Shane Nicholson
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Episode Notes: Rangers From Sea to Shini ...

Episode Notes: Rangers From Sea to Shining Sea: Fall River Marksmen

Aug 09, 2022

As discussed, I'm trying to add a bit more in terms of the overall content for everything CROpod. And with the return of my Rangers From Sea to Shining Sea series, I thought, "What better way than to add some extra stuff I may have missed or just glossed over while recording the actual show?" This is meant to be a compendium to the podcast, by the way; not everything I discussed now in the form of an article.

If you missed the new episode about the Fall River Marksmen that dropped on Monday:

(And here's the shows about Chicago 1930 and Portland 1976 if you're into this sort of thing.)

To start, a little about the development of football in New England. Here's an excerpt from a research paper, "Anything but ringers: early American soccer hotbeds and the 1930 US World Cup team," by Zack Bigalke (you gotta sign up to read the whole thing):

New England was the earliest hotbed to begin developing a soccer culture. Evidence for organized soccer in the United States dates to 1862, when the Oneida Football Club formed in Boston. Playing a version of football uniquely developed as an amalgamation of Association and Rugby rules, Oneida FC developed in the same fashion as British clubs of that era, drawing its members from the alumni of the elite schools of the metropolitan area. Belying the myth that immigrant populations were predisposed to assimilate rapidly to American culture, European newcomers to the United States were far more likely to participate in and follow sports familiar from the lands they had left behind. An increase in immigrant numbers led to the formation of clubs and competitions within Boston and expanding throughout New England in the final decades of the nineteenth century.

Teams from Fall River, New Bedford, Providence and Pawtucket began competing against one another in the 1880s, leading to the formation of the Bristol County League in 1886. In western Massachusetts, matches were organized between clubs from Holyoke and Springfield by 1889. As early as March 1888, Fall River attracted over 2000 observers for the American Cup championship match against the Kearny Rangers from New Jersey, and the 6-1 Fall River victory was reported on the front page of the New York Times the following day.

As an aside, there is a lot of very good academic research available about the early days of football in the US and Canada. You can spend tons of time looking through journals for stuff like this, or just have me do it and pick out the best bits. But the battles between New England clubs and those of the Chicago/St Louis hotbeds in this time were some epic stuff that, if you're so inclined, you can find much about. Or, again, you can pick up the little bits I drop into these podcasts.

Also, Kearny, New Jersey is, of course, still home to the Kearny RSC. Go check them out.

As I noted, the Marksmen, like our 1930 opponents in Chicago, had their own soccer-specific stadium, which was not unheard of in the day. This truly was the glory days of football in the US, an era where these clubs operated as fully professional outfits and often lured players from Europe.

However, unlike our 1930 opponents Chicago Sparta--or our 1928 opponents, an Illinois All-Star XI--we actually played at Mark's Stadium (again, not in Fall River or even Massachusetts) during our 1928 matchup.

That's over 15,000 in attendance, outdrawing both of the 1930 return legs with the Marksmen. And here's an action shot from the 0-0 draw of 3 June 1928:

Both courtesy of the excellent Society for American Soccer History website, which offers this description of the 1928 contest:

One highlight of the season was in an exhibition match with Rangers, Champions of Scotland, who were touring the United States. Fifteen thousand and five hundred fans crammed into Mark’s Stadium as the Marksmen frustrated the Scottish giants in a 0-0 draw on June 3, 1928. Johnny Ballantyne had his goal ruled offside in the last 10 minutes of play, saving the Rangers from losing. Both clubs put on a classy display for the fans while Jimmy Douglas put on a stellar performance between the sticks.

Sadly, I don't have news clippings of the 1930 matches to relay at this time, including the Polo Grounds goodbye for both sides. I plan on doing a later episode about all of Rangers' visits to the Polo Grounds so best leave most of that for now. I should point out that while Rangers had pulled off their incredible haul of four trophies to close the 1929-30 season, the Marksmen had won the first treble in the US game that same year. These truly were showdowns of giants from both sides of the Atlantic.

Archie Stark, the goalscoring dynamo of the time discussed at the end of the episode, did not play in the 30 May showdown in Bedford Park as he was still with Bethlehem Steel, or at least still under contract to the club or something. I'm not certain when he showed up in Fall River, exactly. But he was there in time to score against Kilmarnock on 15 June in front of around 4,000 spectators before netting against Rangers in New York. There is a whole lot to read about The Soccer Wars of this time between the different leagues and owners and, sadly, his story gets wrapped up in a lot of it, leading at least in part to his declining the invite for the 1930 World Cup.

You can take goal-scoring records from the era with a grain of salt, sure, but his numbers are indicative of a guy who could've done this in any league in Europe at the time, and his record against the traveling clubs of the day should put any question about that to rest. In fact, if you want to, here's a list of his 407 known goals.

One last clip: this is some footage put together by the excellent US soccer historian Steve Holroyd of Fall River's stop in Budapest to take on Ferencváros before it all started to go real bad:

In a small bit of irony--but only in the CROpod universe--the 1931 National Challenge Cup (what we now call the US Open Cup) was captured by the Marksmen in Sparta Stadium on Chicago's southside. The club, again absolutely wracked with financial difficulties at this time and playing their league matches in New York, sent only 12 men for the last match of the 3-leg final with only 10 playing. They won 2-0 over the Chicago Bricklayers to capture their final trophy.

All told, the Fall River Marksmen of 1922-31 played 454 matches in sanctioned US competitions, winning 340 and losing only 82. Thankfully, as I finished the episode noting, the hard work of football fans in the community saw the historic club brought back in 2019, and Fall River was able to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its storied side by watching them on the pitch. The Marksmen Football Club currently plays in the Eastern Premier Soccer League, a division of the National Independent Soccer Association. Their two change strips aren't bad but I recommend anyone reading this from my persuasion stay away from that special anniversary home top.

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