American soccer writing, history & data.
During the offseason before the 1947-48 season a number of soccer figures, including Ed Murphy, owner of a North Grand Avenue cafe, and Syl Raftery, a retired painting contractor and former sponsor of a soccer team, made plans to organize the first professional soccer league in St. Louis since the St. Louis Soccer League folded in 1939. Four clubs were originally slated to join: Joe Simpkins (formerly the Correnti club which had won the prior year's Municipal League senior championship) managed by Joe Numi; De Andreis Council, managed by Eddie Begley; the Steamfitters (a new club sponsored by the Steamfitters Local No. 562), managed by Larry Kickham; and the Carondelet Sunday Morning A.C.
Plans for the league were put on hold in mid-October when the Carondelet club decided not to join due to financial problems and the desire of players to retain their amateur status. All four teams played the first game of the Municipal Senior Open Division (aka the "Big 5") on October 19 (De Andreis had a bye). That week the St. Louis Raiders, the only professional team in St. Louis, joined the league from the failing North American Soccer Football League. The Simpkins, De Andreis, and Steamfitters clubs were granted their release from the Muny League as the Municipal Association felt it would be better to have a professional league in the city. With a full compliment of four members, the St. Louis Major Soccer League launched its inaugural doubleheader at Sportsman's Park on Sunday, October 26. Ed Murphy was elected president and Syl Raftery, with no connection to any of the clubs in the league, was named commissioner.
Per local tradition, the SLMSL matches would be played with 35-minute halves. The league had a 12-game schedule during the fall through spring season. Two months into the season, the league decided that a round-robin playoff series would be held after the season. The series would be determined on a two-defeats-and-out basis with the winner to be awarded the Warren Bockwinkel Trophy donated by the well-known professional wrestler and soccer fan. The first team to be awarded the trophy three times would take permanent possession of it.
De Andreis Council won the regular season SLMSL fairly easily over the other teams. But the club met an early fate in the playoffs losing to third place Simpkins 3-0 on February 15 and to second place Raiders 4-0 on February 29. The Raiders started strong with four wins, one draw and one loss in their first six matches. But the club would only win one match across all competitions before knocking De Andreis out of the playoffs. The Raiders would lose their next match to the Steamfitters and be knocked out of the playoffs themselves.
The Steamfitters had come in last during the SLMSL regular season but found more success in cup competitions. The club had beaten the Mulhauser team of Dallas 7-2 on February 22 in the Fourth Round of the National Amateur Cup after beating the Raiders in the initial round of the SLMSL playoffs the week before. The Steamfitters lost to Simpkins Ford Center the next weekend in the Second Round of the league playoffs but then beat Simpkins 3-2 on March 7 in the National Amateur to move on to the Western Semifinals of that competition.
After beating the Raiders in the league playoffs the Steamfitters would face Simpkins in the final round for the Bockwinkel Trophy. On March 21, the Steamfitters would easily handle Simpkins 6-3. Because Simpkins had not yet lost a match, the two teams would meet again in two weeks. In between, the Steamfitters beat Schwaben A.C. of Chicago 7-1 on March 28 before 3133 at Sportsman's Park to win the National Amateur Cup Western Semifinal.
On April 11, Simpkins Ford Center defeated the Steamfitters 2-1 before 3300 at Public Schools Stadium to win the first SLMSL Bockwinkel Trophy. A week later, the Curry Vets of Pittsburgh beat the Steamfitters 4-0 at Bridgeville Park in the National Amateur Cup Western Final.
After winning the SLMSL playoffs, Simpkins was still alive in the National Open Cup. In the prior season Simpkins, then known as the Correnti club, had reached the Western Semifinal of the NOC. A week after the final game of the league playoff final, Simpkins blanked Sparta of Chicago 2-0 at Public Schools Stadium to move into the NOC Western Final.
On April 25, Simpkins traveled to Bridgeville Park outside of Pittsburgh and beat Castle Shannon 3-0 in the first leg. On May 5, Simpkins hosted Castle Shannon at Public Schools Stadium in the second leg. The teams drew 1-1 which meant Simpkins would move on to the NOC national final to take on the Brookhattan club of the American Soccer League. Simpkins was the first team from St. Louis to win the NOC Western Final and reach the title match since the Shamrocks in 1937. In the interim, Simpkins Ford Center beat the Mike Breheny Furniture club, champions of the Municipal Soccer Association, 1-0 before 797 at Public Schools Stadium to win the mythical city title for that season. Due to a number of delays, the NOC finals were scheduled for the first two weekends in July. But, the games had to be postponed until the fall due to Simpkins' inability to find suitable grounds and five of its players leaving for the Olympics the following week.
During the summer, the SLMSL hosted two international exhibitions. On June 1, Liverpool defeated the SLMSL All-Stars 4-2 at Public Schools Stadium before 7326. And, on June 28, Djurgarden of Sweden beat the league All-Stars 6-1 at Public Schools Stadium before 3400.
©2022 by Daniel Creel. All rights reserved.