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1942-43 SEASON: EL REY CHILI: MUNY LEAGUE CHAMPIONS
BOB AND HIS WIFE LOUISE TURN HIS CAREER AROUND
The 1942-43 season dramatically turned Bob's soccer career around. After a splashy start as sort of wonder-kid in 1932 and playing extremely well for a few years, the three seasons prior to 1942-43 we're not so good. My mother used to maintain that dad has suffered a bit from what she called "the big head" and through he was just too good. On her view this brought him down and he just had to change himself around, which, she claimed, he did in this season.
On the other hand, my dad and his manager Eddie McHugh had a different story. They gave a great deal of the credit to my mom. She knew Eddie McHugh and liked him. After dad signed with the El Rey she went to see Eddie and told him "Bob is being wasted at center forward. He'd be the best inside man this city has ever seen." Then, according to Eddie McHugh, she went on to make her case. He said he was astonished at her detailed knowledge of soccer and decided to give it a try. Dad never played center forward again until he couldn't run as much in his last years in semi-retirement. On dad's view my mother had turned it all around.
What is the real story? Did dad just get his head together and go forward? Did mom's convincing Eddie McHugh to shift his position do it? Was it some of both or none of either? I don't know. What is clear is that this was a water-mark season, and by the end of it Bob Corbett was well on his way to being the best inside forward St. Louis had in the 1940s and perhaps before and after as well.
The first mention of Bob Corbett in the papers in this season was a December 28, 1942 game against Jefferson-Barracks, in which Bob scored two goals.
As the season neared its end, two teams stood out as leaders. They met Feb. 7, 1943:
"With a couple of the town's best football players directing the rival teams, Eddie Begley for the El Reys and Larry Kickham for Solidarity, the game at Carondelet Park was interesting from the start. The speed of the El Rey wing forwards Joe Stratmann and Ed Sudgen, compensated in a measure for the failure of Center Bobby Corbett and his inside forward, Pete Joyce and Bill Rogles to get their mid-field game organized in the first half. It was then that the Camp team had control of the game, Harold Travis and his forward mates getting in some solid blows at Goalie Art Pagnini.
"So much smoother were the Camp players that when they took the lead 1-0 on Kickham's penalty kick, they looked good for a victory. Goalie Albrecht made a sensational stop of a penalty by Rogels, protecting for the moment the slim advantage. But, in the change of sides at half time, the El Reys were a new team. The bright sun worked in their favor, hampering the Camp defenders and the ground conditions were more favorable for El Rey forwards. It was not long before Corbett and Joyce had the ball in Albrecht's net for a pair of goals and before the final whistle, busy little Outside Left Sudgen scored the third goal." (Dent McSkimming)
The El Reys won the league and then MUNY playoffs began. On March 8, 1943 they coasted 5-0 over Schumacher II team. This Schumacher team is interesting, since it was a junior team playing senior, and later won the U.S. Junior championship, but had it taken away since some of the players had played senior. This team include Harry Keough, Gino Pariani and Herman Wecke among others.
The semi-final round pitted El Reys against the Schumachers (not their II team, but the major league team), and the Natural Set Up (whom Bob Corbett would play for in two years) were against the defending champion Rafterys.
On March 15, 1943 the El Reys defeated Schumachers 2-1, setting up the final three game series against the National Set Ups, who defeated Rafterys.
The March 15th line up of El Reys was:
March 22, 1943 the Natural Set Ups won the opener 3-1. Corbett gave the El Reys a 1-0 lead in the opening minute of the second half, but after that it was all Naturals.
March 29, 1943 the El Reys roared back 6-1, setting up the final match. In this easy victory Corbett scored one, but there were several injuries to both sides and some line up revamping was going to have to go on.
On April 5,1943 there was a breather in the MUNY play as El Reys defeated the Royal Netherland Air Force team 4-2. Since the El Reys were injury-ridden, Corbett played center half, a position he often played with El Reys since El Begley, the regular center half, was a policeman who often couldn't get off work on Sunday.
Actually Dent McSkimming was quite upset about Corbett playing. He had announced in Sunday's paper that Corbett wouldn't play (see transcribed article below), and when he played Dent blasted the management for giving him bad information!
The morning of the game McSkimming has written the article below:
JOYCE TO REPLACE CORBETT AT FORWARD IN SOCCER GAME
Bob Corbett, inside left forward on tire El Rey Chilies, will not play in Sunday's game with the whirlwind Royal Netherlands Air Force soceer team at Fairgrounds Park, according to announcement made today by Manager Eddie McHugh of the local team. "Corbett's knee Injury," said McHugh, "has not sufficiently healed to take a chance Sunday. Bob has a chipped cartilage in his right knee which he favored in last Sunday's game with the Set-Ups. He developed undue strain in the other leg resulting In a severe charleyhorses.
Joyce As Substitute
Eddie continued: "I'm not singin' inidigo, but this would have to happen just when my team is clicking 100 per-cent. I will not risk a permanent injury to Bob, although I know he would gladly get out there if I gave the go ahead, which I'm not going to do.
"I expect to use Pete Joyce at inside left. His style differs from Corbett's but I think he will fit in with our general scheme of play," concluded McHugh.
"Joyce is a strapping big fellow. He handles the ball considerably, and during his many years in soccer competition has shown ability as a top dribbler. On the other hand, Corbett is aggressive, very speedy and relies on taking and giving the ball to team members.
"Both players have been with the El Reys this season."
The El Reys finally did win the MUNY championship that year, but while Bob's bad leg didn't keep him out of the line-up, he didn't play his best ball in this series. On April 26, 1943 the El Reys beat the Nationals 3-2. Dent McSkimming reported the game in the following story.
The El Reys then entered an inter-city play off round robin to determine the mid-west champion. On May May 23rd they first lost to the Chicago Vikings 1-0, and then had to play the Milwaukee Falks. On May 30, their season came to an end when they tied Falks Wisconsin 2-2. Since the Vikings had slaughtered the Falks, they Vikings took the championship.
THE EL REY CHILI'S 1942-43 TEAM
Standing from left: Mouse Dietrieck, coach, Chubby Lyons, Bill Rogles, Ed Begley, Poplowski, Eddie McHugh (manager/coach), Jack Beckman, Pete Joyce, and Bobo Lyons.
First row: Tom Duffy, Morris Kramer, Ed Sudgen, Art Paganini, Bob Marshall, Joe Stratmann and Bob Corbett
1943-44 SEASON: EL REY CHILI: MUNY LEAGUE CHAMPIONS
BOB CORBETT'S MOST SUCCESSFUL SEASON
ALL-STAR TEAM AND VOTED BY THE FANS AS MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
The El Reys started off slowly on Oct. 25, 1943 with a 1-1 tie with the Rafterys.
Nov. 1, 1943 El Reys defeated the Schumachers 1-0, and an innovation came to soccer in St. Louis:
UNLIMITED SUBSTITUTION BEGAN
"The game was frequently interrupted by the unlimited substitution of players, under a new rule, and by the softening of the ball."
El Rey was part of a 4 team major league. They kept winning and on Nov. 15, they again beat the Rafterys.
"When Eddie Begley was unable to continue in the second half because of police duty, Manager Eddie McHugh of the El Reys surprised the fans by shifting Bobby Corbett to center halfback and keeping Larry Kickham in the forward line. It was a wise move for Corbett found himself in his new berth while the forward line was better for not have been broken up."
Again El Reys defeated Rafterys on Dec. 6, 2-1 and on Dec. 15 defeated the Schumachers 3-1.
"The great difference between the teams was better ball control and more accurate passing by El Reys with Begley, Kickham and Corbett doing the heavy work."
The El Reys first loss after 10 undefeated games was on Jan 3, 1944, a heafty 5-2 loss to the Schumachers.
The next week they were back on target with an easy 5-0 win over Camp Solidarity, and once again defeated the Rafterys 3-1 on Jan. 17th.
In this great action photo from the newspaper, Raftery forward, Joe Numi has locked arms with Bobo Lyons of El Rey. Bob Corbett stands ready behind Numi and Lyons. In this game El Rey beat Raftery 3-1.
On Jan. 24, 1944, signaling a tough MUNY playoffs, the Schumachers once again defeated the El Reys. The El Reys still were the league leaders, but Dent McSkimming, the knowledgeable soccer writer for the Post Dispatch, believed that any game played on a bad field would advantage the Schumachers.
The season concluded on Jan. 31, 1944 with an easy victory over Camp Solidarity, the league's doormat, 5-0.
16 teams from various men's leagues entered the playoff for the MUNY championship."
On Valentine's Day, 1944 the El Reys once again eliminated Schumachers II as they had done the previous year. And the next week, Feb. 21, they easily eliminated Maloney Electric 6-0. However, they lost forward Chubby Lyons for the rest of the season with an injury.
LOUISE CORBETT'S FAVORITE STORY
The crazy game of Feb. 28, 1944 provided my Mom, Louise Corbett with her favorite story. The El Reys had what should have been an extremely easy semi-final game against the Navy Ordinance team, winner of the War Workers League. But, let Dent McSkimming first tell the basic story of the game:
"A scrappy team of ordinance Plant workers were within a few minutes of victory over the Champion El Reys in a Municipal Soccer Association semi-final at Fairgrounds Park yesterday, but a penalty kick, a mob scene and two El Rey goals intervened to snatch the triumph from the war workers in a thrilling overtime struggle.
"Until the moment when Referee Joe Schultz whistled signifying a foul committed by the defending Ordinance team, near the close of regular time, the El Reys were a beaten team, 2-1. It took almost 15 minutes and half dozen police and appeals from league officials over the loud-speaker to restore order, so vehement were the war workers in their protests against the referees ruling.
"At the height of the rebellion, Harry Exler, brilliant forward, picked up the ball and kicked it over the fence. Then he and most of the Ordinance players walked off the field. Only the wiser counsel of Allie Walsh, the plant athletic director, brought the disgruntled players back and then Referee Schultz insisted that Exler had kicked himself out of the game."
"So, after the long delay, play was resumed, the ordance team reduced to 10 men, and Bobby Corbett promptly scored the typing goal for El Reys from the penalty spot."
Later Kickham scored the winning goal, 2-1
Mom always told us about this game. Very few women ever went to the games in these days, and this particular February day was extremely cold. Mom was standing on the sidelines as most fans did, only a few sitting in the bleachers. When the long delay came it was clear that Dad would be taking the penalty. As the delay dragged on, so did the tension mount over the coming penalty. By the time the game was restored, Mom was weeping her eyes out in nervousness and fright. The man standing next to her leaned over and said: "Mrs. Corbett, I'm sure as hell glad it's Bobby taking that penalty and not you.!"
TROPHY TO BE RETIRED
That crazy and lucky victory set the stage for a fantastic championship playoff between the El Reys and the Schumachers. There was a travelling trophy that went to the MUNY champion each year, and then was passed on to the next winner. If a team won the trophy three times, then they got to keep it. In the 30s the Schumachers had won the trophy twice. The El Reys had won it twice, once in 1943, but I don't know when else they won it. Nonetheless, the trophy was also at stake, and not only the championship. Mr. Schumacher very much wanted that trophy. The opening game was on my 5th birthday, March 12, 1944. This was an extremely great series, and recall, the Schumachers had defeated the El Reys in their last two regular season meetings. The line ups for the opening game were:
- EL REYS------------------POSITION--------------SCHUMACHERS
- Lanigan--------------------H-------------------K. Diaz
- Begley---------------------H-------------------O. Bohlman
- Leahy----------------------H-------------------J. Diaz
- Stratmann------------------O-------------------C. Bohlman
The Schumachers made it 3 in a row over the El Reys with a 3-1 victory, and made it seem that the El Reys may be on their way out as MUNY champions.
However, on March 27, 1944 the El Reys evened up the match, also by the score of 3-1.
"El Reys had a half-time lead 1-0, due to Bob Corbett's score from close in, a play that started with Larigan's pass to Stratmann."
Just as in the previous year, this was not going to be an easy championship to end. On April 3rd they tied 3-3. One event from that game was talked about for years after in St. Louis soccer circles:
CORBETT KNOCKS ERBE COLD WITH SHOT
"Tom Erbe was knocked cold when he caught Corbett's shot on his chin."
EL REYS CHAMPS AGAINS AND RETIRE TROPHY
Finally on April 17, 1944 the El Reys repeated as champions and Corbett stared for the champions.
DAD'S FAVORITE STORY: AFTER THE FINAL GAME:
Dad always loved to tell how Ollie Bohlman was so furious about this loss. Mr. Schumacher really wanted to win and retire the travelling trophy. So he recruited heavily, and that's how he came up with a revised team in late season, which defeated the El Reys in the last two league games and then the first playoff game. But, when the were walking to the club house at Fairgrounds Park, which was right next to the large lake, Ollie was complaining bitterly to my Dad. "Bob," he said, "you know we're better than you position by position. How could you possibly win?" Dad's simply reply, "Well, Ollie, I guess we just scored more goals that you." This so infuriated Ollie that he flung his soccer shoes way out into the lake!
At this game Bob Corbett was awarded the Most Valuable Player Award, the first time such an award was ever given. Despite the loss, McSkimming wrote:
"Bobby Corbett, who in a pre-game ceremony received the Missouri Soccer Commission 'most valuable player award,' was the most effective worker in the local forward line."
INTER-CITY PLAYOFFS AGAIN: SAME RESULT AS LAST YEAR!
On May 8, 1944 they played to a tie against the Falk team of Milwaukee, 0-0, thus ending their season, since once again the Vikings defeated Falk to win the round robin tourney. The Vikings also defeated the El Reys 2-1 in Sparta Stadium in Chicago.
The official photo of the 1943-44 El Reys Championship team is below:
Kneeling: Jim Woods, Tom Duffy, Bob Marshall, Art Paginini, Ed Leahy, John Dooley, Ray Marsek
Standing: Scotty Wilson (trainer), Ed Begley, Maury Kramer, Bobo Lyons, Dan Neaf, Frank Pastor, Chubby Lyons, Bob Corbett, Larry Kickham, Joe Stratmann, Jim Lanigan, Irv Rhinehard (sponsor) and Ed McHugh, (manager)
As mentioned above, Bob Corbett won the trophy for most valuable players. This was from a pole in the newspaper in which fans could vote for some weeks before the award. Dad was always most proud of this award since it came from the votes of the ordinary fan who went to the game week after week in all weather. Below is Bob on the day he received his trophy up in Chicago in the game with the Vikings.
In the book LETTERS FROM DOG TOWN author Mrs. Scherzinger wrote
in a May 1944 letter to her daughter about that game in Chicago. The Mrs. Corbett mentioned is
Bob's mother, Louise is Bob's wife and Catherine, his sister. Mrs. Scherzinger writes:
Mrs. Corbett came up for supper last night and spent the evening with me.
Catherine, Louise and Bob went to Chicago – Catherine and Louise left Friday atl noon - Bob and the "El Reys” left Friday night – they had reservations on train and at a hotel. Louise and Catherine went to Louise's folks and they really showed them a nice time - taking them around "Chi” sightseeing. They got back to St. Louis about 7 o’clock this morning. Bob and Catherine both stayed home from work today. The “El Reys” lost 2 to 1 yesterday afternoon (that’s when the game was played) but Louise told me when they were passing here this morning on their way down to “Mom’s” that they sure had a nice time though - Bob laughed and said “Too nice a time Sat and last Sun" - oh well they couldn’t win all the games, this one was for the Mid-West Championship which they missed out on because they had tied the Milwaukee team a few weeks ago and then lost yesterday – so that leaves them out of the running ….
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