Philadelphia Soccer History

Philly Soccer 100: Philly takes on St. Louis champion, Boys Club tops Bethlehem

Featured image: Innisfails of St. Louis

2013 is the centennial of the US Soccer Federation. Our series looking back at the Philadelphia soccer scene one hundred years ago continues.

Easter came early in 1913, falling on March 23. Consequently, with many workers off on Easter Monday, the area’s soccer fans were treated to that rare occurrence, Philadelphia soccer games on a weekday.

Philadelphia versus the “Champions of the West”

Philadelphia teams first traveled to St. Louis when Tacony FC, then the holders of the American Cup, went west for a series of games over the 1911 Christmas holiday. The favor was soon returned with St. Leos coming east for a series of their own over the Easter holiday the following spring. Tacony drew against St. Leos in St. Louis and then lost to them in Philadelphia. Over the Easter holiday in 1913, another St. Louis club, Innisfails, would be touring the East. Two games were scheduled in Philadelphia, against Hibernian on March 22, Easter Saturday, and against Tacony on March 24, Easter Monday.

Hibernian hosted Innisfails at their home field at Second and Allegheny and soon found themselves behind by a goal thanks to what the Inquirer match report on March 23 called “some of the most scientific passing imaginable.” Some ten minutes into the second half, Hibs found the equalizer and the game finished as a 1–1 draw. The Inquirer reported, “There was no mistaking the superiority of the Hibernians toward the later part of the game, for though they did not prove the cleverer combination, they made up for what they lacked in that respect by their doggedness, especially in the final minutes.”

Hibs v Innisfails 2After traveling to play the West Hudsons to a 2–2 draw in Harrison, New Jersey, on Easter Sunday, Innisfails returned to Philadelphia to face Tacony on Easter Monday. That Tacony was highly motivated to defeat the visitors is certain—Innisfails had humiliated Tacony with a 3–1 defeat during their visit to St. Louis in 1911. The morning papers had also reported the news that Philadelphia would be hosting the upcoming American Cup final between Tacony and the Paterson True Blues. Pride was at stake.

Tacony opened the scoring at Tacony Ball Park at State and Unruh Street 12 minutes after the start of play. The Inquirer reported on March 25 that, playing with the wind at their backs, Innisfails should have scored on several occasions before the half “but their inside men dallied too long with the ball.” Tacony made it 2–0 in the 69th minute and, only three minutes later, tallied their third goal of the match. The Inquirer reported, “Hardly had the ball been placed in the center of the field when Bobby Morrison, who was acting captain, passed to Millar, and the latter feeding Andrews at the psychological moment, the latter tallied his second and final goal for Tacony” to make it 4–0. Innisfails would score a consolation goal before the final whistle and the game ended in a 4–1 win for the home side.

For more detail on Innisfail’s visit to Philadelphia read our post 1913: Innisfails of St. Louis comes to Philly

“Amateur Championship of Pennsylvania,” Game One

The first game of the much anticipated series between American League leaders Boys’ Club and Allied League champions Bethlehem FC for the “amateur championship of Pennsylvania” kicked off in Bethlehem. Boys’ Club scored first and never gave up the lead for a 2–1 victory, Bethlehem’s lone goal coming from the penalty spot.

Two future National Soccer Hall of Famers were on the pitch, Dick Spalding for Boys’ Club and Tommy Fleming for Bethlehem. Spalding and his Boys’ Club teammate Walter Burgin would be part of the first ever international tour organized by the the United States Football Association, today known as the US Soccer Federation, which took place in Scandinavia in 1916.

Two days after their meeting with Bethlehem, Boys’ Club faced Hibernian on Easter Monday in an exhibition game for the third time of the 1912-13 season. With “a strong gale blowing” throughout the game at Second and Allegheny, Hibs scored first with a goal from future Hall of Famer Tommy Swords. Boys’ Club responded with three unanswered goals before the half only to concede two goals in the second half for a 3–3 draw. The Inquirer match report on March 25 said, “In the three games between the teams this season the Boys’ Club players have demonstrated that they are in no way inferior to their opponents for they have won the first game by one goal to none, lost the second by the same margin and divided the honors yesterday.”

Allied Amateur Cup

Smith AA and Wilmington’s Irish-Americans met in the semifinal of the Allied Amateur Cup at Third and Lehigh and battled to a 1–1 draw on March 22, 1913. The Inquirer reported, “It was a typical cup tie and the quality of play was not as good as might have been expected, the shooting by both teams being weak at times.” A replay was scheduled for April 5.

St NathanielIn a friendly on March 24, St. Nathaniel handed Smith a 3–0 defeat. The Inquirer called it “the surprise of the season” but said “without doubt the honors went to the better team.”

League play

In United League play, Frankford Boys’ Club defeated North Philadelphia YMA 2–0 to take possession of first place with North Philadelphia dropping to third place. The Inquirer match report on March 23, 1913 said North Philadelphia had little chance to score “as the ball was nearly always in Frankford’s possession and what few opportunities the Phillies had they lost by shooting wide.” The point earned by Whitehall Rovers in their scoreless draw with Vincome was enough to move them into second place. Logan remained in fourth place but moved within two points of North Philadelphia with a commanding 8–1 win over American Pulley Company. Five of their goals came in the first half.

In American League play, Camden defeated last place Burns Rangers 2–0 to move into fifth. Victoria Plush Mills were scheduled to host Philadelphia Athletics at Swarthmore but, as the Inquirer reported, “for some reason or other the Athletics failed to put in an appearance and also failed to notify their opponents that they would not be on hand.” The Inquirer match report concluded, “The Victorians and Referee James Steele waited until 5 o’clock for the Athletics, but at the end of that time Steele ordered Victoria to line up and kick a goal,” so giving them their second win of the season.

With league leaders Hibernian and Thistle occupied by hosting Innisfails, only one Pennsylvania League game was scheduled with Victors and Thistle meeting at Third and Lehigh for the 2–2 draw.The Inquirer described, “As an exhibition of football it was not first class, and one or two of the players in the first half appeared to be in a decidedly scrappy mood.”

Start of intercollegiate play

Haverford kicked off the start of the Intercollegiate Soccer League with a 3–1 road win over Columbia University in New York. The Inquirer match report on March 23, 1913 described the contest as “one of the finest ever played at Columbia Field, the playing of the Main Liners in particular being one of the most pleasing features.”

On March 25, the Haverford varsity squad defeated a team made up of alumni varsity player from the college,”some of whom have been playing a star game in the club leagues,” 2–1. The Inquirer reported on March 26 that much of the talk at the post-game “soccer smoker” at the Haverford Union concerned the upcoming match against University of Pennsylvania on March 29 in Moorestown, NJ.

Odds and ends

It was announced in the March 24 edition of the Inquirer that Philadelphia would be the site of the American Cup final between Tacony FC and the Patterson True Blues with the game to be played at the Hibernians’ grounds at Second and Allegheny on April 12. While Tacony offered the use of their grounds for free, and to help defray the traveling expenses of the True Blues, the  organizing committee of the American Football Association decided that the Hibernian’s field could accommodate more spectators.

The Inquirer reported on March 24 and 27 that a movement was afoot to organize a single body to govern all amateur soccer in Philadelphia and the surrounding districts.

On March 27, the Inquirer reported that representatives of the city’s American, United, Junior, and Northeast leagues had agreed to organize one big championship rally in which the cups and medals won by the various teams of the leagues would be awarded.

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