Philadelphia Soccer History

Philly Soccer 100: Bethlehem appeals AFA decision, riot call at Starr Garden

Our series looking at Philadelphia soccer history happenings one hundred years ago continues.

Bethlehem appeals AFA ruling

On Oct. 26, 1913, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Bethlehem FC had appealed the American Football Association’s ruling ordering a replay of the preliminary round American Cup tie against Wissinoming, won by Bethlehem to the tune of 5 goals to 1 on Oct. 11. The AFA had ordered the replay because it had concluded that center half back Bobby Morrison had been signed by Bethlehem before the start of the 1913-1914 season without the permission of his former club, Tacony FC of the professional Pennsylvania League.

The Inquirer explained that Morrison had “signed an amateur form for this season, but since then he has signed Form C for Bethlehem which is the legal form according to the [United States Football Association] and is the legitimate property of the Steel Workers, having been recognized as such by [the USFA].” At it’s heart, the dispute revolved around the question of which organization’s authority was the law of the land. The AFA had been founded in 1884 and had considered itself the authoritative organizing body of soccer in the US before the creation of the USFA in April of 1913. It was in actuality a regional soccer body centered on the mid Atlantic states from Pennsylvania up to New England. Indeed, the USFA had been founded in part because of of the general view that the AFA was not up to the task of being a truly representative body for American soccer. When FIFA granted the USFA provisional recognition in August of 1913, the question of which organization was supreme was answered and the AFA soon agreed to subordinate itself to the new organization.

USFA president Dr. G. Randolph Manning advised Bethlehem to play the AFA-ordered replay, scheduled for Oct. 25 at Wissinoming, the Inquirer reporting that no matter what the result of the replay, Bethlehem’s appeal would be heard at a special USFA meeting in New York the following week. As it turned out, more than two inches of rain fell in the region on Oct. 24 and Oct. 25 and the replay was postponed.

Postponed or not, the dispute had already affected the scheduling of the American Cup Tournament. On Oct. 26, the Inquirer reported that Trenton Caledonians, who had been scheduled to face the winner of the Bethlehem-Wissinoming match at the winner’s home grounds the day of the postponed replay, had already “signaled their intentions of forfeiting the game on account of the extra traveling expenses.” Meanwhile, Bethlehem and Wissinoming would have to wait for the USFA’s ruling.

American Cup

In addition to the Bethlehem-Wissinoming replay being postponed, so to was the scheduled American Cup first round meeting between Boys’ Club and Victors that was supposed to have taken place at Front and Erie on Oct. 25. In both cases, the wet weather had made the fields unplayable.

The first round match between Hibernian of the professional Pennsylvania League and Smith AA of the amateur Allied League did come of as scheduled at Hibernia Park, located at Second and Allegheny. Judging by the 8-0 scoreline, Smith may have wished otherwise.

The Inquirer’s match report on Oct. 26 noted that the soft ground favored the heavy Hibernian side “while Smith’s could have done much better on a fast ground, as all their players were young and speedy, besides being on the light side.” Still, the Inquirer praised the “ding dong playing” of the amateurs, though it questioned whether Smith’s could have challenged Hibs, “who worked together in grand style,” even if the conditions had better suited them. The Inquirer explained, “In fact, it looked to the average layman as though the Irishmen could have piled up further goals if the players had felt so inclined, but they resorted to stalling tactics when they held a safe lead, and in consequence it made the contest really more interesting than what the score indicates.”

The Hibernian's Tommy Swords, seen here when he was with Fall River Rovers

The Hibernian’s Tommy Swords, seen here when he was with Fall River Rovers

Among the goalscorers for Hibs was future National Soccer Hall of Famer Tommy Swords, who tallied two goals on the day.

Local league play

The wet weather saw the cancellation of league games around the Philadelphia area. Only one Allied League first division game took place, with West Philadelphia edging out Disston 2-1 after a late rally from the Northeasters. The Inquirer reported on Oct. 26 that it was “a rattling good game” despite the grounds being “somewhat slippery.”

Four Allied League second division games were played, including a 5-4 barn burner between Marcus Hook and the visiting Linwood Hibernians at Ninth and Highland Avenue in Chester. The Inquirer reported on Oct. 26 that the grounds “were soft from the rain and both teams had their work cut out to plough through the mud.” Marcus Hook led 5-2 at the half but Linwood could not overcome the three goal deficit. The match between Wanderer’s and Hope Lodge saw 8 goals scored but unfortunately for ten-men Hope Lodge, all 8 of the goals ended up in their net. Manchester Unity defeated Fairhill 2-0 at Front and Allegheny and Putnam breezed past the Windsor club from Wilmington 3-0 at 22nd and Huntingdon Streets.

Three third division games took place, with Falls swamping Providence 7-0 and Centenary topping Edgemoor 4-1. Purtian and St. Nathaniel played to a 2-2 draw.

Seven games were played in the United League, the winners prevailing by the collective score of 42 goals to 2. Five of the winners scored 5 goals in their games, one scored 6 goals, and PHL trounced Vincome, who had shown up with only eight players, 11-0, 9 of which came in the first half. The United League goal total could have been even greater. Eight-men Roxborough Unity refused to return to the field for the second half after they were already down 5-0 to ten-men Logan. Bristol left the field at 62nd and South Streets with eight minutes remaining when they were losing 5-0 “owing to the fact that the referee’s decision did not altogether coincide with their views.”

Riot police called

A large crowd was on hand for an exhibition game at Starr Garden at 6th and Lombard between Glenwood Rovers and Starr Garden FC. It was an unruly crowd, that soon crossed the line from spectator to participant, the Inquirer reporting on Oct. 26  1-0 that the crowd interfered with play “at every stage of the game” as Glenwood eventually won 1-0. The crowd was also apparently composed of Star Garden supporters. The Inquirer reported, “After the game was over 300 spectators started fighting with the Rovers and a riot call was sent in.”

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