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|Based in||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Baltimore, Maryland (1985)
|Home field||Veterans Stadium (1983–1984)
Franklin Field (1984 post season)
Byrd Stadium (1985)
|Division||Atlantic Division (1983-84)
Eastern Division (1985)
|Team History||Philadelphia Stars (1983-84)
Baltimore Stars (1985)
|Head coaches||Jim Mora (1983–85)
|USFL Championships||1984, 1985|
|Conference championships||1983, 1984, 1985|
The Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars were a professional American football team which played in the United States Football League (USFL) in the mid-1980s. Owned by real-estate magnate Myles Tanenbaum, they were the short-lived league's dominant team, playing in all three championship games and winning the latter two.
The Stars began in Philadelphia in the USFL's inaugural 1983 season and played their home games at Veterans Stadium (the "Vet"). They compiled the league's best regular season record of 15–3 (.833), and advanced to the 1983 USFL championship game. Their "Doghouse Defense" allowed only 204 points in an 18-game season—the least in the history of the league. The Stars were led by fourth-year quarterback Chuck Fusina (1978 Heisman Trophy runner-up), fifth-year wide receiver Scott Fitzkee, rookie halfback Kelvin Bryant of North Carolina, rookie offensive tackle Irv Eatman of UCLA, rookie linebacker Sam Mills, and second-year safety Scott Woerner. The team also featured TSN all-star rookie punter Sean Landeta.
The Stars were able to defeat the preseason favorites to win the 1983 title—George Allen's Chicago Blitz—by withstanding seven turnovers and coming back from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 44–38 in overtime. In the league title game at Denver's Mile High Stadium on July 17, the Stars were edged out by Jim Stanley's Michigan Panthers, 24–22. Just as they had against the Blitz, the Stars opened the game sluggishly, but finished with a flourish, after allowing the Panthers to carry a 17–3 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Stars' solid season led some to suggest that they could have been a fairly competitive NFL team, along with Michigan and Chicago. The fact this comparison was even being made gave the USFL much-needed credibility.
They remained in Philadelphia for the 1984 season, but were forced to relocate postseason home games to Franklin Field due to a conflict with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Stars roared through the regular season with the league best 16–2 (.889) record, and routed George Allen's Arizona Wranglers, 23–3 for the league title in Florida at Tampa Stadium on July 15. It was the last traditional professional football championship for the city of Philadelphia and its first since the 1960 NFL championship. The Stars were also becoming increasingly successful off the field, as average home attendance jumped from approximately 18,000 in 1983 to 28,000 in 1984.
The league's owners, led by Donald Trump of the New Jersey Generals, voted to move play to the fall after the 1985 season. The Stars, who shared Veterans Stadium with both the Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Phillies, would likely not be able to play in a modern stadium with the USFL's switch to a fall schedule. In response, Tanenbaum moved the team to Baltimore. Unfortunately, he was unable to get a lease for Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. As a condition of the settlement between the city and the Colts franchise owner Robert Irsay in the wake of the team's move to Indianapolis, no pro football team could play at Memorial Stadium until 1986 (even without this stipulation, baseball's Baltimore Orioles were using Memorial Stadium during the spring). With no other stadium in the immediate Baltimore area available for temporary use, Tanenbaum was forced to play at the woefully inadequate University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium in College Park, 29 miles (47 km) southwest of Baltimore and a Washington suburb (coincidentally, the Washington USFL franchise, moved to Florida and became the Orlando Renegades the same season). This was all compounded by the Washington Redskins' success during these years which included playing in the Super Bowl in January 1983 and 1984. Further complicating matters, the team kept its operations in Philadelphia and commuted to College Park for games--effectively consigning the Stars to 18 road games for the league's lame-duck spring season.
At least in part due to all the moving, the Stars initially struggled in 1985, but won nine of their last 13 games to secure a wild-card berth. Even if they'd notched a better record, they may have lost home-field advantage for the playoffs due to poor attendance. Many Baltimoreans were not ready to make the 35-minute drive down Interstate 95 to see the Stars play in College Park. Most were waiting for the team to begin play in the city's venerable Memorial Stadium a year later. Nevertheless, their games were broadcast on WBAL radio in Baltimore and fans were happy to again be represented by a professional team. ABC Sports, embarrassed at the attendance from around the league, told Usher it did not want to televise playoff games in near-empty stadiums. Since ABC had disproportionate influence on league affairs due to the structure of its contract with the USFL, Usher had little choice but to agree. However, the Stars managed to upend the favored New Jersey Generals and Birmingham Stallions in successive weeks to reach the title game at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Once there, the Baltimore Stars won the USFL title beating the Bobby Hebert-led Oakland Invaders, 28–24.
As it turned out, this was the final USFL game ever played. On July 29, 1986, a federal grand jury found in favor of the USFL in its antitrust suit against the NFL. However, it only awarded the USFL a dollar in damages, tripled to $3 under antitrust law. The jury foreman explained they was unable to determine what amount the award should be. The jury misinterpreted the law and decided on the $1 award feeling it would be changed by the presiding judge. In fact, the judge was not able to adjust the monetary award once it was stipulated by the jury. The league suspended operations a day later, never to return.
The Stars are widely acknowledged to have been the best team to see the field in USFL history.
The Stars won 41 of 54 regular-season games and were 7-1 in the postseason. For the team's entire run, they were coached by Jim Mora (Sr), who later became a head coach in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. Mora was actually the Stars' second choice; Tannenbaum originally hired Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator George Perles, but Perles opted instead to take the open job at his alma mater, Michigan State.
Sean Landeta and Sam Mills both also had successful careers in the NFL. Landeta was one of the top punters in the NFL for two decades, and was the last former USFL player still active in the NFL at the time of his retirement in 2006. Mills had a sterling career with the Saints (alongside Mora) and the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers retired Mills' No. 51 jersey after his death from cancer in 2005.
Landeta and Bart Oates were also teammates with the New York Giants. Oates was drafted by the Giants in 1985. Both Oates and Landeta went on to win a combined five Super Bowl rings throughout their NFL careers. Both won two rings apiece with the Giants in 1986 and 1990, while Oates earned an additional ring with the San Francisco 49ers in 1994. Oates was selected to five Pro Bowls during his career and to the UPI All-NFC team three times. He was extremely durable, starting 125 consecutive games during his Giants career.
Single season leaders
|1983||15||3||0||1st Atlantic||Won Semifinal (Chicago)
Lost USFL Championship (Michigan)
|1984||16||2||0||1st EC Atlantic||Won Quarterfinal (New Jersey)
Won Semifinal (Birmingham)
Won USFL Championship (Arizona)
|1985||10||7||1||4th EC||Won Quarterfinal (New Jersey)
Won Semifinal (Birmingham)
Won USFL Championship (Oakland)
- Jauss, Bill (July 10, 1983). "Blitz has big fall off 21-point perch". Chicago Tribune. p. 1, sec. 3.
- Zonca, Tony (July 10, 1983). "Blitz sees Stars in comeback". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). p. 73.
- Jauss, Bill (July 18, 1983). "Michigan has magic touch in USFL title game". Chicago Tribune. p. 1, sec. 4.
- Domowitch, Paul (July 18, 1983). "A final rally for title not in Stars". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). Knight-Ridder. p. 17.
- Lowitt, Bruce (July 18, 1983). "Panthers tops stars for crown". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. p. 13.
- Jauss, Bill (July 16, 1984). "Stars strangle Allen's Wranglers". Chicago Tribune. p. 5, sec. 3.
- "No denying Stars this time". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. July 16, 1984. p. 1B.
- "Stars move to Baltimore". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. November 2, 1984. p. 3C.
- "Bryant helps Stars keep USFL title". July 15, 1985. p. 5, sec. 3.
- "Stars win last spring USFL title". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. July 15, 1985. p. C1.
- Smith, Sam (July 30, 1986). "A tough victory for USFL". Chicago Tribune. p. 1, sec. 4.
- "The verdict: USFL wins, and loses". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). wire services. July 30, 1986. p. 1B.