Soccer teams from the British navy played exhibition games in 1941 and 1949 against the Bigelow-Sanford United’s, also called the Blues or Bigelow Weavers, a soccer club sponsored by a carpet manufacturer in Amsterdam.
The Recorder reported in July 1941, “With pipers piping and a total of three bands contributing to a musical background, the Bigelow-Sanford team squeezed out a 3-2 victory over picked players from the Royal British Navy Saturday night at Mohawk Mills Park in the greatest soccer show of all time in Amsterdam.”
It was the first soccer game under the lights in Amsterdam. Rain made the field slippery.
Great Britain was at war with Nazi Germany when the benefit game was played to raise funds for British relief. America would not join the fight until five months later when attacked by German ally Japan.
Ed McKnight scored twice for the locals and Howie Dynes scored once. A sailor named Patmore made both English goals.
Before the game the sailors were entertained at a luncheon at the carpet mill cafeteria. After the game there was dinner for the two teams and dancing at the cafeteria.
The very competitive Bigelow-Sanford soccer team formed in 1893.
Gavin “Guy” Murdoch, who fought in World War I with the Canadian army, was anonymous editor of United’s PX, a monthly newsletter for team members, supporters and relatives published in World War II
Guy Murdoch was a quality supervisor at Mohawk Carpet. His grandson Gavin Murdoch, retired Amsterdam history teacher and high school principal, provided documents for this story.
There were 25 monthly issues of United’s PX published from 1943 through the end of 1945.
PX ran news, poems, fiction stories, Bible stories and comments from servicemen around the world.
Here are items from August 1943, “Harold Gotobed wants the addresses of all Club members now located in California. O.K. Harold, they are enclosed with this issue.
“Peanuts Brown sends congratulations on the Paper and says it is really swell and a surefire hit. He tried playing soccer but gave it up, as he needs both legs where he is.”
In the November 1944 issue Tony Niemczyk wrote, “I hope my day comes soon. Almost two years since I last saw Dutch Hill and I could sure use a good eyeful of the old home town.”
Dutch Hill was the nickname of the Upper Locust Avenue section of Amsterdam where the soccer clubhouse was located and where games were played at Bigelow-Sanford field, now Veterans Field.
Four years after the end of the war a team of British sailors from the frigate HMS Snipe came to Amsterdam for another soccer match against the United’s.
Seven officers and 160 men served on the warship, which anchored at the port of Albany.
In a September afternoon game at the Locust Avenue soccer field, the British beat the locals 5-3. A sailor named Wassell scored twice; sailors Clements, Sandiland and Langdon scored one goal each. Two Bigelow-Sanford goals were scored by future state Assemblyman Don Campbell; future radio personality and promoter of Italian culture Salvatore Megna scored once.
reception was held after the game at the United’s clubhouse. That night at the Hotel Peter Schuyler downtown, Howie Dynes presented a trophy to Jack Swainford, captain of the Snipe’s team.
Speakers extolled the friendship between America and England. Former Mayor Arthur Carter, a native of England, said the bond between the two nations “is the greatest force with which Communism must deal.”
Bigelow-Sanford moved its carpet manufacturing out of Amsterdam in 1955, relocating to their plant in Thompsonville, Connecticut.
The United’s soccer team disbanded in 1956.
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