The confusing and complicated backroom financial dealings that became the signature of the World Football League also highlighted the birth of what should have been, and what needed to be, the league’s landmark franchise. It was vital to have a strong team in the country’s largest economic and population market yet, the New York Stars began as the “weakling” Boston Bulldogs, at least for twenty-four hours before the name was changed to the Boston Bulls in typical WFL fashion. In 1974 Robert Schmertz was the owner of the NBA World Champion Boston Celtics basketball team and was a previous owner of the Portland Trail Blazers. He was also the majority owner of the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association originally started by Gary Davidson. As president and Chairman Of The Board of Leisure Technology Corporation, the country’s leading developer of retirement communities with assets estimated to be worth $60 million, Schmertz could afford to dabble in sports franchises. At one time it was believed that he was responsible for building the overwhelming majority of retirement homes in the northeast.
Howard Baldwin was president of the Whalers, working for Schmertz but ambitious and wanting more. He had started as a ticket manager for the Philadelphia Flyers and then moved up to serve as business manager of the New Jersey Devils hockey team before hooking up with Schmertz and successfully directing the fortunes of the Whalers. When Davidson approached Baldwin about the possibility of a new football league, Baldwin was all for it but lacked the one thing needed to field a successful team, financing. With Schmertz agreeing to take a New York based franchise, and Baldwin one in Boston, there was already a natural northeastern rivalry and the best part of the deal was that both men, as key cogs in the WHA and Davidson’s “in group” did not pay a franchise fee! Still, Baldwin needed a well heeled backer to fund playing contracts, a front office, and everything else that goes into actually having a functional professional football team. Baldwin hired Bob Keating as General Manager who was highly respected in football circles. Keating had been the Vice President and GM of the Boston Colonials of the Atlantic Coast Football League, a league they dominated with a 13-1 record the year before and he had signed high caliber talent to accomplish that task. He had also been Director Of Public Relations for the Schaefer Brewing Company and was instrumental in the development and building of Foxboro Schafer Stadium. He then served as Director Of Schaefer Stadium and did so very successfully. Baldwin hired former Pats and Jets quarterback, the venerable Vito “Babe” Parilli who had a high level of recognition and popularity in Boston and New York. Immediately, in preparation for the WFL player draft, the New York and Boston franchises worked together, sharing resources and information to stock their teams. It appeared that the Boston franchise was on their way. Herb Gluck’s book on the sometimes unbelievable legal and financial maneuvering that took place in the establishment of the WFL, WHILE THE GETTIN’S GOOD focuses on Baldwin and the New York franchise as its subject matter, an exemplar of the entire league’s misfortune and the details are intriguing. For our brief summary, without financial backing nor a suitable stadium facility, Baldwin was able to use the apparent “conflict of interest” with both he and Schmertz as principals in the Whalers, to bail out of his financially bereft commitment to Boston. The public story was “we can’t compete with each other on the football field and share duties with the same hockey team under the lead of the same commissioner” while forgetting to state that he had no chance of fielding a competitive team in the new football league. Thus Baldwin fled Boston and in effect, combined franchises with Schmertz in New York, giving birth to the New York Stars. That Schmertz had money and Baldwin did not made this an easy decision on his part. Thus, with GM, head coach, and office staff in tow, Baldwin moved down I-95 to New York City to direct the fortunes of the new team on February 19th.MORE...
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