Why do they call it that? Tampa Bay Rowdies: The first team to use "Tampa Bay" was big-time pro soccer at Tampa Stadium

10:22 AM, Aug 8, 2012   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +


Click here for more installments of "Why Do They Call It That?"

Football's almost back in season. To celebrate, here's the story of the first football team to ever use the term Tampa Bay in its name.

No, it's not that football team. In fact, it's not that kind of football.

Why do they call them the Tampa Bay Rowdies?

When this pro soccer team launched in the 1970's, their style was edgy -- and their slogan was, too.

"The Rowdies are -- a kick in the grass!" sang their catchy theme song, which sounds like it was recorded by a bunch of soccer lovers in a pub somewhere.

"You talk about the atmosphere -- it was exciting, it was fun. The fans were just terrific!" said Perry Van der Beck, one of the Tampa Bay Rowdies' star players in those early days.

Tens of thousands of fans would show up at Tampa Stadium. They came, yes, to see superb soccer -- but also to join the party. They were also there to meet up with their buddies; fans would invite the players over for dinner.

"Whether it was dinner, or a garage sale, or a Girl Scout meeting -- players were accessible, and that was the thing," said Van der Beck, who's now an executive with the team. "We all enjoyed doing it."

To name the team, the founders made a huge list of everything Florida-related they could think of. Then they threw it out.

They decided they wanted a name dramatically different from anything else. It should have toughness, with an irreverent attitude.

A name-the-team contest drew 4,000 entries. An attorney from Clearwater suggested Rowdies. The team got its new name. The attorney got season tickets for life.

Dick Crippen was set to be the Rowdies' stadium announcer.

"They sat me down and they said, 'We wanted to tell you the name of the team before anybody else,' and I said, 'Oh, that's great -- what is it?'" Crippen recalled.

"He said, 'It's gonna be the Rowdies,' and I just sat there. I was waiting for more. The Rowdies -- blank. And there was no more."

Crippen was not totally sold on this name -- until opening night.

"And I'm looking down, and here comes the Rowdies out onto the turf. John Boyle, with his hair down in his face. It looks like a bunch of guys just got out of a pub!," Crippen said.

"And I said, 'What else would you call 'em, but Rowdies?'"

Symbols of the Rowdies' success are on permanent display at the Tampa Bay History Center in its Tampa Bay sports section.

The Rowdies were the first pro team to use the regional term Tampa Bay in their name; they took the field one year before the Buccaneers.

Through Rowdies' history, the team has taken several forms, with both outdoor and indoor play. These days, they're back in the open air at St. Pete's Al Lang Stadium.

And no matter the venue, going to one of their games has always been a guaranteed party -- a rowdy one.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

The Rowdies have a home game against Atlanta this Saturday, August 11th. Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Al Lang Stadium in Downtown St. Petersburg.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News starting at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

Most Watched Videos