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Philly Soccer 100: First loss of season for Bethlehem & Boys Club, ref attacked

Photo: Kensington Boys’ Club, 1912-13

Our series looking back on Philadelphia soccer 100 years ago to celebrate US Soccer’s Centennial continues.

One hundred years ago this week in Philly Soccer history, Allied American League first division leaders Bethlehem FC and American League leaders Boys Club suffered their first losses of the season. Two Philadelphia Challenge Cup replays also took place, one of which ended with the assault of the match referee.

Bethlehem & Boys’ Club suffer first defeats of the season

After winning 16 straight league games in the first division of the Allied American Association Football League and outscoring their opponents 79 goals to 8, Bethlehem FC finally “met their Waterloo” and experienced its only defeat in league play in the last game of the season on March 1, 1913 against West Philadelphia. Playing at Elmwood in West Philadelphia, Bethlehem was defeated 1-0 off of a goal from West Philadelphia inside right Kendall after 30 minutes of play.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 2, “It was decidedly hard luck for the Bethlhemites to lose their last game of the league season, after having passed through all their former games unscathed, but to pass the credit where it belongs the West Phillies thoroughly deserved their victory.” Hard luck, for sure, but the Steelmen had clinched their first Philadelphia league title with a 6–1 defeat of Cardington on Feb. 15. Despite the season ending loss, Bethlehem finished four points ahead of second place West Philadelphia in the standings. Finishing in third place was Upper Darby’s Cardington, who had defeated fourth place finisher Smith AA at home, 4–1.

Bethlehem wasn’t the only league leading team to suffer its first defeat. In American League of Association Football play, Boys’ Club of Kensington fell 3–1 to Philadelphia Electric at Kelly’s Lane. Boys’ Club had been on an 11 game unbeaten streak before the loss and the result left them four points clear of Collingwood and the Electrics with two games to play in the season.

The Inquirer was effusive in its praise of “the Live Wires” center forward Percy Andrews “who besides scoring two of the points from his own boot, also paved the way for the other goal, while his passing to his conferees was better timed and oftener in yesterday’s match than he has been accustomed to for many weeks.”

The Inquirer also reported on March 2 that an agreement had been reached for Bethlehem to play Boys’ Club in a series of games to decide the amateur champion of Pennsylvania. The first leg of the series was scheduled to take place on March 22 at Bethlehem’s East End Field.

Cup play, ref attacked

First organized at the start of the 1912-13 season, the Philadelphia Challenge Cup was jointly organized by the professional Pennsylvania League and the amateur American League. The 1913 Spalding Guide recounted that the tournament was intended to “fill a long felt want, as clubs can enter a competition which are not in a position to take a part in the American Cup series.” Whatever the good intentions behind its founding, the Inquirer described the tournament on Jan. 6, 1913 as “one of the most mismanaged affairs in many moons” and declared that the organizing committee “is either weak or else the various clubs are running the tourney to suit their own benefit.”

While the tournament was originally to have commenced on Nov. 23, the first round had not been finished until Jan. 4. Well, mostly finished, anyway. Following their 2–1 defeat to fellow Pennsylvania League side Victors on Dec. 21, 1912, Tacony had lodged a protest against Victors for fielding an ineligible player. After that protest was dismissed for not being properly filed, the Inquirer reported on Jan. 9 that a second protest from Tacony had also been dismissed. Why records are scant, it appears that Tacony eventually won another protest and the two teams finally met again to decide their first round tie on March 1.

Tacony v Victors Cup replayThat match, won this time by Tacony 3–1 at Third and Lehigh, was again rife with controversy. After a scoreless first half, the referee, George Young, awarded a penalty kick to Tacony after Victors’ right back Robinson handled the ball in the penalty area. The Inquirer reported on March 2, “In the meantime [Victors left halfback] Jack Gaynor, who appeared riled at the decision of the referee, first kicked the ball out of bounds before Tacony took the penalty kick, and then used uncomplimentary remarks to the referee, who ordered him off the field.” Gaynor refused to leave the field of play and had to be dragged off by the Victors’ manager. When Tacony eventually converted the penalty kick, a police officer stood on the field as he attempted to keep the crowd at bay, resulting in the match being protested by Victors.

If that wasn’t enough tumult for one match, Young was “mobbed when while on his way to the dressing room after the game.” The Inquirer reported that during the fracas the referee received “a deep gash on the side of his head, which was treated in the dressing room.” Describing it event “the most disgraceful ending of a game ever played in this city,” the Inquirer concluded,

There is entirely too much rowdyism infusing into soccer at the present time, and it is up to those in authority, especially if they expect the game to continue, to use drastic measures with a view to eliminating all the rough play that is taking place at the present time, and also take drastic measures against the players who come under the ban of the referee. Heretofore the various associations have generally allowed the players to continue playing, after they have appeared before them, with a caution, but it seems as if cautions are too generous for some of the players, for they are taking the law into their own hands and feying the referees.

A second Cup tie also took place on March 1, a replay of a second round game between Camden and the Philadelphia Athletics on Jan. 18, 1913 that had ended in a 5-1 win for the Jerseymen. The Athletics had protested the result claiming that Camden had fielded two players who had not been registered with the club. A replay scheduled for Feb. 21 had been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

The two clubs finally met in Gloucester, NJ at the grounds of the Gloucester Baseball Club in front of “a large crowd of highly enthusiastic soccer rooters.” Camden went on to easily defeat the Athletics 3–1.



  1. love these posts. thanks again.

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