US Soccer Hall of Fame inducts five top veterans of the early 20th century
It had been felt for many years by some soccer researchers and oldtimers that many accomplished American soccer players of the early 20th century had been overlooked when it came time to induct candidates into the US Soccer Hall of Fame. This was partly due to the lack of specific criteria for determining eligibility of potential inductees, and the fact that historical data and records of American Soccer were very sparse until quite recently. As a result, many players from the early 20th century simply fell through the cracks.
But this has all changed. Several years ago the Hall established a clear set of eligibility criteria for induction of players, builders and veteran players. In addition, the Hall has acquired and preserved a large volume of historical records which has led to vastly improved documentation of player careers throughout the 20th century, and facilitated the development of eligibility lists. With the recent NASL inductions and those from the Veterans committee, many important players have now been enshrined.
The remaining gap has been players of the early to mid 20th century. This gap was filled by the special induction of the “Magnificent Five” in August 2005. Out of a total of 150 players who met the eligibility criteria, the panel unanimously recommended, and the Board approved, the special induction of these five players. All are from the decades prior to 1950 and all are now deceased. More information on the Magnificant Five may be found at the Hall of Fame’s official website.
TOMMY “Whitey” FLEMING
Born: Beith, Scotland in 1890
Died: Quincy, Massachusetts, March 19, 1965
“Whitey” Fleming was one of the outstanding wingers of his day.
Born in Beith in Ayrshire, Scotland, he played for his local team in the Ayrshire Cup final of 1906-07 before crossing the Atlantic to the United States in September 1907. In the U.S. he joined the Fore River shipyard club of Quincy, Massachusetts, winning the New England League and Cup in his first season over such famous teams as Fall River Pan-Americans. But after playing for a number of years in the New England League he was encouraged to return to Scotland where he joined First Division club Morton.
He returned to the U.S. before the start of World War I in 1914 and the spring of that year won the American F.A. Cup playing for Bethlehem Steel at outside left. The American F.A. Cup was the championship trophy of the American Football Association formed in Newark, New Jersey in 1884 and first played for in the 1884-85 season. It was to be the first of a long line of cup wins for Tommy Fleming. With the great Bethlehem Steel team before 1920, he won the American F.A. Cup four more times in 1916, 1917, 1918 and 1919 for a total of five. In addition he was a member of the team that in that same era won the U.S. Open Cup four times starting in 1915 and then again in 1916, 1918 and 1919.
When the first American Soccer League was formed in the summer of 1921 he became a member of the Philadelphia F.C. a team that was really Bethlehem Steel, but included some players from other Philadelphia teams. That team won the first ASL championship. In the summer of 1922 he returned to New England and joined the J & P Coats team of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. That team won the second ASL championship.
He remained with the Threadmen for the 1923-24 season before moving on to Boston for the start of the 1924-25 season. In Boston he joined a Wonder Worker team, known sometimes as the “Woodsies” after the teams owner, and contained many well known Scottish First Division players. Boston became a power in the league and won the ASL championship in the 1927-28 season. He also won the Lewis Cup, the ASL cup competition as distinct from the league, with Boston in 1927 and the one-time American Professional Championship in 1925 against the Ben Millers of St. Louis.
Fleming finished his playing career in Boston having won the American F.A. Cup five times, the U.S. Open Cup four times, the ASL championship three times, the Lewis Cup and the American Professional Championship. In the American Soccer League he played 234 games and scored 94 goals.
Born: Gourock, Renfrewshire, Scotland, December 27, 1895
Died: St. Louis, Missouri, April 3, 1960.
A key figure in American soccer from 1924 to 1938, McNab, a Scottish international winger, was one of the greatest players in American soccer history and starred for American Soccer League teams in Boston, Fall River and New Bedford, before moving west to St. Louis where he continued his career with three more outstanding teams.
McNab came to the U.S. from Scottish First Division club Greenock Morton in 1924 following a dispute over wages. Talking to a reporter with the Glasgow Sunday Post he said. “Take my own case. I was offered only four pounds a week. I don’t think that’s anything like a decent wage. And when I asked to be put on the transfer list I was told a sum that nearly took my breath away. It was more than 1500 pounds.” McNab continued. “Fifteen hundred pounds, who’s going to pay that for me? It was obvious that the sum was prohibitive and that I was being so tied down that I could not do other than sign for Morton. Well I was determined not to do that. I went to my work in the engineering yard and one day a cable from the other side arrived. It was an offer of round about 12 pounds a week, to work and play football. I jumped at it. Booked my passage. Made no secret about where I was going, and here I am.” he said as he talked to a reporter on the deck of the liner Marburn as it sailed down the Clyde.
McNab’s career with Morton began in 1916 and in five peacetime seasons he played 190 Scottish League games and scored 37 goals for them before crossing the Atlantic. He was also a member of Morton’s Scottish Cup winning team in 1922. During his Scottish career he also played twice for the Scottish national team in 1921 against England in Glasgow and Ireland in Belfast.
He caused a sensation when he left Scottish soccer at the height of his career to join Boston and his departure was considered a great loss to Scottish football. In the Hub he was an instant success in a Wonder Workers team loaded with Scottish First Division players. In the spring of 1925 he was a member of the Boston team that won the one-time American Professional Championship over the Ben Millers team of St. Louis in a three game final between the winners of the American Soccer League cup competition and the champions of the St. Louis professional league.
During his time in Boston McNab was responsible for the development of the legendary Billy Gonsalves who was his right wing partner. The two, along with right half Bill McPherson, formed one of the greatest right wing triangles in U.S. soccer history. He was a member of Boston’s ASL championship winning team in 1927-28 and the ASL Lewis Cup winning teams of 1925 and 1927. A switch to Fall River in the summer of 1928, to join the Marksmen, brought more success including championship winning medals in the 1928-29 and 1930 seasons and U.S. Open Cup winning medals in 1930 and 1931. When Fall River owner Sam Mark moved his team to New Bedford in 1932, he won his third straight Open Cup winners medal as the Whalers defeated Stix, Baer and Fuller of St. Louis.
This victory prompted a move west to Missouri and in the spring of 1933 he joined Stix, Baer and Fuller as player-coach a switch that was to bring even more success. In moving to St. Louis McNab took Gonsalves, McPherson, Werner Nilsen and Billy Watson from New Bedford with him. Owned by a St. Louis department store Stix, Baer and Fuller won the Open Cup in 1933 and 1934. Then when the department store dropped its sponsorship he won with the same team sponsored by Central Breweries of St. Louis in 1935. Six straight Open Cup championships.
The team was renamed St. Louis Shamrocks in 1936 but still reached the Open Cup final only this time McNab and his team-mates were on the losing side being beaten by Philadelphia German Americans. A second Open Cup final defeat followed in 1937 at the hands of the New York Americans. He played the 1937-38 season at the age of 43 for St. Louis South Side Radios in the St. Louis league before hanging up his boots. When he was not playing soccer McNab worked for Stix, Baer and Fuller in the department store, first as a cigar salesmen, and later, for over 20 years, as a sporting goods salesman.
He died of a heart attack while playing golf at the Creve Coeur Country Club in St. Louis. One of his sons Peter followed in his footsteps playing in the American Soccer League of the 50’s.
In today’s world Alex McNab would have been considered to be a marquee player. American soccer fans went to see McNab play in the same way that in later years they went to see Stanley Matthews and Pelé play.
Born: Johnstone, Scotland in 1905
Died: Yonkers, New York, November 30, 1984
The number two all-time goalscorer in the first American Soccer League, behind Archie Stark. Nelson joined the Brooklyn Wanderers toward the end of the 1923-24 season from Yonkers Thistle of the New York State League.
He played for Brooklyn from then until March 1928 when he was traded to Fall River for George Graham. Nelson’s stay at Fall River was short, and early in the 1928-29 season he moved on to J & P Coats of Pawtucket. But once again failed to settle and soon found himself back in New York playing for the Nationals.
But wherever he went Johnny Nelson scored goals, 10 in 14 games for Fall River Marksmen, and seven in 12 games for J & P Coats. Altogether Nelson scored 223 goals in his ASL career in only 250 league games, plus 11 in the U.S. Open Cup and 16 in the Lewis Cup competition. In the 1929-30 Atlantic Coast League season he was the league’s leading goalscorer with 39 goals in 33 games.
In the trial games leading up to the selection of the U.S. team to play in the first World Cup in 1930, Nelson scored twice for the New York Nationals against the World Cup team.
In 1929 he won the Lewis Cup with the Nationals in a three game series against New Bedford Whalers, for despite his goalscoring prowess the teams he played for did not win any major titles, which makes it all the more remarkable that he scored so many goals.
At the end of the 1930 ASL season the Nationals changed their name to the Giants and in a game against Fall River on April 5, 1931 a serious knee injury ended the career of Johnny Nelson prematurely at the age of 26.
His playing career over he returned full time to his job of designing carpets for the Alexander Smith and Sons Carpet Company in New York City where he worked for 30 years before retiring in 1970.
WERNER “SCOTTY” NILSEN
Born: Skein, Norway, February 24, 1904
Died: St. Louis, Missouri, May 10, 1992
One of the great forwards of the years before World War II Werner was a member of the United States World Cup team in Italy in 1934.
Born in Norway he moved to the United States in 1923 and played for the Norwegian-Americans of the Boston and District League from 1923 to 1925 and the Hub F.C. in the 1925-26 season before joining the Boston Wonder Workers of the American Soccer League in the summer of 1926. He quickly established himself in the team, first at right half, and later at inside or center forward following in the line of other great Boston center forwards like Andy Stevens, Barney Battles and Johnny Blair. Known to everyone as “Scotty,” he played for Boston from 1926 until 1929, before joining Fall River and then moving on to New Bedford and finally making a home for himself in St. Louis.
With Boston he was joint leading goalscorer in the American Soccer League, with Janos Nehadoma of Brooklyn Wanderers in the 1928-29 season, scoring 43 goals in 53 games. He won the American Soccer League championship with Boston in the 1927-28 season playing at right half, and the Lewis Cup in 1927 while playing at inside right. He played 239 games and scored 131 goals in the first ASL, placing him 10th on the all time scoring list.
After moving to Fall River to join the Marksmen he won won U.S. Open Cup winners’ medals in 1930 and 1931 playing up front alongside Bert Patenaude. He won his third U.S. Open Cup medal with New Bedford in 1932 then moved west to Missouri in 1933 along with several other members of the Whalers to join the Stix, Baer and Fuller team of St. Louis. Sponsored by the local Stix, Baer and Fuller department store, the team won the U.S. Open Cup 1933 and 1934, thus making it five cups in a row for the popular Norwegian. He missed the 1935 season but was back in the Open Cup final again in 1936 and 1937 with St. Louis Shamrocks but this time on the losing side. He finished his career with St. Louis South Side Radios in the 1937-38 season.
In 1934 he was chosen to represent the United States in the FIFA World Cup played in Italy and played in both the qualifying game against Mexico and in the first round game against Italy.
In 1928 he toured Scandinavia during the summer months with a Norwegian-Swedish American All-Star team playing under the name of the New York club, known as Viking, and made a second Scandinavia tour in 1931 as a guest player with Brooklyn Gjoa.
Off the field he worked part time modeling men’s clothes for department stores in both Boston and St. Louis and also worked as a machinist.
He began his career in his native Norway playing for the local Grane club in Skein and was inducted into the St. Louis Old Time Soccer Players Hall of Fame in 1983.
Born: Santander, Spain, May 18, 1914
Died; Rochelle Park, New York, August 25, 1985
A prolific goalscorer with Brooklyn Hispano of the American Soccer League between 1934 and 1947, Fabri won the ASL scoring title three times.
Born on the northern coast of Spain he immigrated to the United States in May of 1929 and played for Segura, Madrid F.C. and Portuguese Victoria before joining Hispano. While with Portuguese he contributed in a major way to the team winning the Westchester County League title. It was his play for the Portuguese team that attracted the attention of Duncan Othen the player-manager of Hispano and he joined the club at the start of the 1934-35 ASL season.
In that season the team finished in fourth place and Salcedo finished 6th in league scoring with 11 goals. This performance brought him his first honor as he played for an all-star team representing the Eastern United States against a touring Scottish F.A. eleven at the Polo Grounds on May 19, 1935.
Further all-star honors followed when in October of 1936 he played for the ASL all-stars against Maccabi Tel-Aviv from what was then Palestine. On May 23, 1941 he was in the New York all-star team that upset the famous Brazilian club Botafogo 3-1 and in 1942 for the Metropolitan all-stars and the New York all-stars against the Mexican club Atlante. Salcedo also played for Hispano and combined teams against Barcelona of Spain in 1937, and Puentes Grandes of Cuba in 1941.
He won his first ASL scoring title with Brooklyn Hispano in 1938 with 17 goals in 16 games and his second in 1941 with 29 goals in 20 games. His third title came in 1946 with 24 goals in 20 games. He was a member of the Hispano team that won the ASL championship in the 1942-43 season.
The 1942-43 season was perhaps the greatest in Hispano’s long history as they not only won the ASL title, but also the U.S. Open Cup for the first time. In the first leg of the final against Morgan Strasser, from the Pittsburgh area, played at Starlight Park in the Bronx, on May 23 the teams tied 2-2 after four 15 minute overtime periods and three more minutes after which the game was abandoned. On May 30 the teams met again in a replay and this time Hispano won 3-2 with Salcedo scoring three of Hispano’s five goals in the two games. One year later the same two teams were back in the final and met at the Polo Grounds. This time Hispano won 4-0 with Salcedo getting one of the goals. This was a notable Hispano team containing some great names including goalkeeper Gene Olaff, full back Robert Compton and the legendary Billy Gonsalves.
But these were not the first Open Cup finals Salcedo played in. In 1939 during a short spell in Chicago playing for Manhattan Beer, he played in the final against Brooklyn St. Mary’s Celtic. Here too, oddly enough his forward partner was Gonsalves, but this time they were on the losing side. On April 30, 1939 in Chicago St. Mary’s won 1-0 and on May 7 the score was 4-1 when the teams met at Starlight Park.
Salcedo finished his career in the ASL with Philadelphia Americans in the 1947-48 season.
Off the field he worked at first as a machinist at the Federal Shipyard and Drydock in Brooklyn from 1940 to 1946, before moving on to the Engineering and Research Division of the ITT Continental Baking Company where he remained until his retirement in 1979.
It was said of Fabri that he had everything a good forward should have, but that his outstanding ability was in his control of the ball. Starting out as a winger, he was switched to center forward where he played with equal ability, not only leading the league in scoring but always at or near the top in assists.