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Good Seats Still Available

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History
Sports
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“Good Seats Still Available” is a curious little podcast devoted to the exploration of what used-to-be in professional sports. Each week, host Tim Hanlon interviews former players, owners, broadcasters, beat reporters, and surprisingly famous "super fans" of teams and leagues that have come and gone - in an attempt to unearth some of the most wild and woolly moments in (often forgotten) sports history.

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“Good Seats Still Available” is a curious little podcast devoted to the exploration of what used-to-be in professional sports. Each week, host Tim Hanlon interviews former players, owners, broadcasters, beat reporters, and surprisingly famous "super fans" of teams and leagues that have come and gone - in an attempt to unearth some of the most wild and woolly moments in (often forgotten) sports history.

iTunes Ratings

48 Ratings
Average Ratings
42
3
0
1
2

Great

By Cool Pasta Man22 - Mar 31 2020
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Great interviews with great stories! Keep Kicking!

Wonderful

By bopefas - Feb 21 2020
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Such a well made Pod. Great to reminisce and learn new things

iTunes Ratings

48 Ratings
Average Ratings
42
3
0
1
2

Great

By Cool Pasta Man22 - Mar 31 2020
Read more
Great interviews with great stories! Keep Kicking!

Wonderful

By bopefas - Feb 21 2020
Read more
Such a well made Pod. Great to reminisce and learn new things
Cover image of Good Seats Still Available

Good Seats Still Available

Latest release on Oct 19, 2020

Read more

“Good Seats Still Available” is a curious little podcast devoted to the exploration of what used-to-be in professional sports. Each week, host Tim Hanlon interviews former players, owners, broadcasters, beat reporters, and surprisingly famous "super fans" of teams and leagues that have come and gone - in an attempt to unearth some of the most wild and woolly moments in (often forgotten) sports history.

Rank #1: 166: MISL Soccer’s Los Angeles Lazers – With Ronnie Weinstein

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The Major Indoor Soccer League’s rocket red ball bounces back our way this week for an Eighties-style rewind into the story of the Los Angeles Lazers – as seen through the eyes of one of its chief front office architects, Ronnie Weinstein.

Claimed from dormancy (as the previous Philadelphia Fever) by LA sports baron Dr. Jerry Buss – owner of the 1980 NBA champion Lakers, NHL Kings, 1981 TeamTennis champion Strings, and the building that housed them, Inglewood’s “Fabulous” Forum – the Lazers began life in the MISL in the fall of 1982 under the direction of Weinstein and Buss’ eldest son Johnny.

True to its name (and emblematic of the league’s over-the-top promotional zeitgeist), the team immediately became known for its cutting-edge pre-game laser light shows, which management felt ideally suited to the lightning-fast pace of indoor soccer – and hoped would help the Lazers stand out from the wealth of entertainment options available in Southern California.

Weinstein, Buss & Co. also tapped heavily into the celebrity-driven energy associated with their “Showtime”-era Laker arena mates, borrowing the Paula Abdul-choreographed Laker Girls to become the “Lazer Girls” for their games – and regularly recruiting Hollywood A-listers like James Caan, Neil Diamond, Cher, Ricky Schroeder, and elder Buss poker mate Gabe Kaplan to the festivities. 

But the white-hot Lakers, the rising Kings, a robust concert schedule, and the family-favorite Strings all took scheduling precedence over the Lazers, leaving only a hodgepodge of mostly weekday winter school nights from which to attract soccer-mad families to the Forum.

Of course, there was high-scoring MISL soccer action – but the Lazers were not very good (an 8-40 inaugural record and just one winning [1987-88] season over the team’s run didn’t help) – and the majority of games were not well-attended (the league’s least-drawing franchise in five of its seven seasons). 

Despite all the synergies – including Jerry Buss’ strong enthusiasm for the game itself – nothing seemed to work.  By 1987 (with son Jim now helming the team alongside Weinstein), Buss saw the Lazers and the league as doomed – unless moves to reduce player salaries and shift play to a more family-friendly summer schedule were embraced.

After fruitless pleading with the MISL Board of Governors, Buss pulled the plug on the team after the 1988-89 season, telling Weinstein if he ever wanted to pursue another indoor soccer endeavor with his more prudent business model, he’d be there to back it.

This week’s episode is sponsored by the Red Lightning Books imprint of Indiana University Press – who offer our listeners a FREE CHAPTER of pioneering sportswriter Diana K. Shah’s new memoir A Farewell to Arms, Legs and Jockstraps!

Jun 01 2020

1hr 26mins

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Rank #2: 094: Major League Baseball’s Seattle Pilots – With Bill Mullins

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We kick off the New Year with our first-ever discussion about one of Major League Baseball’s most enduring enigmas – the ephemeral, one-season Seattle Pilots.

However, as we discover in our conversation with this week’s guest Bill Mullins (Becoming Big League: Seattle, The Pilots, and Stadium Politics), the story of the team’s 1969 American League misadventures has a much longer historical arc – one rooted in the decades-long success of the city’s minor league Rainiers prior – and extending years afterward, when a new expansion Mariners franchise took to the Kingdome turf in 1977.

In between, the story of the Pilots wends its way through the concentric worlds of pro sports economics (MLB’s blind zeal for expansion in the West Coast’s third-most populous market); municipal politics (Seattle’s quest for “major league” status, from the 1962 World’s Fair to a tortuous pursuit of a modern domed stadium); managerial challenges (an underfunded ownership group with limited resources and overly-optimistic revenue expectations); and logistical realities (a quaint-but-aging minor league Sicks’ Stadium, ill-prepared for the more pronounced demands of big league play and fan comfort).

And, oh yes, a surprisingly competitive on-field performance filled with memorable highs (winning both their first-ever game [at the California Angels, 4/8/69], and their home debut [vs. the Chicago White Sox, 4/11/69]); forgettable lows (three home runs by Reggie Jackson in a 5-0 loss to the Oakland A’s, 7/2/69); and a deceivingly last-place finish in a tightly-bunched AL West cellar, only a handful of games behind the Angels, Royals and White Sox.

Despite the Pilots’ woes, the legacy of this quixotic franchise remains remarkably endearing to the Seattle fans who got to experience the city’s first taste of big-time major league sports fifty years hence.

Be sure to visit our new sponsor Streaker Sports – where, fittingly, you can order a beautiful baby blue classic Seattle Pilots logo T-shirt to commemorate this episode (and the team’s 50th anniversary)!

Jan 07 2019

1hr 39mins

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Rank #3: 165: Pioneers of AAGPBL Baseball – With Kat Williams

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It’s our deepest dive yet into the legendarily one-of-a-kind All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Marshall University Professor of Women’s Sport History Kat Williams (The All-American Girls After the AAGPBL: How Playing Pro Ball Shaped Their Lives).

Widely acknowledged as the forerunner of women's professional league sports in the United States, the pioneering AAGPBL featured more than 600 female players over the course of its twelve seasons between 1943-54 – spanning 15 mid-sized markets across the American Midwest, and drawing sizable crowds – including nearly a million fans at its peak in 1948.

In its first season, the league played a game that resembled more softball than baseball: the ball was regulation softball size (12 inches) and the pitcher's mound was only 40 feet from home plate – a third closer than that of men’s baseball.  Pitchers threw underhand windmill (as in softball) and the distance between bases was 65 feet – a full 25 feet shorter than in the men’s game. 

But, over the AAGPBL’s history, the rules gradually evolved to approach those of full-fledged men’s baseball; by the league’s final season in 1954: the ball was regulation baseball size, the mound distance was 60 feet (a mere six inches closer than the men’s game), and the basepaths were 85 feet long (just five feet shy of those of the men). 

To prove its competitive seriousness, the league peppered its on-field managerial ranks with male skippers of substantial major league baseball pedigrees – including eventual National Baseball Hall of Famers Max Carey and Jimmy Foxx.

The quality of play was consistently high, convincing even the most purist of traditional baseball fans that “the Girls could play.”  By 1947, the AAGBPL was even emulating the majors in identifying and recruiting talent from the fertile playing fields of baseball-mad Cuba – a story Williams helps illustrate with her new profile (Isabel “Lefty” Alvarez: The Improbable Life of a Cuban American Baseball Star) of one of the handful of émigrés who ultimately came to the US to become “All-American.”

This week’s episode is sponsored by the Red Lightning Books imprint of Indiana University Press – who offer our listeners a FREE CHAPTER of pioneering sportswriter Diana K. Shah’s new memoir A Farewell to Arms, Legs and Jockstraps!

May 25 2020

1hr 26mins

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Rank #4: 118: The Continental Basketball Association – With David Levine

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Author and former SPORT magazine writer David Levine (Life on the Rim: A Year in the Continental Basketball Association) joins the ‘cast to give us our first taste of the quirky minor league basketball circuit that began as a Pennsylvania-based regional outfit in 1946 (predating the NBA’s formation by two months), and meandered through a myriad of death-defying iterations until whimpering into oblivion in 2009.

Often billed throughout its curious history as the "World's Oldest Professional Basketball League," the colorful Continental Basketball Association rocketed into the national sports consciousness during the 1980s –  when expansion into non-traditional locales (e.g., Anchorage, AK; Casper, WY; Great Falls, MT; Atlantic City, NJ); innovative rule changes (e.g., sudden-death overtime, no foul-outs, a seven-point game scoring system); and headline-grabbing fan promotions (e.g., “1 Million Dollar Supershot," "Ton-of-Money Free Throw," "CBA Sportscaster Contest") – garnered its first national TV coverage, and even grudging respect from the staid, top-tier NBA.

Levine recounts his time chronicling the 1988-89 season of the CBA’s Albany (NY) Patroons, and the real-world stories of the realities of playing, coaching (including a young and hungry George Karl), traveling, and endlessly hoping in a league that sometimes rewarded its members with opportunities at the next level of pro basketball – but more often, did not.

Welcome to our NEW sponsor this week: The Great Courses Plus – who invites our listeners to enjoy a FREE MONTH of their amazing streaming video service, including the just-released “Play Ball! The Rise of Baseball as America’s Pastime,” created in conjunction with the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum!

Jun 24 2019

1hr 36mins

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Rank #5: 051: The Wild & Wacky World Football League with Author Mark Speck

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Perhaps no defunct league in modern-day professional sports history endured a more ignominious storyline and spectacular demise than that of the World Football League – a uniquely disastrous attempt to establish a summer-into-autumn rival to the National Football League during the mid-1970’s.

Brimming with confidence from his co-founding exploits with two previous (and at the time, still very-much-alive) challenger pro circuits – the American Basketball Association in 1967, and the World Hockey Association in 1971 – WFL founder/commissioner Gary Davidson saw the 1974-era National Football League as the next logical target for his quintessentially anti-establishment sports management ambitions.  While the ABA and WHA both eventually yielded successful mergers of their most viable franchises into their established rivals, the World Football League quickly proved to be quite different – and, ultimately, Davidson’s professional and personal Waterloo.

The WFL initially succeeded in persuading dozens of NFL stars to jump leagues for its hastily-arranged summer 1974 launch, largely because the NFL had no free agency, and the promise of a legitimate alternative offered newfound leverage for players seeking to improve their market values.  Many who did jump, however, signed “futures” contracts that would only take effect after the expiration of their NFL deals – a proposition that became increasingly dubious as under-capitalized WFL franchises seemingly began shutting down almost as soon as they debuted.  And that was just the start of what quickly became a litany of insurmountable calamities (including scandalous admissions of widespread game attendance inflation) that befell and ultimately subsumed both Davidson, and then the league itself – not once, but twice in just two years.

We begin our exploration of this most head-scratching of professional leagues with the dean of WFL researchers Mark Speck (WIFFLE: The Wild, Zany and Sometimes Hilariously True Story of the World Football League; World Football League Encyclopedia; . . .And a Dollar Short: The Empty Promises, Broken Dreams, and Somewhat-Less-Than-Comic Misadventures of the 1974 Florida Blazers), in a gift of an episode that just keeps on giving!

We appreciate Podfly, Audible and SportsHistoryCollectibles.com for their support of the podcast!

Mar 05 2018

1hr 31mins

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Rank #6: 078: The United States Football League – With Jeff Pearlman

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Multiple New York Times bestselling sports book author Jeff Pearlman (Gunslinger; Boys Will Be Boys; The Bad Guys Won!; Sweetness) joins the pod this week to promote his latest literary treasure – a deeply personal devotional about the wild and ultimately misbegotten United States Football League.

Crafted from over four hundred interviews and borne of a childhood fascination/obsession, Football For a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL is a narrative tour de force that chronicles the bizarre and often comical story of the erstwhile early 1980s spring league that pugnaciously challenged the pro football establishment with a witches’ brew of ownership bravado, expensive player talent, national TV coverage, wayward franchises, bounced paychecks – and, audaciously, a Hail Mary of a class action federal lawsuit that won the battle, but ultimately lost the war against the supremacy of the NFL.  

Thanks to MyBookie, OldSchoolShirts.com, Audible, and SportsHistoryCollectibles.com for sponsoring this week’s episode!

Sep 10 2018

1hr 20mins

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Rank #7: 060: Baseball’s League That Never Was: The Continental League with Professor Russ Buhite

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By the summer of 1959, the absence of two former National League franchises from what was once a vibrant New York City major league baseball scene was obvious – and even the remaining/dominant Yankees couldn’t fully make up for it.  Nor could that season’s World Series championship run of the now-Los Angeles Dodgers – a bittersweet victory for jilted fans of the team’s Brooklyn era. 

Fiercely determined to return a National League team to the city, mayor Robert Wagner enlisted the help of a Brooklyn-based attorney named William Shea to spearhead an effort to first convince a current franchise to relocate – as the American League’s Braves (Boston to Milwaukee, 1953), Browns (St. Louis to Baltimore, 1954), and A’s (Philadelphia to Kansas City, 1955) had recently done.  When neither Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, or even MLB Commissioner Ford Frick, could be convinced by the opportunity, Shea and team moved on to an even bolder plan –  an entirely new third major league, with a New York franchise as its crown jewel.

Financial backers from not only New York, but also eager expansionists in Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Toronto, Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, and Buffalo joined in the effort – christened the “Continental League” – and recruited longtime pioneering baseball executive Branch Rickey to do the collective’s bidding.  In preparation for an inaugural 1961 start, Rickey immediately preached the virtues of parity, and outlined a business plan that included TV revenue-sharing, equally accessible player pools, and solid pension plans; properly executed, it would take less than four years for the new league to be a credible equal of the National and American Leagues.  His plan: poach a few established big-league stars, and supplement rosters with young talent from a dedicated farm system that would quickly ripen into a formidable stream of high-caliber players and, in turn, a quickly competitive “major” third league.  That, plus an aggressive legal attack on MLB’s long-established federal antitrust exemption – designed to force greater player mobility and expanded geographic opportunities.

Suddenly pressured, MLB owners surprisingly responded in the summer of 1960 with a hastily crafted plan for expansion, beginning in 1962 with new NL teams in New York (Mets) and Houston (Colt .45s) – undercutting the upstart league’s ownership groups in those cities, and promising additional franchises in the years following.  Within weeks, the Continental League was no more, and the accelerated expansionary future of the modern game was firmly in motion.

Original Continental League minor leaguer Russ Buhite (The Continental League: A Personal History) joins host Tim Hanlon to share his first-person account (as a member of the proposed Denver franchise’s Western Carolina League Rutherford County Owls in 1960) of both the build-up to and letdown of the “league that never was” – as well as the broader history of the unwittingly influential circuit that changed the economic landscape of modern-day Major League Baseball.

Thanks Audible, Podfly and SportsHistoryCollectibles.com for your sponsorship of this week’s episode!

May 07 2018

1hr 22mins

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Rank #8: 037: The NHL’s California Golden Seals with Author Steve Currier

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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 and 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!

Nov 20 2017

1hr 35mins

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Rank #9: 006: Columnist Paul Gardner & the Original North American Soccer League

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Legendary Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner (The Simplest Game: The Intelligent Fan's Guide to the World of Soccer; Soccer Talk: Paul Gardner on Soccer) joins Tim Hanlon to wax nostalgic on his unlikely journey from fledgling British pharmacist to America’s most persistently influential soccer commentator. Gardner recounts the chaotic formation of the modern professional game in the U.S. during the 1960s; recalls how ambitious sports entrepreneurs like the International Soccer League’s Bill Cox, and greedy corporate owners like the United Soccer Association’s Madison Square Garden were quickly chagrined by the machinations of soccer’s international governing body; describes how a complex Welsh-born, player-turned-NASL-commissioner curiously nudged him into national TV game commentating; remembers when he first recognized pro soccer had finally “arrived” in America (ironically, while out of the country); and suggests that a revised U.S. corporate tax code may have helped hasten the demise of an already-wobbly NASL as the 1980s beckoned

Apr 10 2017

1hr 33mins

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Rank #10: 086: The Battle for Dallas: The AFL Texans vs. The NFL Cowboys – With John Eisenberg

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By the end of the 1958 NFL season – one punctuated by an iconic, nationally televised “Greatest Game Ever Played” championship – interest in professional football had risen to unprecedented levels across the country, capturing enough attention to seriously challenge baseball for America’s chief sporting interest.  Nowhere was the ground more fertile than in the state of Texas, where college and even high school football had held sway for generations – but the pro game (last attempted with a relocated 1952 NFL franchise called the Texans that ended in mid-season abandonment) had still yet to firmly root.

But in the spring of 1960, after an unlikely series of events, two young oil tycoons each became convinced of the opportunity to start their own pro franchises in Dallas’ legendary Cotton Bowl: a reincarnated club called the “Texans” – part of a new upstart circuit called the American Football League; and a hastily arranged response from the established (and newly threatened) NFL called the “Cowboys.”  Virtually overnight, a bitter professional football feud was born – with Dallas sports fans caught in the crossfire.

Texans owner (and AFL league founder) Lamar Hunt and Cowboys head Clint Murchison wasted no time drawing battle lines for the hearts and minds of Dallas’ (and the state’s) pigskin faithful; their teams took each other to court, fought over players, undermined each other’s promotions, and rooted like hell for the other guys to fail.  

Hunt’s Texans focused on the fans – building squads heavy on local legends and using clever promotions to draw attention to both his new team, and the new league.  Murchison’s Cowboys concentrated their efforts on the game – hoping to quickly match the competitiveness of the NFL’s established teams with a young cerebral coaching talent named Tom Landry, and a draft strategy that eyed the long term.

John Eisenberg (Ten-Gallon War: The NFL’s Cowboys, the AFL’s Texans, and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future) joins host Tim Hanlon to discuss the three-year battle for pro football supremacy in Dallas – from which both teams eventually (and ironically) emerged victorious in their separate pursuits of success.

We love our friends at 503 Sports, OldSchoolShirts.com, SportsHistoryCollectibles.com, MyBookie, and Audible – and you will too!

Nov 05 2018

1hr 26mins

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Rank #11: 043: Arena Football League Founder Jim Foster

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As the new year beckons, the fate of the Arena Football League – one of America’s most innovative modern-day professional sports concepts – hangs in the balance.  With only four teams (the mutually-owned Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade, defending champion Philadelphia Soul, and a still-unnamed Albany, NY squad) confirmed for the upcoming 2018 season, the AFL will play with exactly the same number of franchises that comprised its inaugural “demonstration” season back in 1987 – and a mere fraction of the 19 clubs that competed during its heyday in the early-to-mid 2000s.

Much has happened to the league and the sport during those 30+ years, of course – and few doubt that the unique (and once-patented) excitement of arena football won’t eventually find a sustainable business model and a return to long-term stability. 

In the interim, however, we delve into how it all began, with the first of our two-part interview with Iowa native Jim Foster – the inventor of arena football and the founder of the original Arena Football League – who takes host Tim Hanlon on rollicking excursion across the uncharted sports terrain of the 1970s and 80s that led to both the birth of a sport and the launch of a professional league, including: 

  • Exporting professional American football to Europe decades before the NFL;
  • Discovering fans’ year-long appetite for pro football via the USFL;
  • Scribbling parameters for “indoor football” on a manila envelope while attending the 1981 MISL All-Star Game;
  • Tinkering on a shoestring with facilities, equipment, rules, and approaches to TV broadcast coverage;
  • Tapping into the nostalgia and cost economics of two-way players, as well as the fan appeal of “run-and-shoot” offensive action; AND
  • Defending the notion of centrally-controlled league ownership from franchise-hungry charter owners.

This week’s episode is sponsored by Sports History Collectibles, Audible and Podfly.

Jan 08 2018

2hr 18mins

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Rank #12: 032: Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Braves with Documentarian/Writer Bill Povletich

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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!

Oct 16 2017

1hr 22mins

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Rank #13: 065: The CFL’s American Expansion Experiment with Sportswriter Ed Willes

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As Johnny Manziel’s pro football comeback journey wraps up a promising pre-season with the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, we take a moment this week to reminisce on the approaching 25th anniversary of the CFL’s bold, but ultimately ill-fated attempt to bring its exciting brand of pigskin south of the border in 1993.

When the NFL put the brakes on its two-year World League of American Football experiment in the summer of 1992 (which included a franchise in Montreal, dubbed the “Machine”), an economically wobbly CFL sensed an opportunity to fill the gap in US markets newly comfortable with the notion of pro football, as well as a potential growth path for the tradition-rich Canadian game to expand outside the Provinces.  In fact, two WLAF owners, Fred Anderson (Sacramento Surge) and Larry Benson (San Antonio Riders) "crossed over" to the Canadian League and were awarded newly rechristened franchises for 1993 – Anderson’s Sacramento Gold Miners and Benson's San Antonio Texans. 

While the Gold Miners were the only ones to make it into the following season’s expanded CFL schedule (Benson literally – and ominously – left the league at the altar by bowing out the day of the league’s press conference announcing the expansion), the door was open to a wild three-season adventure that brought the wide-open Canadian game to far-flung American outposts in Baltimore, Las Vegas, Shreveport, Memphis, Birmingham, and, ironically (via eventual relocation from Sacramento), San Antonio.

Longtime Vancouver Province sportswriter Ed Willes (End Zones and Border Wars: The Era of American Expansion in the CFL) joins the podcast to discuss the league’s short-lived American expansion effort, which then-commissioner Larry Smith had hoped to eventually encompass ten US teams in a fully expanded 20-team league.  

Among the misadventures, Willes recounts: the 1995 champion Baltimore Stallions (who operated as the nickname-less “CFLers” the previous season in a trademark dispute with the NFL over the “Colts” moniker); the woefully attended Las Vegas Posse (who practiced on the Strip in the Riviera Hotel’s parking lot and were forced to play their last “home” game in Edmonton); the Memphis Mad Dogs’ unique approach to fitting the longer/wider CFL field into the Liberty Bowl; why football-mad Birmingham couldn’t draw flies for Barracuda games once college and high school seasons started; and the “Great Tucker Caper” – featuring the infamous brothers Glieberman and their attempt to steal away the Shreveport Pirates to the greener pastures of Norfolk, VA.

Be sure to check out our great sponsors SportsHistoryCollectibles.com, Audible, and Podfly!

Jun 11 2018

1hr 58mins

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Rank #14: 028: Women’s Pro Basketball’s “Machine Gun” Molly Kazmer

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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 distinct 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!

Sep 18 2017

1hr 21mins

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Rank #15: 003: Author Michael MacCambridge on Lamar Hunt & the American Football League

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Sports author/historian Michael MacCambridge (America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation; Lamar Hunt: A Life in Sports) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the legacy of Lamar Hunt – the most unlikely of sports executive pioneers – and the outsized role he played in modernizing 1960s pro football into the enduring American sports juggernaut it is today.  MacCambridge recounts how a strong rebuff from the stodgy 1950s NFL establishment galvanized Hunt’s determination to disrupt the football status quo, how the AFL’s “Foolish Club” of owners persevered through staggering financial losses, how Kansas City mayor Harold Roe “Chief” Bartle wooed Hunt and his flailing Dallas Texans franchise to the City of Fountains, and the karmic irony of the AFL Chiefs’ victory over Max Winter’s NFL Minnesota Vikings in the final AFL-NFL Super Bowl (IV) in 1970.

Mar 20 2017

1hr 20mins

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Rank #16: 069: The “Rebel” World Hockey Association with Ed Willes

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Fresh off of kicking pro basketball’s establishment in the teeth with the launch of the upstart American Basketball Association in 1967, inveterate sports entrepreneurs Dennis Murphy (see also: World Team Tennis, Roller Hockey International) and Gary Davidson (World Football League) turned their attention to an even riper target of opportunity in 1971 – the monopolistic and monochromatic 12-team National Hockey League.

Their broadside against the NHL was the audaciously aspirational World Hockey Association – a seven-season 1970s-era wonder that brought a rollicking brand of ice hockey to no fewer than 27 markets across North America (not including four announced teams that relocated before even playing a game) – leaving in its wake a bevy of bounced checks, fractious lawsuits, and defunct franchises from San Diego to Cherry Hill, New Jersey.   

Amidst the league’s traveling circus of the weird (the Chicago Cougars’ 1974 playoff run ended by Peter Pan), and wonderful (the Houston Aeros’ Gordie, Mark and Marty Howe teaming for the first-ever father-son[-son!] combination in pro hockey), the WHA undeniably became the vanguard that dragged the sport kicking and screaming into the modern age by: ending the NHL’s monopoly grip on the pro game; freeing players from its reserve clause; allowing 18-year-old players to be drafted; introducing top-tier hockey to the US Sun Belt and the interior Canadian provinces; and opening up rosters to an exciting array of European talent in numbers previously unimagined. 

And, by the end of its run in 1979, ushering four new clubs – the Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers, and Hartford Whalers – into a merger-expanded NHL.

Sportswriter Ed Willes (The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association) returns to the podcast to discuss the brief but impactful legacy of hockey’s “rebel league” that gave up-and-coming stars their big-league debuts, others their swan songs – and provided high-octane fuel for some of the most spectacularly memorable moments in the history of professional hockey.

Please check out our great sponsors Audible, SportsHistoryCollectibles.com and Podfly!

Jul 09 2018

1hr 34mins

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Rank #17: 139: The NHL’s Kansas City Scouts – With Troy Treasure

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Veteran Missouri-area sportswriter Troy Treasure (Icing on the Plains: The Rough Ride of Kansas City’s NHL Scouts) joins the podcast this week to delve into the mostly forgotten (and woeful) two-season saga of the 1974 National Hockey League expansion franchise now known as the New Jersey Devils.

Along with the Washington Capitals, the Scouts were the last additions in the NHL’s aggressive expansion cycle begun in 1967, and a logical progression for a metro area historically steeped in minor league hockey.  While team president Edwin Thompson sought to call the club “Mo-Hawks” to reflect the geographical bond between neighboring Missouri and Kansas, Chicago’s similar-sounding Black Hawks squawked in opposition – leading to a community-sourced renaming to “Scouts” after a famous statue overlooking the city.

A construction-delayed (and livestock/rodeo-occupied) Kemper Arena forced the team to play its first month of games on the road (record: 0-7-1), until a 11/2/74 home debut (loss) to Chicago.  Their first win finally came the next day away at fellow debutante Washington – the only team to finish the season with a worse record than the Scouts’ 15-54-11.

The next season began more promisingly with KC a mere point out of contention for the NHL’s charitable playoffs by the end of December 1975.  However, the team crashed and burned over its remaining 44 games – posting a remarkably futile 1-35-8 record through season’s end.   

While rumors of relocation dogged the Scouts as early as the 1975 off-season, the club’s unwieldy ownership structure (at least two dozen investors), limited capital and thin talent pool (exacerbated by NHL expansion and a free-spending WHA) – all against a backdrop of a national economic recession –conspired against the Scouts even before they took to the ice.

Relocation to Denver to become the Colorado Rockies came swiftly in the summer of 1976, and Kansas City’s brief and forgettable fling with top-flight pro hockey was quickly over.

Treasure helps us dissect some of the Scouts’ more notable moments – and surmises why and how the NHL may someday again find its way back to the City of Fountains.

Support the show and enjoy nine free meals from HELLO FRESH (promo code: GOODSEATS9)!

Nov 18 2019

1hr 23mins

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Rank #18: 026: The TVS Television Network with Producer/Director Howard Zuckerman

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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!

Sep 04 2017

1hr 17mins

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Rank #19: 089: The NBA Buffalo Braves – With Tim Wendel

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The Buffalo Braves were one of three NBA expansion franchises (along with the Portland Trail Blazers and Cleveland Cavaliers) that began play in the 1970–71 season. 

Originally owned by a wobbly investment firm with few ties to Buffalo, the Braves eventually found a local backer in Freezer Queen founder Paul Snyder – who, by the end of the first season, had inherited a team that was neither good (penultimate league records of 22-60 in each of its first two seasons), nor easy to schedule (third-choice dates for Buffalo’s venerable Memorial Auditorium behind the also-new NHL hockey Buffalo Sabres, and Canisius Golden Griffins college basketball).

Snyder addressed the Braves’ on-court issues by luring head coach Dr. Jack Ramsey from the Philadelphia 76ers, while drafting key players like high-scoring (and later Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Famer) Bob McAdoo, eventual NBA Rookie of the Year Ernie DiGregorio, and local (via Buffalo State) crowd favorite Randy Smith – yielding three consecutive playoff appearances from 1973-74 to 1975-76.

Off the court, Snyder looked to regionalize the team’s appeal beyond “The Aud” by scheduling select home games in places like Rochester, Syracuse and even Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens – and team attendance, TV ratings and revenues achieved league-average levels.

By the summer of 1976, however, Snyder was facing severe pressure to sell the team and get it out of “The City of Good Neighbors.”  Of particular consternation was Canisius president Fr. James Demske, who publicly thwarted the Braves’ attempts at decent home dates – which angered the NBA enough to force the issue with Snyder. 

Snyder, who said he was losing money anyway, threatened to move the Braves to suburban Miami’s Hollywood Sportatorium, a deal that collapsed after the city of Buffalo sued and secured a new 15-year Aud lease – with a provision it could be broken if the team didn’t sell 5,000 season tickets in any future season.  

Author and Western New York native Tim Wendel (Buffalo, Home of the Braves) joins the pod to discuss the convoluted story of what happened next, including:

  • Snyder’s ownership sales to former ABA owner (and eventual Kentucky governor) John Y. Brown and businessman Harry Mangurian;
  • The subsequent dismantling of the team and overt attempts to drive down attendance to break the Aud lease;
  • The two-season coaching and player carousel that followed – including the curious six-minute career of Moses Malone; AND
  • How the Braves’ eventual move in 1978 to become the San Diego Clippers wouldn’t have happened without the Boston Celtics.

Thanks to 503 Sports, Audible, OldSchoolShirts.com, and SportsHistoryCollectibles.com for their support of this week’s show!

Nov 26 2018

1hr 32mins

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Rank #20: 025: Early Pro Football’s Memphis Tigers with Author Wylie McLallen

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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!

Aug 28 2017

1hr 8mins

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186: Negro Leaguers & Baseball's Hall of Fame - With Steven Greenes

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When legendary Red Sox slugger Ted Williams gave his induction speech at the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 25, 1966, he unexpectedly included a blunt admonition to the sport's establishment that something in the hallowed Hall was significantly awry - the absence of standout players from the Negro Leagues:

"I've been a very lucky guy to have worn a baseball uniform, and I hope some day the names of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson in some way can be added as a symbol of the great Negro players who are not here - only because they weren't given a chance."

The "Splendid Splinter" was referring to two of the most famous names in the Negro Leagues, who were not given the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. (Gibson died early in 1947 and never played in the majors; Paige's brief major league stint came long past his prime.) Williams biographer Leigh Montville called the broadside "a first crack in the door that ultimately would open and include Paige [in 1971] and Gibson [1972] and other Negro League stars in the shrine."

The Hall has been playing catch-up ever since - and as this week's guest Steven Greenes (Negro Leaguers and the Hall of Fame: The Case for Inducting 24 Overlooked Ballplayers) argues - still has plenty of ground to cover if it is to fully memorialize the contributions of some of the best talent to have ever played the game.

Oct 19 2020

1hr 17mins

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185: NHL Hockey by Design - With Chris Creamer & Todd Radom

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Logo archivist Chris Creamer (SportsLogos.net) and graphic brand designer Todd Radom (Todd Radom Design) join this week's show to dive into the rich and fascinating visual story of the National Hockey League's nearly 103-year history - as told by the names, logos and uniforms of its teams.

Their new book collaboration Fabric of the Game: The Stories Behind the NHL's Names, Logos and Uniforms is a comprehensive look into the rationale behind and the execution of the iconography of each of the league's major historical franchise lineages - from the respective journeys of today's 32 teams to the forgotten former clubs of yore.

Of course, we go long and hard into the visual foibles of the latter - who can forget the Cleveland Barons, Kansas City Scouts, Colorado Rockies, California/Oakland/Bay Area/California Golden Seals, the Atlanta Thrashers, or even the New York/Brooklyn Americans?

But there are plenty of revealing tidbits and surprising twists for fans of today's NHL franchises - including directionless Stars, wayward Flames, cartoonish Ducks - and a hot debate on just where team histories should go when they pull up stakes for greener pastures.

Oct 12 2020

1hr 32mins

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184: Birmingham's Quixotic Quest for Pro Pigskin - With Scott Adamson

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Veteran sportswriter and Birmingham, AL native Scott Adamson (The Home Team: My Bromance with Off-Brand Football) joins the pod to discuss his curious decades-long relationship with the various attempts at rooting pro football in the "Magic City."

Birmingham's venerable Legion Field - known legendarily as the "Football Capital of the South" for its long-time association with the annual Alabama-Auburn "Iron Bowl" college season-ender - has also been home base for a parade of franchises in virtually every major challenger pro football league since the 1970s, including:

  • The World Football League "World Bowl" champion Birmingham Americans (1974);

  • 1975's de facto title-winning Birmingham Vulcans of the reincarnated second edition WFL;

  • The USFL's perennially competitive Birmingham Stallions (1983-85);

  • The World League of American Football's Birmingham Fire (1991-92);

  • 1995's Birmingham Barracudas of the Canadian Football League;

  • The woeful Birmingham Thunderbolts of 2001's original XFL; AND

  • The playoff-qualifying Birmingham Iron of the 2019's short-lived Alliance of American Football

Adamson helps us dig into Birmingham's checkered history with the pro game, the pathology of its fandom over that time, why the city is reliably found on new/startup league short lists, and whether the XFL's return in 2022 might portend yet another chance - this time with a brand new Protective Stadium as a lure.

Oct 05 2020

1hr 34mins

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183: Negro League Baseball's "Invisible Men" - With Donn Rogosin

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From the book jacket of the 2007 reissue of Invisible Men: Life in Baseball's Negro Leagues - the seminal 1983 book by this week's guest Donn Rogosin:

"In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier and became a hero for [B]lack and white Americans, yet Robinson was a Negro League player before he integrated Major League baseball. Negro League ballplayers had been thrilling [B]lack fans since 1920. Among them were the legendary pitchers Smoky Joe Williams, whose fastball seemed to "come off a mountain top," Satchel Paige, the ageless wonder who pitched for five decades, and such hitters as Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard, 'the Ruth and Gehrig of the Negro Leagues.'"

"Although their games were ignored by white-owned newspapers and radio stations, [B]lack ballplayers became folk heroes in cities such as Chicago, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, DC - where the teams drew large crowds and became major contributors to the local community life. This illuminating narrative, filled with the memories of many surviving Negro League players, pulls the veil off these 'invisible men' who were forced into the segregated leagues. What emerges is a glorious chapter in African American history and an often overlooked aspect of our American past."

Sep 28 2020

1hr 23mins

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182: National League Baseball's Cleveland Spiders - With Eric Nusbaum

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Writer/author (and Episode 158 guest) Eric Nusbaum ("Stealing Home: Los Angeles, the Dodgers, and the Lives Caught in Between") returns for a second visit, this time to help us obsess about the curious story of the National League's 1899 Cleveland Spiders - the worst major league baseball team of all time.

While today's current generation of baseball fans will swear that the 1962 NL expansion New York Mets (40-120 record; .250 winning percentage), the 2003 AL Detroit Tigers (43–119; .265), or even the 2018 AL Baltimore Orioles (47-115; .290) might each own the record for on-field futility - none come close to the stunningly woeful 20-134 (.130) performance turned in by Cleveland's first major league team, one that preceded and indirectly influenced today's AL Indians.

The Spiders were a consistently competitive team in the 1890s - loaded with eventual Hall of Fame talents like Bobby Wallace, Jesse Burkett and legendary pitching ace Cy Young. Attendance and ticket revenue, however, were terrible - hindered significantly by Ohio blue laws that prohibited lucrative games on Sundays.

So in the 1898 off-season, team owner-brothers Frank & Stanley Robison took advantage of the NL's liberal "syndicate" ownership rules, purchased the financially teetering but far better-drawing St. Louis Browns, and shipped their more talented Spiders roster to the Gateway City as the "Perfectos" - leaving their Cleveland franchise to founder for 1899, all by design.

Nusbaum takes us through the various layers of ignominy that beset the Spiders' last season of existence, including: losing 40 of their last 41 games (and 70 of their last 74); drawing so poorly by June (a mere 179 per game) that all home games were moved to either neutral sites or visiting teams' home parks; and even proffering a local hotel cigar stand clerk to pitch their final game in Cincinnati (a 19-3 loss).

Plus, how the Spiders helped today's Indians get their now increasingly controversial nickname.

Sep 21 2020

56mins

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181: Columbus' IHL Hockey Heritage - With Eric Weltner

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Little did we know when we dropped our minor league hockey tribute to the 1990s ECHL Columbus Chill in our Episode 169 with David Paitson & Craig Merz earlier this year that it would not only become our most listened-to episode of 2020 (so far), but would also unearth a project devoted to the colorful history of the forgotten teams that preceded it.

Columbus native and Cincinnati creative agency professional Eric Weltner ("International Incidents"), previews his soon-to-be-released 80-minute documentary of "old-time hockey gold" devoted to the three clubs in the rock 'em, sock 'em International Hockey League that called Ohio's capital city (and the scruffy Ohio Expo Fairgrounds Coliseum) home during the late 1960s and early 1970s:

  • The Columbus Checkers (1966-70): the city's first-ever professional hockey franchise - a "Plan B" sports ownership pursuit for Cleveland's entrepreneurial Schmeltzer brothers, after just missing out on the NBA's Boston Celtics;
  • The Columbus Golden Seals (1971-73): Charlie O. Finley's malnourished attempt to create a feeder team for his floundering California NHL namesake - whose woeful 25-117 record set IHL futility records; and
  • The Columbus Owls (1973-77): mortgage executive Al Savill's franchise rehab that handed full managerial reigns to local hockey legend "Moe" Bartoli - undermined by Savill's 1975 purchase of the NHL Penguins.

Sep 14 2020

1hr 42mins

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180: Washington NFL Football's "R-Word" - With Rich King

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Columbia College Chicago cultural studies professor Rich King (Redskins: Insult and Brand) joins the podcast this week to discuss the roots and long-simmering backstory of the Washington NFL football franchise's problematic - and now former - nickname.

Investigative reporter Tisha Thompson framed the situation in her recent piece for ESPN:

“Daniel Snyder endured decades of protests, lawsuits and emotional appeals over the nickname of his Washington NFL team. ‘We'll never change the name,’ he told USA Today in 2013. ‘It's that simple. NEVER -- you can use caps.’

“Then, in a blinding rush this summer, the name long criticized by Native Americans and others was gone.

“But the change didn't feel sudden to the coalition of Native American groups that started working long ago to force Snyder's hand by investing in the corporations that pay hundreds of millions of dollars for sponsorship deals.”

Amplified by a renewed national furor over racial injustice sparked by the death of George Floyd - and opportunely reflexive corporate commitments to diversity and inclusion (particularly team sponsors like Nike, PepsiCo and stadium name rights holder FedEx) - the movement to retire the Washington NFL franchise's derogatory Native American name of over 80 years has been seemingly swift and sudden.

Instead, King helps us understand why the team's (and NFL's) dramatic decision is not only not a knee-jerk capitulation to trendy "political correctness" - but actually an overdue reckoning for a nickname steeped in systemic racism and cultural insensitivity.

What remains to be seen is how both pro football and the Washington franchise rectify the situation - and, importantly, how each appropriately squares it with the ignominious history that preceded it.

Sep 07 2020

1hr 22mins

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179: WHA Hockey "Lost & Found" - With Dennis Murphy

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If we ever get around to creating a Good Seats Still Available "Hall of Fame," this week's return guest will most certainly be part of its inaugural class of inductees.

Dennis Murphy (“Murph: The Sports Entrepreneur Man and His Leagues”) is a bona fide legend in sports entrepreneurial circles - a man responsible for helping found no less than four "major" game-changing leagues across the North American pro sports landscape, including the polychromatic American Basketball Association (our previous Episode 129), and this week's focus: the raucous World Hockey Association. (The others: World Team Tennis and Roller Hockey International.)

This week's shorter-than-normal episode was originally intended to be our second full-length discussion with "Murph" - and our first exclusively devoted to the founding and operation of the WHA - until events last year conspired against it.

A scheduling snafu resulted in a shorter window of conversation than originally intended, and the recording itself was feared lost during our internal archives transfer process weeks later.

However, in the process of doing background research for our recent episode on the original Winnipeg Jets with Curtis Walker, we were lucky enough to stumble across the fully intact audio file on a redundant backup server - which we now present as the bulk of this week's episode.

What it lacks in length is more than made up with in depth and surprising detail from the now-93-year-old Murphy's still-sharp memory of hockey's "rebel league."

Aug 31 2020

42mins

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178: "PF's Tape Recorder" - With P.F. Wilson (Vacation Special)

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We steal away for a little summer vacation time this week - but not before sitting down for a massively enjoyable interview with fellow defunct sports enthusiast and long-time friend-of-the-show P.F. Wilson - as a guest on his comedy-tinged podcast "PF's Tape Recorder."

P.F. (née Patrick François) is also the creative engine behind one of our longest-running sponsors OldSchoolShirts.com - where our listeners can enjoy a 10% discount on everything in the store, when using the promo code "GOODSEATS" at checkout.

Tim and P.F. obsess about all things defunct - including Gary Davidson's WFL Waterloo, the directionally challenged "New York/New Jersey" moniker, long-forgotten college bowl games, who/what (really) killed the USFL, and the MISL's (barely) one-season wonder New Jersey Rockets.

Please enjoy this conversation we recorded a few weeks back - and thanks to both P.F. and OldSchoolShirts.com for their support of the show!

Aug 24 2020

48mins

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177: The (Original) Winnipeg Jets – With Curtis Walker

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We cross the virtual border northward this week to obsess about the original incarnation of hockey's Winnipeg Jets - with author/team completist Curtis Walker ("Winnipeg Jets: The WHA Years Day By Day"; "Coming Up Short: The Comprehensive History of the NHL's Winnipeg Jets").

One of the twelve founding franchises in the upstart World Hockey Association's inaugural 1972-73 season, the Jets were one of only four teams to survive the entire run of the rebel league - and to ascend into the vaunted NHL after its demise in 1979.

They were also, arguably, the WHA's most successful club - winning three of the league's seven-ever AVCO Cup championships, while finishing as playoff runners-up twice. (We'll get into the story of the Houston Aeros' two titles and one finals loss in another episode!)

Walker helps us proverbially "scratch the surface" of the Jets' intriguing history in not only the WHA (including the credibility-validating, league-collective-funded signing of Bobby Hull; the Swedish-flavored "Hot Line" contributions of Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson; and a franchise-saving "Save the Jets" community campaign in 1974) - but also the National Hockey League, where the club largely struggled to reclaim their earlier glory - especially when facing their long-time regional nemesis, the Edmonton Oilers.

Of course, we tackle the delicate issue of where the original Jets' legacy should credibly reside: with the lamentable Arizona Coyotes (the franchise moved to Phoenix in 1996); the current Jets team (the relocated Atlanta Thrashers since 2011); or in the collective memories of the fans that routinely packed the rafters of the old Winnipeg Arena.

Aug 17 2020

1hr 14mins

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176: The Continental Indoor Soccer League – With Ronnie Weinstein

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By popular demand, former Los Angeles Lazers president and Episode 166 guest Ronnie Weinstein returns for an eagerly-awaited "part two" conversation about his sojourn through professional indoor soccer - this time centered on the intriguing story of the 1990s-era Continental Indoor Soccer League he helped create and operate.

Loosely borne from the 1992 collapse of the Major (née Indoor) Soccer League, the idea for what ultimately became the CISL actually germinated from Weinstein's last days running the Lazers in the spring of 1989. It was then when team (and legendary Lakers/Kings/Forum) owner Jerry Buss - while pulling the plug on his money-losing MISL club - opined on the stronger financial merits of a league based in the summer, when the NBA & NHL were out of season, and arena owners were eager to fill dates with quality sports product.

Weinstein took Buss' words to heart, and with his mentor's support - along with that of fellow sports mogul Jerry Colangelo - convinced more than a dozen major league team and arena owners of the viability of the concept.

By its second season, the CISL was drawing more than a million fans to its games across the country - and for at least a while, the prescience of Buss and the passion of Weinstein proved to be a winning combination.

Aug 10 2020

1hr 50mins

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175: Cycling's Tour de Trump – With Peter Nye

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Cycling writer/historian Peter Nye (Hearts of Lions: The History of American Bicycle Racing) joins the podcast this week to help us understand the long and curious backstory behind the 1989 launch of the Tour de Trump - a major world-class cycling event that, for a brief period, aspired to become the American equivalent of the sport's iconic Tour de France.

Once the king of sports in the US at the turn of the 20th century (prominent cycling competitions in the early 1900s routinely drew thousands of paying spectators, attracted significant wagering action and stretched across multiple days), bicycle racing fell precipitously from the national sporting spotlight in the decades that followed - until major outdoor stage races backed by progressive sponsors like Celestial Seasonings and Coors rekindled interest during the late 1970s/early 1980s.

Buoyed by building enthusiasm for the sport from CBS' increased television coverage of the Tour de France in the US, an unlikely alliance - sports TV host/music composer John Tesh, college basketball analyst/entrepreneur Billy Packer, Olympic sports management executive Mike Plant, and a bombastic, egocentric real estate baron-cum-personal branding nightmare named Donald Trump - conceived an East Coast "Tour de Jersey" in an attempt to compliment and eventually rival the French spectacle.

After Packer convinced an already-controversial Trump to lend his name to the enterprise, sizable increases in media attention, rider interest, corporate sponsorship, and prize money were assured - at least until Trump's (first set of) corporate financial woes forced him to bail after only two Tours.

Still, the later-renamed Tour Du Pont lasted six more seasons, all the while elevating competitive cycling to a level the US had not seen in decades - and, arguably, hasn't since.

Aug 03 2020

1hr 36mins

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174: WUSA, WPS & NWSL Soccer – With Beau Dure

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As the National Women's Soccer League concludes its deftly assembled 2020 Challenge Cup tournament (with congrats to the Houston Dash on their first-ever major trophy), we enlist sportswriter/soccer insider Beau Dure ("2012: The Year That Saved Women's Soccer") to help us make sense of the confoundingly discontinuous history of the women's pro game in the US over the last 20 years - and the unwitting origin story of the NWSL.

Against the backdrop of an undeniably prolific US Women's National Team - a program that has produced four FIFA Women's World Cup titles, four Olympic gold medals and currently (and regularly) sits atop the FIFA Women's World Rankings - the path to building and sustaining a viable top-tier women's domestic pro league over that time has proven surprisingly quixotic.

While the reasons are myriad, Dure navigates us through:

  • The Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA): the big-money, TV-backed, John Hendricks-boostered attempt to create a first-ever pro league in the wake of 1999's breakthrough USWNT's World Cup title - but quickly burned through over $100MM and flamed out after just three seasons;

  • Women's Professional Soccer (WPS): the pragmatic but woefully under-funded attempt to resurrect a circuit - this time with momentum from a 2008 Olympic Gold Medal - but done in by a wobbly investor base, none more dubious than "magicJack" owner-operator Dan Borislow; AND

  • Today's NWSL: which, through the backstopping efforts of the US Soccer Federation, kept the burning embers of the WPS alive to help reconstruct what is now a seemingly thriving seven-year-old loop that will add its 10th (Louisville) and 11th (LA) franchises in the next two seasons.

Jul 27 2020

1hr 46mins

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173: Ontario Speedway, The International Race of Champions & More – With Dave Lockton

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Longtime sports/information technology entrepreneur/executive Dave Lockton joins this week to discuss his managerial adventures in the geographically fragmented and provincially fractious auto racing scene of the late 1960s/early 1970s – including the founding of the groundbreaking Ontario Motor Speedway, and its role in the ideation of the ultimate “all-star” professional driving competition – the International Race of Champions (IROC).

Sports fans of a certain age will surely remember the old IROC series – which ran for 30 seasons starting in 1973 – where the best drivers from the world’s top auto racing disciplines raced one another in equally prepared and equitably crewed cars to determine motorsports’ “ultimate” annual champion.  Multi-circuit veteran Tony Stewart (who won the final IROC XXX in 2006) certainly does – he and fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Ray Evernham are teaming to reinvent the format next summer with a nationally televised six-race, short-track series to air in prime time on CBS called the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX).

The basis for the IROC concept dates back to Lockton’s time as President/CEO and chief visionary of Ontario’s “Indianapolis of the West” – a stalled mid-1960s pipe dream that Lockton helped resuscitate, leveraging his budding professional driver representation firm and his Indianapolis Speedway/USAC governing body relationships into a state-of-the-art, all-purpose West Coast racing mecca just east of Los Angeles.

Among the innovations Lockton and team pioneered at Ontario (which included a private stadium club with annual memberships, corporate suites, crash-absorbent retaining walls & safety fences, and computerized real-time timing/scoring/positioning data) was a first-of-its-kind pro-am celebrity race – featuring a co-mingling of Hollywood luminaries and professional drivers competing in similarly prepared vehicles – the foundational element of what would soon become the signature IROC series.

PLUS: Hugh Downs keeps it together; Evel Knievel makes his case; and the short-lived sports commissioner career of Gerald Ford!

Jul 20 2020

1hr 30mins

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172: The Forgotten Pro Teams of New Orleans – With Nick Weldon

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We point our GPS coordinates this week to the endearingly enigmatic city of New Orleans, for an overdue look into the Big Easy’s chaotic pro sports franchise history – with Historic New Orleans Collection writer (and recovering sports scribe) Nick Weldon (“A Streetcar Named Basketball”).

Although a mainstay of baseball’s minor and Negro leagues since the dawn of the sport’s professional era in the late 1800s (including Louis Armstrong’s well-outfitted, attention-grabbing, but largely lamentable 1931 barnstorming “Secret Nine” club), Louisiana’s largest city has been considered more of a football town over the last half-century – especially after the arrival of the NFL Saints in 1967.

But it’s the pursuit (and occasional success) of pro basketball that has captured the fancy of local sports entrepreneurs most in the intervening decades – providing the Crescent City with some of its most fascinating, yet oft-forgotten sporting exploits:

  • The American Basketball Association’s Buccaneers (1967-70) – a charter member, who came within one game of winning the league’s first-ever title, before moving to Memphis two seasons later;
  • The National Basketball Association’s Jazz (1974-79) – an expansion franchise known mostly for the dazzling on-court wizardry of local LSU hero “Pistol” Pete Maravich, and not much else;
  • The Women’s Professional Basketball League’s Pride (1979-81) – ready-made to take advantage of the region’s strong female collegiate roots and presumptive US women’s success at the (eventually boycotted) 1980 Olympics; AND
  • The arrival of the NBA’s Hornets (now Pelicans) in 2002 – finally cementing the long-term viability of pro basketball in New Orleans.

Weldon helps us dig in to all of these points on NOLA’s pro hoops history curve – but also some tantalizing tangents like the one-year incarnation of the USFL’s New Orleans Breakers, and even the “Sun Belt” Nets of the original mid-1970s World Team Tennis.

Jul 13 2020

1hr 22mins

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171: Pittsburgh's Pro Hoops History – With Stephen J. Nesbitt

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Pittsburgh-based The Athletic sportswriter Stephen J. Nesbitt (“How the Pipers, Condors and Pro Basketball in Pittsburgh Went Extinct”) joins to help us dig into the surprisingly rich (though mostly woeful) history of professional hoops in the Steel City.

Though the game has long thrived at the collegiate level (Pitt’s Panthers began playing in 1905; the Duquesne Dukes in 1914), the city’s record of success at the pro level has been distinctly more fleeting.  In fact, some would argue it was never better than the pre-integration Black Fives era of the 1910s/20s, when eventual Naismith Hall of Famer Cumberland Posey led his Monticello (1912) and Loendi Big Five (1919-23) clubs to five “Colored” Basketball World Championships.

As professional (and eventually integrated) leagues took root in the decades that followed, Pittsburgh’s attractive demographic profile made it a natural choice for inaugural – yet ultimately short-lived – franchises in virtually every major hardwood circuit that came calling, including:

  • The never-playoff-qualifying Pirates (1937-39) and re-born Raiders (1944-45) of the NBA-precedent National Basketball League;
  • The lamentable Ironmen (1947-48) of the NBA tributary Basketball Association of America;
  • The Connie Hawkins-led Renaissance (“Rens”) of the one-and-a-half-season (1961-62) American Basketball League; and especially;
  • The head-scratching Pipers of the legendary American Basketball Association – who, despite winning the league’s first championship behind regular-season and playoff MVP Hawkins in 1968 – relocated to Minneapolis, moved back to Pittsburgh, and finally re-branded as the “Condors” for two forgettable last seasons (1970-72).

With a checkered pro history like that, it’s little wonder that the basketball team most memorably associated with the City of Bridges wasn’t even a real club – the Pittsburgh Pisces (née Pythons) of the 1979 sports/disco fantasy cult film classic The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.

Jul 06 2020

1hr 15mins

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170: The 1969 Washington Senators – With Steve Walker

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When the original version of the modern-era Washington Senators announced its intention to relocate to Minneapolis-St. Paul in 1960 to become the Twins the following season, Major League Baseball moved up part of its planned 1962 expansion by a year to help stave off dual competitive threats of both a new challenger Continental League and the potential loss of its longstanding federal antitrust exemption.

To placate regulators, the American League reworked its plans and replaced the departing DC franchise with an entirely new expansion club – to also be known as the Senators – to commence immediately in its wake for 1961.  After an “inaugural” season at old Griffith Stadium, the new Senators moved to the new District of Columbia Stadium under a 10-year lease.

For most of their second incarnation, the “new” Senators were just as woeful as their predecessors, losing an average of 90 games a season and perennially finishing below .500 – helping preserve the traditional lamentation to which DC area fans had become accustomed: “Washington: First in War, First in Peace and Still Last in the American League.”

But in 1969, when new owner Bob Short successfully coaxed Hall of Fame batting legend Ted Williams out of retirement to become the club’s rookie manager, things immediately changed.  Williams' maniacal approach to hitting helped ignite the moribund Senators to its one and only winning season during its 11-year run – winning 86 games (21 more than in 1968) – and vaulting from last in the previous year’s ten-team American League to just one game out of third in the new divisional AL East.

Attendance at the newly renamed RFK Stadium zoomed above 900,000 for the season (not to mention a Senators-hosted MLB All-Star Game featuring a booming 2nd inning HR by hometown hero Frank Howard), and Williams was voted AL Manager of the Year.  For the first time in decades, it seemed baseball in Washington was “back.”

But, as 1969 Senators chronicler Steve Walker (“A Whole New Ballgame: The 1969 Washington Senators”) tells us, the excitement was not to last; the club soon reverted back to its forlorn ways – exacerbated by an increasingly impatient and already-conspiring Short – who relocated the franchise to the Dallas Metroplex after the 1971 season, to become today’s Texas Rangers.

It would be 33 years until another major league team would call DC home again.

This week’s episode is sponsored by the Red Lightning Books imprint of Indiana University Press – who offer our listeners a FREE CHAPTER of pioneering sportswriter Diana K. Shah’s new memoir A Farewell to Arms, Legs and Jockstraps!

Jun 29 2020

1hr 26mins

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169: The Columbus Chill – With David Paitson & Craig Merz

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We take a rare dip into the minors this week with the intriguing story of hockey’s Columbus Chill – the 1990s sensation that took the East Coast Hockey League and the Ohio capital’s sports scene by storm, and helped set the table for Columbus’s ascension into top-tier “major league” status by the dawn of the 2000s.

Historically overshadowed by the scale, prowess and outsized culture of its hometown Ohio State University Buckeyes athletics programs, Columbus’ pro sports landscape in 1991 largely consisted of AAA baseball’s sleepily long-standing Yankees affiliate Clippers – and not much else.  Professional hockey, specifically, had been absent from the market for 14 years, after a largely lamentable run of thinly supported International Hockey League franchises (Checkers, Golden Seals, Owls) during the late 60s and 1970s.

But though cheeky marketing campaigns and promotion-laden game-day experiences – targeted at both the growing city’s young professional set and fun-seeking OSU students looking for off-campus entertainment alternatives – the Chill quickly made an impact and suddenly becoming the hottest ticket in town.  Sellouts in the ancient 5,600-seat Ohio State Fairgrounds Expo Coliseum (opened in 1918) became the norm, and national media lauded the club as the vanguard of minor league sports.

After a dubious scheduling snafu by Fairgrounds management amidst the Chill’s second season, fans and local community leaders galvanized around a longer-term plan to solidify the newly popular team’s future and independence – leading to the eventual commitment to construct a top-flight downtown (now, Nationwide) arena – and, ultimately, the awarding of an expansion NHL franchise in 1999.

Ex-Chill President David Paitson and former Columbus Dispatch sportswriter Craig Merz (Chill Factor: How a Minor-League Hockey Team Changed a City Forever) recount the story of the team that paved the way for the Columbus Blue Jackets – and beyond.

This week’s episode is sponsored by the Red Lightning Books imprint of Indiana University Press – who offer our listeners a FREE CHAPTER of pioneering sportswriter Diana K. Shah’s new memoir A Farewell to Arms, Legs and Jockstraps!

Jun 22 2020

1hr 35mins

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168: Cumberland Posey’s Negro League Homestead Grays – With Jim Overmyer

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Negro League ace historian/author Jim Overmyer (Queen of the Negro Leagues: Effa Manley and the Newark Eagles; Black Ball and the Boardwalk: The Bacharach Giants of Atlantic City) returns for a deep dive into the extraordinary dual-sport career of Negro League baseball AND Black Fives-era basketball legend Cumberland Posey – including the two dominating teams he founded, owned, managed, and played for – baseball’s Homestead Grays and basketball’s Loendi Big Five.

Considered the best African-American hoops player of his time (although not inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame until 2016), Posey was a standout collegiate player at Pitt, Penn State and Duquense before launching his semi-pro Loendi club in 1915 – which he built and led to four consecutive Colored Basketball World's Championships from 1919-1923.

Posey was already moonlighting as a player with Negro League baseball’s Grays starting in 1911, becoming the team’s manager in 1916, and finally its owner by the early 1920s – ultimately building one of the powerhouses of black baseball.  Posey’s Homestead franchise won eleven pennants across three leagues – including nine consecutive Negro National League titles from 1937-45 – and three Negro World Series Championships (against counterparts from the Negro American League) in ’43, ’44 & ’48.

Overmyer discusses his new book (Cum Posey of the Homestead Grays: A Biography of the Negro Leagues Owner and Hall of Famer), Posey’s prodigious talents both as a player and owner (which garnered him posthumous induction in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006), and the Grays’ twin homes of both suburban Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.

This week’s episode is sponsored by the Red Lightning Books imprint of Indiana University Press – who offer our listeners a FREE CHAPTER of pioneering sportswriter Diana K. Shah’s new memoir A Farewell to Arms, Legs and Jockstraps!

Jun 15 2020

1hr 21mins

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167: The “Down Goes Brown” History of the NHL – With Sean McIndoe

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While we ruminate on what a potential resumption of the National Hockey League’s delayed 2020 regular season (and playoffs) might look like in the months ahead, we pause to look back at the rich, but altogether confounding history of the world’s premier pro hockey circuit with Down Goes Brown blog scribe and Athletic columnist Sean McIndoe (The Down Goes Brown History of the NHL: The World's Most Beautiful Sport, the World's Most Ridiculous League).

Over its often-illogical 103-year history, the NHL has proven to be – as the dust jacket to McIndoe’s loving, but irreverent book intimates – a league that often can't seem to get out of its own way:

“No matter how long you've been a hockey fan, you know that sinking feeling that maybe – just maybe – some of the people in charge here don't actually know what they're doing.  And at some point, you've probably wondered – has it always been this way? The short answer is yes.  As for the longer answer, well, that's this book.”

McIndoe helps us cheat-sheet through some of the league’s defining historical inflection points, including:

  • The myth of the “Original Six” – the hallowed group of supposedly foundational franchises cemented during WWII-era 1942 – that conveniently ignores 15 teams that preceded them in the league’s first 25 years of existence;
  • 1967’s “Great Expansion” – when the NHL doubled its franchise count from six to twelve, including pre-emptive strikes against the Western Hockey League with new teams in Los Angeles (Kings) and Oakland (Seals);
  • The 1979 “merger” with the pesky World Hockey Association – which absorbed only four of the challenger’s seven remaining clubs; AND
  • Comical expansion/relocation follies in Cleveland, Kansas City, Denver, and Atlanta (twice).

This week’s episode is sponsored by the Red Lightning Books imprint of Indiana University Press – who offer our listeners a FREE CHAPTER of pioneering sportswriter Diana K. Shah’s new memoir A Farewell to Arms, Legs and Jockstraps!

Jun 08 2020

1hr 27mins

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Great

By Cool Pasta Man22 - Mar 31 2020
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Great interviews with great stories! Keep Kicking!

Wonderful

By bopefas - Feb 21 2020
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Such a well made Pod. Great to reminisce and learn new things