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THROWBACK THURSDAY Gaetjens World Cup goal overlooked at the time
June 29, 2017
By Charles Cuttone
It was the most stunning goal in the World Cup up to that time. It still might be. It was scored by an American resident who never became a citizen and it received far more attention overseas than it did in the United States.
In fact, many of the stories that did appear in U.S. papers had the name of the goal scorer wrong.
We are talking about Joe Gaetjens' stunning header that gave the United States a 1-0 win over England in the 1950 World Cup in a game played at Belo Horizonte, Brazil on June 29, 1950, 67 years ago today.
England was playing in their first World Cup, having rejoined FIFA after resigning in protest over Olympic payments, and was seen as one of the favorites to win the World Cup, along with the hosts Brazil.
The Americans on the other hand, despite having competed in both the 1930 and 1934 World Cups, were clear outsiders, not expected to do much. And indeed, despite the upset, they finished last in their four-team group.
And while it has long been touted that St. Louis Post Dispatch writer Dent McSkimming was the only American reporter at the World Cup, there is no evidence that he reported from the game itself.
Instead, the three stories that ran on the game came from wire services -- United Press, Associated Press and International News Service -- and each had a different player scoring the epic goal.
McSkimming's paper (which was an afternoon paper) ran a short two-line item from United Press the afternoon of the game, and then the following day ran a full story. The lead describing the game read:
"The United States soccer team scored the most stunning upset in the 1950 world championship tournament yesterday, edging powerful England 1 to 0 on a first half goal by Joe Gaetjens of New York. He headed Walter Bahr's hard pass into the net."
"The favored British team and the spectators were stunned by the result. The lone tally of the match was scored by Ed Souza of Fall River, Mass., at 39 minutes of the first half."
And International News Service filed this report:
"An American team that was invited to the world soccer-football championships just as a matter of international courtesy scored the upset of the tournament by blanking England 1 to 0 on Johnny Souza's first-half goal."
The story went on to mention at Souza played for Ponta Del Gada in Fall River, and that the goal was scored in the 26th minute, and that the victory was "wildly cheered by a crowd of 35,000" (the attendance was 10,151).
So three stories on the game, three different goal scorers, with only UP identifying Gaetjens as the hero.
Then there was the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which clearly got the INS story completely mixed up.
"Invited to the world soccer championships as a matter of international courtesy, the Ponta Del Cada team of Fall River, Mass., Thursday upset England 1-0 on Johnny Souza's first half goal to surprise thousands at Rio de Janiero's municipal bowl."
History finally sorted things out and gave Gaetjens his due, but at the time it was certainly one of the most overlooked milestones in American sports.