Soccer Almanac

American soccer writing, history & data.

SLSFL and FPSL 1914-15 seasons

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

After a financially dismal 1913-14 season, both professional soccer leagues in St. Louis began moves towards peace. Each league had two strong teams and two weak teams. The common wisdom was to create a peace plan where the leagues would be reorganized into one league with the two best teams from each current league joining.

To help its situation the Athletic Park league needed to acquire a lease in a major league park in order to compete with the Robison Field league. It failed to obtain a lease with Sportsman's Park, due to the ownership being opposed to use the grounds for soccer. But, the league averted going under by obtaining a lease to use the Federal League Park at Grand and Laclede Avenues. And, to avoid the confusion of the prior season, the former St. Louis Soccer Football League which had played at Athletic Park renamed itself the Federal Park Soccer League. Rock Church withdrew in the offseason and was replaced by Compton Hill A.C.

While the older league kept its name as the St. Louis Soccer Football League, the press continued to refer to it as the Robison Field Soccer League. The same four clubs returned from the prior season but the Athletics were renamed the Manewals in honor of George Manewal who offered a large silver trophy for the team winning that season's championship. The SLSFL decided to play a split schedule for the 1913-14 season. Each team would play nine games in the fall and nine games in the spring with the winners from each half meeting in a championship playoff.

This season the SLSFL got started its schedule on October 18 a week before the FPSL began. For that first weekend, many players from prior season's FPSL teams played for SLSFL teams. They were automatically suspended under U.S.F.A. rule for playing outlaw clubs but most suspensions were soon removed allow the players to "jump" back to the FPSL.

At the beginning of December, the SLSFL voted to send representatives to a U.S.F.A. meeting with instructions to affiliate with the national body. At the same time, the Municipal League would hold a meeting to create an agreement with the two professional leagues to create a system to transfer players between the leagues. The FPSL and the Missouri division would also meet to plan on how to reorganize the latter to avoid factional issues moving forward. At the end of the meetings, the SLSFL agreed to file a written application for membership in the U.S.F.A. and immediately sent it to Thomas Cahill, secretary of the U.S.F.A.

While waiting on the decision on the application, the SLSFL arranged a series of holiday exhibition games against a team of professionals from Hamilton, Ontario. As that team was an organization, the playing of those matched would effectively bar the SLSFL from joining the U.S.F.A. Later the SLSFL received a telegram stating that the application for admission into the U.S.F.A. was referred by the national body to the Missouri Division for consideration and that playing against the Hamilton team would lead to the SLSFL being blacklisted for all time and their players receiving the same penalty.

Innisfails won the fall half of the SLSFL season the Sunday before Christmas and, since the league had yet to hear about their application, the SLSFL teams played holiday exhibitions against non-affiliated teams from Hamilton and Toronto. This effectively scuttled the application and ended the peace negotiations.

Tired of the infighting, damage to the game, and loss of income due to dwindling attendance, players from both professional leagues got together to arrange a series of three games between St. Leo's and Innisfails for the city title starting the end of February. The players were unable to schedule the matches so the regularly scheduled games went on. But, the FPSL was in danger of losing its home grounds because the owners of the Federal League baseball team was upset at how the soccer matches were damaging the field. And, because paid admissions were so low (only 68 for the doubleheader on February 7), the matches weren't worth it for the park owners as well.

All these troubles finally got the rival league officials together to plan for a four-team interleague series between the top two teams from each league: St. Leo's and Ben Millers from the FPSL; and Innisfails and Columbus Club from the SLSFL. The plan was for the team with the most points after three contest to hold the title of city champions.

A connected situation was a possible issue with the U.S.F.A. The Missouri Association had practically ceased to exist as the only league that appeared to have paid its dues was the FPSL. The U.S.F.A. still considered it to exist but Winton Barker, president of the FPSL, understood that his league had withdrawn from the Missouri Association and was directly affiliated with the U.S.F.A. Secretary Thomas Cahill of the U.S.F.A. said the FPSL was still a member of the Missouri Association.

Manager Willie Foley of the Innisfails dropped out of the interleague series due to objections over the proposed arrangements. The refusal of the Innisfails to play St. Leo's made it impossible to play the doubleheader between the clubs of rival leagues. As such only Ben Millers and Columbus Club played the first game with the match ending in a 1-1 draw at Robison Field. The next weekend, the Innisfails, having secured Kulage's Park, did schedule the first game of a three-game series with St. Leo's. But with Columbus Club and Ben Millers playing their second game the same day there was not overall agreement to play a final so the winners of both series would claim the city championship unless another arrangement was made.

Ben Millers beat Columbus Club 2-1 in their second match while St. Leo's and Innisfails drew 2-2 in theirs. The next weekend the latter two teams played the second of their series with Innisfails scoring an upset beating St. Leo's 4-2 before 1700 at Kulage's Park. This was the biggest crowd to see a professional soccer game in St. Louis in the past two years, but that same day 15,000 had attended the three Municipal League playoff matches.

Before the match Bill Klosterman announced he would again resign as manager of St. Leo's after the city championship match to be succeeded by long-time player, Richard "Bull" Brannigan. In addition, John "King" Finnegan passed the Columbus Club managerial duties to Tate Brady. The rival league officials had come together to schedule a meeting to permanently put together a peace plan whereby a new league made up of four teams would be organized for the 1914-15 season. The Innisfails and Columbus Club teams had been recently admitted to membership in the U.S.F.A without penalty. That move made peace possible but it was necessary to make a few organizational changes and Klosterman and Finnegan agreed to step down.

The third match between St. Leo's and Innisfails was due to be played on March 28 but was postponed due to the opening of the baseball season and the Municipal League championship. The postponed match was scheduled for Sunday, April 4 at the C.B.C. campus but was called off. Four St. Leo's players had already left the city leaving Klosterman unable to field a team. Wiliie Foley was willing to allow Klosterman to pick up new players but that was vetoed by the Innisfails players. On April 24, a special meeting of the Innisfails team was held. Mike Whelan, backer of the club, was presented a gold watch and fob by the Innisfails players for being champions of St. Louis.

©2022 by Daniel Creel. All rights reserved.