Soccer Almanac

American soccer writing, history & data.

SLPSL 1937-38 season

Feb. 10, 2022 |  Categories:  SLSL   St. Louis  

In the offseason after another problematic season, Johnny Marre took the initiative to keep the league going and associated with Charles DeWitt to re-establish the St. Louis Professional Soccer League for the 1937-38 season. The duo hoped to return to Sportsman's Park but were turned down because workers were putting up lights.

Three teams were admitted to membership - Marre's team, formerly known as Town Crier (the last remaining original team from the founding of the league in 1915), the Burke Undertakers of East St. Louis, managed by Emil Cueto, and the German Sport Club. The organization considered a plan where players would share a pool of money at the end of the season instead of being paid out of the weekly gate receipts. The shares would depend on where each team placed in the standings. The German Sport Club withdrew from the league soon after.

The league decided to go back to a traditional St. Louis method of forming a soccer league and turned back to a parish-sponsored club plan for the upcoming season. Marre announced that the St. Matthew Catholic Church would represent his team in the coming season and that the team would be known as St. Matthew's. Marre had the support of Father E. T. Ryan in building up his St. Matthew's team.

Andy Frederick, formerly associated with the Shamrocks, placed a team in the league. Sponsored by Father Jimmy Johnston, the team was named St. Patrick's after the Catholic parish of which Johnston was the head. Frederick quickly signed four former Shamrocks players to contracts, Alec McNab, Bill Watson, Billy Gonsalves, and Ray Egan.

Oscar Mossman, formerly a SLPSL referee, entered the fourth club in the league. Sponsored by Jim Delargy, the club was named the South Side Soccer Club.

The league was schedule to begin play on Sunday, October 24, 1937 with a doubleheader at West Side Park. A week prior the league held a meeting and formed a permanent organization and elected officers. Charles DeWitt was again elected president. The opening games were postponed due to the Shamrocks suit against the league and the U.S.F.A.

Phil Riley, president of the Shamrocks, sued the SLPSL and the U.S.F.A. for signing former Shamrock players which Riley claimed were still under contract with the club. Prior to the season, the U.S.F.A. had declared all the players free agents but Riley appealed that decision and the status of the four players were before the U.S.F.A. National Commission.

With the status of the Shamrocks players still up in the air, the league went ahead with its opening doubleheader on October 31. Only 500 were in attendance for the two matches. And, under advisement from the U.S.F.A., St. Patrick's did not use the four former Shamrocks players on its roster. Later that week, the U.S.F.A. reversed its decision and declared all four players to still be the property of the Shamrocks.

Bill Watson and Billy Gonsalves refused to return to the Shamrocks and were suspended by the U.S.F.A. The Shamrocks folded near the end of 1937. Gonsalves stayed in St. Louis and in mid-December signed with the Beltmar Pharmacy team in the Municipal League.

The SLPSL played its first four weekends at West Side Park with attendance averaging less than 500 per doubleheader. Starting on November 28, Thanksgiving day, the league returned to Sportsman's Park for a St. Matthew's exhibition match against Maccabee of Chicago. But the change in venue did little to help attendance with only 500 attending the St. Matthew's 6-3 loss and 365 attending for the first doubleheader of league matches on December 5.

The league schedule would run 10 games ending on January 9, 1938 with St. Matthew's easily winning the title. National Challenge Cup play began the next weekend. On January 16, South Side beat St. Patrick's 3-2 before 612 at Sportsman's Park in the First Round of cup play.

The next day, Jim Delargy, sponsor of the South Sides, announced that the team had signed eight former members of the Shamrocks team including Scotty Nilsen and Bill Watson. The South Sides were also hoping to sign Billy Gonsalves. Wilson and Gonsalves were still suspended by the U.S.F.A. Their reinstatement was expected due to the Shamrocks failure to play Sparta in Chicago in the prior day's scheduled First Round matchup.

On January 30, South Side played a practice game against St. Patrick's at Sportsman's Park as a preliminary before that day's NCC First Round match between St. Matthew's and Burke Undertakers. A crowd of 1381 saw South Sides revamped side tie St. Patrick's 2-2 with Nilsen scoring one of the goals. Burke defeated St. Matthew's 5-4 in the cup match.

On February 6, South Side would beat Burke 1-0 in the Second Round before 2500 at Sportsman's Park. Late that evening, Phil Riley of the all-but-defunct Shamrocks, released Gonsalves and Watson who then immediately signed contracts with South Side.

The next Sunday, South Side played an exhibition match against Bartunek-Slavia of Cleveland. A crowd of 1455 at Sportsman's Park saw the South Sides beat the Cleveland club 4-2 with Watson scoring a brace.

As the lone remaining St. Louis team, South Side played German S.C. of Castle Shannon, Pa. in the Western Semifinal. Without Gonsalves or Watson in the lineup, South Side lost 4-2 to the Castle Shannon at Sportsman's Park. The next morning, Gonsalves and Watson were released by South Side.

It was reported that Gonsalvees has registered with the U.S.F.A. to joih the Castle Shannon club prior to the midnight Sunday deadline in order to play for the club in future rounds of the NCC. But, the official ruling of the U.S.F.A. was that, while Gonsalves had been released by South Side, his registration by Castle Shannon bore a date of February 25 and therefore too late for him to take part in the club's remaining NCC matches.

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