originally published February 28, 2012
A – Philadelphia Athletics (1860-1876) – This team, which bears no relation to today’s Oakland team, finished with a record of .500 or greater for all but its final year in the National League. In 1876 they were horrible, and at one point refused to head out west for a series of road games. They got kicked out of the league. Babies.
B – Baltimore Terrapins (1914-1915) – Part of the short-lived Federal League. A lot of teams got a buy-out from the National and American Leagues when this league folded. Not these guys. They probably got a bit of cash for selling Babe Ruth’s contract to the Red Sox though.
C – Canton Bulldogs (1905-1927) – The National Football League was formed in a Canton automobile showroom in 1920. The Bulldogs won three championships in the 20s before becoming a financial casualty. The NFL Hall of Fame is in Canton because of these guys. Also, bulldogs are awesome.
D – Denver Nuggets (1948-1950) – The first NBA franchise west of the Mississippi. They played one year in the National Basketball League, one in the NBA, and consistently stunk. They folded and launched a decade with no pro sports in Colorado.
E – St. Louis Eagles (1934-1935) – The original Ottawa Senators were bleeding money so they relocated to St. Louis. The other eight NHL teams at the time were all gathered around the Great Lakes area, so the cost of travel for the Eagles killed them. They lasted one season, won eleven games.
F – Muncie Flyers (1905-1925) – Part of the original NFL, they played three games against fellow NFL teams and lost all three. They left the league and played a handful of (mostly road) games before folding in 1925.
G – Providence Grays (1878-1885) – They won the second perfect game (no opposing player even reaches first base) in MLB history. Charlie Sweeney struck out 19 batters in a nine-inning game in 1884, a record that stood for 102 years.
H – Hartford Dark Blues (1874-1877) – This short-lived franchise had some stars, including Candy Cummings, inventor of the curve ball, and Tom Barlow who pioneered not only the bunt, but sports-related morphine addiction. They moved to Brooklyn and suffered the fate of all professional sports teams that move to Brooklyn.
I – Pittsburgh Ironmen (1946-47) – The team lasted one season and won a quarter of its games. They aren’t the first Ironmen of Pittsburgh though, the city’s football franchise changed its name from the Steelers to the Ironmen for a few months in 1941 after the sale of the team to Alexis Thompson.
J – Winnipeg Jets (1972-1996) – The second blow to Canadian hockey after the Quebec Nordiques were shipped down south a year earlier. In 1987, the Jets’ fans came up with something called the Winnipeg White Out: fans are instructed to show up for home playoff games wearing white. It’s a clever tactic to freak out their opponents (a tactic which netted them zero appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals).
K – Duluth Kelleys (1923-1927) – Two years after folding, Edwin Simandl bought the team to use it to promote his Orange (New Jersey) Tornadoes to the major league. They moved to Newark for one NFL season. On the verge of folding, a Boston group bought the franchise and turned it into the Boston Braves, later the Boston Redskins, later the Washington Redskins. So these guys sort of still exist, but not really.
L – Los Angeles Bulldogs (1936-1948) – They tried to get in as an NFL expansion team in 1937, but the league awarded entrance to the Cleveland Rams instead. The Bulldogs continued on as a minor team, as an ironic “Screw-You” by fate, the Rams relocated to LA in 1946.
M – Pottsville Maroons (1920-1929) – On the road to becoming 1925 NFL champs, the Maroons were scheduled to play the Notre Dame All-Stars, but their owner insisted on scheduling the game in Philadelphia (another team’s turf). The league said no, but he did it anyway, and they were kicked out of the league before the season was over. What a maroon.
N – New York Mutuals (1858-1876) – One of the first teams in the first pro baseball league (the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players), the Mutuals, much like the Philly Athletics, were too poor and too rotten to fulfill their obligations by playing road games out west. They were kicked out at the same time.
O – Indianapolis Olympians (1949-1953) – Two of their stars, Alex Groza and Ralph Beard, were banned from the NBA for life after admitting to points-shaving back in college. That didn’t bode well for the Olympians (Groza and Beard were also actual basketball Olympians, gold-medal winners in 1948). The team did win the longest NBA game in history though, 75-73 over Rochester after six overtimes.
P – Pittsburgh Pirates (1925-1931) – Nothing to do with baseball, these are the hockey pirates. Coach Odie Cleghorn was the first coach to set up three set forward lines (instead of letting the stars play until they were too tired), and he was the first coach to swap out players on the fly. He left the team to become a referee. You won’t see that happen often these days.
Q – Quebec Bulldogs (1878-1925) – I’m going to shoehorn as many Bulldog teams as I can in here. Like the Nordiques 70 years later, the Bulldogs (later stylishly renamed the Quebec Athletic Club) struggled as the smallest market in the NHL. They were sold to Hamilton, when a 1925 players’ strike killed the team.
R – Sheboygan Red Skins (1938-1952) – A charter member of the NBA in 1949, they left the league after a year to join the National Professional Basketball League. Great move – the league dissolved after a year and this club soon after.
S – St. Louis Brown Stockings (1875-1877) – Pitcher George Bradley achieved the first no-hitter in major league history for these guys in 1876. The joy didn’t last though, they filed for bankruptcy the following year. Remnants of the franchise were eventually turned into today’s St. Louis Cardinals.
T – Toronto Huskies (1946-1947) – I’d always thought the Canadian-team-in-the-NBA experiment didn’t begin until the 1990s. I was wrong. Sort of. This was pre-NBA, but still part of the Basketball Association of America, the pro league at the time. They lost an estimated $100,000 in their single season, but today’s Raptors still occasionally wear Huskies jerseys as retro throwbacks.
U – Kansas City ScoUts (1974-1976) – A bit of a cheat, but I couldn’t find a ‘U’. The Scouts were an expansion NHL team that didn’t have the money to really make anything work. They were sold and moved to Denver in 1976, where they played six seasons as the Colorado Rockies before being bumped once more to New Jersey.
V – ProVidence Steamrollers (1946-1949) – There are some overlooked letters in this corner of the alphabet. The Steamrollers lasted three seasons, but still hold two records: the oldest player in the NBA (Nat Hickey, age 46), and the fewest wins in a single season (six).
W – Worcester Worcesters (1880-1882) – The stupidest name on this list, the baseball Worcesters were pivotal in getting the Cincinnati Reds kicked out of the league for selling beer in the stands. So screw these guys. By the way, I have to mention this guy:
Lip Pike has shown up all over my research today. Among other teams that no longer exist, Lip played for Worcester, as well as the Hartford Dark Blues, St. Louis Brown Stockings, and the Providence Grays. I am now a Lip Pike fan, if only because of his persistence.
X – Dallas TeXans (1952) – One season, one win, eleven losses. Their one win was against the Chicago Bears after a cocky George Halas started his second-string players because he felt the Texans were just that awful. The team folded and what remained was sold to a group in Baltimore who started up the Colts.
Y – Boston Yanks (1944-1948) – They played at Fenway when the Red Sox weren’t using it, but the team just wasn’t viable. Owner Ted Collins asked the league to let him fold the team and re-start in New York, because who wants to play football in Massachusetts?
The team became the New York Bulldogs, which is awesome. That lasted one year. Two more as the New York Yanks, and the scraps of this team would hop one entry above and become the Dallas Texans.
Z – Memphis GriZZlies (1974-1975) – A part of the World Football League, they sued the NFL to try to gain admittance. The suit wasn’t settled until 1984, by which time the owner already had a team in the USFL. So he was set.