Thursday, March 18, 2021

Tony Schiavone Reveals the Behind-the-Scenes History of the Crockett Cup Trophy

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

On a recent edition of the "What Happened When" podcast, Tony Schiavone revealed some previously undisclosed history regarding the origins of the iconic Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup tournament trophy that was presented to the winners of the annual event during it's all-to-short three year history. 

During the "Superstars on the Superstation" primetime special from February 7, 1986, Jim Crockett Promotions announced that the NWA would dedicate a new annual tag team tournament to his late father, naming it the Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup. At that point in the time, the site of the first annual event had not been announced, but Crockett announced he hoped it would be in their hometown of Charlotte. Of course, the NWA part of this was just part of the storyline; this was all a Jim Crockett Promotions event, part of the Crockett's follow-up to the 50th anniversary celebrations that had taken all during the year before.

A photograph of the trophy was shown on the screen.

Tony Schiavone and Conrad Thompson were reviewing the program in watch-along fashion on Tony's "What Happened When" podcast, when Tony took a moment to explain the little-known history of that actual trophy. 

"That cup had been with the Crocketts for a number of years," Tony told Conrad. "It was just a big silver cup, no inscription on it."

Tony knew this history well because his earliest work for the Crockett family was as a radio play-by-play announcer for the Charlotte O's, the minor league farm team of the Baltimore Orioles that the Crockett family owned. 

"The Charlotte O's won the Southern League championship, Doug Dellinger walked out with that cup and presented it to our manager, John Hart," Tony laughed. "I remember the report from Tom Sorenson said, 'The Charlotte O's won it, they celebrated, and a big ol' policeman with a big ol' cup came out and gave them their championship.'"

In fine pro-wrestling tradition, though, that presentation was a bit of a swerve. 

"That was not the Southern League championship [trophy], that was Frances Crockett being a promoter," Schiavone explained. "And the fans popped!"

Souvenir Program from the 1984
Championship Season

The Crockett's bought the Asheville Orioles in 1976 and renamed the team the Charlotte Orioles, which would popularly become known as the Charlotte O's. The family then bought historic old Griffith Park, an old ballpark that had been home to the Charlotte Hornets which disbanded after the 1972 season, and they renamed it Jim Crockett Memorial Park (fondly known to the locals as simply Crockett Park) in 1977. Jim Crockett, Jr. promoted wrestling shows their in the summer for several years, too.

Frances Crockett became the manager of the team, becoming the first woman to hold that role in professional baseball. Under her stewardship, and led on the field by future Hall of Famer Cal Ripkin, the O's won the Southern League Championship in 1980 after which she was named General Manager of the Year by The Sporting News. They won again in 1984. Although Tony didn't mention which year Doug Dellinger brought out the big cup, we're guessing it had to have been 1984 since Tony didn't begin work for the Crocketts until 1981. 

Crockett Park burned to the ground in 1985, but the big silver cup apparently was not stored in the storage bunkers under the bleachers, or it would have been destroyed like lots of other wrestling and baseball memorabilia was with the fire. 

As plans were formulated for the first Crockett Cup, someone in the family remembered the big silver trophy. It would soon be engraved with the Crockett Promotions 50th anniversary logo and presented to the winning team of the tournament each year.

The tournament only lasted three years (1986-1988), ending after the family sold the business to Ted Turner in November of 1988. New Orleans, Baltimore, and Greensboro were the only three cities to see that trophy presented to the tournament champions. Sadly, Charlotte never got the cup as Jim Crockett had hoped for in 1986. 

Here at the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, it's often the little details we love learning the most. Thanks to Tony for sharing this bit of history on his podcast that otherwise would be lost to the sands of time.

Related posts:
Sundays with Schiavone
(our interview with Tony)
The Original Crockett Cup (1974)
Crockett and Watts at the Crockett Cup (1986)

What Happened When Podcast
(with Tony Schiavone and Conrad Thompson)

Tony Schiavone on What Happened When