American soccer writing, history & data.
Prior to the 1935-36 St. Louis Professional Soccer League season, Phil A. Riley was elected president for the second straight year. A major shakeup in the traditional format was enacted as the league grew from eight to four teams. The first two teams to join were clubs from the Municipal League - the German Sport Club and the Spanish Sport Club. The latter team was located in East St. Louis, Ill. Teams sponsored by the Schumacher Funeral Home and the Hermann Funeral Home, both nicknamed the Undertakers, were the third and fourth teams to join the expanded league.
The team co-owned by Jack Dwyer and Jim Burke lost the Central Brewing Company as sponsors. As the pair were associated with the operation of the Democratic Country Club (formerly the Riverview Club) located near Chain of Rocks, they renamed the team after that organization. The players decided to continue playing under the name "St. Louis" on a co-operative basis while the club sought a new backer. The team's manager, Andy Frederick, gained complete control of the St. Louis franchise after Burke and Dwyer withdrew their backing.
As a consequence of that growth, the league played two doubleheaders each Sunday - one set at the traditional Sportsman's Park and another at the National Softball Association's park at Kingshighway and Arsenal Street. On October 16, 1935, just two weeks into the season, Burke and Dwyer dropped out of backing their franchise. The duo released all their players making them free agents. The owners had been unable to arrange for proper financing of the club. And, without part-time employment for half a dozen players previously available from their sponsors, Burke and Dwyer had to maintain the team out of their personal finances. The situation was doable on a temporary basic but they did not want to continue it for an entire season.
Attendance plummeted with the first doubleheader only drawing a shocking 200 fans. After two weeks showed little improvement in the attendance admission was dropped from 50 cents to 25 cents. On Sunday, October 27, only 700 showed up to Sportsman's Park for the league's doubleheader there. The matches were initially postponed due to bad weather but ended up being played after a delay of about 40 minutes. The league quickly moved to wiped those two games from the official standings and made them exhibition matches. The doubleheader at the National Softball Park that day were canceled due to the weather.
On October 30, the league gave up its lease on Sportsman's Park. The monthly rental of $600 was too much due to the average of only about 300 to 500 per match. The next day the Germans, Schumachers, and Hermanns withdrew from the league due to an inability to match the competition of the more experienced teams. Because of this, the league threw out the prior three games and began a new schedule for the five remaining teams starting with the matches on November 3rd.
Three days later, the St. Louis team dropped out of the league in order to operate as an independent club. A group of St. Louis businessmen, acting on a non-profit basis, pooled $3600 to finance the team through the rest of the 1935-36 soccer season. The team would be renamed "Father Dempsey's Shamrocks" and play exhibitions each Sunday at Sportsman's Park along with National Challenge Cup play. Phil Riley resigned as SLSL president to take over as secretary of the Shamrocks. Don Anderson was elected to take Riley's place.
For two weeks the four remaining teams continued their schedule of league doubleheaders at National Softball Park. Before the November 17th match, the Spanish Sport Club gained the sponsorship of the Burke Funeral Home, also located in East St. Louis. As such the team was renamed after their sponsor and nicknamed Burke Undertakers.
On November 20 league officials voted to play a split season of eight games each half with the winner of each series meeting in a title game at the end of the spring half. The prior two week's of matches since the Shamrocks dropped out would count as the first two games of the first half with the November 3rd matches dropped from the standings. Burke Undertakers won the fall half by winning all eight of their league games.
The second half of the SLSL season began with a pair of doubleheaders on January 5, 1936. The next Sunday, First Round play in the National Challenge Cup began as Marres beat Burke 4-2 before 2900 at Sportsman's Park. On January 19, Ben Miller was due to travel to face Sparta Garden City in Chicago but the match was postponed. Continued bad weather postponed the NCC match four more weeks bringing the SLSL to a halt. The match was finally played on Sunday, February 23. The crowd of 3000 Sparta Stadium saw the badly outmatched Ben Miller team lose 6-0 to Sparta.
The SLSL schedule finally got back underway on Sunday, March 8 with saw the four clubs play their second matches of the second half of the season. The league schedule was again disrupted as Marres beat Vienna A.C. of Milwaukee 6-3 on March 15 before less than 1000 at Sportsman's Park. The Marres then faced the Shamrocks on March 22 in the Western Semifinal. The crowd of 1900 saw the Shamrocks edge Marres 2-1.
That loss meant the SLSL schedule could continue without interruption by NCC matches. But, with the schedule badly disrupted, the league decided to play the remaining games of the second half as night games under the lights at the National Softball Park with single matches being played on Tuesday and Thursday night starting on Tuesday, March 31.
The Marres beat Hellrung & Grimm 4-0 in that first match but the Ben Miller versus Burke match scheduled two days later was postponed due to rain. It was again postponed to April 9 due to a funeral and again postponed due to rain. The league never finished the second half of the schedule and Burke Undertakers were named as champions.
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