At the conclusion of the Super Bowl, the traditional football season comes to an end. But among many of Black Diamond’s immigrant miners back in the early 1900s, the real game was played with a round ball and netted goals on opposite ends of the field. We call it soccer and the Major League Soccer or MLS opens its 2024 season next week.
This photo was likely taken Oct. 22, 1916, at the same Black Diamond’s ballfield seen when driving through town on Highway 169. The nattily dressed gentlemen in derby hats were team sponsors. The young man kneeling in the center behind the ball was Earl Upton, who was still kicking, so to speak in late August 1978 when the Northwest Soccer Old Timers gathered at Flaming Geyser Park for a chance to once again play the ‘beautiful game.’ Other Black Diamond players that season included the following, most identified by only their surname: Burkelson, Davis, Gannon, Giaccherini, Dick Jones, Moroni, McKinnon, Al Minighini, Slavinsky, Harry Upton, Vic Weston, and Troyer. The team’s nickname was the Coal Diggers.
The 1916 fall season, administered by the Northwest Soccer Association was well-chronicled by both the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Times. At the time, American football was increasingly popular after a 1905 rule change outlawed mass formations like the flying wedge that resulted in 19 fatalities nationwide that same year.
Yet even a decade later the new style of ‘pigskin’ football was still being scrutinized In Seattle, the school board considered a motion to outlaw American football. It was offered by Director William Pigott, a businessman who founded Seattle Steel and Pacific Car & Foundry, later renamed PACCAR. Pigott stated, “A committee has been appointed to investigate the game and put before the board members just what it represents in high school athletics.”
Instead, soccer slowly faded in popularity as football eventually replaced baseball as the most popular U.S. sport. Beginning in the early 1970s, soccer gradually edged into youth sports. Several professional leagues were established but each eventually collapsed. Major League Soccer was founded in 1993 with its first season in 1996. Today the league has 29 teams, 26 in the U.S. and three in Canada.
This picture and background information was provided by JoAnne Matsumura, an Issaquah historian. The original photo was taken by Holden Studios which then operated out of a building near the train station that is now the Black Diamond History Museum. The original gray and foggy print owned by Pep Peery was enhanced by Seattle Times photographer, Roy Scully. It appeared in the Aug. 26, 1978 issue accompanying an article, “Never too old to kick” by the executive sports editor, Vince O’Keefe.