4 Former STL Sports Teams

17, December 2016

The St. Louis Rams weren’t the first team to leave our beloved city behind. Throughout St. Louis’s history, professional teams have departed, folded, or been traded away. Here are four of them.

1. St. Louis Cardinals Football

Black-and-white photo of the St. Louis Cardinals football teamAction during the Cardinal Glennon football game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Bears at Busch Stadium. Missouri History Museum.

On March 13, 1960, National Football League (NFL) team owners unanimously voted for the Chicago Cardinals to relocate to their rival city, St. Louis. The football Cardinals’ first season here was unique, to say the least. For one thing, their home stadium was Sportsman’s Park, where the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team played. And because they didn’t have a dedicated practice space, players trained in parks around the city. The Cardinals' best season came in 1975, when they had a record of 11–3.

In 1987, owner Bill Bidwill wasn't shy about his intention to move the team the following season. (Sound familiar?) St. Louisans weren't happy about this decision. Case in point: Bidwill received multiple death threats, forcing him to miss the Cardinals’ final home games. After the team moved to Phoenix, Arizona, St. Louis was without an NFL franchise for the first time in 28 years.

2. St. Louis Steamers Soccer

St. Louis Steamers PennantA pennant for the St. Louis Steamers. Missouri History Museum.

On July 31, 1979, the Major Indoor Soccer League awarded St. Louis a franchise: the St. Louis Steamers. The Steamers pulled huge crowds, starting with their inaugural game on December 14 that same year, when more than 18,000 people packed the St. Louis Arena. From 1980 to 1985, each game attracted an average of more than 12,000 fans. The Steamers even bested the St. Louis Blues in attendance for four consecutive seasons, from 1980 to 1984. But on April 15, 1988, the Steamers kicked their last soccer ball for St. Louis in front of fewer than 5,000 fans. The club folded, and the MISL itself came to an end in 1992.

3. St. Louis Flyers

Black-and-white photo of the St. Louis FlyersThe St. Louis Flyers playing a game in the Arena. Missouri History Museum.

Originally an American Hockey Association (AHA) team, the St. Louis Flyers passed the puck on the Arena’s ice for 14 seasons, from 1928 to 1942. They even won several AHA championships before joining the American Hockey League (AHL)—otherwise known as the National Hockey League's minor league. The St. Louis Flyers folded in 1953 but remain St. Louis's first, and only, AHL team.

4. St. Louis Hawks

A postcard of the St. Louis Hawks basketball teamA postcard featuring the St. Louis Hawks. Missouri History Museum.

With the National Basketball Association (NBA) championship series tied up at Game 4 in 1958, the St. Louis Hawks and Boston Celtics weren't taking any chances. St. Louis won Game 5 by two points, leaving Boston on their toes. The Hawks needed a win at home in Kiel Auditorium to end the series—and they didn't disappoint. With the help of Bob Pettit’s astounding 50 points, the Hawks won their first NBA championship, defeating Boston 110–109.

Ten years later, in 1968, the Hawks had a 56–26 record, earning them a spot in the playoffs. But after being defeated by the San Francisco Warriors, owner Ben Kerner sold the team to Georgia real estate developer Thomas Cousins and former Georgia governor Carl Sanders. The two transplanted the Hawks to Atlanta, where the team remains today.

—Anna Edwards, Communications Intern

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