5 Sports Franchises That Folded

filed under:
Image credit: 

It's not uncommon for a sports franchise to move to another city. Before this season, for example, the NBA's Seattle Supersonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder. But it's rare for a franchise to pack it in and fold entirely. Here are some examples of teams who called it quits.

1. Cleveland Spiders (folded in 1899)

400px-Cleveland_Spiders.jpgEstablished in 1887, the Spiders were a respectable team for most of their existence before falling victim to their owner's brash stupidity. Unhappy with what he perceived as lousy attendance in Cleveland, Frank Robison purchased a second National League team, the St. Louis Perfectos, in 1899. Robison then transferred most of Cleveland's stars, including Cy Young, to St. Louis. The moves essentially turned Cleveland, which was coming off a fifth-place finish, into a minor league team. The result was predictable.

Cleveland finished a historically awful 20-134, 84 games behind first-place Brooklyn and 35 games behind the next worst team, Washington. Attendance was so bad at the Spiders' home games "“ an average of 179 fans per game at League Park "“ that teams refused to travel to Cleveland. As a result, the Spiders played the final 36 games of the season on the road and lost all but one of them. The Spiders were one of four teams contracted from the National League after the 1899 season. A team based in Cleveland joined the American League, which was a minor league at the time, in 1900.

2. Montreal Wanderers (folded in 1918)

montreal-wanderers.jpgThe Wanderers were founded in 1903, won five Stanley Cups by 1910, and, despite facing financial trouble, joined the NHL for its inaugural season in 1917. The Wanderers won their first NHL game, but competing with the Canadiens for the attention of Montrealers, the fan turnout was poor. With only 12 players, the Wanderers lost their next three games by a combined score of 29-7 and owner Sam Lichtenhein threatened to withdraw the team from the league if he couldn't sign reinforcements. Help eventually arrived in the form of players from other leagues, but personnel issues, it turned out, would be the least of the Wanderers' problems.

On January 2, 1918, Montreal's 20-year old home rink, Montreal Arena, burned down. The team disbanded immediately. While their time in the league was short-lived, the Wanderers managed to make a bit of history that didn't involve its arena being reduced to ashes. Wanderers forward Dave Ritchie is credited with scoring the NHL's first goal.

3. Chicago Tigers (folded in 1920)

According to some accounts, the Tigers folded after their only season in the American Professional Football Association to fulfill a promise they made to Chris O'Brien, the owner of the cross-town rival Chicago Cardinals. O'Brien didn't think the Windy City was big enough for two teams, so he suggested the Tigers scott1.jpgand Cardinals make a wager on their second meeting of the 1920 season: the loser would agree to drop out of the league. The teams had played to a scoreless tie in their previous meeting, but the Cardinals won the battle for city exclusivity, 6-3. John "Paddy" Driscoll (pictured) scored the game's only touchdown on a 40-yard run.

Some football historians question the validity of the story, as O'Brien seemed to welcome George Halas' request to move the league's Decatur Staleys to Chicago the following season. The Staleys became the Chicago Bears in 1922 and the Bears eventually drove O'Brien and the Cardinals out of Chicago. The Tigers' greatest legacy remains helping start the tradition of playing football on Thanksgiving, when they lost to the Staleys on November 25, 1920.

4. Baltimore Bullets (folded in 1954)

The Bullets, who began play in the American Basketball League, joined the NBA in 1949. They became the last and longest-tenured team to disband from the NBA in 1954, after starting the season 3-11. Former Wyoming standout Ken Sailors (who popularized the jump shot), head coach Clair Bee (who led Long bullets.jpgIsland University to two undefeated seasons), and player/coach Buddy Jeannette were three of the more notable figures in the franchise's brief history.

When the Bullets disbanded, all but four of Baltimore's players were picked up by other NBA teams. One of the four players who were left unexpectedly unemployed was the late Al McGuire, who was hired as an assistant coach at Dartmouth the next year. McGuire would go on to win a national championship as a head coach at Marquette and enjoyed a successful broadcasting career before losing his battle with cancer in 2001. Unlike the Comets, the Bullets were never the class of the NBA. They compiled a 112-244 record before "“ to borrow one of McGuire's memorable phrases "“ the carnival gates were closed on the franchise.

5. Houston Comets (folded in 2008)

The WNBA's Houston Comets disbanded earlier this month after the league decided it wouldn't be able to complete the sale of the once-proud franchise to a new ownership group by the start of the 2009 season. Houston's players were reallocated among the league's 13 remaining teams through a dispersal draft. The Comets won the first four WNBA titles from 1997-2000 with stars Tina Thompson, Cynthia Cooper, and Sheryl Swoopes, but attendance waned in recent years as the team missed the playoffs in three of its last five seasons.

* * * * *

December 23, 2008 - 4:56pm
submit to reddit