JP Dellacamera, long-time soccer play-by-play announcer: “When you think about the legends of the game, his name obviously comes to mind. Last survivor of the 1950 World Cup team, a very successful college coach, had three sons that played the game at the professional level. A great ambassador for the game. One of the classiest people I've ever met in the sport.”
Al Miller, who directed the Philadelphia Atoms to the 1973 North American Soccer League championship, played against Bahr in the Philadelphia leagues: “Walter was unique from this standpoint – sometimes you become famous because of timing not because of a long time career of doing great things like a Pele or a [Franz] Beckenbauer. Walt was the guy on the front end of the goal that beat England. So he got enormous fame in America for that. Not what he should have gotten in those days. Certainly over the years, the legend grew bigger and bigger.”
Hank Steinbrecher, former Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Soccer: “If you could pick your dad, he would be the kind of dad you would want to pick. He set such an example for all of us. Just to get to know him and hang around him. He was really modest, as funny as he could be. Loved a good laugh. Completely dedicated to what he was doing. He was a very, very good player. Look at his sons. They say like father, like sons. He's got some great boys who have done some great things.”
Jerry Moyer, who played at Penn State from 1981-84: “Other than my father, he is a male figure that has had the most impact on my life. He's such an amazing man who has changed so many people's lives, mine being one of them.”
His son Chris Bahr: “You let guys play. You see it in all sports. There's over-coaching. That's what I got from him: play it simple, make it easy. That was his life. It wasn't really complicated. He was a pretty simple guy. He coached. He worked and raised his kids. A pretty modest guy all along.”
Dr. Joe Machnik, former player, coach, referee and indoor soccer commissioner who currently serves as a Rules Analyst for Fox Sports: “Walter was the 2010 recipient of the Walter Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award (named after the late U.S. MNT head coach). He was really humbled and really touched by the award. According to Gene (Walter's brother), when the Walter Chyzowych family arrived in Philadelphia, Walter somehow found out about them and embraced them. Gene got a job at a school where Walter was working at, according to Gene. If it wasn't for Walter, the family would not have been able to make it happen in the Philadelphia area. Walter had a lot to do with that.”
Former U.S. international and TV announcer Ty Keough, son of Bahr's former teammate, Harry Keough: “I got to know Walt pretty well especially in later years with all of the Hall of Fame events, and especially around the time of the filming of the feature motion picture then called “The Game of Their Lives”.
“One thing which always impressed me was the deep friendship and respect evident between my dad and Walt. It’s obvious that this was forged both on and off the field. After my dad retired, he and my mom (who is from Guadalajara) began spending their winters in Mexico. My mom’s uncle had given her a decent house in a modest neighborhood in Guadalajara, which had a very nice garden with mango, grapefruit and avocado trees.
“When someone mentioned that my dad was now spending his time gardening in Mexico, Walt said, ‘No way, I’ve got to see this for myself!’ So, Walt and [his wife] Davies flew down and spent a couple of weeks in the nice weather. Around the corner along the curb was a “Puesto” or small food stand offering typical local fare. The Puesto was run by Miguel, and Walt became a regular. Despite the language barrier Walt became a favorite to Miguel and the guys of the neighborhood. He could just make friends anywhere.”
Beginning his international career at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, Bahr was capped 19 times through 1957, during an era when the USA would play as few as one game a year (in fact, during the 1950s, the MNT played in only 15 matches).
Underlining his longevity during that era, Bahr joined teammate Harry Keough as the first two USA players to appear in qualifiers for the three different FIFA World Cups (1950, 1954 and 1958). He started all three U.S. matches during the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and is best known for providing the assist on Joe Gaetjens’ 37th-minute game-winner in the USA’s 1-0 upset of England on June 29. He would go on to captain the USA in its final group match, a 5-2 defeat to Chile.
Dr. Joe Machnik: “That 1950 game has more relevance today than it did way back then when I was a kid and growing up because nobody even knew about it back then. We know more about it now than we knew back then. It received so little publicity.”
George Brown, former MNT teammate of Bahr and son of 1930 World Cup team member Jim Brown: “It got virtually no publicity anywhere in the States. It was like a page 14 story. We were tuned in. My father played in the first World Cup in 1930. So he appreciated the World Cup. He knew how important it was. Yet, we had been in the States for two years at that point and I was just starting to play amateur soccer. I was about 15 at the time, but it was never a subject of discussion. It was a passing observation. Frankly, it was an outlier and nobody appreciated the significance except, of course, England.”
J.P. Dellacamera: “I think he and Harry Keough and the other members of that team didn't make it out as big a deal as it should have been. Until 1990 that was it. We hadn't qualified for the World Cup since then. It was a big deal to be on that 1950 team. If there was social media going on in that day, those guys would have been heroes. They would be much more well known. That was a shocking result. If you remember, that was a result that people were saying it was a misprint or written wrong. That was not the right score. People were shocked at it.”
Hank Steinbrecher: “Remember, we were not supposed to do anything in that tournament. We were the young boys, the dishwashers from New York. What they did in that tournament was like climbing Everest without any equipment. For the longest time, no one could match it. It took 40 years and Walter certainly was the leader.”
National Soccer Hall of Famer Paul Caligiuri, who scored the goal in the 1-0 victory at Trinidad & Tobago on Nov. 19, 1989, that lifted the USA to its first World Cup in 40 years: “I wasn't there in 1950. I wasn't born. but getting to know Walter Bahr, I can almost guarantee that gentleman was a leader. Between his determination, his grit, his abilities, his talent, his character, his personality, I can be almost certain that Walter Bahr was the kind of leader a team needs to be successful. Yes, you have great players and great moments like Joe Gaetjens and Paul Caligiuri. You have those moments in the game. But at the end of the day, who were those leaders that led that team behind the scenes, in the hotel, on the plane. When things aren't going right for everybody, what's it going to take?”
Jack Huckel, former executive director of the National Soccer Hall of Fame: “Walter was a natural leader and was a physical education teacher. He did a lot with getting the players in better condition that Bill Jeffrey [the 1950 U.S. coach] or other coaches might not have done. He took pride in what he was doing and he wanted others to take pride.
“So he was into fitness, helping guys get more fit and he tended to lead the team that way. I don't know whether that was a role Bill Jeffrey or any other coach gave to him or one that he just assumed. That's what Harry Keough told me. He just took the lead for many of those things.
“Harry tells a funny story. He said they let me be the captain for the Spain game because he spoke Spanish and let Ed McIlvenny be the captain for the England game because he was from Britain and Walter was the captain for the last game against Chile because he was the captain anyways.
“He was finally the guy who was the captain because he really was the captain.”
Bob Gansler, who coached the USA to the 1990 FIFA World Cup: “We obviously were aware of it and got constantly reminded of the bad time we had since '50. We had a heck of a lot more going for us in '90 than he had in '50. And for them to accomplish that, was immense. We were thankful. We were the pioneers at that time. We knew the folks that paved the way and we were following what they had done, but for them it was even more difficult. They made do and not only made do, they thrived in those circumstances. We were extremely thankful for Walter and Harry Keough. Those two always went hand in hand. I know those guys were friends forever. They were in constant touch over the years. It was really fantastic when we had one of them, when we had two of them around the team. The stories would flow. It was like Broadway. It was immensely entertaining.”
National Soccer Hall of Famer Tony Meola, who backstopped the USA at the 1990 World Cup: “Walter is what we strive for. Because of guys like him, we dreamed about being in the World Cup. We wanted to be where they were. He just did it before us. I hope people get through your story or anywhere else that if you're a soccer historian, he is a name that you should know. Frank Borghi gets a lot of credit for being the goalkeeper in 1950, but there's a lot of other guys that we should all know and be thankful for because they really set the tone for who we wanted to be. It took us a little while to get there. When you think back to him and his era, I think people really take it for granted now how difficult it is and what an honor it is to get to the World Cup. It's never easy. But in this day and age, these guys have resources. they're playing full-time. These guys got to the World Cup with nothing. They should be commended as much as anybody for sure.”
George Brown: “I used to host what was affectionately known as the Liar's Retreat (during Hall of Fame weekend in Oneonta, N.Y.). Walter would come here all the time. We would sometimes have 20 or 30 Hall of Famers here at the house. It was a good escape for them. Walter was a great raconteur. He could tell stories. He used to pal at these sessions with Harry Keough and they would be swapping stories. Many of which were true.
“Walter was very humble. He never bragged about anything he did. He had kind of a self-deprecating sense of humor. For instance, in his description of his game against England, it was classic stuff. I remember him saying, ‘You know, George, they hit the crossbar. They hit the post. They hit Borghi in the back of his head. They hit a ball off his butt. We tripped them. We fouled them. Somehow we hung on for a 1-0 score.’ But he never said, "We played great.’”
Jim Stamatis, 1979 MAC Hermann Trophy winner who played at Penn State from 1975-1979: “If you didn't ask him, he never brought it up. I found out as an after-thought. I remember there was some event there were four or five of them (1950 USA players) that were there. He introduced me to them. I was fascinated to hear about it all.
“He said, ‘Jimmy, we were just a bunch of construction workers. We were playing against guys who were professionals that are getting paid on the weekends. They have the best equipment and facilities to train. Meanwhile we are taken out of our construction jobs and begging to take a few weeks off to go to a World Cup.’
“He said it was laughable. ‘Would you believe it?’ he said. ‘We ended up beating them.’ He never spoke about that. He always figured out a way to talk about some of his adventures and foibles and all the other things that he went through.”
It would be easy to forget that Bahr enjoyed an 11-year playing career, mostly for Philadelphia-area teams in the local leagues and the old American Soccer League. Among the clubs he proudly wore jerseys for included Philadelphia Lighthouse, Philadelphia Nationals (American Soccer League champions in 1950, 1951 1953 and 1955), Uhrik Truckers (ASL crown in 1956) and Philadelphia United German-Hungarians. He also played soccer while attending Temple University. During his playing career, Bahr taught physical education at Frankford High School in Philadelphia and coached its soccer team.
Al Miller, who directed the Philadelphia Atoms to the 1973 North American Soccer League championship, played against Bahr in the Philadelphia leagues: “He was a hell of a player. He was solid. just tough to play against. Great defender. Anticipated well. Read the game beautifully. Pretty skillful for back in those days for an American.”
George Brown, who played for the German-Hungarians in the German American Soccer League in New York City in the early 1950s: “Our teams would occasionally meet for either U.S. Open Cup matches or the Lewis Cup. I played with him on the National Team one time and in several all-star games when I was in the American Soccer League. It's very easy to remember Walter. You have to understand, Walter was unique for an American-born college player, because of his combination of ball skills and his ability to read the game. He had a great sense of the game. And he combined that with what was a uniquely American technique at the time, which was run, run, run, run, run, run.”
“Walter had the drive and the energy of a typical American college player, but with all the skills of a good professional player. In fact, Walter could have played anywhere in the first division in Europe. He was what we called a chesty player. He played tight up against somebody, very strong in the tackle, very methodical. And when he delivered the ball, he did it with a game presence. He knew where he was. He didn't have to hold the ball and look around. He knew precisely where everybody was. Not only was he a good technician, he was a good tactician. He would have fit very well in Scottish football.”
Dr. Joe Machnik: “I saw him play at the Metropolitan Oval (in New York City) when I was a junior player for the New York Ukrainians. He still had a name. Late 1950s or early 1960s. I remember him. He was big, he was strong. He was either bald or shaved his head tight like some of the people today. That was the only time I saw him play. He had a presence on field. Maybe it had to do with his name because you were looking for him. Certain guys back then in the old German-American League had field presence. The games who revolved around them. There were all kinds of great players playing in the league back then.”
Jack Huckel: “He was offered an opportunity to go to England to play. He could make more money as a school teacher and playing on the weekends in Philadelphia in the fifties than with the maximum wage in England. He told me a story that he used to play in the summers in Montreal because he worked at a summer camp in the Adirondacks.”
Bahr was never one to brag or wear his accomplishments on his sleeve. He was a humble man, who would never bring up the fact he played in that historic game in Belo Horizonte in 1950. On the flip side, Bahr also could be the life of the party.
Arnie Ramirez, former Long Island University coach whose teams played against Penn State: I met him during a Fourth of July weekend at the Pennington School in the 1970s. We were getting our “C” coaching license with Dettmar Cramer. I got in early and it wasn't open yet, so I went to a bar to get something to eat and who was right there next to me? Walter Bahr, who I didn't know.
“We sat next to each other and he said to me, ‘My name is Walter Bahr. Are you here for the coaching?’ I said, ‘Yes I am.’ He goes, "I just got back with my wife Davies from Barcelona.’
“So we started talking about Real Madrid, Barcelona, Santos. We hit it off right away. This is soccer people. When they're genuine soccer people you hit it off right away. He never mentioned whether he played or not. Our interest was talking about international soccer. I respected him when I first met him because he was such a gentleman. He was such a genuine person. He wasn't the type to say, ‘I played in the World Cup. Dettmar Cramer never said anything to the group that Walter was a World Cup player. I don't know why.”
Chris Bahr, one of his sons: “That was him. He always thought he would have done more on the national level, coaching-wise if he had been a little more self-promoting like other guys. He sort of did his stuff. Do your job and let other people talk. You wouldn't have known he played unless someone brought him up. It was just the way he did things.”
Dr. Joe Machnik: “He also was great with one liners. He had joke for just about everything. He was a great public speaker with his stories. You didn't want to come up to the podium after he spoke.”
Barry Gorman: Walt could come out with these little stories and just nail it. I remember him telling a story about he was so into the game, he was prowling the sidelines, mumbling more to himself than to the players on the bench.
He said, ‘Jimmy get up and go in. Go and take so-and-so out.’ Well, the wrong Jimmy gets up, goes in, takes out the wrong player and scores the winning goal.
Walt turns to the bench and says, ‘Now, that's coaching.’”
Former Penn State goalkeeper Greg Kenney: “We played at the University of Connecticut on a Sunday. We won, 2-1. Three balls hit the post. I think I got hit in the face with two shots. We dodged a few bullets. At the University of Connecticut, you had a meal with the UConn players before we got on the bus to head home.
UConn head coach Joe Morrone gets up and says, ‘I always loved playing against Walter. I thought we were a little bit unlucky today. A couple of those balls looked like they were going in. Somehow they didn't. But it was a great match and great crowd.’
Then Walter walks up and he goes, ‘Joe, I think I just outcoached you today.’
The players were just cracking up. Obviously he and Joe Morrone were great old friends. It was classic Walter Bahr – a short, succinct statement that lightened everything and put everything into perspective.”
When you think of the Bahr family, you have to think athleticism.
Casey Bahr, who attended the U.S. Naval Academy, was a member of the Olympic team that performed at the 1972 Olympics. He went on to play for the Philadelphia Atoms (North American Soccer League) and Philadelphia Fever (Major Indoor Soccer League).
Chris Bahr, who played for Walter for one year at Penn State, was named 1975 NASL rookie of the year before he went on to a 14-year NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders and San Diego Chargers. He won two Super Bowls.
Matt Bahr also performed for his dad at Penn State before playing for the Colorado Caribous and Tulsa Roughnecks in the NASL. He enjoyed a 16-year NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, winning two Super Bowls as well.
Walter's daughter Davies Ann, was an All-American gymnast with the Nittany Lions. Her son, Casey Desiderio, went on to play college soccer at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
Chris Bahr: The one thing that I will say is the thing that sticks out about growing up in our family the most, I don't remember our dad teaching us anything athletically. I'm sure we played together and we did things – a catch and kicked around like every other father and son and daughters. But I don't recall him teaching us anything. I'm sure he taught us a lot. The fact that he did it without us knowing is pretty special.”
Huckel: “It's an amazing group. I met Matt a few times, Chris once, Davies Ann once or twice and Casey once or twice. They're all humble about who they are. That's something he taught them. It's interesting to see the family trait come through that way.”
Gorman: “Davies used to sort of joke she was the one that didn't get enough recognition for being on the all-Bahr team. She used to laugh at that. It really came from her side of the family. That was the way they were. They deflected stuff. They realized that the athleticism in the general scheme of things was fleeting and you're one second away from an injury.”
Walter Bahr flanked by his sons Chris, Casey and Matthew
Chris Bahr on he and Matt deciding to go from pro soccer to the NFL: “I'm sure he understood completely. I could play soccer, which I really enjoyed and I was really involved in. It got down to do I play soccer or do I eat? Do I play soccer or do I put a roof over my head? There was no money then. It was a fairly easy decision financially for both of us. People don't believe it, but it's true. The year I came out of college, after playing one year in the North American Soccer League, the following year I was offered $5,000 to play for the team, a $1,000 a month. If I could make 15 grand playing soccer. I would have never kicked.”
Kenney: “In my freshman and sophomore years, they were home and worked the camps with us. They would come and play in the evenings. The most unbelievable thing was that they would work on their kicking. I'm 99 percent sure it was Matt. Matt was kicking and coach Bahr was standing directly in front of him. Matt was just thundering the ball over his head. I was like, if he slips, if he mishits it, he was like eight yards away -- I was in goal and I felt how hard Matt could kick the ball. I have no idea how coach Bahr could stand there. I know I certainly wouldn't stand there.”
In the late 1980s, Bahr became an ambassador for the game and head of the delegation for many games and tournaments. Sometimes he would team up with his former international teammate Harry Keough, another member of that 1950 team. They both were with the team in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago on Nov. 19, 1989, when the USA qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 40 years. Bahr also traveled with the national team to the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Bahr and Keough became an inspiration to the team and players.
Hank Steinbrecher: “We sent him all over the place. The first trip was to China. What a great face for American soccer. Tell me who's going to do better? Even today there's nobody better. He was very politically sensitive. What it all boils down to, he's a smart man.”
Paul Caligiuri: “To have a former World Cup player there when we're going to the first World Cup in 40 years is like, 'Wow, we do have World Cup players around.’ It was kind of cool. I remember, not just me, but generally speaking with the players, you wanted to reach out and talk to him. You wanted to get a moment alone with him. He was willing to do that. He really connected with the players. We thought that was awesome. The guy played in the World Cup in a different period, a different era from what we were embarking upon. It put things into perspective that we had it a lot better than we thought. It made us look at what we had in the current situation and be grateful for that and remain focused on what we needed to do on the field, rather than be distracted in other places. He was a joy to have around.”
Jack Huckel: “He was the head of delegation when the team went to Italy. When people greeted the team, they realized when they greeted Walter. He was more important than the rest of the team because he was the guy on the team that beat England. So, there was a lot of deference to him because of that.”
Paul Caligiuri: “Wearing a U.S. soccer blazer or badge, that wasn't enough for him. I would say he was part of that team. He was older. He couldn't play on the field. He certainly was part of what makes a team successful. I can only imagine he was that same type of role model when he was playing and had that same affect with us, inspiring us, mentoring us through different things, becoming part of the team.”
Bob Gansler: “I remember one trip he was with the Under-20 team that (I had that went to Saudi Arabia and did quite well in 1989. Saudi was a little bit of closed society when you are looking for some things that us Westerners consider necessary. They have their ways of getting their alcohol as well. There was Walter setting (things) up. We had an excursion to the U.S. Embassy and then we had boat rides in the Red Sea and then lo and behold there would be American beer. We were calling him a miracle worker.”