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1976 Bob Falkenberg San Diego Mariners Game Worn Jersey
Lot #50

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1976 Bob Falkenberg San Diego Mariners Game Worn Jersey
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1976 Bob Falkenberg San Diego Mariners Game Worn Jersey
Lot #50

The New York Raiders were given WHA franchise life on November 1st 1971. Hopes to play at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island were dashed when the NHL decided to immediately expand, cutting off the Raiders threat and thus the New York Islanders were born. The Raiders had nowhere else to look other than the mecca, Madison Square Garden. A deal was reached with the Garden and the Raiders began play in the WHA’s inaugural season of 1972-73.

The Islanders outsold the Raiders in season ticket sales by better than a 4 to 1 margin, and thus the Raiders would play to sparse crowds at MSG. This put immediate strain on ownership as the Garden charged the Raiders enormous fees to use their arena. Original owner Neil Shayne sold the team to Dick Wood and Sy Seigel. The two new owners were without a plan and before long, with mounting financial losses, they gave the team back to the league. The league ran the team over the last half of the inaugural season. The Raiders finished last in the East behind a hideous defense.

In May of 1973 two New Yorkers purchased the team from the league and changed the team nickname to the Golden Blades. After less than 2 months, and only 20 games of play in 1973-74, the two new owners met the same fate as the prior owners. Once again the league stepped in and assumed ownership. It was now obvious that playing at MSG, in the high rent district, was not going to work. The league immediately moved the franchise out of New York and into New Jersey. They were renamed the New Jersey Knights and played at the tiny Cherry Hill Arena. A new owner by the name of Joe Schwartz was found in January. Attendance remained low, as neither the New York or Philadelphia markets would warm up to the WHA squad. As had the Raiders the season prior, the Golden Blades/Knights finished in last place in the East.

Schwartz made a bold move and took the team west, relocating them to San Diego. They were renamed the Mariners and things actually improved for the franchise. They had a successful first season in California, finishing 2nd in the West and winning a playoff series in 1975. The 1975-76 team couldn’t improve on its previous season, but did make the playoffs and won another playoff series. Schwartz, the one-time white knight, began suffering financial woes and defaulted the team in January of 1976. In an unheard of scenario, the players voted to play out the remainder of the season despite the knowledge that they would be without paychecks! Ray Kroc, owner of the San Diego Padres, was touched by the story and in the summer of 1976, he purchased the team from the league. The Mariners played on and again were a playoff team in 1976-77, but this time they lost their 1st round series. Kroc sold the team at the end of the 1976-77 season amidst low attendance figures and financial losses. The new owners planned to relocate the team to Florida, a plan which never came to fruition, thus ending their franchise life.   

This home white tie down dureen gamer by Rawlings was worn by Bob Falkenberg circa 1976, while with the San Diego Mariners. Falkenberg’s career began in the NHL in 1966 with the Detroit Red Wings. He would play for the Wings for 5 seasons before bolting to the WHA’s Alberta franchise in 1972. This 378 game WHA veteran spent 2 seasons with the Oilers and then journeyed south where he spent the next 3 years in San Diego. After a 2-game stint in 1977-78 with Edmonton, Bob announced his retirement.

Sewn to the right shoulder of this vibrant gamer is the circular San Diego Mariners patch. Game wear exists in the form of stick marks, board burns, board paint transfer, inner pilling and a couple of team sewn repairs. The all original orange nameplate sure stands out in a crowd; just as it will in some lucky person’s collection.