Soccer Almanac

American soccer writing, history & data.

SLSFL (Athletic Park) and SLSFL (Robison Field) 1913-14 seasons

Jan. 10, 2022 |  Categories:  FPSL   SLSFL   St. Louis  

During the offseason after the 1912-13 season, Bill Klosterman returned as manager of St. Leo's. In mid-September of 1913, Klosterman reorganized the St. Louis Soccer Football League, under the direction of Tim Cavanaugh, owner of Athleic Park, who allied himself with Klosterman after the disruption last winter and refused to allow the SLSFL managers from the prior season to renew their lease on the field. Klosterman was the only manager in the organization from the prior season. Mike Whelan, backer of the Innisfails, had decided to manage the club himself rather than Willie Foley. Winton E. Barker was elected president of the league and Charley Bartley was elected secretary. Along with St. Leo's and Innisfails the other two teams were Ben Millers (managed by Pete Ratican) and a fourth not yet organized or named at the time of the organization of the league.

At the same time, Will Dooling, secretary of the "old" St. Louis Soccer Football League announced that the organization would play at Robison Field, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, with the same managers as the prior season. Playing at Robison Field mean that the SLSFL was the only soccer league in the U.S. occupying a major league ball park for the 1913-14 season. Dr. Alexander Murray would continue to be president of the league which would bring all the players back.

At a meeting of the "old" SLSFL three of the four teams returned to organize for the upcoming season. The full roster of manager Willie Foley's Innisfails players attended along with all of the Columbus Club players and all but two of the Business Men's A.C. squad. Compton Hill withdrew from the league and their franchise declared open with a new team to be decided the next week.

At that meeting the Innisfails, backed by Mike Whelan, returned to the "old' SLSFL. Whelan changed his mind about joining Klosterman's SLSFL. A new team, the Athletics, backed by Mike Freund and Willie Sayers, were admitted as the fourth club.

It was revealed that Klosterman had intended to quit soccer for good after the prior season but, according to him, the league did not allow him to leave in a manner he desired and tried to force him out. As such, he decided to fight back and went to Cavanaugh to lease the Athletic Park grounds and proceeded to organized the league by getting Barker and Bartley on board. The new league also affiliated with the U.S.A.F.A. which effectively made the old SLSFL an "outlaw" league.

Acting for the Athletic Park SLSFL, Pete Ratican signed 11 players from the Business Men's A.C. of the Robison Field SLSFL effectively wrecking that club. The new league dropped the Innisfails from membership and admitted Rock Church, which had won the Amateur League the prior season, to membership. The other club was organized by John Tully and was called Columbian A.C.

With his team all but defunct, Eddie Houlihan withdraw Business Men's A.C. from the Robison Field SLSFL and retired from soccer. A new team, the Teresas, managed by E.J. Burke, was admitted to replace Business Men's A.C. at an organizational meeting. At that meeting, Dr. Alexander Murray, president of the league since it's organization in 1907-08, resigned and William Lane was elected.

With the offseason machinations completed, the press had to deal with two professional soccer leagues operating with the exact same name. The newspapers soon began differentiating the leagues by referring to them as the Athletic Park Soccer League and the Robison Field Soccer League on a daily basis. The Athletic Park league started their schedule first on October 12 while the Robison Field league began a week later. Player poaching was an ongoing issue during the season.

During New Year's week, the Fall River Rovers of the Southern New England League, played a series of matches at St. Louis against the Robison Field league teams. Following the matches, the U.S.A.F.A. kicked Fall River Rovers out of organized soccer and branded them an outlaw organization.

The True Blues of Paterson, N.J. played a series of matches against Athletic Park league teams over the winter holidays. While the Robison Field exhibition matches had an attendance near 1000, the Athletic Park games were poorly attended with a reported total paid attendance of only 75 for the first two holiday games. The soccer war between the professional leagues had quickly hurt interest in soccer in St. Louis.

In late January, Winton Barker, president of the Athletic Park league received a mandate from the U.S.A.F.A. to form a Missouri State Soccer Association and to invite all amateur and professionals to join organized soccer. On January 31, Theodoric Bland, president of the W.A.A.U. presided over a meeting to organize a Missouri chapter of the U.S.A.F.A. Six leagues attended: the Robison Field and Athletic Park leagues; the St. Louis Municipal League; the St. Louis Amateur League; the Inter-City League of Kansas City; and the Soccer League of East St. Louis.

The Robison Field league decided not be become a member of the Western district of the U.S.A.F.A. unless that organization agreed to lift the suspension of the Fall River Rovers and permitted the players who jumped from the Athletic Park league to remain with their Robison Field league teams. With no concessions from the national body, the Robison Field league formally decided not to join the Missouri Division of the U.S.A.F.A. in mid-February.

Columbus Club team won the Robison Field league by four points over Innisfails and was awarded the Morris Freund trophy. St. Leo's easily won the Athletic Park league by six points over Ben Millers but with having played four less games than the Robison Field league.

The first soccer championship under the auspices of the U.S.A.F.A. in St. Louis was held on March 15. St. Leo's played the Advertisers of East St. Louis for the championship of Missouri and Illinois at Athletic Park. The game was a blowout with St. Leo's winning 9-1. The next Sunday, St. Leo's hosted Hyde Park Blues of Chicago for the Western championship. The St. Leo's squad blanked Hyde Park 3-0.

©2022 by Daniel Creel. All rights reserved.