Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chuck the Writer and the New York Eagles

I was thinking about this yesterday. Back when I was a teenager, around 1979 or so, Albany had no real professional sports franchises to speak of. We had the Albany Metro Mallers football team, but that was a "semi-professional" squad. There was the Albany Twilight League amateur baseball season, but how charged up can you get for a Sons of Italy / Oppenheimer Post matchup?

That's why I was surprised when it was announced that Albany would be getting an American Soccer League franchise, the New York Eagles, for the 1979 season. At first I thought, why in the world would Pele and Rodney Marsh and the NASL come to Albany? That was before I realized that there was the North American Soccer League, with all the international stars, and the American Soccer League, which was essentially Division II.

Don't get me wrong, the New York Eagles were fun to watch from 1979 to 1981 (they took the 1980 season off for financial reasons), and games against squads like the Cleveland Cobras, Detroit Express and New York Apollo were exciting matchups. Especially if Vogislav "Billy" Bolevic was in the lineup, the guy could score almost on will. He scored 25 goals in 1981, earning him the league's Most Valuable Player award. The Eagles made the playoffs each of their two seasons of play, but were knocked out of the first round each time.

The other thing I learned about the Eagles was that although the franchise at the time was populated almost completely with Yugoslavian nationals, the team suddenly developed internal factions once the team started playing in Albany. Suddenly the Eagles weren't Yugoslavians; they were Serbs and Croatians and Macedonians and five other ethnic nationalities. And the Serbs wouldn't pass to the Croats, and the Croats would not talk to the Macedonians, etc., etc.

Years later, after the Eagles dried up and moved away, Albany had some other professional soccer franchises, including the APSL's Albany Capitals (who I worked with during their final season, in which they made the APSL championship game), the NPSL's New York Kick (one of several sports teams in the Knickerbocker Arena's early years) and the USISL's Albany Alleycats (the less said about them, the better). About the only souvenir I still have of the Eagles is an enamel logo pin, which is parked on my home computer desk.

That, and about a dozen memories of Billy Bolevic turning goaltenders into crybabies.

1 comment:

Chris said...

What did you learn about the Utica Wreckers?