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The Legend of Bert Patenaude
Founder, The Sports Court
When asked the simple words, “do you know of Bert Patenaude?”, most American soccer fans will look confused, wondering, who is this man?
Little do they know, Bert Patenaude is one of the most influential players to ever touch the ball, American or not.
Born on November 4, 1909, in the town of Fall River, Massachusetts, Patenaude was put into a hotspot for soccer from day one, living in the thriving city of Fall River.
In the late 19th century and early on in the 20th, Fall River was one of the leading cities in the textile industry. This brought in immigrants from all around the world to work at factories in hopes of supporting their families.
Many from Scotland (hence the Kearny Scots in NJ, one of USA's finest amateur clubs), England, and everywhere in between came to the northeast of the USA in search of work.
Thousands, if not millions came in, and after work, they’d do two things. Spend time with family and kick a soccer ball.
Kick a soccer ball.
Rich factory owners started to realize the tremendous opportunity of owning a soccer team as they saw the increase of popularity of soccer in the states. From there, hundreds to thousands of teams were formed.
Bert Patenaude grew playing in competitive local leagues near the Fall River area before signing his first professional contract with the Philadelphia Field Club of the American Soccer League (ASL).
With a knack for the net and the passion for the game exploding in the states, Patenaude found success very quickly. In 8 games, Patenaude scored a casual 6 goals.
Patenaude moved teams after 8 games, going back up to the New England area, signing for J&P Coats in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Editor's note: As you’ll see throughout this story, many teams are named after companies of the rich owners, this was an excellent way for them to promote their business. Many of these owners brought in top European players as the pay in America was much better. The one but: the players had to work for the owners' companies (typically in factories) as well!
Quickly after signing, Patenaude moved teams yet again, this time moving back to his hometown of Fall River, signing for Sam Mark's Fall River Marksmen.
Sam Mark, a big baseball fan, always dreamed of owning a baseball team, however, when he saw soccer and the popularity it had, he jumped on board and started his own team, the Marksmen.
Due to MA’s blue laws, the Fall River Marksmen played their games in Tiverton, Rhode Island, so they could play on Sundays.
It was at this field, at this stadium, that the legend of Bert Patenaude would grow.
Patenaude helped lift the Marksmen to the 1930 National Challenge Cup (now known as the US Open Cup, a tournament that is still running to date, the oldest ongoing soccer competition in the US).
Later this summer, Patenaude did something that had never been done before.
While representing the USMNT at the first ever FIFA World Cup located in Uruguay, Patenaude scored a hat trick in the team's second game of the tournament. This marked the first ever World Cup hat trick.
Patenaude’s hat trick wasn’t officially announced until November 10, 2006, and when the Patenaude family found out, they were ecstatic.
Over the years since 1930, their were many arguments as to who had the first ever World Cup hat trick. With the camera being blurry and the players' numbers not being as large and apparent, it was hard to tell for sure who got the goals! The match report said Tom Florie, a fellow USMNT player, got the first goal.
Naturally, for years, many thought Guillermo Stabile, an Argentinian, was the one who got the first WC hat trick, recording one only two days after the USMNT played.
However, 76 years later, Colin Jose, a U.S. soccer historian, stumbled across interviews of Arnie Oliver and Jim Brown, two players on the 1930 USMNT World Cup team. Both players talked about the legendary Bert Patenaude hat trick.
At the time Colin Jose found those interviews, Patenaude was only recorded with two goals, not three.
Jose also found the match report from US Coach, Robert Millar, who wrote about Patenaude's hat trick in his report.
Patenaude himself always knew he got a hat trick, and his family did as well. The Patenaude family, who still reside near the Fall River area to this day, found out that Bert Sr. was credited with his well deserved hat trick after Colin Jose made sure FIFA knew about these artifacts and FIFA credited Patenaude for the goals.
The day this happened was November 10, 2006, a day that the Patenaude family will never forget.
Bert Patenaude passed away on his 65th birthday on November 4, 1974, but his name will live on forever in not just the history of American soccer, but the sport of soccer as a whole.
Overall, Patenaude scored a total of four goals during the 1930 World Cup tournament. It took 80 years for any player to surpass Patenaude for the most goals scored at a World Cup by an American, Landon Donovan doing so at the 2010 edition.
Following the 1930 World Cup, Bert Patenaude continued to dominate on the club scene, dominating with the Fall River Marksmen, scoring 114 in 112 games.
During this time, Sam Mark was suffering financially and decided to move the team to New York. He merged the team with the New York Soccer Club and rebranded the club as the New York Yankees (sounds familiar, doesn’t it!).
On Sunday, April 5, 1931, Patenaude scored 5 goals at the Polo Grounds against the Chicago Bricklayers in front of 12,000 fans in a National Challenge Cup Game.
The Boston Globe described Patenaude as ‘slippery as an eel’.
Bert Patenaude would continue his goal-scoring rampage, becoming the most prolific goalscorer in American soccer history along the way. The Fall River native bagged another 5 goals against his former club, the Pawtucket Rangers, in an ASL game. On top of all of this, the goal machine himself scored 10 goals in a game while playing for the Philadelphia German-Americans in the later days of his career.
Throughout his storied career, Patenaude also played for the Newark Americans, Kearny Irish-Americans, St. Louis Central Breweries, and the Philadelphia Passion.
Despite not being picked for the 1934 World Cup squad after being suspended by his club team for behavior ‘unbecoming’ of a player, the legend of the kid from Fall River will live on forever. Bert Patenaude was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1971 and will forever be remembered as the American who got the first ever World Cup hat trick.
With 170 goals in 174 games (most likely more with games not being tallied, etc), Patenaude is undisputedly one of the greatest soccer players of all time.
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All Editorials written by Chris Dailey