American soccer writing, history & data.
Following a successful inaugural season, the St. Louis Major Soccer League returned for the 1948-49 season with the same lineup of four teams. Two teams changed names after gaining new sponsors. The De Andreis Council team, regular season champions of the prior season, became the El Reys (named for a local brand of chili and sliced beef and gravy) and the Raiders became the Paul Schulte Motors. Famous local professional wrestler and donor of the league's playoff trophy, Warren Bockwinkel, became vice president of the Schulte club. Simpkins Ford Center and the Steamfitters rounded out the SLMSL membership. The league also decided not to enter its teams into the National Amateur Cup as it was thought that professional teams shouldn't take part in an amateur competition.
The league also implemented a split-season format with teams playing nine games in each half. Under the original plan, a team would be declared champions if it won both halves, otherwise the two half-season winners would meet in a best two-out-of-three series for the title. But that idea was quickly scrapped and the SLMSL returned to the prior season's round robin two-losses-and-out playoff format. The league also instituted monetary awards. The first place team of each half would received $300 and the second place team would receive $200. The winner of the league's postseason tournament would get $1000, second place $500, third $300, and fourth would receive $200.
The season would open with a doubleheader at Sportsman's Park on Sunday, October 10. But, the next Sunday would be taken up by a massively important match held over from the prior season. The 1947-48 National Open Cup Final between Brookhattan-Galicia of the American Soccer League and Simpkins had been postponed during the prior spring and summer. The matchup was cut down from two legs down to a single game and re-scheduled early in the fall seasons for both teams.
Brookhattan-Galicia traveled to Sportsman's Park on Sunday, October 17. Simpkins Ford Center won the match 3-2 in front of 2226 fans to win the 1948 National Open Cup. The first St. Louis team to win the national title since the Shamrocks in 1937. The match would have unintended consequences for the 1948-49 NOC competition. In late October, president Ed Murphy announced the withdrawal of SLMSL teams from the NOC. It was revealed that Brookhattan-Galicia presented Simpkins with a bill for $1502 for travel and expenses related to the NOC Final and requested 50% of the net gate receipts from that match. The SLMSL also had to pay the U.S. Soccer Football Association 15% of the gross receipts from the game. While the SLMSL franchise owners had finished in the black on league matches, they lost approximately $700 to host the NOC Final.
Paul Schulte Motors (formerly the Raiders) won the first half of the 1948-49 SLMSL season over second-place Simpkins Ford Center. Halfway through the second half, in late January, Pat Clifford and Woody Selby purchased the Steamfitters franchise and the club played the remainder of the season under the name of its new sponsor, Ray Dohle, Inc., an automobile agency. Selby had been part owner of the El Rey club but gave up his interests to become associated with the Ray Dohle club.
Paul Schulte Motors again won the second half over second-place Simpkins. But the club found the playoffs an issue losing their first match on March 6 to third-place El Rey 3-2 before 4110 at Sportsman's Park. The El Reys lost their next match to Ray Dohles on the following Sunday and after two rounds all four clubs had one win and one loss each. On March 20, in a doubleheader at Sportsman's Park before 4230, the El Reys continued their surprising run knocking out Simpkins 4-2 while Paul Schulte sent Ray Dohles packing 4-1.
The final for the Bockwinkel Trophy would be held March 27 at Sportsman's Park between first and second-half winning Paul Schulte Motors and the El Reys, a team that had finished last and next-to-last in each half. The game was a classic with the 5568 in attendance seeing the match tied 3-3 at the end of regulation. Overtime rules for the final were that the teams would play until one was ahead after two eight-minute extra periods. Emil Gerth scored in the third extra period to clinch the SLMSL playoffs for the El Reys. In the offseason, a team of Scottish nationals beat the SLMSL All-Stars 6-0 on May 26 before 9662 at Public Schools Stadium.
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