Featured image: Bethlehem FC, 1913-14
Our series looking at what was happening in Philadelphia soccer one hundred years ago continues.
One hundred years ago in Philadelphia soccer history, massive slate of 26 games was scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 1913 — league games, Philadelphia Cup games, as well as local and intercity friendlies with more games to follow only two days later on the regular Saturday matchday.
The tradition of exhibition soccer games on Thanksgiving and Christmas in Philadelphia stretched back at least to 1889 when the first organized league in the city, the five-team Pennsylvania Football Union, organized two Thanksgiving games. The first took place in the morning at Wayne Junction and featured Frankford against the North End Club. That afternoon, “the North Enders” faced the Eddystones.
Lead-up to Thanksgiving Day
The lead-up to Thanksgiving in 1913 began with cup and league games the weekend before on Saturday, Nov. 22.
In American Cup play, Bethlehem traveled to Holyoke, Mass. to face Farr Alpaca FC, an amateur side sponsored by that city’s Farr Alpaca textile mill. Just a few minutes before the end of the first half, the home team went up 1-0 but the second half belonged to the visitors. The Globe of South Bethlehem reported on Nov. 24, “On the resumption of play the Bethlehem forwards changed tactics and kept swinging the ball from one side to the other completely bewildering the Holyoke defense.” Five minutes after the re-start, Bethlehem outside right Galbraith equalized “from a cross-kick.” The Globe report continued, “It was a splendid shot and the first score seemed to weaken the Holyoke defense for on the resumption of play Bethlehem continued to press, [outside left] Fleming centering the ball splendidly and [inside right] Lewis scored Bethlehem’s second goal.” The home side responded aggressively with the visitors content to defend their lead. A few minutes before the final whistle, Fleming scored “a wonderful goal” after working his “way down the field single handed.” The game now nearly finished, “Bethlehem was content to give their strong opponents an exhibition of passing much to the delight of the spectators” and returned home the 3-1 winners.
In Philadelphia Cup play, Boys’ Club, reigning champions of the American League, defeated Wissinoming of the professional Pennsylvania League 2-0 in a game the Philadelphia Inquirer match report of Nov. 23, 1913 described as “uninteresting.” The Inquirer wrote, “It was another case of a fast young team full of energy and grit being too fast for a veteran team,” noting, “Boys’ Club always plays a corking game against professional elevens.” Future National Soccer Hall of Famer Dick Spalding scored the opening goal from a free kick in the first half.
In Pennsylvania League play, Victor and Tacony played to a 1-1 draw. In the Allied League first division, West Philadelphia bounced back from their loss to Reading in the Philadelphia Cup the week before with a 3-1 win over Kensington. Falls, who had lost to Bethlehem in a league game the previous week, rebounded with a 3-1 win over Peabody while Dissston trounced Smith AA 5-1.
In the Allied League second division, Chester’s Linwood Hibernians were crushed 8-1 by Putnam. Marcus Hook edged out Fairhill 4-3 while Manchester Unity brushed off Hope Lodge with a 4-0 win. Wanderers defeated Windsor 2-0. Three third division games were played, two of which resulted in 15 goals. The distribution of those goals was less than equitable, with Centennial defeating St. Nathaniel 5-2 and Providence crushing Edgemoor 7-1.
Seven United League games took place on Nov. 22, the winners outscoring the losers 27 goals to 5. The biggest results of the day included Bristol’s 6-2 win over Era AA, Roxborough’s 7-1 trouncing of Olney, and Christ Church’s 5-0 destruction of Vincome. In the lone Cricket Club League first division game of the day, Germantown Cricket Club defeated the Philadelphia Cricket Club 5-3.
Many games on Thanksgiving
The Thanksgiving Day holiday of Nov. 27, 1913 provided area soccer fans the rare opportunity for a slate of midweek games and 15 were scheduled for Thanksgiving morning, 11 for the afternoon. Three games stood out, a league game, a Philadelphia Cup game, and an intercity exhibition game.
In league play, Bethlehem hosted Peabody at their home grounds, East End Field, in front of 1,100 spectators. It proved to be a tough day for the visitors, the Globe reporting on Nov. 28 that Peabody was “hopelessly outclassed.” With another league match scheduled just two days away, Bethlehem elected to rest two of its star players, Galbraith and Morrison. Even with their absence, the home team was soon up 3-0. The Globe reported, “Bethlehem’s goals came in so fast at the beginning of the game that one enthusiastic fan began yelling: ‘Make it a hundred, Bethlehem!'”After allowing the visitors a goal in the first half, Bethlehem went on to finish 5-1 victors. The Globe reported, “Absence of individual stars yesterday and in all other games show that the local boys play as a part of a machine and not for self aggrandizement. The machine’s effect shows in the teams scoring ability.”
The Thanksgiving Day Philadelphia Cup first round match resulted in what the Inquirer described on Nov. 28 as the “surprise of the season” when Kensington, then in seventh place in the Allied League first division with only 1 win in five games, edged out American League leaders Philadelphia Electrics, undefeated and on a five-game winning streak in league play, 2-1. The Live Wires opened the scoring 35 minutes into the game, which was played at Boys Club Farm, now known as Lighthouse Field. Kensington equalized from a penalty kick 30 minutes into the second half after a Philadelphia Electric handled the ball in the box. The Inquirer reported, “Play was very exciting from from now on, both teams playing hard to secure the victory.” Kensington center forward Mellors was the hero of the day with the gamewinner to advance Kensington to the second round.
Perhaps the biggest game of the day was the intercity friendly between Hibernian, leaders of the professional Pennsylvania League, and Paterson True Blues, current holders of the American Cup. The True Blues were the American Cup champions after defeating Tacony in an epic three-game final that had started at the site of the Thanksgiving Day friendly, Hibernia Park at Second and Allegheny.
Some 1,000 spectators were on hand for the afternoon game and they were soon rewarded when Hibs center forward McNichol scored after three minutes of play. After seeing a penalty kick saved by the True Blues seven minutes later, Hibs outside right Burrows made it 2-0 at the 15 minute mark. Then, inside right Owens made it 3-0 before the end of the half. The visitors, who were without two of their star players, showed better in the second half but, the Inquirer reported on Nov. 28, “their forwards shot poorly on several chances.” Burrows would add two more goals for the home team to complete his hat trick before the True Blues scored a consolation goal three minutes before the final whistle and the game ended with Hibs the 5-1 winners.
Locals victorious in three American Cup games on Thanksgiving weekend, league play continues
Play continued two days after the Thanksgiving Day slate of games with American Cup games, league games and a number of exhibition games featuring American League sides who were off from league play on the Saturday matchday of Nov. 29.
Three Pennsylvania League teams were in American Cup matches and all three won big. Hibernian, fresh off their 5-1 win over Paterson True Blues, crushed Brooklyn Celtic 7-1 at Hibernia Park. The Inquirer match report of Nov. 30 called future National Hall of Famer Tommy Swords the star of the game. Along the way to scoring a hat trick, Swords was “lively as a cricket, eliminating his usual selfishness entirely and working in combination with his conferees.” The Inquirer emphasized that Brooklyn wasn’t a bad team — they would go on to reach the inaugural National Challenge Cup final where they would lose 2-1 to Brooklyn Field Club — noting that it was more a case of visitors being “exceptionally weak in front of goal…the front liners either dallying with the ball when well placed or else shooting wide of the posts.” The game was marred by an incident in which Brooklyn inside right O’Halloran, “riled” at a foul that was called against him, delivered “a stinging wallop on the jaw” of the referee and the visitors finished the game with ten men.
Victor traveled to Schenectady, NY to face Locomotive FC. It had snowed the day before and the Inquirer match report of Nov. 30 said the game was played under adverse conditions, “the field being muddy and covered with slush.” The conditions didn’t stop Victor who “outplayed the Locomotives in every department” to return to Philadelphia the 4-1 winners. The Gaynor brothers, who scored all of the Victor goals, led the team to victory, with inside left T. Gaynor scoring a hat trick. The conditions weren’t the only challenge faced by Victor.
Tacony had also made the journey north to Schenectady and easily defeated General Electric FC, 4-1. The Inquirer wrote on Dec. 1 that Victor and Tacony “were treated to a surprise, both in regard to their opponents not having inclosed grounds and also the very small sum they received for their share of the gate, there hardly being enough taken in at the box office to give the players a chance to eat, never name covering their traveling expenses.”
In Allied League first division play, Bethlehem continued to assert its superiority, crushing West Philadelphia 8-1 in front of 1,200 fans at East End Field. The South Bethlehem Globe match report on Dec. 1, 1913, described it as a “veritable bombardment of its opponent’s goal” and “the best exhibition of team work on the part of the home team that ever was witnessed hereabouts.” Five Bethlehem players tallied on the day with inside right Lewis, inside left Donaghy, and center forward Lance netting two goals each. Falls bounced back from its Thanksgiving Day loss in Bethlehem with a 1-0 win over Kensington and Smith AA defeated Reading 1-0.
In Allied League second division play, Windsor, Putnam, and Wanderers were all winners. Linwood Hibernians also won, rebounding from their humiliating 8-1 Thanksgiving Day loss to Putnam with a 6-2 win over Hope Lodge. Centenary continued its winning ways in the third division with a 5-3 win over Providence while Edgemoor got on the win column with a 4-1 victory over Falls YMA.
It was another goalfest for the winning teams in the United League, the victors outscoring the vanquished 30 goals to 4. While first place North Philadelphia extended their unbeaten streak to nine games with a comparatively modest 3-0 scoreline, fourth place PHL defeated 13th place Olney 12-0.
In the Cricket Club League first division, Philadelphia CC defeated Moorestown 3-1 and Germantown CC topped Merion 2-1.