5 Sports Franchises That Folded

Tina Thompson of the Comets shoots a free throw.
Tina Thompson of the Comets shoots a free throw.
Otto Greule, GETTY IMAGES

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)

Established 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)

The 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 and 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 Island 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.

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Remembering Tom Dempsey, the Toeless NFL Kicker Who Set a 43-Year Field Goal Record

Kicker Tom Dempsey #19 of the Philadelphia Eagles kicks off against the Washington Redskins during an NFL football game at Veterans Stadium November 10, 1974 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Kicker Tom Dempsey #19 of the Philadelphia Eagles kicks off against the Washington Redskins during an NFL football game at Veterans Stadium November 10, 1974 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

On April 4, 2020 former NFL legend Tom Dempsey—who set a field goal record with the New Orleans Saints nearly 50 years ago—passed away in New Orleans at the age of 73. It has been reported that Dempsey, who has been battling Alzheimer's disease and dementia since 2012, contracted coronavirus in March and his death was the result of complications from COVID-19. Read on to learn more about Dempsey's remarkable life.

 
 

Things weren't looking good for the New Orleans Saints on the evening of November 8, 1970, during a televised game against the Detroit Lions at Tulane Stadium. Though Saints quarterback Billy Kilmer had managed to connect with receiver Al Dodd on a 17-yard pass that stopped the clock, New Orleans was still down 17-16 with just two seconds left in the game. Worse yet, they were on their own 37-yard line—leaving 63 yards between them and the end zone.

Saints head coach J.D. Roberts, who had only been hired the week before, huddled with offensive coordinator Don Heinrich to quickly consider their options. There weren’t any. Suddenly, kicker Tom Dempsey, who had joined the team the year before, materialized. “I can kick it,” Dempsey told Roberts.

Dempsey would later recall that he didn’t know exactly how far the ball had to travel or that it would be an NFL record if he nailed it. If he had, he said, maybe he would’ve gotten too nervous and shanked it. But kicking the ball was what Dempsey did, even though he was born with only half of a right foot.

Heinrich sighed. There was no other choice. “Tell Stumpy to get ready,” he said.

 

Dempsey was born on January 12, 1947, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and later moved with his family to California. As a student at San Dieguito High School in Encinitas, California, Dempsey appeared unbothered by the congenital defect that resulted in a partial right foot and four missing fingers on his right hand. Dempsey wrestled and ran track. In football, he used his burly frame—he would eventually be 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weigh 255 pounds—to clobber opposing players as an offensive lineman. When coaches wanted to send opponents flying, they called in Dempsey.

After high school, Dempsey went on to attend Palomar Junior College in San Marcos, California, where he played football as a defensive end. At one point, when the team was in need of a kicker, the coach asked his players to line up and do their best to send the ball in the air. None kicked harder or farther than Dempsey, who became the kicker for the team and performed while barefoot, wrapping the end of his foot in athletic tape.

Tom Dempsey's modified football shoe is pictured
Tom Dempsey's modified football shoe.
Bullock Texas State History Museum

Playing at Palomar prepared Dempsey for a dual role as both lineman and kicker. But his strength, which made him so formidable on the field, occasionally got him into trouble on the sidelines, and he would eventually be kicked off the Palomar team for punching one of his coaches. After the incident, Dempsey tried out for the Green Bay Packers but found the physicality of professional players a little too much for him to handle. Rather than get into on-field collisions as an offensive lineman, he decided to focus solely on the aptitude he seemed to have for kicking. He eventually earned a spot on the San Diego Chargers practice squad in 1968. There, head coach Sid Gillman decided to encourage his choice of position—with some modifications.

Gillman enlisted an orthopedist to help develop a special leather shoe for Dempsey to wear. The boot had a block of leather 1.75 inches thick at one end and was mostly flat. Instead of kicking it soccer-style, as most players do today, Dempsey was able to use his leg like a mallet and hammer the ball with a flat, blunt surface.

The shoe, which cost $200 to fabricate, came in handy when Dempsey joined the Saints in 1969. He made 22 out of 41 field goals his rookie year and found himself in the Pro Bowl. But the 1970 season was comparatively dismal, and the Saints were holding a 1-5-1 record when they met the Detroit Lions on that night in November.

With two seconds left, “Stumpy” (Dempsey found the nickname affectionate rather than offensive) trotted onto the field. At 63 yards, he would have to best the then-record set by Baltimore Colts kicker Bert Rechichar in 1953 by seven yards.

No one appeared to think this was within the realm of possibility—you could almost hear a chuckle in CBS commentator Don Criqui's voice when he announced that Dempsey would be attempting the feat. Even the Lions seemed apathetic, not overly concerned with attempting to smother the play.

The ball was snapped by Jackie Burkett and received by Joe Scarpati, who gave it a quarter-turn. Dempsey remembered advice once given to him by kicking legend Lou “The Toe” Groza: Keep your head down and follow through. He took a step toward the ball and swung his leg like a croquet mallet, smashing into the football with a force that those on or near the field compared to a loud bang or a cannon. It sailed 63 yards to the goal post, which at the time was positioned directly on the goal line, and just made it over the crossbar.

Below, the referee threw his hands in the air to indicate the kick was good, punctuating it with a little hop of excitement. Dempsey was swarmed by his teammates and coaches. Don Criqui’s attitude in the booth quickly switched from amusement to incredulity. The Saints had won, 19-17.

“I don’t believe this,” Criqui exclaimed.

Neither could fans. In an era before instant replay, ESPN, or YouTube, you either caught Dempsey’s game-winning play or you heard about it at work or school the next week. Owing to its fleeting existence in the moment, schoolyards and offices filled with stories about how Dempsey’s boot may have somehow been augmented with a steel plate or other modification to boost his kicking prowess.

No such thing occurred, though that didn’t stop criticism. Tex Schramm, an executive with the Dallas Cowboys and chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, thought the shoe was an unfair advantage that allowed Dempsey to smash the ball like a golf club hitting a dimpled target. In 1977, the NFL instituted the “Tom Dempsey Rule,” which mandates that anyone and everyone has to wear a shoe shaped like a full foot. There would be no more allowances for special orthopedic shapes.

Dempsey appeared to take it all in stride. Shortly after his victorious kick, he received a letter from President Richard Nixon congratulating him on his inspirational demonstration. Immediately after the game, police officers went in to congratulate him by handing him cases of Dixie beer. Dempsey's girlfriend (and future wife) Carlene recalled that he didn’t come home for days due to rampant partying. When he finally settled down, they got married.

 

Dempsey spent a total of 11 years in the NFL, playing for the Saints, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Los Angeles Rams, the Houston Oilers, and finally the Buffalo Bills. In total, he made 159 field goals out of 258 attempts. For the next several decades, he would work as a salesman in the oil industry and manage a car lot before retiring in 2008 and settling down back near New Orleans. Over the years, Dempsey made several appearances at autograph shows, where he was regularly peppered with questions about the one kick that defined his career.

Almost as amazing as the kick was its attrition in the record books. While several other men managed to tie Dempsey’s record, it wasn’t until Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos kicked a 64-yard field goal on December 8, 2013, that it was finally broken—almost 43 years to the day. Some observers note that most of these notable field goals took place in Denver, where the air is thin and presumably more hospitable to kicking for distance. Dempsey managed it in New Orleans—and without toes.

Curiously, Dempsey’s legendary play was actually foreshadowed one year earlier. On October 5, 1969, he kicked a 55-yard field goal in Los Angeles. That was just one yard shy of the record he would obliterate the following year.

6 Times the Olympics Have Been Postponed or Canceled

Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been officially postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan agreed to push the start date back to 2021 after Canada, Australia, and other countries announced they would not send athletes to the Summer Games this July.

The Summer Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world, typically bringing more than 10,000 athletes from dozens of countries together every four years, The New York Times reports.

It's extremely rare for the Summer or Winter Olympics to be postponed or canceled. Since 1896, when the modern Olympic Games began, it has happened only six times—and it usually requires a war.

The Olympic Games were canceled during World War I and World War II. The 1940 Summer Games, scheduled to take place in Tokyo, were postponed due to war and moved to Helsinki, Finland, where they were later canceled altogether. The current coronavirus pandemic marks the first time the competition has ever been temporarily postponed for a reason other than war. Here's the full list.

  1. 1916 Summer Olympics // Berlin, Germany
  1. 1940 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan and Helsinki, Finland
  1. 1940 Winter Olympics // Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  1. 1944 Summer Olympics // London, United Kingdom
  1. 1944 Winter Olympics // Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
  1. 2020 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan

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