A century-old tradition of soccer sprung from a mining town that belongs to history.

CARRY ON BEADLING !

Reprinted with permission from
Mt Lebanon Magazine
,   VOL. 15, No. 9

BY CLIFF TUTTLE “The Beadling mold-tough, tenacious and dedicated…”

After the Civil War, Pittsburgh quickly became the center of industrial America. Because steel and railroads needed coal, mines sprang up all over the Western Pennsylvania countryside. With everything booming, mine owners couldn’t hire enough local workers. So they brought in train-loads of immigrants, often recruited in the mining villages of Scotland, Wales, England, Germany and Poland.

And those workers brought soccer to places like Molinar, Morgan, Muse, Hill Station and Beadling.

Beadling, both mine and town, once existed at the end of a rail spur. By the turn of the century, it counted 500 residents. Sandwiched between steep, wooded slopes, it straddled a rocky creek. Painter’s Run, which formed the boundary between Upper St. Clair and Scott townships, literally streamed through the middle of town.  After Mt. Lebanon was created from Scott in 1911, Beadling  was located in three municipalities.

In old Beadling, the mine worked six days. Sunday mornings were for church. Sunday afternoons were given to sports. There were only two: baseball in the summer and soccer-serious soccer-the rest of the year. A hodgepodge of nationalities were divided by a half-dozen languages and cultures. Their common bond was a game.

The mine closed in 1923, and the men of Beadling found work elsewhere. The village and its people were gradually assimilated into the suburbs that sprang up all around. Yet Beadling soccer lives on. There’s a story in that.

KEEPING THE TRADITION ALIVE

This legacy is carried on by the Beadling Soccer Club. For a long time, the unofficial headquarters of the soccer club has been the Beadling Sportsmen’s Club, an inconspicuous, red-brick building on Painter’s Run across from Walt’s Tavern. Part of the building was originally the mine’s machine shop. The main entry to the mine, sealed for more than 70 years, is physically located inside the building.

The Sportsmen’s tap room serves as the soccer club’s trophy room. Tall glass cases are filled with silver cups, plaques and other mementos of past days of glory. But the soccer club does more than remember the past.

Today, the club has an annual budget exceeding $80,000 and 300 boys and girls age 13-20 play on its 18 youth teams. Eight of those teams won 1995 state championships in their respective age classifications. This record of achievement consistently surpasses all Pennsylvania rivals and places Beadling among the elite youth soccer programs in the nation.

Dennis Kohlmyer, 43, the club’s director exemplifies the vitality of the Beadling tradition. Growing up in Bridgeville, he played on Beadling junior teams. He won a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, where he was an all-conference player. Like his father and grandfather, he played on Beadling senior teams, contributing to a string of league and cup championships in the ’70s and ’80s. In 1975, he played professionally for the now-defunct Pittsburgh Miners in the American Soccer League. He coached at Pitt and Robert Morris, as well as several high schools. Today he is head coach at Peters Township High School and an assistant coach of the Pittsburgh Stingers, Pittsburgh’s current professional soccer team.

His son, Neil, 12, and daughter, Lesley, 16, are fourth-generation Beadling players.

In the early 1980s, Kohlmyer organized the Beadling Soccer Hall of Fame Committee to “bring together past and present,” he says. But he is quick to point out that his mother, Ruth, who died in 1986, was responsible for much of the awards program’s success, “single-handedly coordinating everything.” The committee held its first banquet in 1984, where it began the practice of inducting several Beadling stars into the hall of fame each year. Inductees are honored on plaques similar in design to those in the professional baseball and football halls of fame. There are currently 29 members and, says Kohlmyer, there are still a number of hall of-fame caliber players awaiting their turn.

This year, Kohlmyer himself was inducted into the hall, joining his father, Walter “Jim” Kohlmyer. Inducted along with him was a contemporary and former team mate with an equally famous Beadling name, Joe Luxbacher. Luxbacher, who Kohlmyer calls “instrumental in the success of his teams – he could strike the ball very hard, with either foot,” joined his grandfather, Joe, and father, Fran, in the hall.

THE BEADLING MOLD

John Hallam is generally credited with organizing soccer at Beadling. Little is known about Hallam, who was probably a miner. Hallam managed the team during the late 1890s until 1901 or 1902. He was most likely a player-manager, Kohllmyer notes, a common practice in an era when men continued in competition into their 40s.

A century ago, the support of the mining companies was critical to soccer’s success. In addition to financing the teams, the companies gave players special privileges,often assigning them to locations in the mine where it was easier to cut and load coal. Since miners were paid by the carload, this amounted to extra pay.

The best player in early Beadling history was a miner named John Robson. Robson, an English immigrant, was big, rough and skillful. He led Beadling to several championships and was named captain of the Pittsburgh Press All-Star Team. His career was cut short when he was electrocuted in the mine shortly after his second son, Tim Robson, was born. Tim, who began playing in the late 1920s, is in the hall of fame with his father.

Joe Luxbacher, grandfather of Kohlmyer’s team- mate, Joe, took over management of the team from Hallam in the early 1900s. A big, tough fullback, Joe Sr. eventually became a Mt. Lebanon policeman. He was a founder of the Sportsmen’s Club and an important supporter of Beadling Soccer throughout his life.

Fran Luxbacher – Joe Sr.’s son and Joe Jr.’s father – was a halfback who later served as an Upper St. Clair commissioner. Ed Zak, Mt. Lebanon’s longtime building inspector, grew up in Beadling and played with and against Fran Luxbacher. “He was a gentleman on and off the field,” says Zak, who is now retired and lives on Cedar Boulevard.

Ken Ball played junior ball for Beadling in 1946 and 47. He co-captained the ’49 Mt. Lebanon High School soccer team, became an All-American center halfback at Slippery Rock University and played soccer all over the world with the Armed Forces Soccer team. Ball recalls Beadling’s Bressanelli clan, which produced five players, including three hall of famers.

John Bressanelli and his four sons, Jack, Jim, Jerry and Gene, “were all tough as nails,” says Ball. “The Dad had huge, ham-like hands with fingers about an inch around. Once he put a finger on my chest. It felt like a sledge hammer.” The Bressanellis were mostly plumbers. Jerry became the president of Canton Drop Forge Co.

Then there were the Delaches. Joe, the father, “would run into a wall if it would help the team,” Ball says. He was known as “Joe Beadling.” His son, Don Delach, “had tremendous stamina – could stay with anyone.”

The list of families in the hall goes on with names like Al Lorenzato Jr. and Sr., and the Vanzins – John “Bones,” who coached the 1952 national Amateur Cup championship team, and his nephew, Dan.

The 1952 championship team is well-represented in the hall. Ken Ball, Jim and Jack Bressanelli, Don Delach, George Watson Jr. and Al Lorenzato Sr. all played for Beadling that year.

Raymond “Gus” Aitken, now retired from Mt. Lebanon where he was first a policeman and later a Public Works Department employee, is remembered for his stamina. “He never quit,” says Ball. “He had a lot of traction in the mud.”

Several baseball players also made the hall. Keith Watson was “Mr. Baseball” in Beadling from the late ’30s through the ’50s. George “Smokey” Smith was an excellent pitcher.

Other hall offamers include Sam Vieceli Jr., Bob Koch, Regis “Cass” Patter, Tony “Peanuts” Podobnik and Joe “Zep” Bombassaro.

CASTING THE MOLD

When Beadling won the National Amateur Cup in 1952, the village’s population had declined from 500 to only about 200. “As small as it was, Beadling always had more players than places on the team,” Ball says. Veterans of the Beadling program attribute much of its success to the closeness of the community. Everybody knew everyone else in town, including nicknames. One GI sent a postcard home during the war addressed: “Patcheye, Beadling, Pa.” It was delivered.

“There wasn’t a soul in this town who didn’t have a nickname,” says Zak, who admits to “Eddie Spaghetti.” Patcheye had an uncle called “Badeye.” A few others were “Crazy Jack,” “Hobo” and “Cheeso.”

But the relationship among Beadlingers ran deeper than knowing each other’s nicknames. The whole town was like one family. Beadling people took care of each other.

Ken Ball illustrates this with a story about his uncle, Jim Ball, who got a job as a custodian with the Mt. Lebanon School District during the Depression, when few in Beadling were working. He recalls that his aunt and uncle would buy two 25-pound sacks of flour. They’d keep one and divide the other into five pound sacks. Then, “we’d just drive around, put it on someone’s front porch, knock on the door and leave,” Ball says. “We’d do that week after week.”

Because there were few automobiles, people did their shopping and socializing without leaving the neighborhood. There were several small grocery stores, one of which was Zak’s Market, on the first floor of the house where Ed Zak and his brother, Joe, who became a butcher, lived. (The market closed in 1985, but the house still stands on Painter’s Run Road.)

In the ’30s and ’40s, the hub of Beadling activity was the train station. It was located in a level area along Painter’s Run across from the intersection of McMillan Road. A row of one-story, white-brick commercial buildings sits there now.   Back then, it was a long frame structure divided into individual units, including the post office. One unit was the home of Frank Canary; so-called because he kept a number of birds, Zak says. Another housed the butcher shop owned by Troney Telepi.

“Troney used to tell his girlfriend, Rosie Cheese, who worked in the shop, “When you’re cutting up my meat, just make sure you don’t get any of your snuff in it,” Zak says.

Saturday nights, Rosie Cheese ran a dance hall in the unit next door.  There was a live band, typically a sax, an accordion and drums.   Zak’s brother performed in one of the bands, and Zak remembers “Rosie Cheese’s” well.  “They played a lot of polkas,” he says. “The band played until midnight, and then the fights would start.”

Soccer was always a big social event. Most of the town came to home games.  Afterward, the women would cook and there would be a party.

Says Gus Aitken, the team “was the pride of the town. That’s what you lived for – to make the team.”  Ball remembers: “When we were kids in the ’40s, we used to watch the big guys play and we would chase the ball into the water so we could have one kick to kick it back.” Winning may have been a tradition, but there was a downside, Kohlmyer says, laughing. He and Joe Luxbacher Jr. were afraid to go home and face their families after a youth team loss.

Beadling teams were famous for physical strength. Rivals would comment that the players had legs like horses. Ball has a theory about those powerful limbs.  With so much hillside drainage flowing into Painter’s Run, the ground was always wet. “What really made Beadling in soccer was the mud – you were always running in mud,” he says. “And in those day’s, the balls were leather and they would absorb mud and water.”

END OF THE GOLDEN AGE

In 1954, Beadling captured the national Amateur Cup championship by defeating the St. Louis Simpkins in the Grand Final. The 5-2 victory occurred on Beadling’s home field. The winning effort featured three goals by Lorenzato and two by John Bressanelli.

After the game, the Sportsmen’s Club was packed to the doors. When the new national champions arrived, they could hardly get in. Beadling celebrated like never before, long into the night.

In 1957, Beadling fielded the team that many veterans call its best ever. It had the nucleus of the ’52 champions, with a few stellar additions. That team lost in the semifinals of the National Open Cup and in the finals of the National Amateur Cup.

But times were changing. In the years to come, as the coal industry declined and mining towns disappeared, soccer clubs in western Pennsylvania ceased to be the focus of community life. Beadling, which had lost its mine years before, made the transition naturally. Gradually, the emphasis shifted from senior teams to the youth teams that thrive today. The Sportsmen’s Club has kept the senior players together, even without a town, and they continue to teach and support the juniors.

And so a heritage begun in mining villages all over Europe and brought to Beadling more than 100 years ago still flourishes. That heritage involves toughness and tenacity as well as game skills -”the Beadling mold.” Carry on, Beadling!

© Cliff Tuttle 1995

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