Saturday, October 06, 2007

Baltimore Hustlers

In the summer of 1975, the Memphis Sounds franchise reached the end of the line in Tennessee after five seasons of utter futility. The team was sold to a shadowy group of seven Maryland businessmen, who immediately moved it to Baltimore.

Things did not go well from the very start. On August 24, 1975, ABA Commissioner Dave DeBusschere yanked the team away from the Maryland investors, ruling that the team was "undercapitalized." He awarded the franchise to a new group of investors in Memphis. Unbelievably, though, the Memphis group withdrew the very next day. DeBusschere then handed the club back to Baltimore. A $250,000 down payment to the ABA by the Baltimore group seemed to appease the ABA for the moment.

The new owners first named their team the "Baltimore Hustlers," and sent out a season ticket brochure using that moniker.

When the ABA league office got wind of the "Hustlers" nickname, it strongly objected. The ABA higher-ups felt that the name "Hustlers" had too many negative connotations, and strongly encouraged the Baltimore owners to choose another nickname. Soon after this directive, the "Baltimore Hustlers" quietly became the "Baltimore Claws." A second season ticket brochure was sent out, with the new nickname.

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