Philadelphia Soccer History

Christmas soccer in Philly, 1914

The long tradition of holiday games continued in Philadelphia on Christmas Day, 1914.

The Allied American League, the top amateur league in Philadelphia, consisting of five divisions of teams as well as the Kensington Junior Church League, had arranged two games for Christmas Day, both of which were to be played by picked sides on the road. The first game was scheduled to be played in Bethlehem against a picked team from the Blue Mountain League, which the Philadelphia Inquirer noted on December 21, 1914, “has in its ranks quite a number of Bethlehem F.C. men, who play when not required by the Bethlehem F.C. They have also several first class local players who have migrated to Bethlehem on account of securing work there.”

The second game was arranged against a picked team from New York’s Metropolitan and District Amateur League. On Christmas Day, 1913, the two sides had met at Philadelphia’s Washington Park in miserably rainy and muddy conditions. The Philadelphia side proved to be “good mud horses,” scoring five unanswered goals in the first 35 minutes. Fifteen minutes after the start of the second half, the ref called the game as the already poor conditions grew worse.

As was so often the case during Pennsylvania winters, poor weather saw the postponement of the game in Bethlehem. Also postponed in Bethlehem was the match scheduled for the next day between Bethlehem and their American League rivals, Hibernian. (Christmas fell on a Friday in 1914 so the schedules of Philadelphia’s leagues continued the next day.)

Philly tops New York

The game in New York at the Lenox Oval in Manhattan was played. The Inquirer reported on December 26, “The game was a snappy affair throughout and despite the chilly blasts that blew across the field 2000 spectators stood on one foot and then the other until the battle was over.”

Philadelphia was first to score, the Inquirer describing, “The Philadelphia contingent managed to assume the whip hand in the first half and attacked the Gothamites’ goal until they broke through twice and scored the points that brought them victory.” After ten minutes of play, Philadelphia inside right W. Mellors of the Kensington Congregation A.A. team, “broke through and with a corking shot” to give the Allied Leaguers the 1-0 lead.

Philadelphia’s lead held for twenty minutes of play before the Metropolitan side equalized when inside left Mike Walsh “corralled the pigskin” and “sent the sphere whizzing beneath the Philadelphia upright” from a few yards out. The Inquirer reported, “The rooters then showed their appreciation by shouting and stamping their frost-nipped feet.”

Philadelphia quickly regained the lead when inside left H. Meadows of the Peabody team “came tearing down the field with the speed of a deer” and scored from ten yards out. The lead would hold for Philadelphia, who returned home the 2-1 winners. Conditions were tough for the win. The Inquirer described, “The snow-covered field proved a hardship on the players and many cut knees was the result. But they were game as not one of them showed any signs of quitting.”

Back in Philadelphia
12-26-1914 Allies v Germans benefit match Inq p12

Philadelphia Inquirer, December 26, 1914

Back in Philadelphia, American League sides Hibernian and Victor met at Third and Lehigh. While Hibs fielded their regular starting eleven, the Inquirer reported that Victors “for some unknown reason” were without several of their regular starters. Hibernian was quick to take advantage and scored two unanswered first half goals, despite the play being “exceptionally slow, due to the grounds being treacherous.”

The Inquirer reported, “a great change came over the players in the second period, for instead of the kick and rush game being a factor in this half some fine movements were witnessed, both sets of forwards showing glimpses of what they could really have done had the grounds been in fast shape.” Soon, Hibernian added another goal.

But Victor did not roll over, responding with three unanswered goals of their own, including a goal from their keeper, who played the second half in the forward line at inside right. At the final whistle, the score remained 3-3.

At 58th Street and Haverford Avenue, Vincome of the United League faced home team Victrix of the Allied American League First Division. Victrix was the stronger side in a stronger league, but Vincome was up for the challenge and the game finished as a 1-1 draw.

In the city’s Mannheim section, Germantown hosted Merchantville in Cricket Club League play. The Merchantville, New Jersey side had formerly been the Belmont Cricket Club of West Philadelphia, moving across the river when their grounds were bought by the city to become what is today the Kingsessing Recreation Center. Merchantville arrived three players short for the game and so took the field with three players borrowed from their Germantown hosts. The Inquirer reported, “The Germantown Cricket Club and the Merchantville Field Club showed true Christmas spirit in their soccer game at Mannheim yesterday and the best that can be said of it was that everybody had an enjoyable time.”

What would become to be known as the First World War had engulfed Europe only a few months before Christmas and Philadelphia’s soccer community responded by organizing charity games to support relief organizations. At Torresdale Avenue and Tyson Street on Christmas morning, a benefit game took place that was billed as “Allies vs. Germans.” The Inquirer described, “Although some of the players had not played the game for some time, they nevertheless gave a good account of themselves, the play being fast in spots.” In the end, the Germans won, 2-0. The Inquirer reported, “The proceeds were handed over to the Relief Committee of Tacony immediately after the match, there being a nice little sum realized.”

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic on the Western Front, something extraordinary was taking place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *