EPISODE #37: The NHL’s California Golden Seals with Author Steve Currier

Ice hockey makes its long-awaited return to the podcast, as host Tim Hanlon revisits the legendarily forlorn California Golden Seals franchise of the late 1960s/early 1970s National Hockey League, with author Steve Currier (The California Golden Seals: A Tale of White Skates, Red Ink, and One of the NHL’s Most Outlandish Teams).   Part of the NHL’s “Great Expansion” of 1967, the Seals never posted a winning record in any of its 11 years of existence (including its last two seasons as the Cleveland Barons), and consistently finished dead last in league attendance despite playing in a then-state-of-the-art  Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum Arena. 

Currier recounts: a revolving door of promising players (though not future Hall of Fame legend Guy Lafleur, who might have become a Seal, if not for a previously traded first-round draft pick); hapless owners (from millionaire socialite Barry Van Gerbig, to flamboyant baseball disruptor Charlie Finley, to hotel magnate Mel Swig, to [eventually] the NHL itself); and outlandish marketing decisions (including mid-season name changes, garish green/gold uniforms and scuff-prone white skates, live seals on ice, and currying favor with a supposedly influential Bay Area barber community) – all of which made the Seals franchise one of the most idiosyncratic footnotes in modern-day hockey and pro sports history.

Thanks Podfly and Audible supporting this episode!

The California Golden Seals: A Tale of White Skates, Red Ink, and One of the NHL's Most Outlandish Teams - buy book here

EPISODE #36: Dead-Ball-Era Baseball’s “Chief” Meyers & the New York Giants with Author Bill Young

Author/historian Bill Young (John Tortes “Chief” Meyers: A Baseball Biography) returns to the podcast to discuss the life and legacy of one of Major League Baseball’s most intriguing personalities from the sport’s “dead-ball era” of the 1900s/10s.  The sturdy, hard-hitting battery-mate (and eventual vaudeville stage partner) of Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Matthewson – as well as a fixture in some of legendary New York Giants manager John McGraw’s most successful teams – “Chief” Meyers was also one of the few true Native Americans to ever star in professional baseball, overcoming enormous prejudicial obstacles along the way.   Unlike other Native American players who eschewed their tribal identities to escape bias and ridicule, Meyers—a member of the Santa Rosa Band of the Cahuilla Tribe of California—remained proud of his heritage, and endeared himself to fans and the press with his disarming, accessible and uniquely erudite personality.  After retiring from the game in 1920, Meyers quietly returned to his roots to become a tribal leader, only to be rediscovered by a new generation of fans and scholars in 1966 with the publication of Lawrence Ritter’s acclaimed oral history of the early game, The Glory of Their Times.

We thank Audible and Podfly for their continued support of the show!

     

John Tortes "Chief" Meyers: A Baseball Biography - buy book here

The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It - buy book here

EPISODE #35: National Soccer Hall of Famer Paul Child

Former NASL, MISL, CISL (and even ASL) soccer great Paul Child becomes the fifth National Soccer Hall of Famer to join the podcast – and regales host Tim Hanlon with a bevy of eyebrow-raising anecdotes from a 25+ pro career as a player and coach across teams and leagues in both the outdoor and indoor versions of the game, including: 

  • Taking a chance to get first-team play as a 19-year-old via loan with the Atlanta Chiefs in the fragile 1972 North American Soccer League;
  • Learning to love the narrow confines and uniquely spray-painted burgundy and black penalty areas of San Jose’s Spartan Stadium;
  • Laying carpet for and dodging chicken wire during the NASL’s primitive inaugural indoor tournament in San Francisco’s Cow Palace in 1975; 
  • Wondering if sellout crowds in Atlanta’s Omni for Chiefs indoor games in the early 1980s were for spirited play, or cheeky promotions like “Who Shot J.R.?” night;
  • Taking the early 1980s Pittsburgh sports scene by storm – and regularly outdrawing hockey’s Penguins – with the MISL’s Spirit; and
  • Earning two caps for the US National Team – despite not being an actual American citizen!

This week’s episode is supported by our friends at Audible and Podfly!

EPISODE #34: The National Basketball League with Author Murry Nelson

Basketball historian and Penn State professor emeritus Murry Nelson (The National Basketball League: A History) returns to the podcast – this time to dive into the deep end of one of the modern-day NBA’s  most important formative tributaries. 

The National Basketball League was forged out of an industrial collective of independent “company teams” that dotted the Midwest in the mid-1930s – and through the corporate patronage of firms like Goodyear, Firestone and General Electric, became a full-time pro hoops circuit that eventually stretched from Syracuse to Denver – with a hefty dollop of smaller markets in between.   Teams like the Oshkosh (WI) All-Stars, Anderson (IN) Duffy Packers, Tri-Cities (IA)  Blackhawks, and Toledo (OH)-based Jim White Chevrolets – along with star players like the lane-dominating Leroy “Cowboy” Edwards, long-range shooting ace Bobby McDermott, and the pro game’s first true “big man” George Mikan – broke new ground,  and spawned the launch of an even bigger-market competitor (the Basketball Association of America, in 1946) that ultimately resulted in a 1949 merger that yielded what we now know as the National Basketball Association.

Today’s Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, and Philadelphia 76ers all emanated directly from the NBL – although you might not know it, given the NBA’s tilted version of basketball history, as Nelson tells host Tim Hanlon in this enlightening episode.

Out thanks to Podfly and Audible for their support of the show! 

The National Basketball League: A History, 1935-1949 - buy book here

EPISODE #33: Early Baseball’s National Association with Author Bill Ryczek

Author Bill Ryczek (Blackguards and Red Stockings: A History of Baseball’s National Association) makes a return visit to the podcast – this time to regale host Tim Hanlon in the intriguing story of the raucous early days of organized baseball’s first attempt at forming and sustaining a true professional league.  Birthed in early 1871 from a hodgepodge, post-Civil War-era amalgam of amateur teams, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players – or “National Association” – became both a novel experiment and decidedly imperfect beginning to bringing professional status not only to the game of baseball, but ultimately to the entire landscape of American sports.  Despite persistent claims of gambling, contract jumping, player inebriation, and less-than-honest sportsmanship, the National Association quickly became an entertaining circuit that featured the world’s best baseball players – eventually producing eight National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees (though, glaringly, not the legendary “Iron Batter” Lip Pike); two modern-day franchises (the Atlanta Braves [née Boston Red Stockings]; and the Chicago Cubs [née Chicago White Stockings]); and the foundation for the first of baseball’s two “major” leagues – the National League – in 1876.

Thanks Audible and Podfly for sponsoring this episode! 

Blackguards and Red Stockings: A History of Baseball's National Association - buy book here

EPISODE #32: Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Braves with Documentarian/Writer Bill Povletich

The lineage behind what is today’s Atlanta Braves is one of the longest, deepest and most uniquely enduring in all of professional baseball.  With early roots dating back to the launch of 1871’s National Association (when they were based in Boston, and known simply as the “Red Stockings”), the later-renamed Braves franchise boldly moved to the greener pastures of Milwaukee in 1953 – where for 13 years, the team never endured a losing season, won two National League pennants, and, in 1957, brought the city its first and only World Series championship.  With a talented lineup featuring future Hall of Famers Henry Aaron, Warren Spahn, Eddie Matthews, Red Schoendienst, and Phil Niekro, the team immediately won the hearts of fans, shattered modern-day attendance records, and ushered the city of Milwaukee into the world of the “big leagues.”  In the process, the Milwaukee Braves' success prompted Major League Baseball to redefine itself as a big business—clearing the path for franchises to  relocate west, its two leagues to expand, and teams to leverage cities in high-stakes battles for civically funded facilities.  But the Braves' instant success made their rapid fall from grace in the early 1960s all the more stunning, as declining attendance and local political greed led the team to Atlanta in one of the ugliest divorces between a city and baseball franchise in sports history.    

In this supremely revelatory conversation, TV documentary director/producer and author (and Wisconsin native) Bill Povletich (Milwaukee Braves: Heroes and Heartbreak; A Braves New World) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the historical importance of the Braves’ time in Milwaukee, and some of the specific events and personalities that shaped it.

Our continued thanks to our friends at Podfly and Audible for their support of the show!

     

Milwaukee Braves: Heroes and Heartbreak - buy book here

A Braves New World - buy DVD here

EPISODE #31: Indoor Soccer’s Wichita Wings with Mike Romalis and Tim O’Bryhim

Wichita, Kansas natives Mike Romalis and Tim O’Bryhim (Make This Town Big: The Story of Roy Turner and the Wichita Wings) join host Tim Hanlon to talk about their current book – and upcoming documentary – focused on the improbable story of the Major Indoor Soccer League’s smallest-market (Nielsen-ranked #66) club that became the first major league professional sports team in Kansas history.  The MISL’s Wichita Wings defied conventional logic, as world-class soccer players from places like England, Denmark, Argentina, and Ecuador enthralled jam-packed Kansas Coliseum crowds with a fiery brand of play that made them a perennial playoff contender and one of the league’s most successful franchises – replete with a veritable “Orange Army” of rabid fans that became the envy of their big-city rivals across the league. 

Thank you to Audible and Podfly for their support of this episode!

Make This Town Big: The Story of Roy Turner and the Wichita Wings - buy book here

EPISODE #30: The Senior Professional Baseball Association with Author David Whitford

Inc. Editor-at-Large David Whitford (Extra Innings: A Season in the Senior League) joins host Tim Hanlon to retrace his journalistic odyssey covering the inaugural season of the short-lived, Florida-based Senior Professional Baseball Association (SPBA) in the winter of 1989-90.  Whitford recalls the early-career events leading up to his plum writing assignment, and the process by which he went about chronicling this unique, but ultimately ill-fated eight-team circuit for former pro players over 35 (32 for catchers).  Despite half the franchises folding after the first 72-game season (and the rest of the league mid-way through the second), the Senior League, in Whitford’s view, afforded dozens of former big-league players and managers a "life-after-death fantasy" – one that attracted both stars and journeymen alike for a chance to either stay fresh for one last shot in the Show, recapture past on-field glories, or simply earn some needed money.  Whitford highlights a wide array of characters he met while covering the SBPA, including:

  • Founder Jim Morley , the thirty-something hustler who erroneously believed a senior league could generate cash flow sufficient to sustain his debt-ridden real-estate empire;
  • Commissioner Curt Flood, the indefatigable player’s union representativewho broke Major League Baseball’s reserve clause, but sacrificed his career in the process;
  • Pitcher Wayne Garland, the former Cleveland ace and early free-agent beneficiary who risked permanent shoulder damage by coming back to play pro ball after a five-year layoff;
  • Ex-Padres/Astros fastballer (and pioneer descendant) Danny Boone, who reinvented himself into a knuckleball specialist, and improbably made it back to the bigs with Baltimore in 1990 following the SPBA season; AND
  • A veritable who’s who of former big-name major league stars – each with their own personal reasons for returning to the diamonds:  Bobby Bonds, Joaquin Andujar, Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, Ferguson Jenkins, Dave Kingman, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Graig Nettles, Mickey Rivers, and even manager Earl Weaver – just to name a few.

Our thanks to Podfly and Audible for their support of this episode!

Extra Innings: A Season in the Senior League - buy book here

EPISODE #29: The American Soccer League’s Cincinnati Comets with Writer/Photographer Ronny Salerno

While the meteoric rise of the United Soccer League’s FC Cincinnati franchise caught many pro sports observers by surprise, keen observers of soccer’s unique history in the Queen City note that the foundation of the team’s current success actually dates back to 1972, when an ambitious little club called the Cincinnati Comets won the American Soccer League championship in the team’s inaugural season. Cincinnati writer/photographer/native Ronny Salerno (The Extraordinary Story of the Cincinnati Comets; Fading Ads of Cincinnati) joins Tim Hanlon to delve into the curious story of this surprisingly notable squad, whose motley cast of characters included:

  • Dr. Nico “Nick” Capurro, a strong-willed Italian-born surgeon and county coroner whose passion for the sport led him to not only buy a Cincinnati ASL franchise, but also become its head coach;
  • Julio “Ringo” Cantillo, a 16-year-old Costa Rican midfield phenom who immediately became the team’s (and league’s) most valuable player – despite still being a high school student;
  • Jim Scott, the long-time king of Cincinnati morning radio, whose simple offer to help with some publicity mushroomed into the presidency of the team – and later the ASL itself;
  • Bob Cousy, the legendary basketball hall-of-famer, who Scott recruited to become ASL commissioner – despite a mixed reputation in the Queen City, and an admitted ignorance about the sport of soccer; AND
  • Lamar Hunt, the patron saint of AFL football and the then-nationally ascendant North American Soccer League, whose dogged efforts to get the Comets to move up to the NASL came up short.

Our thanks to Audible and Podfly for their support of this week’s episode!

EPISODE #28: Women’s Pro Basketball’s "Machine Gun" Molly Kazmer

The history of women’s professional basketball in the US pre-dates the modern-day WNBA by at least two decades, when inveterate pro sports entrepreneur Bill Byrne launched the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL) in 1978.  Taking cultural cues from the Equal Rights Amendment movement, the adoption of Title IX, Billie Jean King’s landmark victory in tennis’ “Battle of the Sexes,” and a surprisingly strong showing by the US women’s squad in the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics, Byrne hustled his way into forming an odds-defying circuit that ultimately lasted three seasons with franchises that stretched from New York to San Francisco.  The first person to sign with the fledgling league also became its most prolific scorer and reliable public relations attraction – “Machine Gun” Molly Bolin.  Nicknamed by a reporter for her dazzling shooting ability (with multiple records that still stand today), the since-remarried Molly Kazmer lit up the WBL both on and off the court with equal parts athletic prowess and sexy femininity – becoming one of the true pioneers of the women’s professional game in the process.

Kazmer joins host Tim Hanlon to discuss some of the more memorable moments in her remarkable career in the WBL and beyond, including:

  • The unique playing style of Iowa high school basketball that uniquely prepared her for breakout success in the collegiate and pro ranks;
  • The public relations spectacle of signing her first pro contract in the Iowa governor’s office;
  • The wild ride (often on a bus nicknamed the “Corn Dog”) of the Iowa Cornets;
  • Life as the “poster child” of the WBL;
  • The double-standard of being a female athlete in modern society; AND
  • How the success of today’s WNBA sends mixed signals to the original WBL pioneers whose work set the stage for the modern pro game.

We love Audible and Podfly for their support of the podcast – and you should too!

EPISODE #27: Jim Thorpe’s Oorang Indians with NFL Films’ Chris Willis

At the dawn of the Roaring Twenties, the National Football League was a mere footnote in the American sports scene, when matchups were played on dirt fields by vagabond athletes who would beat up or punch out their opponents for fifty bucks a game.  But one team during that era was different – the Oorang Indians.  Founded by an ambitious dog breeder, comprised only of Native American players, and coached by a national multi-sport superstar (and charter pro football Hall of Famer), the Indians barnstormed their way through the NFL in 1922-23 – becoming an instant hit in virtually every city they played.  NFL historian Chris Willis (Walter Lingo, Jim Thorpe, and the Oorang Indians: How a Dog Kennel Owner Created the NFL's Most Famous Traveling Team) joins Tim Hanlon to recount the story of this unique franchise and curious forgotten chapter of professional football history, including:

  • How a publicity-hungry dog kennel owner named Walter Lingo convinced the country’s greatest athlete Jim Thorpe to join him in hatching a pro football team in a league barely two years old;
  • How tiny La Rue, Ohio (population: 747) became (and remains) the smallest town ever to house not only an NFL franchise, but any professional team in any league in the United States;
  • How Lingo used the spectacle of the Olympic-famous Thorpe and his all Native-American squad to help advertise his kennel and sell his pure-bred Airedale Terriers;
  • Why halftime entertainment was more important to Lingo than winning or losing on the field; AND
  • Why players like Long Time Sleep, Joe Little Twig, Baptiste Thunder, and Xavier Downwind never saw NFL action again after the Indians folded in 1924.

Thanks to Podfly and Audible for their sponsorship of this week’s episode!

Walter Lingo, Jim Thorpe, and the Oorang Indians: How a Dog Kennel Owner Created the NFL's Most Famous Traveling Team - buy book here

EPISODE #26: The TVS Television Network with Producer/Director Howard Zuckerman

On January 20, 1968, a frenzied crowd of 52,693 packed the Houston Astrodome to witness the #2-ranked University of Houston Cougars nip the #1 (and previously undefeated) UCLA Bruins in a college basketball spectacle that legendarily became the sport’s “Game of the Century.”  In addition to the record-sized gate, it was the first-ever college game to be televised nationally in prime time – and it was sports entrepreneur Eddie Einhorn’s scrappy little independent network of affiliated stations called the TVS Television Network that brought it to millions of TV viewers.  Calling all the shots from the production truck was veteran TV sports director Howard Zuckerman – who quickly became the backbone for the fledgling ad hoc network’s subsequent coverage of not only college hoops, but also two of the most colorful pro sports leagues of the 1970s – the World Football League and the North American Soccer League.  Zuckerman joins host Tim Hanlon to recount some of his most memorable (and forgettable) moments in TVS history, including:

  • Surviving a power outage in the middle of the WFL’s first-ever national telecast from Jacksonville;
  • Managing a motley crew of rotating guest commentators for WFL broadcasts, including the likes of George Plimpton, Burt Reynolds and McLean Stevenson;
  • Hastily reorienting weekly WFL production travel plans as teams suddenly relocated or folded;
  • Faking on-field injuries during NASL telecasts to allow for ad hoc commercial breaks;
  • The origins of the specially-composed TVS theme song and its orchestral big band sound; AND
  • Post-TVS work, including the Canadian Football League’s Las Vegas Posse, and the worldwide music landmark event Live Aid.

Thank you Audible and Podfly for supporting this episode!

EPISODE #25: Early Pro Football’s Memphis Tigers with Author Wylie McLallen

The Memphis Tigers professional football team of the late 1920s and early 1930s never played a down in the National Football League, but that didn’t stop them from becoming one of the era’s most successful clubs – including laying a legitimate claim as the sport’s national champions in 1929.  Author/historian Wylie McLallen (Tigers by the River: A True and Accurate Tale of the Early Days of Pro Football) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the story of the Tigers’ exploits in the Depression Era world of “independent” gridiron competition – as well as the team’s sizable role in helping shape the early years of organized American professional football, including:

  • Becoming one of the first competitive pro squads to emerge from outside the sport’s traditional Northeast and Midwest strongholds;
  • Notching signature 1929 wins over the NFL’s formidable Chicago Bears and previously undefeated champion Green Bay Packers;
  • Declining an offer to subsequently join the NFL in 1930, as team owners struggled to keep the team financially alive;
  • Leveraging their on-field success into forming a challenger (and decidedly Southern) “American Football League” in 1934; AND
  • Succumbing to macroeconomic realities in 1935, but enduring for future generations as the officially designated nickname for the University of Memphis’ athletic teams.

We love our friends at Audible and Podfly – and you should too!

Tigers by the River: A True and Accurate Tale of the Early Days of Pro Football - buy book here

EPISODE #24: Soccer “Renaissance Man” Dr. Joe Machnik

Fox Sports soccer rules analyst and newly minted National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Joe Machnik (So You Want to Be a Goalkeeper; So Now You Are a Goalkeeper) has done just about everything across the American soccer landscape in his 60+ year career.  As a player, coach, referee, administrator, match commissioner, and soccer camp (No.1 Soccer Camps) pioneer, “Dr. Joe” has had a direct hand in helping achieving some of the sport’s major milestones in the US at virtually every level – amateur, collegiate, professional, and international.  Entwined within that legacy were memorable stops in oft-forgotten places like the original Major Indoor Soccer League, the scrappy American Indoor Soccer Association, and the chaotic early days of Major League Soccer – all of which host Tim Hanlon obsessively grills Machnik on in this episode, including his:

  • Instrumental role in crafting and codifying the professional indoor soccer rulebook for the MISL;
  • Championing of the MISL’s novel move to hire full-time professional referees;
  • Indisputable memory of the 1981 MISL All-Star Game at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and its role in helping birth Arena Football;
  • Coaching travails with the once-mighty New York Arrows, depleted by major player trades and an ownership change;
  • Frequent bus rides in the decidedly minor league AISA; AND
  • Fortuitous friendship with an AISA arena owner in Rockford, IL that led to a pivotal role in stabilizing the launch of Major League Soccer.

Thanks to Audible and Podfly for their support of the podcast!

EPISODE #23: The AFL’s New York Titans with Author Bill Ryczek

Before the modern-day New York Jets of today’s NFL – before Joe Namath, before the infamous “Heidi Game,” before the guaranteed Super Bowl III victory – there were the New York Titans.  A charter member of the upstart American Football League in 1960, the underfunded Titans played for three seasons to meager crowds in Upper Manhattan’s decrepit Polo Grounds, flirting with bankruptcy and collapse from virtually day one.  Author/historian Bill Ryczek (Crash of the Titans: The Early Years of the New York Jets and the AFL) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the Jets’ ignominious beginnings as the Titans, including notable performances by:

  • Owner Harry Wismer, the volatile sportscaster with a talent for hustling, a penchant for drinking, and a habit of bouncing paychecks;
  • Head coach Sammy Baugh, the prescient hall-of-fame player who refused to show up for a press conference announcing his signing until he was paid his full salary in advance – and in cash;
  • Successor (and first-time) head coach Clyde "Bulldog" Turner, who inherited a dispirited squad weary of uncertain finances, inadequate publicity, and front office instability;
  • AFL commissioner Joe Foss, the constant Wismer foe, whose tolerance was tested until ultimately pushed to seize control of the franchise; AND
  • William Shea, the New York attorney whose dream for a Continental League baseball franchise in a newly-constructed Flushing Stadium materialized too late to save Wismer’s foundering Titans, but eventually catalyzed the re-born Jets.

This week’s episode is sponsored by Audible and Podfly!

Crash of the Titans: The Team that Became the New York Jets - buy paperback edition here

Crash of the Titans: The Team that Became the New York Jets - buy hardcover edition here

Crash of the Titans: The Team that Became the New York Jets - buy Kindle digital edition here

       

EPISODE #22: The Life of George Best with Documentary Filmmaker Daniel Gordon

Award-winning British documentarian Daniel Gordon (Hillsborough; 9.79*; The Game of Their Lives) joins Tim Hanlon from London to discuss his new ESPN Films 30 for 30 feature George Best: All By Himself – and the enigmatic soccer star whose life story it depicts.   Gordon reveals:

  • Why he was attracted to the story of George Best, despite others’ previous attempts to tell it;
  • How Best’s early-career interviews with the British media while at Manchester United became a hauntingly predictive narrative device for the film;
  • Why the vibrantly ascendant mid-1970s North American Soccer League became an attractive alternative to Best’s post-ManU European wanderings;
  • How the meteoric rise and subsequent fall of the NASL itself became a metaphor for Best’s life and career – including the irony of his Budweiser-sponsored NASL “Goal of the Year” in 1981; AND
  • The complex legacy Best left behind, despite his later-life admonitions to “remember the football.”

This week’s episode is sponsored by Audible!

ESPN Films 30 For 30: George Best: All By Himself - view trailer here; viewing information here

ESPN Films 30 For 30: Hillsborough - buy DVD here

ESPN Films 30 For 30: 9.79* - buy DVD here

ESPN Films 30 for 30: Season 2 (including Hillsborough & 9.79*) - buy digital video here

ESPN Films 30 for 30: Season 2 (including Hillsborough & 9.79*) - buy DVD here

        

EPISODE #21: Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics with Author David Jordan

Author/historian David Jordan (The Athletics of Philadelphia: Connie Mack's White Elephants; The A's: A Baseball History) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the first incarnation of one of Major League Baseball’s most enigmatic franchises.  Jordan discusses how the Philadelphia As:

  • Helped launch the American League as a charter franchise in 1901;
  • Dominated the majors with six league pennants, three World Series titles and two 100+ win seasons in its first 15 years;
  • Were dismantled by long-time manager Connie Mack in the 1914 off-season after losing (or throwing?) the Fall Classic to the “Miracle” Boston Braves;
  • Posted the worst-ever record (36-117; .235) in baseball history two years later, and finished last every season thereafter until 1922;
  • Rose from the ashes to again become baseball’s most dynastic team in the late 1920s/early 1930s – rivaling that of the vaunted New York Yankees; AND
  • Succumbed to Depression-era economic realities that slowly drained the team’s talent and challenged management’s finances enough to push the team to ultimately relocate to greener pastures in 1954. 

We thank our friends at Audible for helping sponsor this week’s episode! 

The Athletics of Philadelphia: Connie Mack's White Elephants - buy book here

The A's: A Baseball Historybuy book here

     

EPISODE #20: George Steinbrenner’s Cleveland Pipers with Sportswriter Bill Livingston

Award-winning Cleveland Plain Dealer sports columnist Bill Livingston (George Steinbrenner’s Pipe Dream: The ABL Champion Cleveland Pipers) joins Tim Hanlon to delve deeper into the history of the ill-fated 1960s American Basketball League – this time through the lens of one of its (and ultimately, one of pro sports’) most combustible figures.  Livingston describes how Pipers owner (and future New York Yankees “Boss”) George Steinbrenner:  

  • Retooled a local Cleveland industrial amateur team into a fledgling pro club with NBA ambitions;
  • Traded a player at halftime of a league game, and fired his collegiate hall-of-fame coach in mid-season – and still won a championship;
  • Convinced a risk-averse college star named Jerry Lucas to spurn surefire NBA stardom with the Cincinnati Royals for partial ownership/oversight of an ambitious, yet financially wobbly ABL franchise; AND
  • Outmaneuvered a similarly-aspirant Abe Saperstein in the race to secure a coveted NBA franchise, only to hasten the demise of the ABL and the financial viability of the Pipers in the process.

Thank you Audible for sponsoring this week’s episode!

George Steinbrenner's Pipe Dream: The ABL Champion Cleveland Pipers - buy book here

EPISODE #19: American Soccer “Superstar” Kyle Rote, Jr.

National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee and three-time ABC-TV “Superstars” champion Kyle Rote, Jr. joins Tim Hanlon from his home in Memphis for an in-depth and wide-ranging conversation about his trailblazing journey as America’s first true native-born professional soccer star. 

Along the way, Rote, Jr. reveals:

  • How a fortuitous heart-to-heart with his famous football star-father helped convince him to choose soccer over football for his pro career;
  • How a standout Rookie of the Year season with the 1973 Dallas Tornado helped thrust him into the North American Soccer League’s national marketing spotlight;
  • The remarkable impact of winning a made-for-TV athletic competition against the biggest stars of the “traditional” sports world;
  • The unique relationship he developed with the New York Cosmos’ international legend Pelé,  and the public relations narrative the NASL built around them;
  • How lucrative marketing endorsements made up for embarrassingly low-paying player contracts;
  • The serendipitous story of how he helped rescue an MISL team from the “hell” of Hartford; AND
  • The unmistakable higher power that continually guided him through the ups and downs of professional athletics – both on the field and off.

This week’s episode is brought to you by our friends at Audible!

EPISODE #18: Pro Football Historian Ken Crippen & the All-America Football Conference

Pro Football Researchers’ Association president Ken Crippen (The Original Buffalo Bills: A History of the All-America Football Conference Team; The All-America Football Conference: Players, Coaches, Records, Games & Awards) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the upstart pro football circuit that gave the war-weary NFL a formidable challenge in the late 1940s.  Crippen describes:

  • How a newspaper sportswriter from Chicago convinced big money investors spurned by the NFL to start a directly competitive alternative league;
  • The NFL’s public attempts to minimize the credibility, yet private efforts to contain the success of the AAFC;
  • The head-to-head battles between the leagues to dominate pro football in markets like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Cleveland;
  • The immediate dominance and innovative approach of Paul Brown’s Cleveland Browns, who many felt were the best team across both leagues;
  • Why the Browns, San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts were ultimately absorbed by the NFL, but the Buffalo Bills weren’t; AND
  • The controversy among football historians around why the AAFC’s game records are still not “official” in the eyes of the NFL, despite being recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Thank you Audible for sponsoring this week’s episode!

The All-America Football Conference: Players, Coaches, Records, Games & Awards - pre-order book here

The Original Buffalo Bills: A History of the All-America Football Conference Team - buy book here