Soccer due no giant steps, says man who should know

Inside stuff

February 10, 1992|By Bill Tanton

Will hosting the World Cup in 1994 make soccer go in the United States?

Nick Kropfelder, who will enter the State of Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame next Monday in a ceremony at Martin's West, has spent his whole life (68 years) in soccer as player, coach and official. You can't know much more about the game than him.

Kropfelder is convinced World Cup will come and go and soccer in the United States will remain just about as it is today.

"I hope World Cup draws a lot of people and I hope we support it well," says Kropfelder, "but in the end it won't have that much effect on the U.S."

Kropfelder was a three-sport star at Mount St. Joe (basketball, baseball and soccer) and was voted the school's best athlete in his senior year in 1941.

But soccer is his first love, which is why he officiated the game for 25 years after becoming an All-American at Loyola College and playing professionally for 13 years. Kropfelder long ago saw what the mainstream sports can do to soccer.

"Baltimore had a good professional team in the American Soccer League in the '40s," Nick recalls. "We played on Sundays at Bugle Field on Edison Highway. Teams from Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York were in the league, and we traveled back and forth. But the Colts came in and by 1948 that was the end of pro soccer in Baltimore." Kropfelder then played 13 years for the Philadelphia Nationals.

Some of Nick's friends have been telling him for years that soccer is going to go in this country because of the number of kids playing. It hasn't happened yet, and he doesn't believe it will any time soon.

"The Maryland Bays had a real nice soccer team, but they had to fold," Nick says. "John Liparini couldn't finance it alone and people weren't going to put money into that.

"Kids love to play soccer because there's a lot of action and they can run around and the equipment doesn't cost much. But after college there's no place to go.

"There are three good amateur soccer teams here -- Hummer's, Kickers and La Dolce Vita. When I was a kid there were 20 good teams like those and probably 100 other teams around town."

Kropfelder is already in the Old Timers Soccer Hall of Fame and the Mount St. Joe Hall of Fame. Going in the State Hall of Fame with him will be pitcher Moose Haas, basketball's Marvin Webster and the late skater, Lois Waring McGean. Tickets for the luncheon are available from D. Chester O'Sullivan at 333-6315.

* The Lacrosse Hall of Fame never again will have a class of inductees like the one that went in at the organization's annual banquet Saturday night at the Towson Sheraton:

Ted Bauer, Roy Simmons Jr., Rick Kowalchuk, Mike French, Frank Urso and the late Don Albertson. Six men.

Next year for the first time women will be selected to the Hall of Fame. The decision was made by the board of directors. Their vote was unanimous in favor of the ladies.

Roy Simmons, coach of Syracuse, is not one to sugar-coat the game. Says Simmons: "This game is at a standstill. It's not exciting enough for the American public and it's too damn preppy."

* Baltimore-born jockey Danny Wright, who rode his first winner in 1967, was asked at Our Lady of Fatima's Sports Night if there's a young rider on the scene we should keep an eye on. In a flash he answered:

"Charlie Fenwick. He's only 17 years old, still in high school [Gilman] and he's really polished already. He comes from good stock."

Charlie's dad, Charlie Sr., is a champion timber rider and a member of the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame.

* Sam Havrilak was a useful player but never a star as a Baltimore Colt, but an admission he made at Our Lady of Fatima reveals what it means to be part of a great team: "When Jim O'Brien kicked that field goal and we beat Dallas in Super Bowl V, that was the most exhilarating moment of my life." Havrilak, family man and successful dentist, is having a wonderful life, too.

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