1974 WFL Team Pages
The Philadelphia Bell will not be remembered in sports history for its on-field heroics, their unique "singular" name or the charisma of quarterback Jim "King" Corcoran, the glass-eating of linebacker Tim Rossovich or the dynamic "Soul Patrol" secondary led by Ron Mabra. No, Philadelphia would always be remembered as the W.F.L. team that lied to the league, its fans, and eventually disappeared into the rafters of ancient J.F.K. Stadium and was never heard from again. Unceremoniously, the Bell would be remembered by the forlorn days of October with graying skies and the brick landscape of ancient JFK Stadium.
The Philadelphia Bell was created when Al Sica and his son-in-law John Bosacco purchased a W.F.L. franchise. The original Philadelphia franchise almost went to Ken Bogdanoff for $25,000. When Bogdanoff got cold feet, Gary Davidson used his "floating franchise" (a perk as the WFL commissioner) to purchase the rights to the franchise and then to sell it to other interests. Originally named the Philadelphia Express, the franchise didn’t have solid ownership until three months before the season started. Jack Kelly Jr., a local hero, was brought on board to give the club a figurehead in the community. Kelly, son of a champion oarsmen, had a distinguished schoolboy football career and was also considered one of the best athletes the city had ever seen, playing center for Penn Charter High Schools’ football team. It seemed like a perfect fit. Kelly was a local hero and Philadelphia was a city of heroes.
As opening day approached the Bell conducted several team workouts including the first ever scrimmage against the Florida/Orlando Blazers at Shippensburg State College at Shippensburg, Pa.. Despite the loss to Florida, the Bell were eager to begin the season. No player displayed the cockiness and self-confidence of the rogue World Football League better than Jim "The King" Corcoran, the Bell quarterback.
Jim "King" Corcoran was the W.F.L.’s Johnny Unitas. A ten-year veteran of various minor league football teams up and down the eastern seaboard. The "King" played for such obscure teams as the Norfolk Neptunes, Wilmington Clippers, Lowell Giants and the Pottstown Firebirds. When he reported to the Bell training camp, Corcoran bought his hair stylist, a juke box and a coca-cola machine. Despite his self-confidence, Corcoran ran a complicated Bell offense and ended the year as one of the leagues’ top passers.
Bell head coach Ron Waller ran a offensive system with unique formations and players in motion. Corcoran, had a cannon for a arm and a mountain of an ego, but Ron Waller loved him. Together they won championships in the Atlantic Coast Football League with the Pottstown (Pa.) Firebirds. In a preseason interview Corcoran explained their relationship, "He (Waller) understands me. Every place we’ve played, we’ve won." The Bell running game was another strong point, with Claude Watts, John Land and Cecil Bowens (who played with Montreal in the CFL). The receivers were led by veteran Ron Hawkins, rookie Donnie Shanklin, and Vince Papale, a local hero from St. Joesph’s who didn’t play football. The offensive line was beginning to come together in late scrimmages.
The Philadelphia Bell defense was led by the "wild" Tim Rossovich, CFL veteran Ocie Austin and linebacker Wally Dempsey. The Bell secondary was led by standout Ron Mabra.
The Philadelphia Bell opened their 1974 season against the Portland Storm. A tremendous crowd of 55,534 attended the game at J.F.K. Stadium, as Corcoran lead the Bell to a 33-8 rout of Portland. J.F.K. Stadium, an ancient stadium that had seen many historic Eagles matches, as well as the Army-Navy rivalries, was dressed in bunting and proudly offered a cavernous view of the action. Philadelphia set the legions of new W.F.L. fans home happy, racking up a total of 428 total yards on offense. What was more impressive than the win was the fact that the Bell out drew the first-place Phillies, who were playing across the street, 55,534 to 33,812. The WFL and the Bell had arrived.
The next week the Bell traveled to Houston. The fortunes of their bruising victory over Portland went up in flames in the Texas heat. In a game that saw more punts than offensive fire power the Texans won 11-0. The Texans opened the scoring when defensive back Daryl Johnson intercepted a "King" Corcoran pass and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown and a 8-0 Houston lead. The fans in the Astrodome (26,227 on "Nickel Beer Night"), quietly sat as the Texans added a field goal in the fourth quarter. The Bell then returned to the "City of Brotherly Love" for a nationally televised game with the rival New York Stars. The reception in Philadelphia was too good to be true.
JFK Stadium located in the center of Philadelphia hummed with excitement. The game was featured as the WFL’s "Game of the Week" which was televised throughout the country. The fans in the stadium were ready for football. Through the first two weeks of the season Claude Watts and John Land had both rushed for over 100 yards, and were expecting a good night against the New York Stars. 64,719 fans at J.F.K. watched as the Bell drove 90-yards down the field and flashy "King" Corcoran hit Claude Watts with a 18-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead. As the Bell lined up for the action point, the New York Stars stopped them cold but were called off-sides. The Bell actually failed on their second attempt, but, once again the Stars were called off-sides. As Star coach Babe Parilli looked at the ground in disgust, the Bell offense lined up for another attempt. This time Corcoran passed into the end zone and the ball fell incomplete. On the field was a yellow flag….the WFL official signaled that the Stars were off-sides for a third consecutive time. Finally, "King" Corcoran took matters into his own hands, and on a quarterback sneak, gave the Bell a 8-0 lead. New York raged back and on two touchdown runs by Dave Richards and Bob Gladieux took a 14-8 lead into the locker room. In the third quarter "King" Corcoran drove the Bell deep and hit tight end LeVell Hill for a 9-yard touchdown pass and a 15-14 lead. In the fourth quarter, Moses Lajertmann booted a 40-yard field goal that gave the Stars a 17-15 lead. JFK Stadium was rocking off its foundation. "King" Corcoran led the Bell back with passes to Don Shanklin and his running backs Claude Watts and John Land. As the Bell drive stalled with 2:18 left Jack Simcsak missed a 36-yard field wide right. The 64,000 Bell faithful let out a collective "gasp". With only seconds remaining the Bell received another chance to end the Stars. After a drive stalled at the New York 26, George Chatlos missed a potential game winning field goal wide to the left. Bell players laid on the field stunned, players on the sidelines cursed and Ron Waller (the Bell coach), furious, walked off the field. The Bell lost 17-15 to the New York Stars.
World Football League officials, including Commissioner Gary L. Davidson were awestruck at the turnout- 64,719-The World Football League had arrived! The media, the league and the Philadelphia Bell breathed in the Hollywood-like atmosphere of the moment. Then, the moment was gone.
The World Football League, struggling for respect and media attention, was delt a serious public relations nightmare when it was discovered that "several thousand" of the Bell fans were allowed into the game on "super discount" tickets well below the regular prices of $8, $5 and $2. When it came time for the franchise to pay city taxes on the attendance figures- the city and the league were appalled to find that 55,534 fans translated to 13,855 paying customers and 64,719 was actually a paltry 6,200. Later that night Bell Executive Vice President Barry Leib confessed, "What can I say? I lied. I never thought those figures would come out. I admit I lied to reporters. I’ve never considered a reporter a priest. If the real figures had come out we would have been a joke." What Leib didn’t understand was this was Philadelphia. George Washington slept here. It is the cradle of the nation. The episode was christened "Papergate" by the nation’s media- The World Football League and the Philadelphia Bell would never be able to change their history.
From the franchise outposts of the WFL team owners fired their rebuttals to the Philadelphia situation. "Now we’re all suspect", claimed Southern California Sun owner Larry Hatfield. "This is incredible, how that could have happened," claimed Birmingham American owner William Putnam. Later in the week, Gary Davidson instructed all WFL teams to report "paid" attendance in an effort to improve the WFL’s image. Davidson knew the importance of public opinion, and the NFL media mongers had just received some fodder for their cannons.
"Papergate" claimed one more victim before it would leave the WFL front page. In a press conference, Jack Kelly Jr. accepted full responsibility for the incident and resigned from his post as Governor of the Philadelphia Bell. As time would pass it was learned that many of the "freebies" (as the papers called them) were actually block tickets the Bell sold to various companies around the greater Philadelphia area. These corporate blocks were purchased at a discount and the tax revenue liability was not reported. When approached about the tax revenue that was due, Bell officials claimed them as "complementary tickets" or tickets sold at a discount. The "Papergate" scandal had begun.
The Bell took flight to Portland, Oregon as the "Papergate" scandal broke. In Civic Stadium, the Bell ripped through the Storm 25-7 on the arm of quarterback "King" Corcoran before a national television audience. Corcoran directed the Bell to a two touchdowns and a field goal in the second quarter as Philadelphia led 17-0 at halftime. Philadelphia opened the scoring when Ron Mabra ripped through the Storm for a 43-yard punt return setting up a 28-yard pass from Corcoran to Don Shanklin. From the Storm 3 the Bell came out and slammed straight into the Portland crew, Corcoran suddenly wheeled right and flipped a scoring pass to LeVell Hill for a 7-0 Bell lead. Then, minutes later, John Land took a handoff and run up the middle on a draw play and broke through the Storm line and into the secondary. With a few cuts Land was in the clear and on his way to a 31-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 Bell lead. It would be all the Bell would need as the defense kept Portland from scoring until late in the fourth quarter.
On the field the Bell tried to stave off the criticism of the "Papergate" scandal. The Bell, with a 2-2 won-lost record, took their frustration to the field. In front of 12,396 paying customers, Philadelphia scored on its first play from scrimmage as King Corcoran threw a flat pass to running back John Land who scampered 64 yards down the sideline to pay dirt. The Bell went on to rout the mighty Memphis Southmen 46-15. "King" Corcoran led Philadelphia to a 30-0 lead before Memphis even realized what had hit them. Corcoran ended the game 16 of 23 for 200 yards and threw four touchdowns in the first half. The Bell defense also limited the Southmen running attack to 92 yards for the game, holding talented rookies John Harvey and Willie Spencer to 26 and 24 yards. Philadelphia's offense gained 422 yards for the game, and the Bell improved to 3-2.
August 14th, 1974, the Bell traveled to Soldier Field, Chicago to play the Fire. With the New York Stars at 4-1 and the Florida Blazers defeating the Jacksonville Sharks 33-26 the Bell found themselves in a situation where they needed a win to keep pace in the WFL East. The Chicago Fire went out to a 18-15 lead at halftime on a one yard run by running back Mark Kellar. In the third quarter, Bell quarterback "King" Corcoran was harassed by the Fire defensive line of Rudy Kuechenberg, Chuck Bailey, Sherwin Jarmon and Mick Heinrich. The Bell quarterback was hurried to arrant passes as the Fire kept Philadelphia off the scoreboard for the entire quarter.
With the Fire leading 25-22, King Corcoran dropped back, avoided a Fire pass rush and hit Claude Watts over the middle. The burly running back, who played with Corcoran with the Pottstown Firebirds of the ACFL, bulled his way over Harry Howard of the Fire and ran for a 45 yard touchdown- the Bell had taken the lead.
On the Chicago sideline, Virgil Carter and the Fire offense came out onto the field. Confident the lead was safe, Bell coach Ron Waller watched as Carter ripped apart the Bell secondary and led the Fire to the Philadelphia 11 yard line with 1:34 remaining. As the Fire broke their huddle, the crowd rose to its feet, and Carter dropped back to pass and then suddenly stepped forward and fired a pass to Jack Dolbin who had run a slant pass into the middle of the field- Dolbin caught the pass for a touchdown and a Fire win 32-29.
After the game, a dejected King Corcoran was rumored to have trashed his Chicago hotel room.
The Bell returned home to Philadelphia with a 3-3 record and still dodging the "Papergate" scandal in the local press. Many beat writers around the greater Philadelphia area were commenting on the front office mishaps rather than the matters on the field as the Bell prepared to play the Southern California Sun. The Sun brought Kermit Johnson, the WFL's number two rusher with 407 yards, as well as a hot handed quarterback in Tony Adams to JFK Stadium. The Bell, after six weeks of play, were led by quarterback "King" Corcoran who had completed 94 of 171 passes for 1,168 yards and 12 touchdowns and running back John Land who had rushed for 265 yards and three touchdowns. The Bell defense was led by "Soul Patrol" member Ron Mabra, who had 10 interceptions for 212 yards in six games.
14,600 fans came out to watch the Sun and Bell play at the "mausoleum" that was JFK Stadium on a beautiful summer night. It would be a game to remember for the Bell. Both teams battled throughout the game and at halftime Southern California led 24-21on two Alonzo Emery touchdown runs and an eleven-yard touchdown pass from Tony Adams to Dave Williams. The game was a wild track meet for three quarters, with Bell Marv Pettaway breaking a 73-yard kickoff return and another for 47- yards, both led to Philadelphia scores. In the third quarter, with distant cheers falling down from the rafters of JFK Stadium, "King" Corcoran brought the Bell down the field and hit tight end Mike Carter with a 27-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bell a 28-24 lead. Then the walls caved in.
Throughout the fourth quarter the Bell and Sun battled back-and-forth in a vicious game of hard hits and punishing blocks. Bell quarterback "King" Corcoran handed off to John Land and Claude Watts who grinded out 100 yards for the game, and the Sun kept most of their plays on the ground alternating between Greg Nelson and James McAllister. While the first three quarters were an aerial show, with both Adams and Corcoran shooting out the lights, the fourth was a good old fashioned slugfest. With the Bell leading 28-24, Sun quarterback Tony Adams dropped back and heaved a bomb to Dave Williams that fell incomplete. Bell cornerback Benny Johnson was penalized for an illegal bump-and-run that kept the Sun from a third-and-10 situation and gave them the ball on the Philadelphia 42. One play later, Adams missed Williams on another deep route and Bell defensive end Jeff Steinberger was whistled down for unsportsmanlike conduct on an illegal helmet slap. That kept the Sun from an even more unpromising third-and-13 situation with 1:22 remaining. After two quick passes, Sun running back Alonzo Emery capped the drive with a one-yard scoring dive to give the Sun a 31-28 lead.
"King" Corcoran drove the Bell back using creative sets and passing plays deep into Southern California territory. With the fans on their feet, the Bell ran a sweep right and John Land bulled his way through to the Sun 40 yard line. The crowd was in a frenzy, and the Bell players realized they had the Sun's back against the wall. Corcoran came out of the Philadelphia huddle with a swagger, as the Sun lined up to defend their goal. He called out the signals, Donnie Shanklin went in motion, the snap, and Corcoran dropped back and threw a bullet to John Land at the Sun 31 yard line. And then, Bell offensive guard Carl Schaukowitch was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct after becoming embroiled in a fight with the Sun's Dave Roller. Only: 19 remained as the Bell was assessed a 15-yard penalty back to the Sun 46. Bell coach Ron Waller was wild. The officials had blasted his team again, much like the ill-fated night in JFK against the New York Stars when the Bell was ruled off-sides three time in a row and allowed the Stars to take away a win. The Bell had also seen two potential game-winning drives die on the last play of the game- Waller stalked the sidelines, and shot glares at the officials. The Bell managed two quick plays, a sideline pass that was well-defended and a short run by Claude Watts that brought them to the Sun 36-yard line.
Ron Waller sent out the kicking team. Bell kicker Jerry Warren came out to attempt a 36-yard field goal that could win the game. Under the din of the JFK lights Warren marked his spot, and place holder Frank DiMaggio set his stance. Warren planned out the path of the kick and the Bell and Sun players lined up. An eerie silence fell over JFK. Warren approached the ball and kicked, as the lines collided and the hands of the Sun players reached for the kick. Sun linebacker Jim Buckmon leapt high in the middle of the line and struck down the Warren attempt- as Philadelphia's hopes crashed down around them. The Bell would fall to 3-4.
Bell coach Ron Waller fumed after the game as he told reporters, "It's obviously jaded officiating. They figure Philadelphia's the low man on the totem pole. Teams like California and Chicago are well-endowed with money and so forth and we're not. So they go with the leaders and put us down. It shouldn't make a difference, but I guess it does Money talks."
Benny Johnson, called for a crucial penalty against Dave Williams, protested, "I just gave that dude a slap on the shoulder, we weren't even in a bump-and-run, we were in a rollback defense."
"Helluva game," sighed running back John Land. "But I tell you, the referees in this league have something against this team.....the coach or something. They killed us tonight."
The referees weren't the only thing that hurt Philadelphia. The Bell watched as safety Frank Polito shattered a rib that punctured through his lung, wide receiver Linzy Cole tore apart his knee and cornerback Bill Craven suffered a major tendon tear in his ankle. All were season-ending injuries that left the teams' morale shattered. The Bell would go on to win only three of their next nine games.
The Bell was like no other WFL franchise in many aspects. The team, which ran a very creative offense, received media attention for its play and its players. Head Coach Ron Waller, "King" Corcoran, the self-proclaimed "King" of minor-league football, the glass-eating Tim Rossovich and the secondary that Waller christened the "Soul Patrol", were not conventional by any means. "We’re not a very conventional team," claimed Waller. "People come to our games to be entertained. We don’t put you to sleep like the Miami Dolphins do." "King" Corcoran could pick apart any defense. Given time, he reads defenses well and he has the experience. Most of all, "King" proved he could win games. Tim Rossovich has plugged a big hole at middle linebacker since joining the team three weeks ago. John Land, who had starting jobs nailed down in Philadelphia and Baltimore of the NFL before walking out, was a 29-year old rookie in the WFL. The "Soul Patrol" secondary featured the talented Ron Mabra, Bennie Johnson (a NFL player with Houston) that are as good as any I've coached."
The Bell put the Sun game behind them and on August 28th hosted the Detroit Wheels in Philadelphia. The Wheels rolled into Philly on fumes. Reports were rampid about the teams' lack of money and leadership- and it was only seven games into the season. Reports came out of Detroit that many players had only received partial pay or no pay for the games they had completed, and attendance in Ypsilanti, Michigan was hovering around the 6-7,000 range. On the field, the Wheels were 0-7, and desperate for a win. Quarterback Bubba Wyche, who spent the previous week on the bench due to an injured back, would start against the Bell and his favorite targets were Hubie Bryant (19 receptions for 328 yards) and Jon Henderson (16 receptions for 220 yards) and the rushing game was led by Sam Scarber (56 carries for 263 yards).
15,100 Bell fans waited in JFK Stadium, mulling around, some fans tossed a beach ball that had landed in the stands are the Far East end of the stadium. Down below the rows of seats, in the locker room, the Wheels were experiencing what would be one of the most infamous tales in WFL folklore. As the team prepared for their game, it became evident that they had no tape for the players. Detroit management couldn't afford such necessities as tape, or clean uniforms, or paychecks for the players, and playing untapped would be suicide. As a few scattered obscenities were shot through the locker room, the Wheels coaching staff, impervious to the situation, began exploring their options. Rumor has it that the Bell (1) didn't have the extra supplies to loan to the team or (2) wouldn't offer them up for free. The Wheels were known around the WFL for their financial deadbeat tendencies and no team wanted to be owed by them. Wheels receiver Jon Henderson finally persuaded a Johnson & Johnson representative to donated a case of tape to the team so they could play the game- another Wheel crisis was averted, and as the black and goal clad Wheels took the field few fans knew just how close they came to going home without a game being played. The Bell would manage to put together a solid effort to win the game 27-23, and even their record at 4-4.
The WFL Eastern Division after eight weeks of play looked like a dogfight. The Florida Blazers were on top of the division at 6-2, followed by the New York Stars at 5-3 and the Bell at 4-4. The Jacksonville Sharks were also keeping pace at 3-5.
On September 2nd the Bell rolled into New York to play the Stars on a Monday night. The two teams had an intense rivalry that went beyond the fact that the two cities were constantly at odds with each other. The Stars and Bell simply didn't care of each other. They had played two exhibition games against each other (which they split) and New York had barely won in Philadelphia 17-15. The scene was primed for a all-out slug fest.
Before the game, Stars general manager Bob Keating looked around the ragged stadium. Only 6,132 tickets had been sold for the game, and Keating was hoping for a small miracle of about 10,000 people. He knew the Stars had to break double-digits. Under the lights of Downing Stadium, 5,237 fans (895 fans on free tickets) sat in the stands as the Stars and Bell took the field. On Sunday, the Florida Blazers had lost to Birmingham 8-7 making this game even more important for both teams.
The Stars went out and hit Philadelphia like a freight train, leading 21-0 before the Bell managed a touchdown pass from King Corcoran to Claude Watts before the half. The Stars took the opening kickoff and marched, like an army possessed, 70 yards in six minutes and scored on a 9-yard pass from Tom Sherman to Ray Parsons. Sherman led the Stars to another score when he hit Bert Askson with a 28-yard pass down the middle of the field and New York led 14-0. The Stars weren't done there, as a staggering Bell defense let the New Yorkers drive deep again on the running of Bob Gladieux (28 carries, 161 yards) and Sherman sneaked over from the one-yard line for a insurmountable 21-0 lead.
In the locker room Ron Waller went crazy. The offense was sputtering. King Corcoran had thrown three interceptions and the running game was non-existent. The tirade would become legendary due to the fact the Waller broke his foot during it. Whatever was said the Bell came out fighting.
Philadelphia mounted a slow comeback, driving down the field and ended the march with a Jimmy Joe nine yard touchdown run. John Land ran on a sweep for the action point, making the game 21-16. The mood in Downing changed after the touchdown. Suddenly, the Stars were on the ropes and the Bell had a chance- that chance would never materialize. King Corcoran would throw two more interceptions to kill drives, and would earn the distinguished honor of having thrown five interceptions in one game.
Ron Waller replaced Corcoran with back up Frank DiMaggio. Late in the game, with the Bell trailing 24-16, DiMaggio dropped back from his 12 and double-pumped and threw a bomb to a streaking Ron Holiday, 65 yards in the air, but overthrew his receiver. The pass would have been an easy seven points for Philadelphia but it simply wasn't meant to be. The Stars went on to add a Moses Lajterman field goal for a 24-16 win. The Bell fell to 4-5, and two games behind division leading Florida and New York.
In the locker rooms underneath Downing, a poised King Corcoran told reporters, "I'm in distinguished company. Joe Willie (Namath) and Johnny U. (Unitas) also threw five."
The Bell traveled into Jacksonville, Florida for a nationally televised game with the Sharks. King Corcoran, despite his performance against the Stars, had thrown for 18 touchdowns and running back John Land had rushed for over 500 yards and Philadelphia was looking to get back in the WFL Eastern Division race. Only one players stood in their way- Reggie Oliver.
Philadelphia ran straight into the hot-handed Reggie Oliver who threw for 321 yards and completed 14 of 24 passes to led the Sharks to a 34-30 win in the driving rain in Florida. On the first play of the game, Oliver came to the line, called the signals, sending Drew Buie into motion. Mike Creaney snapped the ball and Oliver dropped back. The rookie from Marshall University set the pace of the game when he hit Edgar Scott with a 45-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage that stunned the Bell. Philadelphia came back to lead 15-8 at the end of the first quarter when Frank DiMaggio ran for a three-yard score and George Chatlos ran 59 yards with a blocked field goal . In the third quarter, Chatlos did his magic again. The linebacker blocked another Grant Guthrie field goal attempt, picked up the ball, and ran 77 yards to put the Bell ahead 23-11.
Reggie Oliver and the Sharks fought back. Throwing pinpoint passes, Oliver led the Sharks back for two Tommy Durrance 8-yard touchdown runs. Jacksonville also scored when Oliver hit Drew Buie with a 13-yard pass in the back of the end zone to put Jacksonville up 34-23.
Oliver out dueled King Corcoran 321 yards to 174, and sent the Bell home with a 4-6 record, tied with the Sharks.
A home-and-home series with Jacksonville brought the Sharks to Philadelphia. Over the week, Jacksonville was shrouded in rumors that the team was financially strapped. Attendance in Florida had dropped from 30,000 to around 17,000 and Sharks owner Fran Monaco ws looking for an investor or to bail out. The Sharks flew into Philadelphia with back pay on their mind- and a sense of hope.
The Bell also had a sense of hope, or urgency. Ron Waller's crew was at 4-6 and needed a win to try to salvage what was beginning to look like a broken season. The week earlier both teams totaled 771 yards. During the week, Bell coach Ron Waller told reporters he would reevaluate his defensive corps and expected to make some adjustments. The linebacker position had stabilized with the play of Tim Rossovich and John Sodaski, along with George Chatlos and Mike Mansfield. In Philadelphia, 7,000 fans watched as the Bell took the field for what was to be an incredible 4 hour 34 minute overtime victory.
With both teams deadlocked at 22-22, when Dennis Torzala hit a 26-yard field goal to make it 25-22 Bell. Torzala had missed four field goals during regulation play. With the WFL supporting an overtime rule that stated both teams must have an attempt at a possession to score and the entire overtime period must be played, the Bell recovered a Shark fumble and drove again on Jacksonville. Claude Watts bulled his way over from the 3 yard line and suddenly it was 33-22 Philadelphia. When Jacksonville finally got the ball, their Cinderella quarterback, Reggie Oliver, ran out of time. Oliver, under pressure, threw into a crowd and John Sodaski intercepted and returned the ball 22 yards for a touchdown and a 41-22 Philadelphia win. Ron Waller's defense had come through, and the Bell had their fifth win of the season.
King Corcoran completed 19 of 37 passes for 286 yards and one touchdown and running back Claude Watts rushed for 113 yards on 20 carries- the Philadelphia defense and special teams accounted for 15 points.
The up and down season of the Bell continued in the tropical paradise of Honolulu, Hawaii. In an effort to mix things up head coach Ron Waller called all the plays from the press box above the Hula Bowl. He had seen his team lose five games in the final few minutes and he hoped that history wouldn't repeat itself. The Bell, led by the secondary the called itself the "Soul Patrol" intercepted four passes, three while Hawaii was in scoring range dealt a 21-16 loss to the Hawaiians and after the game Waller had plenty to say, "I was disappointed that we didn't ring up more than a 7-0 lead at halftime. We controlled the game and confused them with the formations we ran. We threw a lot of stuff at them, and they didn't know how to react." The Bell improved to 6-7.
They call Philadelphia the "City of Brotherly Love" but on October 2nd, 1974, there was no love lost between the Bell and their arch rivals the Florida Blazers. On a field the Blazers and Bell would declare football war, and the prize was the WFL Eastern Division title. The Blazers, led by Coach Jack Pardee, came into the game with a won-lost record of 9-4, and the Bell were coming into the game at 6-7.
The game would put one of the WFL's most potent offenses against one of the league's best defenses. Ron Waller told reporters, "You could take our offense and their defense and go into the NFL and beat just about anybody." Florida's Jack Pardee countered, "Philadelphia has really improved on defense the last few weeks. Offensively, they through a lot of formations against you, but they are merely camouflages to set the defense up for the short game which is their bread and butter. They know they have to win this one to stay in the race. It's a must game for us too."
The Blazers defense came into the game with 36 quarterback sacks and pressured opposing quarterbacks into 59% incompletions and yielding just nine touchdowns versus 19 interceptions. Philadelphia, hoping for some of that magic to rub off started Don Vallery, and Bill Craven in the secondary, both former Blazers.
Under the JFK lights the Blazers offense, taking advantage of Bell penalties and a fumble, hung two touchdowns on Philadelphia while Jack Pardee's defense stopped Philly four times past midfield. Halftime stats showed that Florida led in yardage 178-162, and the Bell had seven costly penalties for 41 yards. All hopes of a Philadelphia comeback were dashed when, early in the third quarter, Tommy Reamon broke a 29-yard sprint from the Blazer 29 to the Bell 32. Four plays later, the rookie speedster ran 15 yards to the Bell five. On second down, Reamon took the handoff from Davis, followed a savage block from Jim Strong and rumbled in for a touchdown- Florida led 22-7. The Blazers marched 62 yards, in seven plays that left 11:32 in the third quarter. Florida went on to win 30-7 and sent Philadelphia to 6-8.
Philadelphia then took on the Hawaiians. In Philadelphia, the 6-8 Bell hosted the 5-9 Hawaiians. Bell quarterback King Corcoran was still atop the WFL in passing, completing 213 of 403 attempts for 2,756 yards and 20 touchdowns. Defensively the Bell began to show some life. Ron Mabra came into the game with seven interceptions, and had 351 yards on 28 punt returns. Hawaii started rookie quarterback Norris Weese early in the season but he gave way to NFL veteran Randy Johnson who led the Hawaiians to a 1408 upset win over the Birmingham Americans. Hawaii wide receiver Tim Delaney led the WFL in receptions with 53 for 732 yards for a 13.8 average per catch.
The Bell opened the scoring before 4,900 fans with Claude Watts slamming in from the four yard line- the celebration was short lived. The Hawaiians countered with a Al Davis 8-yard run to tie the game at 8-8. Philadelphia and Hawaii traded blows throughout the game and with 2:40 remaining in the contest the drama unfolded. Hawaii quarterback Randy Johnson gave way to rookie Norris Weese. Weese took the 'islanders' on a 52-yard drive which began with a 31-yard pass from Weese to running back Vin Clements. As Waller paced on the sidelines, the Hawaiians continued to move the ball at will, and Weese connected with Al Davis for a three yard touchdown pass that stunned the Bell and gave Hawaii the win 25-22. The entire Bell sideline was as silent as the 4,000 fans that left colossal JFK in the night.
After the emotional victory the Bell would flounder, losing eight of its next eleven games. One such game was played in Philadelphia against the Shreveport (ex-Houston Texans) Steamer. In the pouring rain, the Bell and Steamer, both forgotten in the league standings, sloshed around in the mud as players slipped and slided like cartoon characters. The sounds of the game echoed throughout the empty metal benches and grandstands of ancient J.F.K. Stadium as only 750 people cheered on the "action" in the din and rainfall under the lighting towers. Philadelphia sunk to 6-10 on the season.
Playing for respect became the Bells’ battle cry- and like Washington at Trenton against the British, the club vowed to carry out the season…against any odds. The Bell routed the Southern California Sun 45-7, and narrowly escaped a raging Chicago Fire team winning 37-31.
Deep in the South, the Philadelphia Bell traveled to play the leagues’ best team- the Birmingham Americans. In the locker room Ron Waller gave a rousing victory speech and the Bell came out and fell behind the Americans 26-0 at half-time. The Jim "King" Corcoran rallied Philadelphia with touchdown passes to Claude Watts and John Izzo but the Bell fell short, losing 26-23.
The 1974 season ended for the Bell as strangely as it came. The team officers received word that Chicago Fire owner Tom Origer refused to spend the cash to send his dismal team to Philadelphia (the Fire had lost eleven games in a row) for his teams last game and decided to cut his losses and forfeit the game. Philadelphia ended the season with a won-lost record of 9-11, averaging a league low 9,850 fans a game.
The season for the Bell took another turn for the ironic. The World Football League playoffs were to feature the Charlotte Hornets at the Florida Blazers, when only 1,000 tickets were sold the Hornets backed out (due to financial problems) and the Bell found themselves packing their bags and traveling to Orlando in their place.
An empty Tangerine Bowl, and 9,712 fans watched as Blazer cornerback Rickie Harris picked up a Claude Watts fumble and return it for a touchdown as Florida went on to defeat the Bell 18-3. Philadelphia, outmatched by the stingy defense of the Blazers, bid farewell to their maiden WFL season under the lights of the Tangerine Bowl.
The season had come to an end. The "Papergate" scandal was history, as was the dingy rotting confines of J.F.K. Stadium, the bus trips to New York to play the Stars, and of course, the endless phone calls of Philadelphians to the team offices to complain about their phone bills. The Bell, and Philadelphia, ceremoniously turned their backs on each other and said goodbye.
NOTE: The 1974 Philadelphia Bell team page was researched and written by Jim Cusano. This page appeared on the former World Football League Hall of Fame Website and is used with permission.
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