The ink-stained Milt Miller

I'm a retired newspaperman, so it's not surprising that many of my soccer heros are people more famous for writing about soccer than for playing it. Some of those heros are contemporaries of mine, such as Colin Jose and Alex Yannis. Others are people from years ago whom I never met and know only as a reader. Perhaps the foremost of those is Milt Miller. Newspaper coverage of America soccer has grown steadily since the days of the NASL to the position it holds today, but there were some very good sportswriters covering soccer in a number of cities even before the advent of the NASL in the late 1960s. They included Dent McSkimming and Bob Burnes in St. Louis, Jack Johnston and George Fishwick in Chicago, George Butz and Levi Wilcox in Philadelphia, George Matthew Collins in Boston, Tom Connell in Newark, Frank McGrath in Fall River and Harry Fairfield in Pittsburgh. In New York, there were several, most prominently Bill Graham, Wolfgang Besser, Joe Marcus and Milt Miller.

Milt Miller worked for a lot of different New York publications in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, sometimes as a full-time staff member and sometimes as a stringer. The most significant of those publications were three daily newspapers, PM, the New York World-Telegram and the Long Island Press. He also contributed numerous articles to the "Bill Graham Guides" published from 1948 to 1969. Along with his wife, Irma Ganz, he edited a monthly newspaper, Soccer News, which was published from the late 1940s to the early 1970s. Miller died in 1969 at the age of 58, but his wife continued the paper for several more years after his death.

At one time or another, Miller occupied several other positions, most notably as a broadcaster with the Voice of America, as editor of several labor-union publications and as part owner of the New York Hakoah-Americans of the American Soccer League. He covered soccer or the Long Island Press for 25 years. His last column there was printed on Dec. 14, 1969, the day before he died. The column was about the importance to the then-fledgling North American Soccer League of a New York franchise. Miller quoted NASL commissioner Phil Woosnam as saying foresightedly that "In about 10 years time, New York should be the most famous soccer club in the world." This was a year before the founding of the New York Cosmos. A few days after Miller's death, Long Island Press sports editor Mike Lee wrote about Miller in his column, referring to his "dedication, accuracy and genuine regard for the little people."

Miller's obit also reveals two other obscure items. One is that his funeral was at the same funeral home that had been run a few years before by eventual New York Cosmos boss Steve Ross, the first stop in Ross' business career. The other is that Miller was the brother of legendary baseball labor leader Marvin Miller.

The "Milt Miller Collection" is second in size only to the "Sam Foulds Collection" in the archives of the National Soccer Hall of Fame (which are now in storage in North Carolina), occupying 30 large archival storage boxes and three smaller boxes.

There were a great many people in a variety of roles who had a part in keeping American soccer alive through its dark decades in the middle of the 20th century. Most were players, coaches or officials, but some, like Milt Miller, were writers.