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Posts Tagged ‘Western Michigan University sports history’

Click this link for Part I

Click this link for Part II

Click this link for Part III

Part IV

Grandpa always enjoyed watching and following sports.  Reading his story I now understand that his love of sports began when he was young.  We used to eat Thanksgiving dinner before the game, and I first learned about sports scores in the newspaper when he showed them to me.

It’s not surprising to me that Grandpa “was a good student and athlete.”  What I enjoy reading are the details.  That he played something called “soccer (rugby)” and was on the track team.  I was never an athlete, but I did enjoy track and tennis–especially track.  Maybe when I was in high school he told me he used to be on the track team, but I don’t remember .  I wonder what his events were.  I favored low hurdles and 100 yard dash.  Other than square dancing, it was the only PE activity I had talent at, but I didn’t have the guts to pursue it outside of class.  Other than that, I was always the 2nd to the last girl chosen for the team. However, other grandchildren were talented athletes, and at least three of his great-grandchildren are very accomplished athletes.

Curious about how rugby is parenthetical to soccer, I had to look it up.  Here is an interesting history of soccer in the United States which explains the rugby connection, as well as how soccer had come to very popular at the time Grandpa would have entered high school, in the early 1920s.

From 1875-1894

After the demise of college soccer in 1876, working class communities in the US adopted the game, taking on the rugby/gridiron form of soccer. It is interesting to note that this trend took place at the same time in Europe and the US. The development could be seen in New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York City, also spreading rapidly to Fall River and New Redford (MA) by 1870s. The game also clashed with the popular sport of baseball in the US, considered as American past time.

Beginning in early 1890s, soccer witnessed an average growth in Denver, Cincinnati, Cleveland and even San Francisco and Los Angeles by the end of the century. Owing to corporate sponsorships, some leagues attained semi-pro statistics. The American League of Professional Football collapsed owing to heavy financial losses during its first season.

In 1904, FIFA was established and was seen as lack of any national organizing association in the US. After FIFA refused an American application for membership during their 1912 congress, the speedily growing AAFA members formed the United States Football Association, which was accepted by FIFA. The main aim of the association was to end the struggle between amateur and professional soccer organizations.

Three of the early dynasties of American Soccer were,

  •  The Fall River Rovers- winners of the American Cup in 1888 and 1889,
•  Bethlehem Steel, who won the American Cup in 1914, 1916, 1917, 1918, and 1919
•  And winners of the National Challenge Cup in 1915, 1916, 1918, and 1919

The 1920s are popularly known as the golden era in the history of American soccer. The establishment of American Soccer League in 1921 was a mark as there was now a league that could compete with European players.

Grandpa must have had quite a walk to get to the track meets. I wonder where on campus they were held in those years.  Read Fieldhouse didn’t exist until 1957. Waldo Football Stadium wasn’t constructed until 1939, across from the baseball stadium. However, football had been on that particular property since 1914.   Since the school began as Western Normal School in 1903, only five years before Grandpa was born, I believe that at the time he was walking there, everything was located in that area off Oakland Drive (Known as Asylum Road).  It’s still quite a hike from his home on Burdick Street.

I had no idea that Grandpa had another major injury while he was still a child. A spike lodging near his spine?! That would be so frightening–for him and for his parents.  He was an only child, so his parents doted on him very much. Then to think that he missed a year and a half of school because of the injury makes me wonder what he did for that time. Was he around his mother a lot or was she at the shop? Did his grandfather still live there?  I know that his grandfather remarried when he was two, so I need to piece together addresses to see where all the family members lived each year. It seems that Grandpa’s grandfather may have moved next door when he remarried, but I can’t yet be sure.

I’m not surprised he joined the baseball team after that as he would have been “rarin” to  go, and baseball was another very popular sport.

Finally, don’t think that his comment about his teacher, Mrs. Dilts, is just an “aside.”  Grandpa loved finance.  He loved everything about money and how it worked–finance, economics, accounting.  Therefore, I suspect that he first got bitten by the love bug of finance in Mrs. Dilts’ class.  Every night, after his Sunoco station closed, Grandpa closed himself in the bedroom that served as an office and counted the money.

I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part V of Grandpa’s story . . . .

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