By Fred. S. Nonnemacher
When tonight at midnight the curtain is rung down on the year 1918 it will bring to a close the most chaotic year for athletics inscribed in the annals of sports in this city. These conditions, brought about through the great world war were greatly added to by the ravages of the influenza epidemic which was instrumental in almost completely wrecking one seasonable sport. With the dawn of the New Year the followers of athletics will sit back with ease and almost feel assured that never again will these same conditions be encountered and that in all likelihood sporting events will flourish as great, if not greater, than ever before.
Despite these many setbacks, Bethlehem probably enjoyed a bigger sporting year than the majority of other cities. In baseball it can be truthfully said that only due to the war were the fans afforded a brand of baseball never before equaled and ranking with major league baseball. While in this sport Bethlehem was treated kindly, football suffered a complete reverse to the prosperity enjoyed in the great national pasttime.
[HERE I CUT A LOT OF TEXT WHICH DESCRIBES FOOTBALL.] Today in St. Louis, the Bethlehem soccer team will again defend its title against an All-Star aggregation gathered together from among the star players of that city. Local enthusiasts are confident that Bethlehem will be returned a winner but contend the champions must extend themselves to their utmost to accomplish the feat. The narrow escape from defeat in the game on Sunday, when a draw was snatched in the closing minutes of play indicates that the champions will not have everything their own way. The St. Louis team has been schooled along the same system of play as their visitors, which has greatly worried the Champs. The game will be the last of the exhibition contests in the Middle West and immediately after the contest Manager Sheridan will pilot the players back home and prepare for the hard league and cup competition games that are to follow.
Since Philadelphia has become the hot-bed of the East for soccer, some prophets in that city are determined to underestimate the ability of the Bethlehem team and although the latter has time and again proven its superiority over Quaker City organizations by administering defeat on the playing field, they are loth to give the champions their full quota of praise; digging up various brands of alibis to ease up the sting. At the pace the United States champions have set this season it will probably take a good many more years before they are dislodged of the honors. It is quite t rue that several of the players are veterans in the game and a likelihood that they will slow up somewhat as the years roll by. But it must also be remembered that Business Manager Sheridan is not the kind of pilot that is caught napping and at present has a string of reserve players that can be injected into the line-up and cover the positions with the same ability as his regulars. The Merchant A team, composed of shipbuilders at Bristol, is the idol of the Philadelphia fans who in comparing the outfit with that of the champions size up the newcomers in soccer circles like this:
"Taking into account the splendid playing of the Merchant Team A all season it is inconceivable to believe that they are not as strong as the champion Bethlehems. When the Bethlehem team organized it was nothing more than a strong amateur eleven and it took two or three seasons before manager Lewis got together such a star combination. As this is the first season for the Merchants, the latter management deserves all the more credit. What Merchant will do when they are in the field three years is problematic. There is this much to be said in their favor, however, that the team sporting the Harriman colors is one that will take some beating in the American cup series."
We likewise congratulate the management of the Harriman aggregation on the strong team organized this year but it must not be forgotten that due to the unnatural conditions brought about by the war, the shipyards were favored in pilfering the ranks of strong teams throughout the country and that their combinations can be virtually classed as an eleven composed entirely of stars.
[CUT A REVIEW OF THE BASEBALL SEASON]
In soccer the eyes of all enthusiasts were turned on Bethlehem because of the wonderful record established by the Steel Workers in their campaigning, finishing the season American and National Cup winners and the undisputed champions of the United States. Before these honors were cornered it might be said that in only two contests was the result in doubt and these were with Disston, the apparent "jinx" of the local crowd. Disstons was the first and only team to play Bethlehem to a 1-to-1 tie on the local grounds in the semi-final of the American Cup competition but in the replay Bethlehems won, 1 goal to 0, on Disstons' grounds. The only other competition to equal that tie since was the contest with the Merchant A Shipbuilders, five weeks ago, when the latter tied Bethlehem at three goals apiece but in the two extra 15-minute periods, Bethlehem scored the winning goal. In St. Louis on Sunday, an All-Star aggregation forced the champions to extend themselves in order to earn a tie, the game being played the day after Bethlehem vanquished the leaders in the St. Louis Soccer League. Other games worthy of note for the champions were the two exhibition games in which they defeated the Canadian stars, one game played at Harriman, N. J., and the other at Toronto, Canada, and the defeat of the Joliet, Ill., team, undefeated until they came to Bethlehem.
The Blue Mountain League started out strong at the beginning of the year but finally interest lagged and following a meeting of the officials it was learned that all teams with the exception of the North Ends and Victors disbanded. A series of three games between these teams was arranged for the H. E. Leis cup and after each had scored a victory the North Ends won out in the deciding contest.
School league soccer was also inaugurated and although still in its infancy, promises to enlist a great number of followers before the season closes.