Photo and caption quote provided by
RedNation, Canada's Online Soccer Magazine
Djuradj Vujcic, Author, 4/30/12
|"The photo you see there of me and the trophy, that was taken after the Washington Diplomats defeated the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 4-1 on April 16, 1978. I scored a goal and was voted man of the match. The men I’m surrounded by are Henry Kissinger who was a huge soccer fan and since he was a well known American politician, he was invited by the league and awarded me with the trophy. The other two are NASL commissioner Phil Woosnam and a representative of the Happy Days tobacco company who made a donation to charity in my name." -Mike Bakic|
|Listen to Paul's inspirational, heart-wrenching journey to overcome his demure manner around women. ;)|
|The 1978 Dips are introduced before a home game at RFK Stadium.|
Team President Steve Danzansky confessed he was “baffled” by this reversal. It was disclosed, however, that management had drastically reduced the number of complimentary tickets provided during the 1977 season. This was a calculated, and sound, business decision aimed at determining genuine fan interest. “Our expenses were higher this season (1978) but we have a much better team,” Danzansky explained to The Post. Optimistically, he noted that paid attendance had doubled since the previous season.
Speculation about the team’s financial status swirled the remainder of the summer and into early fall. On October 5, 1978, news broke that Madison Square Garden Corp (MSG) had purchased the franchise for $1.5 million (roughly $5.4 million in 2015). MSG was chaired by Sonny Werblin, who helped the American Football League take on and merge with the NFL a decade earlier.
MSG was a subsidiary of Gulf & Western, whose eight groups of companies made upwards of $4 billion in sales the previous fiscal year (Roughly $14.3 billion in 2015). It was, in Werblin’s words, “in the business of purchasing sports franchises and operating them.” Steve Danzansky would remain as team president, and both he and his father Joseph were “substantial minority investors.”
A letter of agreement, signed by the Dips, MSG Corp and the DC Armory Board, which over saw RFK Stadium, stated that the team would stay in Washington for at least 5 years, with options to extend the team’s lease at RFK for 15 years.
At the October 6 press conference introducing the new owners, Werblin stated MSG wanted “to make the Diplomats the best soccer team in the world as soon as possible.” He continued, “I can assure you, that whatever we decide, Gordon Bradley will be in charge of putting this team together.” The two were friends when Bradley coached the Cosmos, so much so that Werblin referred to Bradley as his “soccer mentor.” Publicly, Werblin was saying everything the D.C. soccer community wanted to hear. There may have been more in what he was not saying.
Originally, Werblin envisioned buying the Diplomats and moving them to New York’s Shea Stadium to compete against the Cosmos, who played at the Meadowlands in northern New Jersey. The Cosmos demand of a $12 million indemnity fee and the desire of the NASL to have a team in Washington kept this plan from becoming reality. This revelation would later serve to cast Werblin, in the words of Washington Post columnist Dave Kindred, as a “pinstriped carpetbagger.”
Next time in "The Sonny Saga," mixed messages add up to a firm confirmation of a definite maybe regarding the Diplomats long term status in Washington, or as an entity.