Hi, folks! I haven’t been on the “barstool” for a while.
I am grateful to Nestor and the WNST staff for allowing me to blog here. In doing so, I have given the opportunity to be an Examiner for your Baltimore Blast on Examiner.com.
This is indeed an honor as I have been a fan of Baltimore indoor soccer since 1980. It was in that year, the Houston Summit of the Major Indoor Soccer League moved into was then the Baltimore Arena to become the Baltimore Blast.
I remember as a student of Sacred Heart of Mary Elementary School as head coach, Kenny Cooper brought a reel-to-reel highlight film of the 1979-80 MISL All-Star Game and played it in our auditorium. I noticed that the action was fast and furious with more scoring and more opportunities to score than the outdoor version of the game. I also noticed that they played with an orange ball that resembled a Nerf soccer ball that I and my friends played kickball with in recess. Afterwards, he and a player named John Borozzi signed and autographs and as a result, I and other students, who were there with their parents, were hooked.
With aggressive advertising, countless appearances and being fortunate to fill a void for fall and winter sports due to poor play and eventual relocation of the Baltimore Colts, the Blast were an overnight sensation.
Kenny Cooper was instrumental in making the Blast a success off and on the field. For the next twelve seasons, Cooper’s teams made the playoffs in each of those seasons, advancing to the finals five times and winning the league championship in the 1983-1984 season. He had several talented and charismatic players, such as unlikely superstar, Stan “the Magician” Stamenkovic whose physical stature resembled that of an NFL offensive lineman but could pass and score like Alex Ovechkin.
Stan had a great cast of teammates such as standout goalkeepers Keith van Eron and Scott Manning, hard-working defenders Bruce Savage, Mike Stankovic and Jim Pollihan, hard shooting Richard Chinapoo (had a kick clocked at 85 mph) , and favorites from local and nearby areas, Dave McWilliams from nearby Philadelphia and Baltimore native from Calvert Hall, Tim Wittman.
But it was more than on-field talent that made the Blast a success in Baltimore. Cooper demanded that his players showed proper work ethic and were accessible, role models off of the field. Players appeared wherever they could on TV, at clinics, school dinners, etc.
The Blast and the MISL made their matches to be affordable, entertaining events for the entire family. The Blast routinely sold out many of their games. The MISL were ahead of their time with multi-media pre-game introductions that several NBA,NHL and even NFL teams have adopted. Honestly, how you can you be a pre-teen in the early 80’s and not be excited to see your home team climb out of a spaceship that landed?
When the MISL (which in its’ last year had called itself the Major Soccer League or MSL) folded after the 1991-1992, software Bill Stealey founded a team called the Baltimore Spirit and entered them as a franchise into the NPSL (National Professional Soccer League). They were later purchased by a previous Blast owner, Ed Hale and 1998, he re-named the team, the Baltimore Blast.
In 2001, the Blast and several of its’ NPSL rivals formed a new MISL. With Kevin Healey, a Blast head coach moving in to become general manager, brought in former Blast greats, Bob McAvan, Tim Wittman and current coach Danny Kelly to win four MISL championships in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008. When the MISL folded and the Blast joined the NISL (National Indoor soccer League), Kelly led his team to defeat the Rockford Rampage, 14-4 to win the 2009 NISL Championship.
The upcoming season should be enjoyable to watch as fan and report as an Examiner. In my next article, I will attempt to interview Blast member, Pat Healey, the NISL 2009 Rookie of the Year.
Thank you for reading!