Bagpipes at the Polo Grounds

Posted on February 18, 2013 12:17 am

Decades ago, when England and Scotland felt far more certain of their status as masters of the sport than they do today, the English FA and Scottish FA occasionally sent touring teams under their banners to entertain the fans in Britain’s dominions and former colonies. These were not the English and Scottish national teams, although the hope was that they would draw crowds almost as though they were, particularly since the organizations sending them were the same ones that fielded the real national teams. They weren’t rag-tag outfits, however. They were composed of solid first-division players, including a few honest-to-goodness internationals.

One of those teams was the England team that played the U.S. national team in New York just before the 1950 World Cup. Two more were the Scottish FA teams that played American Soccer League all-star teams in three games in New York in 1935 and 1939. References to the 1935 game as being against the “Scottish national team” abounded in New York.

The pomp and ceremony attending these three games, all of which were played at the Polo Grounds, was impressive, and of course included lots of bagpipes, kilts and Scottish flags. There were plenty of fans there to watch the ceremonies and the games. The three games drew a combined total of 65,072 spectators. In between the two 1939 games, which were played five weeks apart, the Scots-Americans of Kearny, N.J., won their third straight American Soccer League championship. I daresay there were more than a few fans from Kearny at the Polo Grounds.

The Scottish team that played in the United States in 1935 was a much stronger one than the 1939 visitors, and this showed in the results. The ASL team got the first goal of the 1935 game, when Erno Schwarz centered for John MacEwan to score. After that, it all went Scotland’s way, with Douglas Duncan of Derby County in England scoring three goals in a 5-1 Scottish victory. Willie Mills of Aberdeen and Davie Meiklejohn of Rangers had the other Scottish goals.

The Scottish roster for the 1935 tour consisted of 17 players, and 10 of them had actually been capped by Scotland. Scotland’s last game before the tour had been a win over England in Glasgow the previous month. The Scottish lineup at the Polo Grounds included four of the same 11 players as that Glasgow game. Before returning home, the 1935 Scots also scored victories over American teams in Philadelphia, Newark and Chicago. One of those, in Newark, was a 4-1 win over a team that included many of the same players as the ASL all-stars the Scots had faced in New York.

In 1939, there was a trophy included, donated by Canada and called the Dominion Cup. This time, only five of the 17 players on the Scottish roster had been capped, and two of the 17 weren’t even Scottish (one was Welsh and one English, but both played in the Scottish first division). The nomenclature was a little more accurate in 1939, however. There were fewer references to the two opponents as the American and Scottish national teams.

There were two games at the Polo Grounds in 1939, and both were tied after 90 minutes, the first 1-1 and the second 2-2. With a trophy to be awarded, overtime was played after the second game. Jimmy Carabine (above) of Third Lanark, who had scored the second Scottish goal just before halftime, netted two more in the overtime for a 4-2 Scottish victory.

This time, the Scottish tour was a game longer than it had been in 1935. The other three games, besides the two in New York, all were victories, in Detroit, St. Louis and Providence. Once again, the Scottish tour was preceded by a real international against England in Glasgow (this time a 2-1 defeat). Three of the 11 Scottish players from that game made the tour to America.

At the time of these games, the United States had never played Scotland in a real full international. When it finally did, the first two results were a 4-0 loss in New York in 1949 and a 6-0 loss in Glasgow in 1952. No overtime was needed on those occasions.

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