Today, for better or worse, the Miami market has teams in each of the big four major leagues. It wasn't always that way, though, and besides the Dolphins, Heat, Marlins, and Panthers, several other professional sports teams have called Miami home. In fact, the Magic City's colorful pro sports history dates back decades before the Dolphins were established. That history includes a team called the Ethiopian Clowns (the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball) and a minor-league basketball team made up of recovering addicts.
Here are ten forgotten and folded but thoroughly interesting Miami professional sports teams.
Long before the Dolphins set up shop, Miami's (and Florida's) first professional football team, the Miami Seahawks, played a single season in 1946. As members of the short-lived All-America Football Conference, the Seahawks played in Burdine Stadium (or as you probably know it, the Orange Bowl) and sported orange and green uniforms similar to those of their co-tenants, the Miami Hurricanes. At the time, Miami was a relatively small town and was the smallest market in the AAFC. The team's owner was also the poorest in the league (he wasn't even a millionaire!). A tough schedule and a head coach that quit midseason led the team to a 3-11 record, according to Pro Football Reference. The Seahawks ended up severely in debt and were bought and relocated to Baltimore, where they became the first incarnation of the Baltimore Colts.
The Seahawks did add one legacy to pro football: They played all of their November games on Monday nights, which was unheard of until the NFL's Monday Night Football.
The team went on to become the original Miami Marlins. Unfortunately we can't find any photographic evidence of their Hustlers era.
Like the Seahawks, Miami's first (though minor-league) baseball team was also woefully short-lived. Established as the Fort Myers Palms in 1926, the team moved to Miami in 1927 and took on the awesome mantel of the Miami Hustlers. Like Rick Ross, they spent every day hustlin'. However, their league, Florida State League, folded midway through the 1928 season. The franchise was reborn in 1962 and was the first team to use the name the "Miami Marlins," until 1971. They then became known as the Orioles before switching back to the Marlins name and eventually becoming the Miami Miracle (the name change came about through a new ownership group that counted Jimmy Buffett and Bill Murray as investors). When the MLB franchise we all know and hate today -- the Marlins -- came to town, the Miracle relocated to its original home of Fort Myers, where it still plays today. The Miami area also hosted other, less notable minor-league baseball teams such as the Sun Sox, the Flamingoes, the Wahoos, the Amigos, and the Tourists.
Clearly, the history of a team known as the "Ethiopian Clowns" is not boring. The all-black barnstorming team was established in the mid-'30s and trained and played the beginning and end of its seasons here. Mostly, though, the Clowns traveled the country as something akin to the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball. According to an Florida International University paper, the team was a popular attraction coast to coast thanks to antics that included "wearing grass skirts, wigs, or clown suits; slap-stick comedy, flashy practice routines, and baseball trickery; and even wearing 'whiteface' makeup." The team eventually became a legitimate member of the Negro Baseball League in the mid-'40s after relocating to Ohio.
This team isn't quite as forgotten as every other on this list mostly because it's remembered as having some of the flyest (or ugliest, depending on your point of view) uniforms in American professional sports history, and because the Miami Heat has twice paid homage to those uniforms.
The Floridians, members of the ABA, started as the Minnesota Muskies but relocated to Miami in 1968 (but not before management sold off the star rookie). The Floridians never found much success, and played in three arenas in their two years in Miami. They eventually became a vagabond team that played home games throughout Florida.
Fittingly, however, the team had the sexiest dance troupe in pro basketball, long before the Miami Heat dancers existed.
Are you ready for some Arena football? Miami wasn't. The Arena Football League's Sacramento Attack switched coasts and became the Miami Hooters in 1993. Why, yes, the name stemmed from a sponsorship deal with your favorite purveyor of chicken wings and boobs. After three seasons, the deal with Hooters was up, as was their time in Miami. They moved to West Palm Beach for a while as the Florida Bobcats before settling in Fort Lauderdale. The franchise folded in 2001.
We don't know who thought Miami could support three professional football teams in the mid-'90s, but there were plans to bring the CFL to town in 1995 even though the Hooters still existed, and Miami pretty much had its fill with the Dolphins (not to mention the Hurricanes). Yes, the CFL. The Canadian Football League. For a short time in the '90s it had a few American teams, and after initial plans to start an expansion franchise, an ownership group tried to bring the Las Vegas Posse to town and rename it the Miami Manatees. However, the team never came to be. In 1996 the CFL wised up and ended its brief expansion into the American market.
Miami Screaming Eagles
Before the Panthers came to town, Miami didn't have much of a history with hockey (which makes sense because what in hell is hockey and why does it need to be played in a subtropical climate?), but back in 1972 there was an attempt to bring pro hockey to South Florida. The now-defunct World Hockey Association almost iced a Miami team in 1972. They wouldn't have played in Miami, though. The Hollywood Sportatorium was built in Broward to host the team, but management didn't like the arena. The team eventually took to the ice as the Philadelphia Blazers. The Sportatorium went on to become a somewhat famous venue for rock concerts but was ultimately shuttered in 1988.
Though the aforementioned football team the Miami Manatees and the WHA's Screaming Eagles never came to fruition, Miami eventually got a team named the Manatees and a WHA team. They were the same team, in fact -- the WHA2's Miami Manatees -- and they were one of the biggest disasters in Miami sports history. In 2003, the team played in the Miami Arena, but no one went to see them. Well, almost no one. Fearing low attendance, the ownership attempted to move to Maitland, Florida. Players didn't like the idea. Ownership came up with another idea: They'd play all their home games on the road. Players hated it even more, so many of them jumped ship to other minor hockey leagues. The team didn't even finish out the season. Yet somehow the team made it to the playoffs before being quickly eliminated. The franchise attempted to join another hockey league the following season but ended up quietly folding.
The Miami Tropics existed as a regular member of the United States Basketball League for a single season (1986-87) and actually won the league's championship. That's not the amazing part.
The amazing part is that the team was resurrected in 1992 after being bought by John Lucas, a former NBA player who managed a successful 12-step recovery center. He turned the team into a haven for talented basketball players, including several who had played in the NBA, who were recovering drug and alcoholic addicts. Yes, it was a minor-league team mostly made up of recovering addicts. And they were good! They won the 1992 and 1993 league championships before folding following the last championship season. Why isn't this an ESPN made-for-TV movie or something?
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On paper, it totally made sense to have a Miami team play in the Lingerie Football League. On the field, it made sense too. During its two-season existence from 2009 through 2010, the team was technically the best pro football team in town -- it made the playoffs and once reached its conference's championship game. Sadly, we never got to see the Caliente flourish, and it quietly folded in 2011.