On October 26, 1952 they played a double-header at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, the games were even televised locally, but you won’t find the pictures, descriptions, or accounts of those games in baseball archives. They were playing professional soccer that day and, oh by the way, my dad scored the goal that decided the feature game.
Alex Henderson was 20 years old and was playing for the Newark Portuguese in the American Soccer League. Born in Montreal, Canada, he grew up juggling a soccer ball in Edinburgh, Scotland during WWII. He was 16 years old when he came to live in America in 1948..
He starred briefly at Commerce High School in Manhattan before graduating in 1950. His senior yearbook offered him the following tribute:.
As long as I can remember Dad’s “Yankee Stadium goal” has been part of family legend. He never had a newspaper clipping or similar documentation at hand, although when telling the story through the years he often had an eyewitness present. His girlfriend, also 20 years old, was in the crowd that day. They had met about two months earlier at Palisades Amusement Park. They were married the next year and soon raised three children in East Orange, New Jersey. I am the middle child..
Dad went in as a substitute to begin the second half and, as the story goes, he scored the very first time he touched the ball. Picked a crossing pass out of the air and banged it into the back of the net. As Dad likes to tell it, “I should have quit right then, I was batting a thousand at the Stadium”..
Our family moved to Portland, Oregon in 1970. Dad is 70 years old now and lives in Portland’s Laurelhurst neighborhood..
Last spring Dad asked me to check to see if the ASL had any record of his Yankee Stadium goal. I doubted I could find anything, Dad was not even certain by then as to the exact year it occurred. However, I had previously come across a website, the American Soccer History Archives, maintained by David Litterer. I e-mailed a request for information to him..
Mr. Litterer forwarded my request on to Colin Jose, the historian at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, New York. Mr. Jose sent me a reply that contained a surprising and delightful bit of information, the New York Times had covered the ASL games and the articles were readily available on microfilm..
I subsequently made four visits to the main library in downtown Portland. Examining microfilm is a bit like spelunking, you peer inside the hollow of a cave-like machine as the pages from the past, illuminated and magnified, slide across the screen, a moving mural brought back to life as mute witness to days gone by. Three times I left the library with photocopies of pages that included articles on games where Dad scored a goal, it was on the last visit that I located the story of his Yankee Stadium goal, just in time to frame it and give it to him for Father’s Day!.
The following passage is from the Times story on October 27, 1952:.
“Hakoah fought at every turn after that, but Newark Portuguese increased its lead to 2 – 0 at 2:00 of the second half. Alex Henderson, who went in at outside left for Bill Drake, capped a slick downfield drive by beating Rothschild on a deft boot following a cross from John Calder.”
Newark held on to win 2 – 1 in the game the Times described as the “feature battle of an American Soccer League twin bill before 4,226 chilled onlookers”..
The ASL had what turned out to be a one-year arrangement to play games in Yankee Stadium. The games were televised by local station WPIX. Newark played there that one time only..
Dad’s tally at the Stadium was no fluke; he was a goal scorer. He was fast and he could dribble past defenders, feinting to either side, all the while controlling the ball as if it were on a string. His shots, hard and accurate, were “rockets”. “No matter what sport you are playing”, Dad used to tell me, “if you can control the ball there will always be a place for you.”.
Even on a Newark team that featured John Calder, a former professional in England and a leading scorer in the ASL, Dad took the penalty kicks. Mom describes a day when Dad was taking a penalty kick that would decide the game “and it was very quiet, I was holding my breath. You could see him thinking, he took his time and then the kick went in and the crowd went nuts. Millie Calder and I were hugging and on the field they were all jumping with joy. Your dad was the hero of the day and the team was happy, singing on the bus going home and what have you.”.
Another of Dad’s memories was that he scored the goal that won the Lewis Cup, an annual ASL competition that dated back to 1925. In the 1953 final Newark was up against the Philadelphia Nationals, the two-time defending Lewis Cup championship team that included three future members of the Soccer Hall of Fame, Nick Kropfelder, Benny McLaughlin and Walter Bahr..
It was a two-game series. Newark won the first game 3 – 0, with Dad getting a goal. Two weeks later Philadelphia won 3 – 1, but Dad scored again, Newark’s lone goal this time. Newark was awarded the Lewis Cup by “goal aggregate” (4 goals to 3), so Dad’s goal in the second game was the Cup winning goal..
Was it a good goal? Well, Dad was playing outside right and had drifted into the center of the field. He took a pass, beat the opposing back on the dribble and then launched a rocket that was too hot for the goalkeeper to handle cleanly; it rebounded off him and back toward Dad who was still coming, following his shot. He got to the ball and hit it again, this time into the net. Dad says, “It was a goal worthy of winning the Cup” from which his teammates allowed him the first taste of champagne..
I also found both Lewis Cup stories on microfilm and gave photocopies to Dad..
The winter rains will soon come to Portland, and I look forward to spending some drizzly Saturdays at the library leisurely reviewing other available articles about the games throughout Dad’s career. I hope to one day obtain access to microfilm of other newspapers that might have reports on the games, including those from Philadelphia and Newark..
For now my focus is Saturday, October 26, 2002, the 50th anniversary, the Diamond Jubilee of Dad’s goal at the most renowned diamond in all of sports, at the House that Ruth Built. I plan to surprise him with a celebration over lunch at Nick’s Coney Island on S.E. Hawthorne, the most Yankee Stadium friendly place I know of in Portland. There I will savor a Coney Dog while listening to my dad tell his story one more time..