American soccer writing, history & data.
After three successful seasons, the St. Louis Major Soccer League failed to make a profit for the 1950-51 season. In the offseason, Syl Raftery returned to the organization as the franchise owners elected him president. Ed Murphy was named commissioner. Neither had any connection with any club in the league at that point. In the 1950-51 season, Gene Thumm, co-owner of the Zenthoefer Furs, was president and there was no commissioner.
Things continued to get more complicated leading into the 1951-52 season. A new professional league, the American Soccer League of St. Louis, was formed. Walter Giesler, secretary of the Missouri Soccer Commission and head of the U.S. Soccer Football Association in 1948 and 1949, organized the ASLSL and served as the league's secretary. While the new league meant more competition for soccer fans in St. Louis, the relationship between the two professional leagues was not adversarial.
Both leagues had to find new places to play as there was to be no more league soccer at Sportsman's Park. The administrators of the venue wanted to renovate the old stadium and had also grown tired of the wear and tear to the field from soccer games during the baseball offseason. The SLMSL took over North Side Sports Arena at Grand Boulevard and Florissant Avenue while the ASLSL operated at St. Louis Softball Park at Ohio and Shenandoah Avenues on the south side. Both parks, used for many years exclusively for softball, were renovated to accommodate soccer. The SLMSL scheduled a 24-game split season with Sunday afternoon and Wednesday night doubleheaders.
While the same four teams returned from the prior seasons the SLMSL lost Kutis and Zenthoefer as sponsors to the ASLSL. Without sponsors the former Zenthoefer Furs returned to their name as the Raiders and the Kutis club simply became the Spicas after owner Joe Spica. All four teams re-entered the National Open Cup and, for the first time since the 1947-48 season, all four also entered the National Amateur Cup. While the SLMSL was formally a professional league, it had begun to become more of a semi-professional operation with more amateur players being found on the rosters.
Competitively the clubs were divided into the have and the have nots. The Raiders and Joe Simpkins teams were the best in the league with the Mike Brehenys and the Spicas having trouble keeping up. The Raiders took the first half fairly easily over second-place Simpkins.
Rainy and icy conditions wrecked havoc with the league schedule during November and December causing the second half to be delayed until mid-Januiary. Those delays plus cup matches pushed the league schedule into early May. Because of that, the league decided not to hold the postseason playoff series and named the Raiders, who also won the second half title, as league champions - their third straight title.
The Raiders chance for a run at the National Open Cup title ended early when they were upset by the Mike Breheny team in the Second Round of that competition. The Brehenys beat the Zenthoefers of the ASLSL in the Third Round but lost to Simpkins in the Missouri Final. The Joe Simpkins club was due to face the Los Angeles Scots on March 23 in the next round but the California club forfeited after soccer officials in Los Angeles waived the right to host the game. On April 20, Simpkins hosted the Polish Eagles of Chicago in the Western Semifinal of the NOC. The game was a blowout as Joe Simpkins crushed the Chicago team 9-0 before 1000 at North Side Sports Arena.
On May 11, a week after the end of the SLMSL season, Simpkins traveled to face Harmarille in the first leg of the NOC Western Final. The game ended in a scoreless draw before the 1500 in attendance at the Freeport Road ground in Harmarville, Penn. The next Sunday Harmarville knocked Simpkins out of the NOC beating them 2-1 at North Side Sports Arena before 500 fans.
The Raiders won the Missouri Final of the National Amateur Cup beating the Kutis club of the ASLSL 2-0 before 500 at the St. Louis Softball Park. In the next round, the Raiders traveled to Dallas on March 30 and beat the Mulhauser team of that city before 1200 fans. The Raiders met the Slovaks of Chicago on April 20 in the NAC Western Semifinal. The SLMSL team beat the Slovaks 5-2 in overtime to make the two-leg Western Final.
The first game of the NAC Western Final took place at North Side Arena on May 11. The Raiders beat the Morgan team 3-2 before 500 local fans. The next Sunday, the Raiders beat Morgan by the same score before 2000 at Bridgeville Park outside of Pittsburgh to win the NAC Western Final.
The Raiders would face Ludlow S.C. of Massachusetts in the NAC Final. On June 15, the Raiders beat Lusitano 3-1 at Franklin Field in Ludlow before 3000 to win the National Amateur Cup. It was the first time that a team from St. Louis had hoisted the trophy in that competition.
The SLMSL ended the 1951-52 season with a deficit of $10,000. Average attendance had dropped to 800-1000 average per Sunday after the move from Sportsman's Park. The league also gave up playing on Wednesday evenings due to bad weather and lower attendance about a month into the season. That was about half of what it was in prior seasons. Roughly $8000 of the deficit was due to renovations made to the North Side Park. Attendance was also hurt due to the lack of competition from two teams and a string of bad weather.
©2022 by Daniel Creel. All rights reserved.