A Brief Foray Into Pro Sports
One of the more colorful and fascinating aspects of our history is the Boston Lobsters. Way back when in 1973, our owner Ray Ciccolo was awarded the Boston franchise in the original incarnation of World Team Tennis.
Automotive dealer meets professional tennis is a unique mash-up. If you know Ray though it makes perfect sense. A lifelong tennis aficionado (Ciccolo-brother versus Ciccolo-brother matches were blood-sport), avid sports fan, natural salesman, innovator and entrepreneur, Ray was all in on the concept of becoming a sports team owner in the early 1970s.
Reading through the old articles and perusing the old memorabilia is a hoot. You start off with the fact that the legendary Bud Collins was working the tennis beat for the Boston Globe, so his wonderful personality and quirky writing style captures the times quite well. You had sports‑writing legends such as Will McDonough, Bob Ryan, Leigh Montville, Ray Fitzgerald and John Powers writing about the team.
You experience the expected chaos and publicity stunts and the innovations (wait staff bringing food orders to fans, a life‑sized mascot entertaining fans, schwag galore), as new‑to‑sports‑ownership Ray and his team try to figure things out on the fly. You read about Ray strategically drafting a top-rated female player - Kerry Melville - over Jimmy Connors because he thought it would help him win more games in the WTT format, Coach Ion Tiriac bringing a live lobster onto the court during matches, or the Celtics getting awfully angry when a Lobster mascot visited the Boston Garden during a Celtics playoff game. It sounds like an absolute blast!
A Learning Experience
There is one similarity between autos and sports leagues however, and that is the fact that it is awfully difficult to start up a new organization from scratch. Just as new car brands usually are defunct before too long, so it goes with an XFL or World Team Tennis. By the end of 1974 the original Lobsters were no more, ultimately scuttled by a wise businessman realizing that not every exciting idea is worth losing more of your shirt over.
The Lobster name did pop up again from time to time, first in 1975 when a new ownership group moved the Philadelphia team to Boston for a few years (the owners included a certain local sports figure who went on to much bigger things as the owner of the Patriots!), and then earlier this decade when the Lobsters made a run of it for a few years up on the North Shore.
The Lobsters made for some great stories, a really good logo, some insight into Ray Ciccolo, and a curious aside among our long corporate history.