Last living member of soccer team that upset England dies at 91

Walter Bahr assisted on game-winning goal in upset against England in 1950 World Cup

Greg Orlandini
June 18, 2018 - 6:01 pm
In this April 10, 2010, file photo, Walter Bahr, the last living member of the U.S. soccer team that upset England at the 1950 World Cup, speaks before an MLS soccer game between D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union, in Philadelphia.

AP Photo/Drew Hallowell, Pool, File

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A local soccer legend who helped the U.S. beat England in the 1950 World Cup died at 91 in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.

Walter Bahr was a Northeast High School and Temple University grad who went onto play for the U.S. in 1950. He died from complications following a broken hip. 

A team of soccer unknowns, the U.S. won 1-0 over an England side that included Alf Ramsey and Tom Finney, who earned knighthoods.

"Walter Bahr was one of the greatest people to ever be part of soccer in the United States," former U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. "Not only was he a pioneer and a fantastic ambassador for our game over many years, he was a true gentleman."

Bahr was portrayed by Wes Bentley in the 2005 movie "The Game of Their Lives."

Quick with a story, a laugh and a smile, Bahr started all three U.S. matches at the 1950 World Cup. A defender who scored one goal in 19 international appearances, he made his international debut in a World Cup qualifier against Cuba in 1949, joining a national team that had lost its seven previous international matches by a combined 45-2. The Americans tied Cuba 1-1 in his debut, lost to Mexico, then beat Cuba as Bahr scored and earned a trip to the 1950 tournament in Brazil.

The U.S. wasted a late lead to Spain in its opener and lost 3-1. England was coming off a win over Chile.

In the match at Belo Horizonte on June 29, 1950, Bahr collected a throw-in from Ed McIlvenny and took a shot from about 25 yards that Joe Gaetjens deflected past goalkeeper Bert Williams with a diving header late in the first half. Frank Borghi had some spectacular saves that made the lead stand up.

Former Philadelphia Inquirer editor and soccer historian Roger Allaway said while Bahr will be remembered as a fine player, he also was an excellent coach. 

"He was a great coach at all the places he coached: Frankford High School, briefly at Temple University and for a long time at Penn State," Allaway said. "He won an NCAA Championship at Penn State, I believe 1979. His Frankford teams were perennial Public League champions."

Bahr is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame and was the last living member of the 1950 team. 

Bahr was a graduate of Temple and part of the 1948 U.S. Olympic team. He won American Soccer League titles with the Philadelphia Nationals in 1950, '51, '53 and '55 and with Uhrik Truckers in '56.

Bahr coached the Philadelphia Spartans from 1958-63 and the Philadelphia Ukrainians from 1964-69, then became Temple's coach from 1970-73. He coached Penn State to 12 NCAA tournament appearances from 1974-88, leading the Nittany Lions to the semifinals in 1979, when he was United Soccer Coaches College Coach of the Year. He was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame with the entire 1950 team in 1976.

He is survived by his wife of 71 years, the former Davies Uhler; daughter Davies Ann Desiderio, and sons Matt, Chris, and Casey. All three sons played in the North American Soccer League, and Chris played in 1976 Olympic qualifiers. Matt and Chris, both NFL placekickers, each won two Super Bowls.

A memorial service will be held June 29 at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in State College, Pennsylvania.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.