Show cover of Good Seats Still Available

Good Seats Still Available

“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.

Tracks

279: Larry Csonka
He's enshrined as a member of the College Football Hall of Fame for his record-breaking, two-time consensus All-American fullback rushing career at Syracuse in the mid-1960s. He's an inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, most notably for his dominant rushing prowess with the Don Shula-coached Miami Dolphins of the early 1970s - and his leading role in the club's three consecutive Super Bowl appearances, two back-to-back NFL titles, and its unparalleled perfect undefeated season in 1972. But in our conversation this week with legendary gridiron star Larry Csonka ("Head On: A Memoir"), we digress (and obsess) into some of the lesser-known chapters of an impressively unique career - including his first professional years with Miami as part of the old American Football League in the late 60s; a bombshell move (along with Dolphin teammates Paul Warfield and Jim Kiick) to the upstart World Football League's Memphis Southmen (née Toronto Northmen) in 1974; and front office roles with the original USFL's Jacksonville Bulls (1984-85). + + + Get up to $100 in matching deposit credit when you sign up to try PrizePicks - and use promo code GOODSEATS!
85:18 10/03/2022
278: Philly's "Last Sports Mogul" - With Alan Bass
We welcome budding sports historian - and previous Episode 190 guest - Alan Bass ("Ed Snider: The Last Sports Mogul") back to our microphones this week, this time to delve into the life and times of modern-day Philadelphia's patron saint of professional sports. The dustjacket for The Last Sports Mogul makes the case: "Most sports team owners make their money elsewhere and purchase a team as an extravagant hobby - but that is not the story of Ed Snider. One of the few owners in history to get control of a franchise by mortgaging nearly everything to his name, the longtime Philadelphia Flyers chairman would go on to form the billion-dollar empire of Comcast-Spectacor and cement his standing as one of the most influential businessmen in the city’s history.  "Snider was ambitious and entrepreneurial, though extraordinarily demanding of those who worked for him. He was affectionate with his loved ones, yet often showed a surprising lack of emotional intelligence. His staunch capitalist beliefs contrasted his progressive-minded views on the business of hockey and in sharing his wealth with those in need.  "The Last Sports Mogul embraces all sides of Snider to form a complex portrait of the unparalleled figure once named Philadelphia’s greatest mover and shaker of the millennium."  + + + Get up to $100 in matching deposit credit when you sign up to try PrizePicks - and use promo code GOODSEATS!
85:10 09/25/2022
277: Winnipeg Jets & Phoenix Coyotes Hockey - With Curt Keilback
Fans of the original NHL version (1979-96) of the Winnipeg Jets, as well as the first ten seasons (1997-2007) of their subsequent incarnation as the Phoenix Coyotes, will surely remember the dulcet tones of team radio and TV play-by-play broadcaster Curt Keilback (Two Minutes for Talking to Myself: Jets, Coyotes, Tales, Opinions). For 27 seasons - spanning some 2400+ games - ​Keilback was the signature voice of the since-rebranded Arizona franchise, a seemingly lone constant amidst the club's steady stream of existential change from 1970s World Hockey Association dominance, to NHL small-market competitive frustration, to (supposedly) "greener pastures" in the Valley of the Sun. Keilback takes us on clear-eyed journey back through some of the more memorable moments of his Jets/Coyotes broadcasting career, including: the original (and much-copied) "Winnipeg White Out;" the ill-fated 1996 "Save the Jets" campaign; how he kept his job despite the Jets' impending move; the not-so-great coaching tenure of "The Great One;" and his call of "The Goal" - then-Washington Capital rookie Alexander Ovechkin's impossible-to-describe, body-prone, behind-the-back score against the Coyotes in 2006. PLUS: we debate the current wisdom and likely future of the current Arizona-labeled version of the franchise - and whether it will EVER work!
94:07 09/18/2022
276: The Toledo Troopers - With Steve Guinan
​Author/team biographer Steve Guinan (We Are the Troopers: The Women of the Winningest Team in Pro Football History) helps us celebrate the return of football this week - with a look back at ​​the unheralded story of the most dominant women's team of the 1970s -the Toledo Troopers. Winners of seven consecutive championships across two different leagues - Sid Friedman's barnstorming Women’s Professional Football League (1971-72), and the pioneering true-pro successor National Women's Football League (1974-77) - the Troopers compiled an astounding 58-4-1 record over its nine years of life, including six seasons of undefeated play. Led by the league's most recognizable star Linda Jefferson and overseen by its hard-charging owner/head coach Bill Stout - the Troopers' roster was an unlikely assemblage of housewives, factory workers, hairdressers, former nuns, high school teachers, bartenders, mail carriers, pilots, and would-be drill sergeants - whose combined spirit, tenacity and simple "love for the game" helped create what even the hallowed Pro Football Hall of Fame officially recognizes as the “winningest team in professional football history.”
73:53 09/12/2022
275: Kansas City As & Houston Colt .45s Memories - With Addie Beth Denton
As a young girl growing up in tiny, rural Throckmorton, Texas in the mid-1950s, memoirist Addie Beth Denton ("108 Stitches: A Girl Grows Up With Baseball") had only a vague understanding of what her father and uncle did for a living - except that they seemed to always be talking about baseball. Only as she grew older did she come to realize all that discussion - not to mention her bevy of annual summertime excursions to professional parks all over the country - was much more than just a passing family curiosity. In fact, she discovered that her uncle Harry Craft had not only been a respectable big-league outfielder with the Cincinnati Reds for nearly six seasons (1937-42) before joining the Navy in the war effort - but was now in the midst of a fledgling managerial career that saw him skippering numerous New York Yankees farm clubs, as well as two of the majors' newest: the 1955 Kansas City As (relocated from Philadelphia) and the 1962 expansion Houston Colt .45s. Along the way, Denton recalls innumerable childhood brushes with baseball greatness - Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Billy Martin, Rusty Staub - all of whom credited Craft for his valuable tutelage during their careers.   And unwittingly willed a lifetime of memories and love for the game for a certain Texas farm girl.
69:57 09/05/2022
274: "Absurd" Pro Soccer History - With Pablo Maurer
The Athletic Major League Soccer staff writer Pablo Maurer steps into our vortex of what-used-to-be in professional sports this week, with a look back at some of the more confounding and overlooked stories of the not-so-distant past of US pro soccer. It's our deepest dives yet into memorable North American Soccer League gems like 1977's one-year wonder Team Hawaii; 1983's divisive US Men's National Team-as-pro-franchise Team America; the curious Stateside detours of world greats like Bayern Munich superstar Gerd Müeller, Dutch legend Johan Cruyff and Manchester United icon George Best - plus, of course, the NASL's inventive ahead-of-its-time 35-yard-line Shootout tie-breaker. We also tackle some of the already forgotten early days of Major League Soccer - including its own version of the Shootout; LA's ill-fated "first" second franchise Chivas USA; and impossible-to-forget franchise monikers like Wiz, Burn, Clash, and MetroStars. PLUS: the unheralded pre-MLS rules experiments of the mid-90s USISL minor league pyramid. AND: the incomparable (if not incomprehensible) Socker Slam!
91:59 08/29/2022
273: The WHA’s Minnesota Fighting Saints - With Dan Whenesota
Obscure trivia answers abound this week, as we return to the pro rinks of the 1970s with Twin Cities sports fan extraordinaire Dan Whenesota ("A Slap Shot in Time") for a look back at the not one, but two World Hockey Association franchises known as the Minnesota Fighting Saints. The first team was one of the WHA's original twelve franchises, playing from 1972 until mid-1976; the second was the rebirth of the league's hastily relocated Cleveland Crusaders, and played for part of 1976-77 season.  Neither incarnation completed its final season of play. Save for a few games in the early months of the first version's inaugural season, both Fighting Saints played in the uniquely configured St. Paul Civic Center - where clear acrylic glass dasher boards offered fans completely unobscured views of all the action. As for action, there was plenty - both in terms of fan-friendly uptempo offensive play, and aggressive, often penalty-drawing physicality - befitting of the team's name and iconic logo. If you remember the WHA, the cross-town rival NHL North Stars, the movie "Slap Shot" (not-so-loosely based on the Saints and its minor league affiliate Johnstown [PA] Jets), or even simply where you were on June 27, 1972 when Bobby Hull stunned the sports world by signing with the upstart league - this is the episode for you!
98:14 08/22/2022
272: "A League of Their Own" - With Desta Tedros Reff
We spotlight the new Amazon Prime Video series "A League of Their Own" - an inventively reimagined telling of the story of the World War II-era All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (and originally made famous in the 1992 Penny Marshall-directed motion picture of the same name) - with writer and executive producer Desta Tedros Reff. Decidedly more "dramedy" in tone than the comedic approach of the namesake film (or even its short-lived, lesser-remembered CBS-TV primetime sitcom spinoff the following year), the new League still builds its rich storyline around the AAGPBL's four-time champion Rockford (IL) Peaches - while notably incorporating race and gender identity themes not previously addressed (or even acknowledged) in the original. Tedros Reff takes us inside the myriad of challenges behind the making of the series, including: the persistent curveballs thrown by COVID-era production scheduling; the purposeful approach to historical accuracy (yes, various scenes were shot in Rockford); and the obvious, but important risks of reframing the lighthearted plot of a modern-day film classic into an authentic narrative befitting the true legacy of the league's pioneering women players.
50:37 08/15/2022
271: Minor League Baseball's "Grinders" - With Mike Capps
Life has come full circle for TV news reporter-turned-Triple-A baseball play-by-play broadcaster Mike Capps ("Grinders: Baseball's Intrepid Infantry") - now the longtime radio voice of the Pacific Coast League's Round Rock Express. As a kid in early-1960s North Texas, Capps grew up immersed in the exploits of Dallas-Fort Worth's minor league Rangers, Cats and Spurs - intrigued by rotating rosters of determined pay-your-dues hopefuls bouncing up and down between baseball's majors and minors - players his grandfather called the "engine" of the sport. After an intense award-winning professional career covering hard news for local Metroplex TV stations and early 1990s Gulf War-era CNN, Capps found solace and renewed purpose in those early childhood memories of the "grinders" of the game he fell in love with - reinventing himself in their mold into a second post-journalism work life as an (also) award-winning baseball play-by-play man for minor-league clubs in outposts like Tyler, TX (the former Texas-Louisiana League WildCatters), Sioux Falls, SD (Canaries), Atlantic City, NJ (the former Atlantic League Surf), and Nashville (Sounds). By 2000, Capps' pressbox grinding paid off with an offer by Nolan Ryan to help inaugurate suburban Austin's expansion Express as its radio voice and director of broadcasting - a run that's lasted some 3000+ games (and counting).
82:23 08/08/2022
270: US Soccer's "Generation Zero" - With Hal Phillips
It wasn’t easy being a soccer fan in the United States in the 1980s.  While the 24-team North American American Soccer League ushered in the decade with an air of stability and momentum (the league even sold a pennant proclaiming the game the “Sport of the 80’s”), it wasn’t long before big-time American pro soccer was dangerously on the ropes (the NASL shrank to just nine franchises by 1984) – and then seemingly gone for good when the league officially sank into oblivion in early 1985. For a nascent generation of US fans newly hooked on the world’s “beautiful game,” it felt like an abandonment – and an air of disillusionment beset the American soccer scene in the immediate years that followed.  Slowly and awkwardly, Americans slowly got wise – miraculously qualifying for the 1990 World Cup in Italy, hosting the event four years later, and re-birthing the pro game with Major League Soccer in 1996 – and ultimately evolved it into one of the most popular sports in the country. Sportswriter/author Hal Phillips ("Generation Zero: Founding Fathers, Hidden Histories & the Making of Soccer in America") joins the podcast this week to help trace the timeline of events that led to this epic transformation in American sports, by spotlighting the national team players and fans - raised on the game and tempered by hardship - who made it happen. PLUS: Your chance to win a free copy!
112:42 08/01/2022
269: The NHL's "Coca-Cola Bottlers' Cup" - With Steve Currier
Pro hockey history enthusiast/author Steve Currier (Episode 37; "The California Golden Seals: A Tale of White Skates, Red Ink, and One of the NHL's Most Outlandish Teams") returns to the show after a five-year absence - this time to accompany us deep down the rabbit hole of one of the National Hockey League's most overlooked adventures of the 1970s.   In his new book "When the NHL Invaded Japan: The Washington Capitals, the Kansas City Scouts and the Coca-Cola Bottlers' Cup", Currier recounts the story behind the NHL's long-forgotten, but historically relevant 1976 promotional exhibition series (colloquially known as the "NHL Japan Series") between the league's two most lamentable teams that year - the sophomore-twin Washington Capitals (11W-59L-10T) and Kansas City Scouts (12-56-12) - and their curious mission to introduce professional hockey to the Land of the Rising Sun.
108:24 07/25/2022
268: Behind the Scenes - With Charlie Evranian
Chicago sports fans of a certain age may remember the name Charlie Evranian atop the masthead of the executive suite (behind inimitable owner Lee Stern, of course) of the 1981 outdoor version of the North American Soccer League's Chicago Sting - when that club delivered the first major pro championship to the Windy City since 1963's NFL Bears.   (Not to mention the team's first two barn-burning indoor NASL seasons at the former "Madhouse on Madison".)   But Evranian's time leading the Sting of the early 1980s was merely a brief mile-marker along a fascinatingly peripatetic 20+ year journey across a litany of (mostly forgotten) teams and leagues in both the majors and minors of professional sports management - laden with unbelievable twists and turns that only a podcast of a certain genre could love.   Evranian takes us on a wild ride alongside the likes of legendary front office figures like Bill Veeck, Ted Turner, Pat Williams, and Earl Foreman - for memorable stops including: leading baseball's Class A Greenwood (SC) Braves to two league championships; co-founding AHL hockey's minor league Richmond Robins; reinventing the mid-70s' Chicago White Sox; AND cleaning up an endless array of messes as the Major Indoor Soccer League's deputy commissioner.
117:46 07/17/2022
267: Pro Football's Kenny Washington - With Dan Taylor
Fresno Grizzlies baseball TV play-by-play broadcaster (and Episode 208 guest) Dan Taylor ("Lights, Camera, Fastball: How the Hollywood Stars Changed Baseball") returns to the podcast - this time with the story of one of the most unheralded players in pro football history.   In his new book "Walking Alone: The Untold Journey of Football Pioneer Kenny Washington," Taylor writes the first solo biography devoted to collegiate star and original Los Angeles Rams standout running back Kenny Washington (1918-71) - perhaps the best known of the pro game's "Forgotten Four" (the others: Woody Strode, Bill Willis, and Marion Motley) - collectively recognized as the first Black athletes to permanently break pro football's color barrier in 1946.    Of the group, it was Washington - a one-time UCLA teammate of Jackie Robinson in both baseball and football - who officially re-integrated the NFL by signing with the just-relocated-from-Cleveland Rams (he convinced the club to later sign Strode).    While Willis and Motley were doing similarly with the challenger All-America Football Conference (and later NFL-absorbed) Cleveland Browns - ultimately earning them selections to the Pro Football Hall of Fame - Washington has yet to join them in such recognition, despite being the first of any of them to achieve the feat.   Of course, there is MUCH more to the story - including Washington's prolific minor league football exploits, frequent small-part film roles, and local LA celebrity status.  By the end of this episode, you too will be convinced that Washington deserves a place in the Canton's hallowed Hall.
103:25 07/11/2022
266: The Series That Changed Hockey Forever - With Scott Morrison
We're back from vacation with a 50th anniversary rewind of 1972's iconic "Summit Series" between "Team Canada" (featuring the NHL's best from north of the border) and the then-Soviet Union - with veteran sports journalist/hockey analyst Scott Morrison ("1972: The Series That Changed Hockey Forever").   It's a deep dive into the curious, yet now-iconic battle between the hockey's two top superpowers at the time - played against the backdrop of global 1970s-era Cold War tensions - that morphed from a relatively unassuming cultural exchange-oriented pre-season "exhibition" into the defining hallmark of each country's rich hockey heritage.   All culminating with Toronto Maple Leaf forward Paul Henderson's dramatic and decisive late-third-period "goal heard around the world" ​(​on September 28, 1972) to clinch the eighth and final game of an epic month-long hockey series that, to this day, remains Canada's most enduring professional sports triumph.
113:27 07/04/2022
265.6: The CFL’s American Expansion Experiment - With Ed Willes [Archive Re-Release]
[We celebrate eminent North-of-the-border sportswriter Ed Willes' selection to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame's media wing last week - with a June 2018 archive re-release of one our most popular episodes!] 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.
118:04 06/27/2022
265.5: MISL Memories - With Michael Menchel [Archive Re-Release]
[A June 2017 archive re-release favorite with one of the true insiders behind the initial success of the legendary original 1970s/80s Major Indoor Soccer League!] This week, Tim Hanlon buckles up for a wild ride through the tumultuous early years of the original Major Indoor Soccer League with sports PR veteran Michael Menchel, in our longest and most anecdote-filled episode yet!  Menchel takes us on a head-spinning audio journey across some of the most memorable (and forgettable) franchises in professional indoor soccer history – including stops in Long Island, NY (the Arrows trade for Pete Rose!); New Jersey (scoring champ Fred Grgurev’s unique approach to car maintenance!); Houston (the “Summit Soccer” borrows its name from the arena it plays in and its players from the NASL’s Hurricane!); Baltimore (the marketing genius of Tim Leiweke!); and Hartford (what the hell is a “Hellion”?).   Plus, Menchel:  hits the road with Frank Deford;  spends a year outdoors among the Caribou(s?) of Colorado;  has a bad day in Rochester, NY;  and “settles down” in St. Louis wondering when and where the NFL football Cardinals will move next.
106:08 06/20/2022
265: The Charlotte Hornets - With Muggsy Bogues
It's a special "retcon" episode this week, as we dig into both the original and revisionist histories of the NBA's Charlotte Hornets - with the first incarnation's most recognizable player, and the second iteration's most logical keeper-of-the-flame: Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues.   Over a 14-year pro NBA career, Bogues ("Muggsy: My Life From a kid in the Projects to the Godfather of Small Ball") was best known for his ten standout seasons of on-court wizardry with the 1988 expansion version of the Hornets - which lit up the league in attendance (highest in the NBA for seven seasons, including an unprecedented string of 364 consecutive sellouts in the 22,500-seat Charlotte Coliseum [aka "The Hive"]); dynamic up-tempo style (featuring a bevy of budding stars like Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Glen Rice, and Dell Curry, as well as future Naismith Basketball Hall of Famers Robert Parish and Vlade Divac); and unique, ahead-of-their-time Alexander Julian-designed purple and teal uniforms.   Bogues regales us with some of his most memorable moments from the OG Hornets - as well as other career highlights like: a rookie-of-the-year summer season with the 1987 USBL Rhode Island Gulls; two seasons of head coaching the WNBA Charlotte Sting; and stealing some scenes in the iconic 1996 film "Space Jam".   And, of course, we debate the vagaries of the original Hornets team history in relation to the "revived" Charlotte franchise narrative - despite the club's move to New Orleans (now today's Pelicans) in 2002, and the subsequent expansion Bobcats' retroactive bending of the time-space continuum.
67:57 06/13/2022
264: Baseball's Union Association - With Justin Mckinney
Society for American Baseball Research historian/chronicler Justin Mckinney (Baseball's Union Association: The Short, Strange Life of a 19th-Century Major League) joins the podcast this week to weigh in on the debate that continues to swirl around baseball's curious one-season Union Association - namely, was it a truly major league?   As first broached in our Episode 73 with Jon Springer, the National League was less than a decade old back in 1884, and the rival American Association, which had been established two years earlier, was nipping at its heels.  "Organized Baseball" had just been formed to help codify the still-gestating professional version of the game.   But when a maverick millionaire and spurned team-owner aspirant named Henry Lucas established a new third major league that year - the Union Association - the pro game erupted into chaos.   Come for the pennant-winning St. Louis Maroons (who won 94 of their 113 regular season games, and bested the second-place Cincinnati Outlaw Reds by a whopping 21 games), but stay for the litany of replacement teams (e.g., Wilmington Quicksteps, St. Paul Saints, Altoona Mountain Citys, Kansas City Cowboys, etc.) that folded just as soon as they arrived.
104:01 06/06/2022
263: "The Football History Dude" - With Arnie Chapman (Vacation Special)
We're taking a few days of early summer vacation this week - but not before sitting down for a very fun interview with pro football enthusiast and friend-of-the-show Arnie Chapman - as a guest on his popular Sports History Network podcast "The Football History Dude." Tim and Arnie dive into some of the most memorable football-related episodes of "Good Seats Still Available" thus far - and wax nostalgic on mutually favorite former circuits like the World Football League, the first XFL, the World League of American Football, and the original USFL, among others. Please enjoy this conversation we recorded a few weeks back - and be sure to check out all the other great podcasts across the Sports History Network!
75:10 05/30/2022
262: The Cincinnati Royals - With Gerry Schultz
While more than a few generations of NBA fans believe the Sacramento Kings franchise began its life when the team played (and lost) its very first exhibition game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the warehouse-converted ARCO Arena (I) on October 25, 1985 - serious students of the game know better.   Indeed, a very rich and colorful series of previous incarnations dating back to nearly a century earlier - beginning as the primordial semi-pro "industrial league" Rochester (NY) Seagrams in the mid-1920s, and evolving into the NBL, BAA and eventually NBA versions of the Rochester Royals - historically confirm the Kings as one of the sport's oldest consecutively run professional outfits.   Gerry Schultz (Cincinnati's Basketball Royalty: A Brief History) joins the podcast this week to delve into the club's pivotal, and, at times, legendary, 15-year stint as the Cincinnati Royals (1957-72) - when the franchise and the league both came of age by virtue of the play of some of the NBA's greatest all-time performers.   Join us for a trek back to the old Cincinnati Gardens (and frequently, other "home" courts in Cleveland, Dayton, Columbus, and even Omaha, NE) - as we look back at the exploits of eventual basketball Hall of Famers like Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas, Maurice Stokes, Clyde Lovellette, Wayne Embry, and Jack Twyman - and ponder how today's Kings might better memorialize the legacy of the club's mostly forgotten time in the Queen City.   THANKS to OldSchoolShirts.com for their sponsorship of this week's show (promo code "GOODSEATS" for 10% off all orders!)
106:17 05/23/2022
261: Baseball's Most Unlikely Hall of Famer? - With Tom Alesia
"Dave Bancroft should not be in the Hall of Fame."   That's how this week's guest Tom Alesia's new book "Beauty at Short: Dave Bancroft, the Most Unlikely Hall of Famer and His Wild Times in Baseball's First Century" starts - a curious way to begin the first (and only) biography of one of Cooperstown's most underappreciated inductees.   A competent, if not unremarkable major league shortstop (Philadelphia Phillies, New York Giants, Boston Braves, Brooklyn Robins), and manager (Braves; All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Chicago Colleens, South Bend Blue Sox) - Bancroft was well short on statistical credentials (e.g., .279 lifetime batting average; just 32 career HRs; .406 managerial winning percentage) to warrant obvious inclusion.   But his solid play with the two-time World Series winning Giants in the early 1920s came in handy when two of his fellow players from those teams - Bill Terry and Frankie Frisch - became influential members of the Hall's Veterans' Committee in the late 1960s, and squinted hard to tap their collegial teammate for induction in 1971.    Part of a stable of early 1970s enshrinees labeled as "Giant cronies" of Terry and Frisch  (e.g., Jessie Haines, Chick Hafey, Ross Youngs, George Kelly, Jim Bottemley, Freddie Lindstrom), Bancroft was nonetheless one of his era's more prominent and popular figures - a "player's player," both on and off the field.   By the end of this conversation with Alesia, you'll understand why Bancroft's membership in the Hall of Fame actually makes sense.
109:53 05/16/2022
260: The World Football League - With Ryan Hockensmith
We revisit the endlessly fascinating World Football League - and its enigmatic founder/first commissioner Gary Davidson - with ESPN.com senior writer Ryan Hockensmith ("The Renegade Who Took On the NFL [And the NBA and the NHL]").   Drawing on recent interviews with Davidson, former NFL defectors Larry Csonka & Paul Warfield, and previous podcast guests Howard Baldwin & Upton Bell, Hockensmith delves into some of the more memorable (and a few of the truly unbelievable) historical moments in the WFL's brief mid-1970s existence - all one-and-a-half seasons of it.   The tales are tall, but the history is real - and Hockensmith makes it seem as fresh and vivid as the original events themselves nearly 50 years after its flashy debut and quickly spectacular flameout.
115:30 05/09/2022
259: Howard Baldwin Returns!
Hollywood film producer (Ray; The Game of Their Lives; Sudden Death) and original New England/Hartford Whalers founder/owner Howard Baldwin (Slim and None: My Wild Ride from the WHA to the NHL and All the Way to Hollywood) returns after a three-year absence to help fill in some of the gaps left over from Episode 100, and to dish on "new" territory from his hard-to-believe career, including: The contagious indefatigable spirit of WHA founder Dennis Murphy Who really paid for Bobby Hull's headline-grabbing contract (and who didn't) How Houston and Cincinnati went from being "in" the June 1978 WHA-NHL "merger," to being "out" of the senior league's "expansion" a year later The early 1990s saga of the HC CSKA Moscow "Red Army" team (aka the "Russian Penguins") Why the way to San Jose stopped first in Pittsburgh and then Minnesota; AND The World Football League's (almost) "Boston Bulls"
87:57 05/02/2022
258: The (Original) USFL's Washington Federals - With Jake Russell
With the rebooted (though still potentially trademark-infringing) USFL now in full swing, we take a look back at one of the clubs from the original version that didn't make the cut this time around - the Washington Federals.   Washington Post sports reporter Jake Russell ("As the USFL Restarts, A Look Back at the Washington Federals") takes us inside his pursuit to decode the numerous curiosities of one of the first league's poorest-performing franchises - both on the field (a 7-22 record over two seasons), and in the stands (the USFL's second-worst average home attendances each year at venerable RFK Stadium).   Snakebitten from the start by: an initial owner who instead swapped for a franchise in Birmingham, AL; a convoluted, decision-slowing three-company joint venture/limited-partnership ownership structure; and a newly ascendant Redskins team celebrating its first NFL title in 41 years just weeks before the new team's debut - the Federals' journey in the USFL was beset by revenue shortfalls, poor timing and just plain bad luck.   Still, the Feds had their moments - and Russell takes us inside some of his conversations with notable names in the team's brief, but colorful history (including one of the league's best logo/color schemes) like veteran QB Kim McQuilken, rookie QB Mike Hohensee, RB Craig James, and WR Joey Walters.
67:56 04/25/2022
257: New York's Shea Stadium - With Matthew Silverman
It's the 60th year of New York Mets baseball, and we celebrate this week with a look back at the transformational multipurpose facility they called home for 45 seasons - including three of the club's four NL pennants and its only two World Series championships - Shea Stadium.   Matthew Silverman (Shea Stadium Remembered: The Mets, The Jets, and Beatlemania) takes us back to the origin story behind the conceptually named "Flushing Meadow Park Municipal Stadium" - which began almost immediately after the Dodgers' and Giants' relocation to California in 1958 as a lure for a new expansion franchise to replace them.   Through the combined political efforts of New York City mayor Robert Wagner, city urban planning power broker Robert Moses, and Continental League founder (and future stadium namesake) William Shea, the Queens-based facility opened in 1964 as the mutual home of not only the NL expansion Mets, but also the newly reincarnated AFL football New York Jets (née Titans).   We delve into more than four decades of Shea memories, including the 1969 "Miracle Mets," the Jets' 1968 AFL Championship, Bill Buckner's ill-fated error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, and the insane year of 1975 - when the AL Yankees and football Giants also called the stadium home.   And, of course, the iconic first stop on the Beatles' 1965 tour of North America - the biggest-ever grossing concert of the era that became synonymous with "Beatlemania."
96:01 04/18/2022
256: The Women's Professional Basketball League (WBL) Player Roundtable
We take it hard to the tin this week, with a lively roundtable reminiscence of the oft-overlooked, but undeniably influential Women's Professional Basketball League (WBL) of 1978-81 - with four of its pioneering players that helped pave the way for today's flourishing female pro hoops scene.   Liz "Bandit" Galloway McQuitter (Chicago Hustle); Charlene McWhorter Jackson (Hustle, Washington Metros, Milwaukee Does, St. Louis Streak); Adrian Mitchell-Newell (Hustle, Streak; LPBA Southern California Breeze); and episode 28 guest "Machine Gun" Molly Bolin Kazmer (Iowa Cornets, San Francisco Pioneers; Breeze; WABA Columbus Minks), join for an intimate discussion about the rapid rise, untimely fall, and heartening modern-day rediscovery of the WBL - catalyzed by their collective involvement in Legends of the Ball, a new nonprofit dedicated to preserving the foundational history of the league and all that's come because of it.
116:53 04/11/2022
255: Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium - With Stew Thornley
Baseball historian, Minnesota Twins official scorer and Episode 114 guest Stew Thornley ("Metropolitan Stadium: Memorable Games at Minnesota's Diamond on the Prairie"), returns for a fond look back at the semi-iconic structure that helped secure "major league" status for the Twin Cities in the early 1960s.   Known simply as "The Met" by area locals (or even the "Old Met" to distinguish from the downtown Minneapolis Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome that effectively replaced it in 1982), Bloomington's Metropolitan Stadium opened in April of 1956 with the stated hope of luring a Major League Baseball franchise to the region - just as the sport was beginning to chart its modern-era manifest destiny.   While ultimately luring Calvin Griffith's Washington Senators to become the Twins in 1961 - as well as the expansion NFL football Vikings that same year - the Met was mostly the exclusive home of the minor league American Association Minneapolis Millers for its first five years of existence, save for a handful of annual NFL preseason exhibition games and two regular season Chicago Cardinals matches in 1959.   In 1976, it also became the popular outdoor home of the North American Soccer League's Minnesota Kicks - and its legions of young tailgate-crazy fans.   Ahead of its time in the mid-50s, Met Stadium was nearly obsolete by the end of the 70s - decent for baseball, not so much for football - and rumors of at least the Vikings absconding for another to-be-built stadium in the area (including concepts for a domed enclosure or a new football-only facility between it and the nearby indoor Met Center) swirled around the community as early as 1970.   Alas, after only 21 seasons each for the Twins and the Vikings (six for the Kicks), Metropolitan Stadium succumbed to poor maintenance and the allure of a new, winter-proof Metrodome.  Demolished in 1985, the Met gave way to what is now the country's largest shopping center - the Mall of America.
91:48 04/04/2022
254: American League Baseball Expansion/Relocation History - With Andy McCue
Long-time Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) contributor and "Mover and Shaker: Walter O'Malley, the Dodgers, and Baseball's Westward Expansion" author Andy McCue joins the podcast to discuss his provocative new book "Stumbling Around the Bases" - a persuasive account of the American League's consistently haphazard approach to expansion and franchise relocation during baseball's modern era: ​"​From the late 1950s to the 1980s, baseball’s American League mismanaged integration and expansion, allowing the National League to forge ahead in attendance and prestige. While both leagues had executive structures that presented few barriers to individual team owners acting purely in their own interests, it was the American League that succumbed to infighting—which ultimately led to its disappearance into what we now call Major League Baseball. "Stumbling Around the Bases" is the story of how the American League fell into such a disastrous state, struggling for decades to escape its nadir and, when it finally righted itself, losing its independence. ​"​The American League’s trip to the bottom involved bad decisions by both individual teams and their owners. The key elements were a glacial approach to integration, the choice of underfinanced or disruptive new owners, and a consistent inability to choose the better markets among cities that were available for expansion. The American League wound up with less-attractive teams in the smaller markets compared to the National League—and thus fewer consumers of tickets, parking, beer, hot dogs, scorecards, and replica jerseys. ​"​The errors of the American League owners were rooted in missed cultural and demographic shifts and exacerbated by reactive decisions that hurt as much as helped their interests. Though the owners were men who were notably successful in their non-baseball business ventures, success in insurance, pizza, food processing, and real estate development, didn’t necessarily translate into running a flourishing baseball league. In the end the National League was simply better at recognizing its collective interests, screening its owners, and recognizing the markets that had long-term potential.​"​
83:40 03/28/2022
253: "Out of Their League" - With Dave Meggyesy
​A pro football​ player who protests against the actions of his government, is shunned by ​the league establishment, and eventually ​winds up out of the ​game, working for social justice. ​ No, it's not Colin Kaepernick​; it's the 1960s NFL saga of a former St. Louis Cardinals linebacker named Dave Meggyesy.   A 17th-round draft pick in 1963 out of Syracuse, Meggyesy was a steady presence and reliable performer for seven mostly mediocre Cardinal seasons (save for a 1964 season-ending Bert Bell Benefit [aka "NFL Playoff"] Bowl victory over Green Bay) - when​ he quit at the height of his career​, ​repulsed by a game he saw rife with problems and injustices, and a nation fighting an increasingly futile war in Vietnam.   In 1970, he wrote​ a bombshell exposé of a book called "​Out of Their League​"​ – a blistering assault on football and ​the institutions that enabled it - in which ​he detailed ​multiple ills of the game, many of which still exist today.  ​   Racism, corruption, militarism, institutionalized violence, drug abuse, collegiate "amateurism," and the relentless inevitability of injuries and their lasting effects - blunt and searing insights that​ ​​not only ​shocked ​fans of the NFL, ​but also​ ​shook up the broader 1970s ​sport​s establishment.​​   ​Still​​, at its heart,​ ​Meggyesy's​ memoir ​wa​s also a moving de​piction​ of ​his individual​ struggle​ for social justice and personal liberation​, the contents of which were both ahead of its time - and as timely as ever.​
99:35 03/21/2022
252.5: The TVS Television Network - With Howard Zuckerman [Archive Re-Release]
[A September 2017 archive re-release favorite with the production wizard behind behind early network TV coverage of the World Football League & North American Soccer League of the 1970s!] 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. 
77:47 03/14/2022