew Jenkins who picked up this 1980’s Cleveland Indians Stadium Usher jacket, complete with Red White and Blue piping. … The Orix Buffaloes went retro again, to Hankyu Braves, their name from 1947-1988 (Hankyu BigDaddy45). … Because yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, the Albuquerque Isotopes became LOS Isotopes. Sigh. … Color on color matchup last night in Minneapolis between the Sawx and Twinks — also notice the score bug has the opposite color scheme (from Aaron Grossman). … Definitely takes some getting used to, seeing the Twins in red (h/t Paul Francis “Sully” Sullivan… “Embedded in this article is an anecdote about how the Mexican League’s Tijuana Toros paint the reserved seats of season ticket holders with personalized Toros jerseys,” says Alan Filipczak. “Reminded me of the Uni Watch membership cards.” … From sad news comes our way via Jerry Kulig, who wrote “At the Rays game tonight (Friday). Chris Archer goes ‘pajama pants’. A new look for him.” Indeed, if you take a gander at this google image search, he seems to have only worn pajamas during Spring Training games. Let’s hope this is just a one-time thing. … Freddy Galvis is showing the Liberty Bell logo on the socks. Submitter Dan Mallon notes, “Perhaps the least known part of any uniform that’s been around for 25 years.” … “I watch probably 140-150 Yankees games a year, and have always noticed that Aroldis Chapman definitely does not wear a team-issued long sleeve shirt under his jersey,” says Ryan Siciliano. “The color doesn’t match and it’s not even close.” Interesting! Sometimes it seems more pronounced than others, but it sure doesn’t look midnight blue in many of those images. … LOTS of things going on in this image (from Beau Parsons, who hashtagged it with #Patriots #Tigers #athletics #Twins. … Good for the Orioles! (from Andrew Cosentino).
NFL/College/High School/CFL/Football News: “Going through my old collection and find this gem, a Tom Brady rookie card,” says Lewis Joseph. … Check out this AWESOME video from Sports Funhouse: “Another great mud game. The #Browns’ all-white uniforms became all-black uniforms in no time.” I’m quite certain Jimmer Vilk loves this. Also, the Cowboys and Browns (but the Browns especially) need to wear those unis again. … A few jerseys were among the items at Eddie Lacy’s “leaving Green Bay” garage sale (from Brian Kerhin). … Some San Francisco 49ers rookies have gotten numbers for camp. … Jared Goff posted a photo that showcases the beautiful new Rams helmets. … The Tampa Bay Bucs’ rookies were assigned jersey numbers. … Tweeter cutesalad “got the new lions jersey, blue is a lot deeper than I thought and numbers are silver, not white, outlined in Nike arithricite.” … “Interesting Madden 17 gaming note here,” says Scott Cummings. “I am playing as my hometown Browns who are 12-3 (insert joke here), and their last home game is in Cleveland against the Mexico City Conquistadors. Evidently the folks at Madden thought San Diego was going to move, as they eliminated them from the game, and they have taken the Chargers place in the AFC west. I took some pictures of my PS4 TV to show the logo, home and away unis. Wonder why the just couldn’t change the name from San Diego to Los Angeles?”
Hockey News: Really nice “Turn Back Thursday” (yes, I know today is Saturday) from Anthony Zych: his Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils game day posters from the past two seasons. … Thomas Smith was “Going thru my old Anaheim Ducks media guides/yearbooks. Noticed they always used the yellowish/orange on all pages.” … Check out this awesome Vancouver Millionaires piece from Paine Proffitt”. Damn, that’s sweet.
NBA/College/Basketball News: Last evening the Cleveland Cavaliers faced off against the Toronto Raptors, and while there was nothing particularly of note about the unis, the on-screen graphic of the logos “looks like a really nice Christmas ornament” (nice spot by Alan J Killham). … This tweet from Mike Malnicof made my night: “Random NBA gem from circa 1978, Moses Malone & Wes Unseld! The Afros are awesome, but those Bullets unis were outstanding!”
Grab Bag: New kit for England Cricket. You can see how that kit compares to last year’s kit (from Michael Sprake, via Paul). … “Dale Jr. will be racing this Philadelphia Eagles theme inspired car at Pocono, PA,” says Timothy Phillips. “It’s to promote the All-Pro Teacher program. Surprised we haven’t seen more mashups with the NFL and Nascar. Joe Gibbs Racing use to have drivers wear NFL themed helmets.” … I’m honestly not sure if this is a “rarity” or not, but there was color vs color in the NAIA lacrosse championship semifinals (from Travis Holland). … “Russell Athletic has created two limited edition Kentucky Derby-branded tees. In true Derby fashion, Russell has re-imagined the classic seersucker suit and traditional jockey racing silks into fun, easy-to-wear tees…bow ties included,” from Maddie Estrada. … Reason #3,247 why Canada is better than the USA: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau took a meeting on May the Fourth and was seen wearing Star Wars socks (one C3PO & one R2D2). Thanks, Paul. … Check out Erik_Kynard’s Jordan High Jump spikes (from Steve Wagner). … Tweeter Paul Friedmann shared this tweet from Seth Abramson which says, “This looks like the mascot and logo for the only sports team I feel like rooting for this year.” If you’re not familiar with that acronym, it stands for “Impeach The Mother Fucker Already.”
And that’s it for today. Thanks to John Pulsinelle for revisiting this great topic and for putting all the great feedback into a post for us all to enjoy.
Today is, of course, the Run for the Roses — I did this column waaaaaay back in 2009, but the old gal hasn’t changed much since then. If you have a few minutes, that will get you pumped for the race. And of course, if you’re throwing a party, you need to make Paul’s special Derby Pie (recipe is in yesterday’s entry, scroll down a few sub-ledes). It’s the greatest two minutes in sports folks. Enjoy it — if you’re heading to Churchill Downs, it will be cool, dry and fast.
Back atcha tomorrow, but until then…
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“When I was very small, my dad told me a story about a man who began cataloging snowflakes, photographing them by the thousands to prove that no two were alike. The thought of this task made my mind reel. Who on earth would devote their life to such a endless, hopeless, task? Fast forward to 2017, and … I have become the snowflake guy.”
— Bill Henderson (on his incredible pursuit to document every uniform and combination ever worn for his seminal work, “Gameworn Guide to MLB Jerseys”). Thank you Bill!