Written by Steve Holroyd, with supplemental materials by David Litterer
Prior to the 1922/23 season, Holyoke (MA) Falcos and Todd Shipyards of Brooklyn withdrew from the ASL, but were replaced by two strong clubs, Paterson (NJ) Silk Sox and Brooklyn Wanderers. Also, with Bethlehem Steel playing under its own name, the league expanded into Philadelphia. As a result of these changes, the ASL started its second season as it had its first, with 8 teams. However, the league expanded its schedule to 28 games. Although only three teams actually played the full slate of games, this was mainly due to adverse weather conditions, rather than economic instability. On the contrary, the league did very well at the gate, and there was a favorable treasurer’s report at the end of the season.
The most significant change for the league actually occurred at the end of the 1921-22 season, however. Just prior to the end of the schedule, Fall River native Sam Mark purchased the floundering hometown franchise. Mark-an experienced sportsman who was very successful in promoting professional basketball in Massachusetts-immediately set about to make his team the best in the league at every level. One of his first moves was to build a stadium in North Tiverton, Rhode Island; just over the Massachusetts state line, Mark was able to thereby avoid his home state’s restrictive Sunday "blue" laws.
Having built a top-quality field, Mark then set about putting top-notch players on it. Sparing no expense, he signed away three players from Scotland. Fullback Tommy Martin and winger Tec White were grabbed from Motherwell, while fullback Charlie McGill was signed from Third Lanark. Closer to home, Mark spirited feared scorer Harold Brittan from Bethlehem Steel. These players would form the nucleus of a club that would go on to become the most dominant professional team in American history. In its owner’s honor, the club was nicknamed the Marksmen.
Prior to the season, Bethlehem Steel beefed up its championship side with a flurry of purchases. A raid of Scottish sides brought on a crew of talented players, including fullback Jimmy Young, of Dundee United; center half Tommy McFarlane and center forward Daniel McNivin, both from Patrick Thistle; Robert Terris, of Falkirk; center half Tommy Raeside, of Dumbarton; inside forward John Rattray, of Raith; and winger Malcolm Goldie, from Clydebank. McNivin showed immediate dividends for Bethlehem, averaging over a goal per game in scoring 28 to lead the league.
However, Bethlehem was not able to buy a second straight title. J&P Coats-led by former Steeler Tommy Fleming-rebounded from a miserable debut to edge the defending champions for the title, 44 points to 42. Fall River, vastly improved, also rebounded from a poor first season, finishing in third.
Another talented American keeper, Jimmy Douglas, made his debut with Harrison. Paterson’s Pete Renzulli, acquired prior to the season from the defunct Todd Shipyards club, salvaged the Silk Sox’ mediocre league season by pitching two shutouts en route to the U.S. Open Cup title.
Another league notable was Brooklyn’s Nathan Agar. Agar was a true "renaissance man" for the Wanderers; besides owning and managing the club, Agar also found time to grab a goal during one of his seven appearances as a wing forward. Agar would later be a major factor in attracting foreign teams to the United States to play ASL clubs.
One interesting tour had already taken place, however. In the fall of 1922, Dick, Kerr Ladies, the world-famous English women’s team, visited the U.S. expecting to play other ladies’ clubs. Instead, the visitors found themselves facing off against four ASL clubs. The first match was played on September 24 against Paterson, with the Silk Sox winning 6-3 before a crowd of 5,000. Dick, Kerr Ladies went 1-1-2 on the tour, drawing J&P Coats and Fall River, 4-4 and 3-3, and routing New York Field Club, 8-4. The scores were deceptive, however; reports of the matches indicate that, while Dick, Kerr played well, the men took it easy on them.
Final League Standings, 1922-23 GP W D L GF GA PTS J & P Coats (Pawtucket)28 21 2 5 68 30 44 Bethlehem Steel 28 18 6 4 56 26 42 Fall River Marksmen 28 15 5 8 53 36 35 New York Field Club 23 10 4 9 53 42 24 Paterson Silk Sox 20 9 4 7 38 31 22 Brooklyn Wanderers 25 5 5 15 24 52 15 Harrison Field Club 21 4 2 17 26 56 10 Philadelphia Field Club25 3 2 20 24 72 8 CHAMPION: J&P Coats (Pawtucket) Leading Scorers GP G Daniel McNiven (Bethlehem Steel) 22 28 Tommy Fleming (J&P Coats) 26 22 Harold Brittan (Fall River) 23 19 Frank McKenna (Paterson) 14 14 William Shepard (J&P Coats) 18 13 Johnny Reid (Fall River) 26 13 Bart McGhee (New York) 21 11 Archie Stark (New York) 23 11 Tommy Duggan (Paterson) 19 9 Percy Andrews (Philadelphia) 24 9 William Neilson (J&P Coats) 16 7 Edward McAusian (New York) 16 7 Jimmy Easton (Bethlehem Steel) 3 6 David Brown (Harrison) 20 6 John Rattray (Bethlehem Steel) 20 6 James McGhee (Philadelphia) 22 6 Willie Crilley (New York) 5 5 Albert Mitchell (New York) 7 5 Charles Lappin (J&P Coats) 16 5 Joseph Ingram (Harrison) 20 5 Leading Goalkeepers GP GA S GAA Findlay Kerr (18)/ Billy Highfield (10)(Bethlehem Steel) 28 26 11 0.92 Tommy Schofield (25)(J&P Coats) 28 30 9 1.07 Francis Higgins (14)/ Tommy Whalen (12)(Fall River) 28 36 10 1.29 Pete Renzulli (Paterson) 20 31 5 1.55 Bobby Geudert (New York) 23 42 4 1.83 John Surgenor (13)(Brooklyn) 25 52 1 2.08 John Ward (16)/ Jimmy Douglas (14)(Harrison) 23 56 3 2.44 Ness (24) 25 72 2 2.88
St. Louis remained one of the true soccer hotbeds of the country, with the SLSL second only to the American Soccer League in terms of prestige and professionalism. This year, the young Vesper Buicks rose to the top, winning the season handily. Many famous names dotted the rosters of the other teams, including Dutch Olberman of Scullin Steels and Harry Ratican of Ben Millers, but many of these were veterans and were showing their age. The legendary Ben Millers, winners of so many cups a few years ago, brought up the bottom of the league this year. Scullin, who lost center forward Cliff Brady just before the season with a broken leg, and the new Hoover Sweepers were tied for second. Scullins also mourned the sudden death of the brilliant Outside man Charlie Bechtold of pneumonia during the off-season. Although Vesper-Buick shone, overall, league play was slipping, and not up to the caliber of the previous decade.
St. Louis League teams remained popular attractions for exhibition games, and were always in demand to visit other cities where a good gate was guaranteed. St. Louis was mindful of the veteran status of many stars, and looked to land a number of international players from the influx that began sweeping the country along the east Coast.
St. Louis faced a unique challenge among US soccer leagues: Many of their best players were native born Americans who also played professional baseball. As the season winds to a close, many of them are already at spring training preparing for the upcoming season. The league faced a new challenge, with the coming of professional rugby planned for the following season. How this would affect the soccer season was unclear, but the new rugby circuit planned to play in Sportsman's Park, already used by the St. Louis Soccer League and baseball's Cardinals. Date conflicts were sure to be a problem.
Final SLSL League Standings, 1922-23 GP W L T GF GA Pts Vesper-Buicks 17 8 4 5 28 16 22 Scullin Steels 17 5 5 7 20 21 17 Hoover Sweepers 17 5 5 7 21 25 17 Ben Millers 17 4 8 5 28 35 13 Champion: Vesper-Buick Municipal League champion (Playoff): St. Matthew's won the round robin elimination, and then defeated Chicago Swedish Americans 2-1.
No games this year, as the US entered its last inactive year in a spell going back to 1916.
In the semifinals, both played on March 25, Paterson had beaten J&P Coats of Pawtucket, R.I., 3-2, while Scullin defeated Pittsburgh Arden, 2-1. The quarterfinals were Paterson 4, New York FC 1; Coats 1, Abbot Worsted 0; Scullin 3, Chicago Bricklayers 1, and Arden 1, Pittsburgh Jeannette 0.
Intercollegiate Association Football League Champion: Pennsylvania
Penn Intercollegiate Association Football League Champion: Penn JV
College All-Americans: G - Anderson, Pennsylvania RF - Garrett, Haverford LF - Castle, Pennsylvania FH - Downs, Pennsylvania CH - Smart, Princeton LH - Fisher, Yale OR - Ritchie, Haverford IR - Cooper, Princeton CF - Lingelbach, Pennsylvania IL - Boos, Pennsylvania OL - McLaughlin, Pennsylvania
1923 American Cup Final: Fleischer Yarn of Philadelphia defeated J&P Coats of Pawtucket, 2-0.
Last update: March 4, 2005
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