Fabri Salcedo was one of the top strikers in American Soccer during the early to mid 20th century. During his career, which extended from 1933-1948, he won the American Soccer League’s scoring title three times, and was one of the most consistent scorers, as well as a fierce competitor who played with poise and intensity. This was all during the mid 20th century, a period often overlooked by sports historians due to the lack of a first division league at the time.
Salcedo was a lightning-fast striker, with an incredible eye, for the fleeting open spots between him and the goal. No defender was safe; if he did not slip around them, he’d make a beeline right through them (or over them). Failing that, he inevitably found a strategically placed teammate ready to take his pass for the quick goal. He held himself and his team to very high standards, and would often ride his linemates when he felt they were slacking off. Fabri was able to capitalize on his great ability to plan plays while maintaining excellent control of the ball. His intensity sometimes got him into trouble with officials, but he was just as quick to come to an official’s defense when being harassed by an unruly opponent, and his eye was always focused on upping the score, and going for the win.
Fabri was very generous with the ball as well, often foregoing goals when he felt a wing or midfielder had a better scoring opportunity. Despite this, he led the ASL II in scoring an unprecedented three times (1937-38, 1940-41, 1945-46), and this for a team which often struggled in the standings. He also had a propensity for scoring hat tricks, and even four-goal games. Had there been a true 1st division pro league during his career, Fabri would certainly have shone and gotten considerably more recognition. Throughout, his earnestness and enthusiasm came through; he never missed a training session, and was often the first player to arrive and last to leave. He would take any chance to play on all-star teams when hosting foreign touring teams or playing charity matches, or even playing on the US National Team in major exhibitions. His career earned him league championships, and his Hispanos won two US Open Cup championships during his career.
Fabri’s career took place mostly in the second American Soccer League,which, although semi-pro for much of its existence, was from 1933-1967 the top professional soccer league in the United States. It attracted much of the top talent in the country and includes many hall of famers on its rosters. Names such as Billy Gonsalves, Bert Patenaude, Walter Bahr, Gene Olaf, Lloyd Monsen, Archie Stark, Duke Nanoski, Johnny Souza and many others have been enshrined in Oneonta NY. Fabri Salcedo, the three time scoring champion in the ASL II’s history certainly deserves a place in the hall, and his career shows why.
Fabriciano Salcedo was born in Santander, Spain, on May 28, 1914, the oldest of four brothers (Fabri, Cecilio, Juan, and Angel). He began to play soccer at a very young age and was already well established on youth teams when he immigrated to the United States in May 1929. He quickly got his American citizenship and signed with the Segura Club of Brooklyn , and later honed his skills at Madrid FC, and Portuguese Victoria FC.
While at Portuguese, he contributed in a major way towards their Westchester County League title. Here he attracted the attention of Duncan Othen, the player-manager of Brooklyn Hispano in the second American Soccer League. Othen quickly signed him to the Hispano roster in 1934. Fabri remained with Hispano for most of his career, the only exceptions being a 1938-39 stint with Chicago’s Manhattan Beer and his final season (1947-48) with the Philadelphia Americans. He started at center, eventually moving to right forward, and was 5’10” and 170 lbs.
He completed high school shortly before joining Hispano, and soon headed to the factories. He worked full-time during his entire career, eventually becoming a machinist at Federal Shipyard and Drydock in Brooklyn from 1940-1946, moving on to the Engineering & Research Division of the ITT Continental Baking Company, where he remained until his retirement in 1979.
Fabri married Aurora Mardaras on December 3rd, 1938, and had two children, Diane and Henry. He remained an avid fan of sports of all types, and would attend as many organized soccer games in the New York-New Jersey area as he could. He tried to organize a soccer league in his hometown in the early 1950’s, and would have coached, but due to a lack of interest in soccer among local kids, the league never took off. Fabri passed away on August 25, 1985.
HIS PRO CAREER
Duncan Othen spotted Fabri Salcedo at an opportune time; the new American Soccer League was just getting off the ground, having completed its first season. after being formed from the ashes of the previous ASL. Teams consisted mainly of existing teams from metropolitan leagues in the New York/New Jersey and Philadelphia/Baltimore regions. Scots-Americans were the fabled Kearny Scots, whose history went back to the turn of the century, and which had previously had great success in the old National Association Soccer Football League, the precursor of the original ASL. Kearny Irish, featuring the famed Archie Stark won the first championship in 1933-34.
Othan’s Brooklyn Hispano, coming off a mediocre first season, finished 3rd in 1934-35, having added hall of fame goalkeeper Walter Bahr, and Salcedo, who finished 6th in scoring with 11 goals. This performance was good enough to land him a spot on the USA National team in a friendly against Scotland on May 19, 1935 at the Polo Grounds in New York.
In March of the following year, he turned in his first four-goal game, salvaging a tie against Brookhattan in a US Open Cup match. Later that fall, he secured his first spot for the ASL All-Stars in a match against a touring team, this time Maccabi FC of Palestine, played at Ebbetts Field. In a rematch the following year, the All-Stars were trounced 0-6. Salcedo scored in his next international touring match, as the ASL All-Stars lost to Barcelona FC of Spain at Commercial Field, Brooklyn. He had more to cheer about back with his club as Hispano won their first league championship. The 1937-38 season brought Fabri his first of an unprecedented three league scoring titles, with 17 goals in 16 games. He began to become prolific in hat tricks, including a 3/13/38 three-fer in an upset victory over Brookhattan.
Salcedo’s first major career move came on September 9, 1938 when his contract was bought by Chicago’s Manhattan Beer for $500, a large sum in those days for a single player. His contract, one of the most lucrative at the time, guaranteed him at least $35.00 per week. His previous contract with Hispano had paid him $13.00 for each home game, $12.00 for each away game. He was also guaranteed a job at the Manhattan Brewery. Here he was teamed up for the first time with the famed Billy Gonsalves, “The Babe Ruth of American Soccer” who was just coming into his prime. They clicked immediately, culminating in a 10-0 romp over Davenport, Iowa, in which both Gonsalves and Salcedo scored four goals apiece. This highly successful season was capped by an enormously successful run in the US Open Cup tournament, capped by victories over Batrunek Slavias of Cleveland 3-2 (Salcedo scored and assisted), and Morgan-Strasser of Pittsburgh 3-1, to reach the Cup final. The victory over Morgan had been a hard fought tie until Morgan’s Donelli, after being warned for pushing Salcedo, deliberately pushed Billy Gonsalves to the ground, earning a red card. Having lost their captain took the spirit out of the Strassers, as Manhattan took control for two more goals. In the final, Manhattan lost to the ASL’s Brooklyn St. Mary’s Celtic 0-1, 1-4.
The vagaries of Manhattan Beer’s signing of Salcedo led to a dispute back in the ASL at the start of the 1939-40 season on September 20, when the Kearny Scots signed Salcedo to play in a game against his old team, Brooklyn Hispano. Hispano protested, claiming they still had rights to Salcedo in the ASL, whereas the Scots claimed the USFA (Now the USSF) had OK’d him as a free agent, and that he had been legitimately signed by Manhattan Beer. The League did not see it this way, awarding the game, a 3-0 Scots victory, to Hispano, and fining the Scots $25.00. Returning to Chicago, he scored during a highly touted exhibition between Manhattan Beer and Lindell Trusts of St. Louis, which started off the St. Louis league season. This game was a stunning upset over the favored Lindell team, and earned Salcedo and Gonsalves the respect of the local St. Louis fans. Despite this successful start, Salcedo signed a week later with the Danish-American club of the National Soccer League of Chicago, an unsuccessful experience shortly followed by his return to Brooklyn Hispano.
In the 1940-41 season, Salcedo returned to form, scoring hat tricks in abundance as well as another four-goal game on October 7 against Passon Phillies during a 6-3 romp. Salcedo earned his second scoring title with 29 goals in 21 games, as Hispano improved to 5th in the league. By this season, Fabri Salcedo was the highest paid player in the league since its 1933 revival. On March 23, Salcedo played for the New York All-Stars in one of the most significant upsets to that point in US soccer history, a 3-1 upset of Brazilian defending champion Botafogo before 10,000 at Randall’s Island, New York (now Downing Stadium). Botafogo was coming off a 4-2-0 record in their recent tour through Mexico. The hero of this game was Goalie Stan Chesney, who held the line until the All-Stars got their offense going.
Earlier in February, Salcedo played for the Hispanos in the debut game of indoor soccer at Madison Square Garden. The game was fast-paced, exciting and full of fights, one newspaper describing it as “soccer blended with Fistiana”. The major challenge to the game was the concrete playing surface, leading to constant slipping and the threat of injuries; hence the experiment was soon dropped.
In September 1941, Salcedo’s new contract paid $25.00 per game, with a $50 bonus if Hispano won the league title or the US Open Cup (then called the National Challenge Cup); $25.00 for league 2nd place or US Open Cup Eastern final, and $15.00 for each Lewis Cup or Open Cup game. Early that season he made his debut in goal, making some good saves while subbing for Gene Olaf. In March, a Brooklyn – St. Mary’s matchup yielded a unique double hat trick, the feat accomplished by Salcedo and St. Mary’s Duke Nanoski. Apparently not wanting to steal each other’s limelight, these two future hall of famers unwittingly coordinated their scoring, with Nanoski bagging his goals within thirteen minutes in the first half while Salcedo landed his first after halftime. The game ended fittingly, in a 5-5 draw.
Salcedo scored two goals in a major international friendly, in May 1942 for the Metropolitan All-Stars in a match against Mexico’s Atalante club. Atalante, an 18-time MFL champion, featured three of Mexico’s top players, Fernando Garcia, Leonardo Munloch and Martin Vantoira, whose combined salaries topped $100,000; the entire roster topped $300,000. That was followed by one of his several charity appearances for the USO. This fund raiser featured all-star teams from the ASL and the German-American Soccer League. Despite his impressive game performances, Salcedo finished 9th in scoring this season, partly due to missing several games due to a leg injury.
The 1942-43 season was memorable; Fabri was reunited with former teammate Billy Gonsalves, and the two became a major scoring tandem, and the Hispanos immediately took control of the league table. In December, Fabri had his first hat trick of the season. This despite the fact that the field was in terrible shape; after Christmas celebrations, the temperature had tanked, the mud freezing into ridges that turned the field into a giant pinball arcade. His first goal came at the end of a slow first half off a loose ball. In the second half, Billy Gonsalves made a bad pass which took an odd bounce, and was picked up by Salcedo, who, after slipping by goalkeeper Yingling, was able to slip it in easily. His third goal was more conventional, coming off of assists by Pruha and Gonsalves. Hispano won the league title, on the strength of Olaf, Salcedo and Gonsalves. Hispano capped their league triumph with their first US Open Cup title.
The road to the cup included Salcedo’s two-goal performance in a 3-1 victory over Kearny Celtic, and his single goal in the 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Americans in the Eastern final. The championship game was against Morgan Strasser of Pittsburgh in a marathon. Salcedo started the scoring off an excellent pass from Enrique Quinones which he shot right past Morgan goalie Albert Dayor. The logjam couldn’t be broken, and the teams remained tied through FIVE overtimes. The referee, noticing players nearing exhaustion, called the game, and they played the rematch the following week, where the Hispano were victorious 3-2. The newspapers of the time claimed this was the first “double” a team winning the league and cup titles in the same year, but subsequent research has shown this not to be true.
Hispano again defeated Kearny Celtic in the Open Cup the following year, 1944, with Gonsalves, Johnny Pruha and Salcedo contributing towards a 3-0 shutout. In the final, attended by over 12,000 at the Polo Grounds, Kearny shut out Morgan Strasser 4-0. During this season, Salcedo joined a brief player walkout, but eventually crossed the line to rejoin the team. Brooklyn, having fallen to 4th place this season, would start to flounder, dropping yet again, to 8th place the following season, even as Salcedo climbed to fourth in league scoring. A major highlight of this season was his goal in a major all-star charity match between Brooklyn Hispano (as defending Open Cup champions) and an all-star team from the National League of Chicago, played at Wrigley Field. The all-star players represented more than 14 nationalities, and the game was played before 13,000, the largest soccer crowd in Chicago up to that time. On June 9, 1945, in the first soccer game at Yankee Stadium in more than a decade, Salcedo scored both goals in a victory over ASL titlist Brookhattan in a Red Cross charity match.
Fabri returned to top scoring in 1945-46, a banner year for player and team. He scored three four-goal games this season, the first being a road match no less. He took his third league scoring title, with 24 goals in 20 games. The Hispanos lost the league title by a mere two points, but they took their first Lewis Cup. He closed this season with an appearance for the ASL All-Stars in a friendly against touring Liverpool FC at Ebbetts Field, in a rare night game.
By this time, age and wear were beginning to have an impact. Although Hispano finished in 3rd place, Salcedo dropped to 18th in scoring, and early in the 1947-48 season, Hispano released him. He was quickly signed by the Philadelphia Americans and he scored in his first match against his former team, a game Philly won 2-1. The change of scenery rejuvenated Fabri somewhat, as he got his last hat trick in November in a 4-1 rout of Brookhattan. He led in scoring for much of the first half of the season, but finished 5th. Despite not winning an unprecedented 4th scoring title, Fabri went out in style as he played a key role in helping Philadelphia win the championship, allowing him to end his career on top. After this season, Salcedo called it quits, capping one of the most successful careers in mid 20th century American soccer.