What City and State Has Lost the Most Sports Teams?

When we talk about “cursed” sports towns, it’s almost always in the context of things like postseason or championship droughts, heartbreaking losses, or just general futility. In other words, Cleveland. I kid, I kid.

But to my way of thinking there’s something even worse than falling just short of ultimate glory over and over again, and that’s losing a pro franchise entirely. Whether it’s the result of a greedy owner or a lack of fan interest, the death of a sports team is always at least a little sad.

And so I set out to document just with cities and states have lost the most professional teams from the four major leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL). I could expand it to other leagues as well, but I’m not sure that cities mourn the loss of indoor soccer teams quite like they do baseball or football franchises.

A few caveats are necessary. In the early history of pro leagues team movement was fairly common and it can be hard to differentiate between teams folding altogether or simply taking on new identities. Also, I have taken the liberty of lumping some geographic areas together that may get me into hot water with locals. So all the boroughs of New York City are counted as the same, as are other cities located in the same metropolitan area.

If I’ve made any noticeable blunders please let me know in the comments. Publication images courtesy my companion site, SportsPaper.info.

Which State Has Lost the Most Pro Sports Teams?

This one was closer than I thought it would be but indeed, Ohio can rightly be considered the unluckiest state when it comes to pro franchises folding or moving. To date the Buckeye State has lost 20 teams from the four major leagues.

1976-77 Cleveland Barons Media GuideIt started with the Cincinnati Reds (or Red Stockings), one of the charter members of baseball’s National League, who were kicked out of the league in 1880 and subsequently dissolved. Since then two other baseball teams, the Cleveland Blues and Spiders (1884 and 1899 respectively) have vanished.

Ohio has also suffered the loss of two NBA franchises. The Cleveland Rebels were a charter BAA franchise in 1946-47 but went out of business after just one season. The Cincinnati Royals, themselves already relocated from Rochester in 1957, departed the Queen City for Kansas City/Omaha in 1972. The team now plays in Sacramento as the Kings.

But it’s the NFL where Ohio has lost the most, which makes sense given that the league was founded there and was heavily concentrated in the Midwest for its first few decades. A whopping total of 14 NFL franchises have either moved or gone belly up in Ohio, although to be fair most of that movement was done by the mid-1930s.

Of note, however, are some notable franchises that were lost. The Canton Bulldogs, one of the great teams from the NFL’s first decade, were kicked out after the 1926 season. In 1946 the Cleveland Rams moved west to Los Angeles. Of course I don’t think I need to get into what happened with the Cleveland Browns in 1996 — and if you think that doesn’t count because the city was awarded a new Browns franchise in 1999, ask local residents how they feel about that.

Coming in a surprisingly close second on this list is New York, which has seen 19 teams move or fold. Aside from the infamous moves of MLB’s New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers, the Empire State has lost three NBA teams, one NHL team, and nine NFL teams. New York City’s five boroughs alone account for 10 teams on this list.

Here’s the full Top 10:

1. Ohio (20 teams)
2. New York (19)
3. Missouri (14)
4. Indiana (9)
5(t). California, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin (8)
8. Illinois (7)
9(t). Maryland, Michigan (6)

Which City Has Lost the Most Pro Sports Teams?

New York Bulldogs vs. Philadelphia Eagles (September 22, 1949)I guess I gave this one away already, but New York City has lost 10 pro sports teams in its history. Some people may take issue with lumping all five boroughs together, but this is my site so my rules.

The exodus began in 1876 when the New York Mutuals, a founding National League club, were expelled from the league as punishment for refusing to make a late-season road trip. Things remained calm for several decades, but the wild and woolly early NFL days brought a host of teams in and out of New York City.

Between 1921 and 1951 a total of six APFA/NFL teams vanished — the New York Brickley Giants (1921), Brooklyn Lions (1926), New York Yankees (1928), Staten Island Stapletons (1932), Brooklyn Dodgers/Tigers (1944), and finally the New York Bulldogs/Yanks (1951).

(See programs for more defunct NFL teams.)

Just behind New York City in the loss column are St. Louis and Cleveland, who have each seen nine teams go away. St. Louis most recently saw the NFL’s Cardinals move to Arizona in 1988 and the NBA’s Hawks fly to Atlanta in 1968. More recently, all signs point to the St. Louis Rams returning to their longtime home in Los Angeles soon, at which point the city will tie New York for this infamous honor.

In addition to the Browns’ move to Baltimore, Cleveland lost an entire league when the NHL’s Barons merged with the Minnesota North Stars in 1978.

Here’s the full top 10:

1. New York City (10 teams)
2(t). Cleveland, St. Louis (9)
4(t). Baltimore, Detroit, Washington D.C. (6)
7(t). Kansas City, Milwaukee, Philadelphia (5)
10(t). Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Louisville, Minneapolis (4)

What Team Name Has Been the Unluckiest?

Just for fun, I decided to look at what nickname has been associated with the most defunct/relocated franchises. For this exercise, I only counted the name of a team when it went away, even if was known by another name for a longer period. This part is more art than science, unfortunately.

1926 Montreal Maroons NHL programWith that said, history indicates that the nicknames that most often portend doom are Maroons, Senators, and Tigers. There have been five teams each that had this name and then were no more.

The most recent Maroons team is probably the most well known, the Montreal Maroons of the NHL (1924-38), winners of two Stanley Cups. Three NFL teams bore the moniker and were from Kenosha, Wisconsin, Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and Toledo, Ohio.

All but one of the Senators teams were based out of Washington D.C., the exception being the original Ottawa Senators of the NHL. Three separate MLB franchises used the name, folding or moving in 1899, 1961, and 1972. Only hardcore NFL history junkies would know about the Senators that played just one season in the APFA/NFL (1921).

As for the Tigers, the last of them to go extinct was the NFL squad known for most of its existence (1930-44) as the Brooklyn Dodgers. Three other NFL teams were known as the Tigers and were from Chicago, Detroit, and Columbus. The latter of these was also known as the Panhandles.

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Kodachrome Memories #4: Miami (OH) University Homecoming, 1953

This fantastic set of slides is reportedly from  Homecoming Weekend festivities for Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. As you would expect the marquee event of the celebration was a college football game. In this case it’s the Redskins against in-state rival Ohio Bobcats, locally known as the Battle of the Bricks.

The date on these slides is marked as 1954, but since the rivalry game that year was played in Athens I’m guessing this is actually 1953. That would put the date for this game as October 24, and is a game that ended in a 7-7 tie.

There are no actual photos of the game here, but plenty from what look like pregame and perhaps halftime festivities. Also included are shots of a parade probably held on the campus and a few shots of the campus itself. Miami alumni are prominently featured here and you can even see the team’s now-replaced Redskins mascot.

If ever any slides or photos I’ve shared here truly depict a bygone era of American life, this is it. Enjoy!

Johnny & The Hurricanes, Stormsville (1960)

Album Cover of the Week: Johnny & The Hurricanes, Stormsville

I have no real reason for this pick other than the fact that Hurricane Sandy — aka Frankenstorm — is barreling up the East Coast as I write this. But as it turns out it’s a pretty cool piece of cover art in its own right. Here’s Johnny & The Hurricanes with their 1960 Warwick Records release, Stormsville.

Johnny & The Hurricanes, Stormsville (1960)

This is a fairly standard rock cover from the late ’50s/early ’60s period, featuring the band posing in the middle of rocking out. I dig the all upper-case band typeface, complete with hurricane wind lines.

Now for a little bit of history — the band was formed in Toledo, Ohio in 1957 and was led by saxophonist Johnny Paris, who you see front and center on this cover. Their big taste of success was with “Red River Rock,” which topped the U.S. charts at #5 in 1959. That track is not on Stormsville, by the way, but it does have “Reveille Rock,” which hit #25.

To my ears, the music of Johnny & The Hurricanes is fun and spirited, although not terribly distinctive. But for fans of vintage, pre-Beatles rock and roll, this should be right up your alley.

Vintage Photo Wednesday, Vol. 14: The Kitchen of Tomorrow (Life, 1943)

This week’s edition of Vintage Photo Wednesday comes from the August 9, 1943 issue of Life magazine. Specifically, a delightful photo essay called “Kitchens of Tomorrow May Look Like This.” You can probably guess what these pictures will look like before you even see them. As far as I can tell from the article, “futuristic” basically means better designed storage and lots of built-in appliances that can be hidden by wood paneling. Oh, and apparently the kitchen doubles as a playroom when not in use. Odd.

Still, it’s always neat to see how different people dream about the future. The experimental kitchen you see here was built in Toledo, Ohio by the Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company. Let’s take a look!

(All photos taken by Nina Leen for Life. Click on any image for a larger version.)

The Kitchen of Tomorrow (Life magazine, 1943)

A view of replaceable wood paneling.

The Kitchen of Tomorrow (Life magazine, 1943)

A view of built-in features.

The Kitchen of Tomorrow (Life magazine, 1943)

A view of built-in seats that make tasks less taxing.

The Kitchen of Tomorrow (Life magazine, 1943)

A view of built-in foot pedals to run the facets.

The Kitchen of Tomorrow (Life magazine, 1943)

A view of a built-in oven.

The Kitchen of Tomorrow (Life magazine, 1943)

A view of a built-in utensil rack.

The Kitchen of Tomorrow (Life magazine, 1943)

A view of a built-in waffle iron.

The Kitchen of Tomorrow (Life magazine, 1943)

A view of a built-in mixer handle.

The Kitchen of Tomorrow (Life magazine, 1943)

A view of a built-in cooking unit.

The Kitchen of Tomorrow (Life magazine, 1943)

A view of a built-in toaster.

Say hello to Elektro, the Westinghouse Robot

He’s all but forgotten today, but at one time Elektro was king of all robots. He was assembled by Westinghouse at their Mansfield, Ohio facility in 1937/38 and made his public debut at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Elektro stood at a height of seven feet, six inches and weighed 260 pounds. 60 of those pounds were his brain, which was comprised of “48 electrical relays.”

At the Westinghouse Pavilion of the World’s Fair, Elektro the Moto-Man demonstrated a wide variety of skills such as speech, counting, stand-up comedy, and of course, smoking! Witness the marvels of modern 1930s technology in this excerpt from the 1939 promotional film The Middleton Family at the New York World’s Fair.

“Stand aside puny human, as I enjoy the mild, refreshing tobacco flavor of Philip Morris!”

In 1940 Elektro appeared once again at the fair, this time with a robotic canine companion named Sparko. After the World’s Fair, he toured the U.S. and made a number of appearances on television and in film. This clip (from what I believe to be an episode of You Asked For It) finds Elektro in a decidedly more servile mood as he becomes the world’s most expensive helium tank.

I have to say I miss the spunk of earlier Elektro. He’s gone from cracking wise to proclaiming, “If you use me well, I can be your slave.” What a sellout.

By the 1960s Elektro had largely fallen out of public consciousness, despite a starring role as Thinko in the classic 1960 film Sex Kittens Go to College, co-starring Mamie Van Doren, John Carradine, Conway Twitty, and Tuesday Weld. Here’s a faux-racy but ultimately tame sequence involving fire extinguishers and lots of recycled footage.

As if that weren’t enough, the movies features a 10-minute sequence with Thinko checking out a series of strip tease dances while being served bourbon by a monkey bartender. Yup, you read that right. Here’s a brief clip (there’s nudity and whatnot, so this is definitely NSFW).

There’s probably nowhere to go but down after a cameo like this, and truly this was just about the end for Elektro. He stopped appearing in public and was consigned to the scrap heap. Luckily he was rescued and restored, and now spends his days quietly as a featured exhibit at the Mansfield Memorial Museum.

For those inclined to build a smoking Moto-Man of your own, here’s a cross-sectional drawing showing Elektro’s workings.

Elektro interior diagram

Finally, enjoy this Flickr slideshow of some neat Elektro images I’ve compiled!

Chubby Checker - For Twisters Only (1962) album cover

Album Cover of the Week: For Twisters Only

If there has ever been artists to get a ton of mileage out of one song, it’s Chubby Checker and “The Twist.” Yeah I know he had other hits in the ’60s, but Checker hasn’t been able to milk “Pony Time” for everything from song sequels to ads for Oreo cookies and the Social Security Administration.

Today’s featured album cover comes from Checker’s commercial prime. It’s a 1961 covers album entitled For Twisters Only, and it was clearly meant to capitalize on his biggest song, which had hit #1 in 1960.

Chubby Checker - For Twisters Only (1962) album cover

Surprisingly this LP (Parkway Records, P 7002) did not contain “The Twist” at all, but rather a host of hits from the ’50s such as “Hound Dog,” “Rock Around the Clock,” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

Graphically this is primitive but appealing. There’s the obvious choice of a checker board pattern for the background, but I dig the tornado/twister motif. I’m sure fans in the Midwest loved it too.

The one thing I can’t figure out is why the artist for this appears to have drawn the map of the United States this way. Apparently Alabama and Florida — as well as Ohio and Kentucky — combined to form one state in the late ’50/early ’60s and I wasn’t aware of it. Likewise Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have became a giant super-state and bludgeoned New Jersey into a shapeless blob. Such was the power of Chubby Checker’s unstoppable dance phenomenon in the ’60s I suppose.

Interesting stuff I now know thanks to Wikipedia (Vol. 4)

For those new to this series, the premise of this is simple.  I just use the Random Article link on Wikipedia (happy 10th anniversary!) and see if anything good comes up.  More often than not, nothing does.  Here we go!

  • American actress Louan Gideon, whose most notable work was on the Nickelodeon series The Secret World of Alex Mack, has had a host of other memorable roles such as Woman, Grieving Woman, Saleswoman, and Hostess.  But I remember her best from the Seinfeld episode “The Millennium”, when she played the speed-dial obsessed stepmother Mrs Hamilton.
  • The Stock Exchange Luncheon Club was a members-only dining club situated on the seventh floor of the New York Stock Exchange in Manhattan.  It opened in 1898 and closed in 2006.  They admitted their first African-American member, Joseph L. Searles III, in 1970.  Searles sat alone at his own table.  I’m guessing they made him bus his own dishes.
  • Guests at Universal Studios Florida could see the set of the Swamp Thing television show until 1994, when the set was demolished a year after the show’s cancellation.  The set property became the home of Back to the Future III locomotive display until 1998, when that was replaced by the current occupant, Men in Black: Alien Attack.
  • In Hawaiian mythology, Kāne is considered the highest of the four major deities, along with Kanaloa, Kū, and Lono. He represented the god of procreation and was worshipped as ancestor of chiefs and commoners.  No human sacrifice or laborious ritual was needed in the worship of Kāne, which is probably a good thing.  Seems odd to worship a procreation god by throwing all the good virgins into volcanoes.

  • PC-Write, a word processing program, was developed by former Microsoft employee Bob Wallace in 1983.  Wallace, who was Microsoft’s ninth-ever employee (middle of top row in picture), did not sell his software outright.  Rather, he requested donations for it.  He dubbed this distribution method, which had been tried only a few times previously, “shareware.”
  • The Tit Berrypecker (Oreocharis arfaki) is a species of bird in the Paramythiidae family.  It is also one of the most hilarious and fake-sounding bird names ever.
  • Corcovado is the name of the mountain in Brazil that sits underneath the famous Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue.  It’s also the name of a song by famed Bossa Nova composer Antônio Carlos Jobim, which appears on the excellent Jobim/Frank Sinatra album released in 1967.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio derives its name from the Society of the Cincinnati, itself named for the famed Roman politician and aristocrat Cincinnatus.  Cincinnatus was named dictator of Rome in the 5th century B.C. during a military crisis, and voluntarily relinquished his power.  For this and other deeds he is regarded as one of the heroes of early Rome.
  • John Henry Pruitt (1896 – 1918) is one of only 19 people to receive two Congressional Medals of Honor.  They were from the Army and the Marines, for the same action in World War I.  Pruitt was killed in action on his 22nd birthday.
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Works Progress Administration (WPA) logo

Posters of the WPA

Works Progress Administration (WPA) logoBack in the day (1935 to be precise), President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration (WPA), an enormous government program aimed at providing employment for millions of Americans affected by the Great Depression.

The legacy of the WPA is a host of public works (bridges, roads, etc.) and cultural projects. That’s all well and good obviously, but what I really care about are the cool posters designed to promote many of the WPA’s programs.

All of these images and hundreds more are available as part of the Library of Congress’s “Posters of the WPA” collection. I’ve simply picked what I feel are some of the most visually appealing and added my usual pithy commentary. As you’ll see, these great images are very much of their time and most display an Art Deco sensibility that I love (at least that’s what I think the style is).

This promo for adult education classes in Ohio is so delightfully absurd, it’s hard to believe it came from a government program. “Get A-Head!” (artist unknown), c. 1936-1941

For those not familiar with war propaganda of days gone by, this is typical of many images from World War II (and World War I for that matter). In order to convey just how evil the enemy was, racial stereotypes and slurs were often employed. I’m not sure what the implied threat is here, however, as “the Jap” seems to have conquered the relatively unimportant North Pole. — “Salvage Scrap to Blast the Jap” by Phil von Phul, c. 1940-41

I have no idea if the Sioux City Camera Club’s exhibition was any good, but their poster definitely is great. — Sioux City Camera Club exhibition (artist unknown), c. 1936-39.

Relatively speaking, automobiles were fairly new in the 1930s. Even so, I sincerely hope that drivers did not have to be specifically instructed to not kill animals with their cars. As sad as that may be, this is a very eye-catching, albeit ominous, poster. — “Don’t Kill Out Wild Life” by John Wagner, c. 1936-40

One thing I’m sure of is that it probably took all of three days after the first car rolled out before some jackass decided to get plastered and go for a ride. So it makes sense for this anti-drunk driving ad to warn against that. Or against putting whiskey in your gas tank. No, I’m pretty sure this is about drinking and driving. I do dig the vintage gas pump. — “Don’t Mix ‘Em” (artist unknown), c. 1936-37

I’ve heard them called outhouses, crappers, and dunnys, but I’ve never heard them called “sanitary units.” Nevertheless, my home does feel incomplete without one.“Your Home Is Not Complete Without a Sanitary Unit” (artist unknown), c. 1936-41

In the dark days before television and video games, children apparently read for pleasure. I know, sick. Still, the minimalist design and nice blue/black/orange color scheme does make the prospect more appealing. — “October’s ‘Bright Blue Weather’ — A Good Time to Read!”  by Albert M. Bender, c. 1936-40

Part of what makes a lot of the imagery of this period so striking is the abundance of clean lines and basic shapes. Looking at this poster I not only feel I should keep my teeth clean, but that it is my duty as a citizen to do so. After all, the Nazis are looming on the horizon and you can’t fight them if you’re gumming K-rations. — “Keep Your Teeth Clean” (artist unknown), c. 1936-38

Another design element found in images of this time period is the repetition of a single object. But the same clean design applies to this deceptively simple poster. That font is also something I’d love to see more of. — “Foreign Trade Zone” by Jack Rivolta, 1937

Or he may just be dull after all. On the upside, he is a snappy dresser. — “John Is Not Really Dull” (artist unknown), c. 1936-37.

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