Top 5 Pro Sports Teams From Michigan That No Longer Exist
The Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons have represented the four major North American professional sports leagues for several decades in Detroit without much interruption and the teams have stood the test of time in their respective leagues. There are also several minor league teams that have been in continuous operation for several years including the West Michigan Whitecaps, Lansing Lugnuts, Grand Rapids Drive, Great Lakes Loons, Traverse City Beach Bums, Kalamazoo Wings and Battle Creek Bombers among others.
Dozens of professional sports teams have come and gone in Michigan and this is a countdown offering the top five defunct pro sports teams based on success and significance.
5. Grand Rapids Rampage (1998-2009) Arena Football League
The Rampage kick off the list at #5. The team brought a national title to Grand Rapids in 2001 and made a total of six playoff appearances during their years in the Arena Football League playing at Van Andel Arena.
Grand Rapids was the smallest market in which the AFL had a franchise at the time. On March 5, 2010, it was announced that the Rampage were officially out of business and had no plans to return.
4. Detroit Shock (1998-2009) WNBA
The Shock spent 10 seasons in Detroit representing the WNBA and are the only women's team on the list making it at #4. They were a sister team of the Detroit Pistons, playing home games at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
From 2002 to the 2009 season was coached by Pistons legend Bill Laimbeer. The Shock brought three titles to Detroit under Laimbeer in 2003, 2006 and 2008. In 2009 the Shock were defeated by the Indiana Fever in three games, missing the Finals for the first time since 2005.
On October 19, 2009, an official with the Detroit Shock announced the team would be moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The franchise technically still exists and is based in Texas as the Dallas Wings.
3. Detroit Drive (1988-1994) Arena Football League
The Drive come in at #3 because they won more titles than any of the other defunct pro sports teams on the list, including back-to-back-to-back titles in 1988, 1989 and 1990. They also added one more AFL title in 1992.
In 1987, Mike Illitch began negotiations with the AFL to join for the 1988 season. The team was established in 1988 and was a member of the league until 1993, playing home games at Joe Louis Arena. Ilitch then sold the Drive after buying the Detroit Tigers in 1993 so that the two teams would not compete for attendance.
The club moved to Worcester, Massachusetts in 1994 and played in there through the end of the 1994 season before folding. Three years later, the organization was bought and moved to Grand Rapids to become the Rampage.
2. Michigan Panthers (1983-1984) USFL
The Panthers only existed for two seasons, but make #2 on the list because they are the only professional football team based in Michigan to win a title since 1957 (we won't get into that here). On July 17, 1983, the Panthers captured the USFL's first championship with a 24-22 win over the Philadelphia Stars.
The Panthers also have the distinction of playing in the longest professional football game in history. It was a first-round playoff game in 1984 against the Los Angeles Express and it went to three overtimes. The Panthers had chances to win the game in both the first and second overtimes, but missed several field goals. Finally, in the third overtime, L.A. scored to win 27-21 victory, ending pro football's longest day after 93 minutes and 33 seconds of total play time.
It turned out to be Michigan's last game even though they had a loyal following, playing home games at the Pontiac Silverdome. Owners in the USFL, largely under the influence of Donald Trump who was the owner of the New Jersey Generals at the time, wanted to move games from spring to fall to directly compete with the NFL. The Panthers owner was not on board and the team merged with Oakland, leaving the city of Detroit altogether after playing only two seasons in the league.
1. Detroit Stars (1919-1931, 1933, 1937, 1954-1961) Negro Leagues
In this case, it is a good thing that this franchise no longer exists as it represents an era of segregation in professional baseball which only started coming to an end in 1947 when Jackie Robinson began playing Major League Baseball. This was an easy choice for #1.
The first known baseball game between two black teams was held in New York City in 1859. Immediately after the Civil War ended in 1865, a black baseball scene began mostly in the East and Mid-Atlantic states. The teams were comprised mainly of ex-soldiers. Because African Americans were not being accepted into the major and minor baseball leagues due to racism in the United States, they formed their own leagues as early as the 1880s.
The Detroit Stars were founded in 1919 and originally played at Mack Park until it was destroyed in a fire in 1929. The team finished their season at Hamtramck Stadium which is one of only 12 Negro League stadiums to remain. The original Negro National League collapsed at the end of the 1931 season, but several variations of the league popped up in subsequent years and the team reformed three more times before ending altogether in 1961. The latest version of the team played at Mack Park, which was rebuilt after the 1929 fire.
The Stars only had one playoff appearance during their existence. They lost to St. Louis in the NNL Pennant in 1930 4 games to 3.
Every season, the Detroit Tigers pay tribute to the Stars by wearing an alternate Stars throwback uniform on MLB's Negro League Day. Last year, FOX Sports Detroit put together a wonderful piece documenting some of the history of the Detroit Stars