Dips Fan Day

Dips Fan Day

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

1980 Caricature Poster

     In the fall of 1979, Gary Darrell was a volunteer assistant coach for the Oakland Mills (Columbia, MD) High School Boys soccer team. There he met a team member/aspiring artist named Kevin Peddicord. That Oakland Mills team won the state championship, and to commemorate the achievement, Peddicord immortalized the squad in caricature form.

     The young artist astutely used his relationship with Darrell as an introduction to Dips Executive Vice President and General Manager Andy Dolich to pitch the idea of doing the same for the 1980 Diplomats. Dolich and Roger Moskowitz, the club's Director of Marketing, loved the idea and thought it would be the perfect give-away at a future home game.

     So, in the early months of 1980, aided by no more than a copy of club's media guide to base his initial sketches upon, Peddicord sat in a conference room in RFK Stadium with Dolich and Moskowitz. There, the three, "came up with distinct and humorous character traits for each player."

Kevin Peddicord today.
     It was an ongoing, often changing project that was a few months in the making. The 1980 Dips were injury plagued. As a result, "new players were brought in, so (Peddicord) had to draw them on separate pieces of paper and cut them into the poster." He laments with a chuckle, "no Photoshop in 1980!" Two clearly visible examples are Thomas Rongen (top row, third from left) and Mario Luna (far right, second from the bottom).

     Dolich and Moskowitz included some team inside jokes as captions for a few of the players. For instance, Johan Cruyff's propensity for arguing with officials, Tommy O'Hara's love of singing and Bobby Stokes' false teeth.

     Peddicord explained some of the more subtle player depictions and traits in his work. For instance,

  • Joe Harvath (second from left, second row): "Joe thought of himself as a fashionable man, but his teammates didn't always agree with his choices of apparel. They thought Goodwill was his tailor of choice!"
  • Wim Jansen (standing by bookshelf on right side of poster): "Wim was considered a well-read, studious player. Evidently, he is an intellectual, so he got the library."
  • Gary Darrell (bottom row, fourth form right): "Gary was an absolute practical joker. That's why he has devil horns and a lit firecracker. He always kept my OMHS team laughing as well."
  • Barney Boyce (third row, right side) was only 19 when the season began, hence the baby rattle.
  • The Soccer Bowl 80 trophy appears to the right of the goal. "Originally, it was a girl in a bikini (notice Bill Irwin's and Dragan Radovich's eyes are focused on it). The team loved the idea, but, after reconsidering, wanted to make it a bit more family friendly."

     "When I finished the art and brought it to RFK to show Mr. Dolich, I found myself riding up in the elevator with Johan Cruyff," Peddicord recalls. "He was very pleasant and interested to see what I was carrying. I obliged him, and he had a good laugh. All the players had a great sense of humor about the art. When each saw their caricature, they laughed and eagerly signed it. Dragan Radovich and Bobby Stokes were really enthusiastic about it. They were bringing other players over and pointing out all the characteristics I had given them."

      At the signing, the project turned quite lucrative for the artist. "After seeing the poster, team members began asking for their own individual caricatures. I would by frames and after each home game, I'd go down to the locker room and give them out at $20 a pop. Not bad for an eighteen year old kid!" That's putting it mildly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic's inflation calculator, $20 in 1980 is equal to $61 today.

     "Cruyff was the only player who didn't buy his. The art sat in his locker stall for the rest of the season. Gary (Darrell) gave it back to me, I still have it. Gary said Johan was a bit of a tightwad and didn't like to part with his cash!"

     So why wasn't Peddicord's masterpiece ever mass produced?

     "Team management wanted to give it away when the Dips reached the conference semi-finals of the 1980 NASL playoffs, but they were eliminated by the Los Angeles Aztecs in the first round. Shortly thereafter, they folded."

     Peddicord had a similarly frustrating experience the next year. Thomas Werblin, Sonny's son, was the GM for the New York Cosmos in the early months of the 1981 season and had the artist take the train from Washington to New York to discuss a similar project. The meeting went well, but Petticord was told to wait until the team had finalized their roster before starting. Two weeks later, Werblin was fired and the new GM was never told of the project.

     "Disappointing," Peddicord understandably states, "but overall a great experience."

I heartily encourage all to visit www.kevinpeddicord.com and see some of his more recent work.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Dips Mini Reunion

DC United played the last soccer match held in RFK Stadium on Sunday, October 22. The club was able to reach several Diplomat alumni and invited them to play in the Legends Match, which mainly featured former DC United players, before the main event.

Former Diplomats Roy Willner (1974-78) and Alan Ross (1974-75) participated in the game, while Gene Mishalow (1977-78), Brian Pillinger (1974-75) and Kurt Kuykendall (1974) attended the festivities.

Lindsay Simpson, DC United's Director of Media and Communications, stated the club is tentatively planning a tribute to the original Diplomats sometime during the 2018 season at their new home, Audi Field.

Roy Willner, left, Freddy Adu, Brian Pillinger.

From left: Roy Willner, Alan Ross, Gene Mishalow, Brian Pillinger, John Harkes.

Gene Mishalow reminds Ross and Willner how the game works.

Ross aggravated his right hamstring, Willner his left Achilles tendon. 

Dips gracing the RFK sideline once again.

Sherry & Kurt Kuykendall, Willner, Ross, Mishalow.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday, August 3, 2017


     My high school basketball career hardly started auspiciously. During the 1980-81 season, I was on the JV team...we finished with a 4-21 record. Yet, in our locker room after every game a boom box would blare "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang. Just what the hell we were celebrating I didn't know then and still haven't a clue.
     The song seems to be much more conducive to the atmosphere on the Diplomats team bus after a 1976 road match. It must have been a victory, as everyone is smiling and enjoying some suds, even if the best brands to be found were Lite and PBR. Thanks to Paul Cannell for the photos.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Happy Birthday, Bill Irwin

"The Irish Magician" was born July 23, not so long ago, in Newtonards, Northern Ireland. Attesting to his value on the Dips roster, Sonny Werblin, who rarely seemed to have much of anything positive to say about the club, exclaimed, "I wouldn't trade Bill Irwin for anyone."

 Bob Steler, left, and Bill Irwin.

1978, vs the Tea Men.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Alan Green, 1980

Many thanks to the Rupy team for their beautiful photo!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Looking Back and Catching Up With Roy Willner: Part 1

Roy Willner appeared in 69 matches for the Diplomats. Only Gary Darrell played more seasons in a Dips uniform. From a fan's standpoint, it would be easy to think of Willner in a unidimensional way. Yet soccer is but one facet in which he has excelled. Inventor, successful businessman and youth mentor are all terms that could be applicable throughout his life.

Willner grew up in a melting pot neighborhood in East Baltimore, Maryland. “Italians, Pols, Greeks on every street,” he fondly recalls. Like any neighborhood, the kids would gather together and play any chance they could, and their game of choice was soccer.

“I was fortunate. I was introduced to soccer at a very early age. We played it all the time. We played box soccer, with 6 on a side, on the outdoor basketball courts in a foot of snow. In the summer, we’d play regular soccer on the big fields.”

Roy as a member of the Bays.
Thanks to the early introduction to the game, and vast experience with snoccer (snow soccer), Willner was an All-Baltimore Metro Scholastic selection in high school and a two time All-American at Catonsville Junior College (where he is a member of the school's athletic hall of fame). After his sophomore year, Willner turned pro, signing with the Baltimore Bays of the American Soccer League (ASL) in 1972.

"When I was playing for the Bays, I met Dennis Viollet, who was a player and coach (the Bays ceased operations after the 1973 season). When the NASL started a team in Washington in 1974, Viollet became the coach and asked me to come over and play for him."

So, Willner moved the 38 miles down I-95. He had an old friend in the suburbs, Sister Virginia Marie, who had been one of his elementary school teachers at Our Lady of Fatima in Baltimore. She was now the principal at St. Elizabeth's School in Rockville, Maryland. 

"They were having problems at St. Elizabeth's with the gentleman who was in charge of maintenance and was also the bus driver. He had developed a habit of drinking the parish's sacramental wine, even if he had to drive the bus. So, she asked me if I would come to the school and help her out. I was a custodian there, a bus driver, the soccer coach and helped teach gym."

At St. Elizabeth's, Willner met two people who would have an immense impact on his life. The first was his future wife, Kathy. The second was parishioner Jack McShea. McShea's children attended the parish school and he took note of Willner's enthusiasm.

"He saw me working there and doing all these things and he asked me to work for him at Atlantic Telephone, which was a business he owned. Well, I didn't know anything about telecommunications and I didn't really feel that comfortable with it. About six months later he asked me again and this time I gave it a shot." Willner impressed his new boss.

After about six months of doing installation work, McShea wanted Willner to try his hand at sales, but he was hesitant to make the transition. "Back then," his wife, Kathy, recalls, "Roy was not so outgoing, though he was always friendly and talkative."

Willner accepted the challenge. "The first-year quota they gave me was $100,000 to sell in phone equipment (equal to a little over $400,000 in 2016). I was the only player who would go to practice, we would practice at RFK Stadium every day from 10 - 12, and then pursue a second career.  After practice, I would shower and call on clients. All the other guys were swimming, playing golf, that kind of thing. I was single and I had two incomes, which was really nice."

How did he do his first year is sales? "I hit my quota the last day of the year and won a trip to Bermuda. I worked for Jack the next 22 years and then I went to Intertel Technologies as their sales manager."

Violett and Willner during a 1974 match.
Personally, Willner was doing fine in DC. The soccer aspect was still a work in progress. Not so much for the man himself, but for the team and the league he was associated with.

The Diplomats (they would not go by "Dips" until 1977), made their debut on May 4, 1974, at RFK Stadium, against the defending NASL champion Philadelphia Atoms. Despite losing the match 5-1, a respectable crowd of 10,145 showed up to see the new franchise. At the end of the season, their record stood at 7-12-1. Team management estimated a minimum of 12,000 spectators per game would be needed just to break even. Home attendance only averaged 4,975 per match, while the league wide-average was 7,770.

Devotion beats spelling!
In 1975, the club played most of their home matches at W.T. Woodson High School, in Fairfax, Virginia, as a financial necessity. The move proved provident. Average attendance grew exponentially to 8,847 per game. Willner found the franchise's new home had both pros and cons.

"The field was terrible. However, it was interesting. The crowds weren't incredibly big, but they were closer. If you had 8,000 people at RFK, it still seemed cavernous. When we played at Woodson, I had my own little cheering section. They made banners with my name on them. I met all the people and got to talk to them. They were great."

Willner fondly remembers the team's early years. "Dennis Viollet was the head coach, and he was still famous from his playing days in England. But Alan Spavin was really the hands-on guy. Alan ran the practices. Dennis was more of a general manager, and he also had a lot of speaking engagements trying to create a fan base. During that time, practices were fun."

Don't bother looking for Roy Willner or Art Welch
 in the 1977 team  photo.
The organization did have a few snafus during Roy's tenure. Say, for instance, the 1977 team photo, in which he does not appear. "They forgot to tell me. It was a special day, picture day. I was never told to be at the stadium on a certain date or time. The next day, someone came up and said, 'I apologize Roy. I forgot to tell you.' " He was not alone. Art Welch was never notified, either.

Next Time: Part 2 of Catching Up With Roy Willner: A new coach and a career threatening injury, more Dips memories, An Entrepreneur & Inventor, life today.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Joe Horvath Fan Club

Words are like spouses, choose them carefully- a maxim Gordon Bradley should have kept in mind in the early months of 1980.

Madison Square Garden Corporation (MSG), the Diplomats owner, had wedged a crow bar in its wallet and signed a trio of midfielders that any club in the world would envy. First, on February 20, the team reported it had signed Juan Lozano (http://washingtondiplomats.blogspot.com/2014/01/). One hundred and twenty hours later, the team made the bombshell announcement it had acquired Johan Cruyff. Then, on March 6, just as delirious Dips fans were finally coming off the euphoria of Cruyff's addition, MSG called one more press conference. The purpose? To declare the final piece of the franchise's new triumvirate, Wim Jansen, had come to terms.

It was an impressive feat for any team in any sport. However, one question immediately came to the collective minds of those who covered the Diplomats. What would Joe Horvath's role be in wake of these new additions?

"Horvath," Coach Gordon Bradley bluntly and callously stated, "now becomes expendable. He will probably be playing somewhere in the NASL, but not here."

One can only imagine the incredulity with which Horvath received this news. Just one year previous, he had set a franchise record for assists in a single season with 18, and was the team's econd leading scorer. Now, he was being cast off like Steve Bannon at a party hosted by Jared Kushner.

Bradley's words would haunt him far sooner than he expected. The Dips suffered three major injuries during the preseason. These injuries affected defenders who had all started at some point in 1979. First, Jim Steele was recovering from a serious knee injury, incurred while playing indoor soccer for the Pittsburgh Spirit of the MISL, that required surgery.

Don Droege broke a bone in his foot during early training drills in February and was not expected to be game ready until May. Mike Dillon broke his ankle ten minutes into an exhibition game against the Memphis Rogues on March 12 and was lost for the season.

The defense was so depleted that Bradley was forced to start two midfielders, Gary Darrell and Carmine Marcantonio, to replace Droege and Dillon when the team began the 1980 campaign in Tampa on March 30. If the injury bug had seemed bothersome before the season opener, it would now turn exasperating.

Wim Jansen pulled a groin muscle early in the second half against the Rowdies and was replaced. Without him, "the midfield play sagged considerably," reported the Post's John Feinstein. The Dips allowed a goal in the final 150 seconds of the game and ended up losing, 3-2, via a shootout.

The goal that tied the match seemed to materialize when a communication breakdown occurred between Dips goalkeeper Bill Irwin and midfielder turned defender Gary Darrell. It was clear that Washington needed to obtain at least one more natural defender, if not two.

On March 27, The Washington Post reported Bradley had been trying to trade Horvath "for a defender ever since Dillon was hurt," but had been unable to swing a deal to his liking. Making the situation more difficult was the fact that Horvath had refused to report to training camp in Jacksonville, Florida, after he was declared "expendable" by Bradley.

The clubs second game of the season was one week after the loss in Tampa, a bruising 2-1 setback in Tulsa to the Roughnecks, in which Cruyff had to be pulled because of a foot injury. This was hardly the start MSG expected after investing $4 million (an astronomical sum in 1980) in the past two months. Adding insult to injury, Bradley placed the blame on midfield play.

"We're not creating the scoring opportunities we should," he told the Washington Star. "Therefore, we're not capitalizing. Our ball out of the midfield is not coming fast enough. By the time it is coming, the forwards are getting closed down."

On Monday, April 7, the Diplomats began preparing for their 1980 home debut against the Philadelphia Fury, and now it was Lozano who was injured. The 24-year-old had been hampered by an injury to his left instep since training camp, but it had become a serious impediment recently.

For Horvath, Jupiter had now aligned with Mars. Bradley phoned the man he termed "expendable" less than a month before and asked him to join the team. Horvath agreed. "The reason I told him I wanted to make a trade," Bradley explained, "was because Cruyff, Jansen and Lozano are all play makers like he is. Horvath will give us added depth, something we need in view of the injuries. If the doctor says Lozano can't play, I won't hesitate to start Joe."

Joe Horvath in action in the Dips 1980 home opener.
Team physician Dr. Carl MacCartee advised Lozano that he should rest for at least one week, perhaps two, less the injury become chronic.

Horvath's 180 degree swing on the Diplomats 1980 depth chart was nothing less than astonishing. His photo and profile were not included, nor was he listed on the official roster, in the team media guide. Now, he would be the starting left midfielder in their home opener.

A clue to how much of a surprise Horvath's presence on the pitch could be seen in the jersey he was issued. The Adidas logo on the 1980 Diplomat jerseys was placed on the right side of the upper chest. Horvath's jersey, which must have been prepared between April 10 and the 13th, employed the outdated look of the Adidas logo dotting the "I" in Dips (see right).

Horvath showed Gordon Bradley, and 24,000 spectators, how much the Dips needed him, scoring the game clinching goal and assisting on another in the Dips 3-1 victory. The Hungarian "was all over the field, stealing passes, short circuiting Fury offensive surges before they got started and dealing off soft passes to teammates," according to the Post.

After the match, Horvath stated he had never lost faith in his ability to contribute, no matter who he had to compete against for playing time. "It is great playing with Cruyff, but I can play, too. I think I blend in well."

When asked how his playing time might be affected when Lozano did return, Horvath acknowledged it was ultimately Bradley's decision, simply stating, "He's (Bradley) the coach."

A group of avid fans was not interested in waiting for Lozano's return to resolve the matter, however. In a petition dated just one day after the victory over Philadelphia, they implored Dips management not only to keep Horvath on the roster, but to ensure that he was "part of the Diplomat starting team."

This group clearly understood Joe Horvath's worth to the Diplomats, and knew his play against the Fury was no one game fluke. At the end of June, he was the team's third leading scorer with five goals and five assists (15 points).

Unfortunately, his 1980 season would come to an abrupt end against the Timbers in Portland on July 2. Fifteen minutes into the second half, Horvath went down with a knee injury that Dr. MacCartee later pronounced to be a tear in the anterior cruciate of his left knee.

Horvath did not seem particularly upset as he sat on the trainer's table after the match. When asked if he understood the severity of the injury, Cruyff said, "Oh, he understands. Joe doesn't say much, but he understands."

It was a disheartening end for a true fan favorite in Washington.

Horvath receives congratulations from Alan Green, Sonny Askew & Wim Jansen after scoring against the Fury.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Remembering Black Sunday, 1980

June 1, 2017, will be the 37th anniversary of Black Sunday. Link to full story & coverage of the match.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Small Correction

It's Barney Boyce heading the ball, Carmine Posillico is far right.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

With Muhammad Ali, 1977

Many thanks to Roy Willner for sharing some of his pictures from a 1977 Special Olympics event at which the team appeared with Muhammad Ali.

Willner got a laugh from one of the many magic tricks The Champ often performed. Bobby Stokes, left, seemed to be an uncomfortable participant in the act.

One over zealous fan foisted herself on Ali for a photo. Roy recalled Ali was rather annoyed, which his expression indicates.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Paul Cannell's Thought for the Day

In these troubling times, Paul offers us all words of wisdom and solace.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Mike Lester Goal, 1977

Mike Lester spent one season with the Dips, and a Chicago Tribune photographer was in perfect position to capture his goal that gave the Washingtonians a 1-0 lead at Soldier Field on May 7, 1977. An unidentified wire service reporter described the action.

“The first half was scoreless with only seven shots taken as much of the action took place at midfield. With just under four minutes elapsed in the second half, Bobby Stokes shot from point-blank range, but Sting goalie Mervyn Cawston stopped it (top photo). The ball bounced back in front of Lester who was 20 feet out (#3, far right of top photo). Lester then tapped the ball back in before Cawston could recover (middle photo).

Afterward, Lester got a hand from Stokes, Gary Darrell and Don McAllister (bottom photo).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Paul Cannell's Nike Contract

At the height of his popularity as a Diplomat, Paul Cannell was the first soccer player Nike signed to an endorsement deal. Neither could imagine the dominance that the latter would play in sports shoes and apparel in the future.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

New Diplomats Web Site

A  companion site to the Dips Blog is now running. You can visit it by going to http://washingtondiplomatsnasl.weebly.com/ anytime. It contains memorabilia, jerseys, game photos and player photos at a quick glance.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017


My Japanese is a little rusty, but I think the cover of this 1980 magazine says, "Johan Cruyff is a Pretty Good Soccer Player."