Soccer Almanac

American soccer writing, history & data.

SLMSL 1952-53 season

June 2, 2022 |  Categories:  SLMSL   St. Louis  

The St. Louis Major Soccer League returned for its 1952-53 again as the only professional league in the city. The American Soccer League of St. Louis had folded in September after its home venue was no longer available for use. The SLMSL returned to the North Side Sports Arena but the league did away with night games unless they became necessary due to postponements. In the prior season, most of the night games were poorly attended. The league also cut the roster limit from 18 down to 16 players.

The same four clubs, including the Joe Simpkins and Mike Breheny teams, returned but two teams found new sponsors. Joe Spica's club, formerly the Spicas, found a sponsor in the Grapette Bottling Company. Without a team to sponsor in the defunct ASLSL, Tom Kutis agreed to sponsor the Raiders only when franchise owner Nick Jost agreed that the team would be in both the National Open Cup and the National Amateur Cup. Jost filed entries in both tournaments but the SLMSL voted to keep its teams out of the 1952-53 NAC competition. During the fall of 1952, the league pressured Jost to withdraw the Kutis club's entry into the NAC. The league stated that it cost too much for clubs to play amateur cup games. The league as a whole shared the profit or loss of all the clubs in the league. The Kutis club drew a first round by in the NAC and was due to play local Municipal League club, Pastures A.C., in the second round on January 1, 1953. At the end of December, Kutis owners Nick Jost and Gene Thumm announced the club would drop out of the competition and not defend its NAC title.

As with the previous season, Kutis was the class of the SLMSL. The team's only loss in the league's regular season was due to a forfeit on the first game of the first half. On September 28, Kutis had beaten Grapettes 5-1 before 1000 at North Side Sports Arena. But the Grapettes protested the match due to Kutis playing and ineligible player. Bill Eppy had been drafted by the Mike Brehenys from the ASLSL the prior season and had played one game for that team during that season. SLMSL president Syl Raftery upheld the protest ruling that Eppy still belonged to the Breheny since no trade had been made for his services. Raftery ordered the game as a forfeit win for the Grapettes. That week the Brehenys formally sold the contract of Bill Eppy to the Kutis club. Kutis won the first half by a single point over the Grapettes.

The SLMSL ended the league regular season two games early due to a couple of weeks of postponements and the Kutis club's continued dominance. The final doubleheader of the regular season was held on January 25. The opening match was a regular league match between the bottom two teams, the Grapettes and Mike Brehenys, while the closer was a second round National Open Cup match between Kutis and Simpkins which also counted in the league standings. Kutis edged Joe Simpkins 2-1 in overtime before 1000 at North Side Arena.

The league reinstated the postseason round robin two-defeats-and-out playoffs. Kutis beat the Grapettes in the first round but was upset by Joe Simpkins 2-1 in the second round. It was the first loss for the Kutis team that season.

The next Sunday, February 15, Kutis beat Pastures A.C. 2-1 before 1250 at North Side Sports Arena to win the NOC Missouri Final. Kutis was due to face the McIlwaine Canvasbacks in the NOC Western Semifinals on March 8 but the Southern California club forfeited. The SLMSL filled the open date with the third round playoff match which saw Kutis beat the Grapettes 4-3. The next Sunday saw Kutis face off against Simpkins for the SLMSL playoff title. The Simpkins club had won both of their matches while Kutis had lost their prior match against Simpkins. As such, Kutis would need to win two matches against Simpkins to take the title while Simpkins would only have to win one. The Joe Simpkins team pulled off another upset beating Kutis 3-1 at North Side Sports Arena to take home the SLMSL title.

On March 22, Kutis hosted the Falcons of Chicago in the first leg of the NOC Western Final. Kutis blanked the Falcons 3-0 before 1045 at North Side Sports Arena. A protest by the Falcons was upheld by the National Challenge Cup Committee challenging the eligibility of two Kutis players. The committee nullified the March 22nd match and ordered that the Western Final be determined by a one-game affair at Chicago. The professional player registration cards of Ollie Bohlman and Earl Kestler were found to be not on file in the New York office of the U.S. Soccer Football Association. All other Kutis players were properly registered on amateur forms.

Kutis appealed the ruling on the irregularities of the protest. The original notice from Joseph J. Barriskill, secretary of the U.S.S.F.A., dated March 30, stated that the nullification of the Kutis victory resulted from a protest by the Falcons. But Barriskill later said that there was actually no formal protest filed and the NCC Committee took the action on its own responsibility. Kutis had failed to pay a two dollar registration fee for three players listed at professionals: Bohlman; Kestler; and Bobby Kehoe. Upon the protest, the initial Western Semifinal match was still nullified but the NCC Committee ordered another home match for Kutis following the now first leg to be played at Chicago.

On Sunday, April 5, Kutis traveled to Chicago for the first leg of the NOC Western Semifinals. The match was held at Winnemac Stadium and the 1200 in attendance saw the game end in a scoreless draw. The next Sunday, the Falcons beat Kutis 2-1 before 1100 at North Side Sports Arena to win the NOC Western Semifinal.

In late March, the SLMSL officials were notified by the owners of the North Side Arena that the league's lease would not be renewed for the 1953-54 season. The ground was to be sold and plans were under way to build commercial buildings on the property at Grand and Florissant Avenues. On June 9, Liverpool F.C. beat the SLMSL All-Stars 5-0 before 5250 at Public Schools Stadium.

In July, SLMSL officials asked the Busch Corporation, owners of Busch Stadium (formerly Sportsman's Park), about the possibility of playing league games there the next season. The SLMSL had lost a large share of its patronage in the league's two-year absence from Sportsman's Park where it average around 2000 to 2500 per match. At North Side Park the league had dropped down to an average of around 750 per match.

In August, the league learned that Busch Stadium would not be available for soccer games as it was planned to tear up and completely rebuild the baseball outfield during the winter months. The league planned to apply for the use of the North Field at Public Schools Stadium and would bring in portable bleachers. If no park ended up being obtained, league president Syl Raftery announced that the four SLMSL clubs would apply to operate as a united in the Municipal League with hopes of returning to play at Busch Stadium for the 1954-55 season.

In September, Syl Raftery was re-elected as chairman of the Missouri Soccer Commission - a position he held along with SLMSL president. The SLMSL could not find a suitable park to play for the 1953-54 season. The Mike Breheny Furniture team disbanded. The remaining three SLMSL clubs entered the Municipal Soccer Association as independent teams and joined the Municipal League's senior division. The St. Louis Major Soccer League permanently disbanded.

©2022 by Daniel Creel. All rights reserved.