James “Jimmy” Dunn (b.1897-d.1987) was an outstanding American soccer player of the early 20th Century. He scored the winning goal of the 1920 National Challenge Cup final, netting a victory for his hometown Ben Millers soccer club. He was elected to the US Soccer Hall of Fame in 1974.
Before tonight, I had never heard of Jimmy Dunn. I was digging through Google News Archives, looking for first-hand accounts of Archie Stark‘s goals in his record breaking 1924-25 campaign, when I came across an article in the April 14, 1925 edition of the Pittsburgh Press titled “St Louis Field Scene of Final Soccer Contest.”
The game highlighted is a footnote in history; an interesting bit of trivia for the handful of us who are fascinated by the history of American soccer. It was, however, this note written about the forthcoming contest which captivated me:
ST LOUIS TEAM CRIPPLED
The position of the Hatters is unique. Not a few of their regular players, including Capt. Jimmy Dunn, have had since last Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Boston, to report to minor league baseball clubs to which they owe summer allegiance. Thus the ranks of the St. Louis Soccer league champions are seriously depleted.
Who were these players, I wondered, who played both soccer and baseball professionally? Did any of them go on to have baseball careers of note?
Since Jimmy Dunn was the captain of the St Louis squad, and the only player mentioned by name in that article, I searched for his baseball career records first. I don’t know for certain if this is him, but the age and the birthplace of this Jim Dunn match up nicely with the soccer star.
I couldn’t find an online biography of Jimmy Dunn that mentioned his summers on the baseball diamond. Neither could I find any mention of baseball careers of anyone else on that 1925 roster. Here is the roster of the 1924-25 Ben Millers, winners of the first (and only) American Professional Soccer Championship:
McGarry (gk); Lancaster (RB); Johnston (LB); Johnny Redden (RHB); Bill Quinn (CHB); O’Hanlon (LHB); Al McHenry (OR); Larry Riley (IR); Jimmy Dunn (CF); Hap Marre (IL); Rube Potee (OL)
Interestingly, though it doesn’t look as though Jimmy Dunn’s baseball career amounted to much, he did nearly have the opportunity to play at Ebbets Field – that is, he nearly had the opportunity to play soccer at Ebbets Field.
In 1926 Dunn led the Ben Millers to the Championship match versus the mighty Archie Stark and Bethlehem Steel in the National Challenge Cup (the tournament which is known today as the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup).
The final match was played that year in Ebbets Field, Brooklyn. Though Bethlehem Steel FC, led by Stark’s hat trick, walked away with the win, according to newspaper reports, “The eighteen thousand or more fans who jammed Ebbetts Field were treated to a spectacular attraction, and when the excitement of the close game vanished, marveled at the clever play of the Steelmen.”
I say that Dunn nearly got to play at Ebbets that day because, for some reason I haven’t been able to track down, he was not on the pitch that day.
Was Jimmy Dunn in the stadium that day? Was he lamenting a baseball career that never materialized? Sulking in the bog of missed opportunity?