Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer mourns the passing of U.S. Soccer legend Walter Bahr. He was 91. Bahr was the last living member of the U.S. team that famously defeated England, 1-0, at the 1950 World Cup. It was his shot that Joe Gaetjens deflected in for the deciding goal, the highlight of Bahr’s 19 caps with the national team. He also played with the United States at the 1948 Summer Olympics.
A Philadelphia native, Bahr grew up in the city at a time when soccer was taking off. He starred for Northeast High School and the famous Lighthouse Boys Club in his youth, before joining Temple University and the national team.
Bahr, a teacher by profession, turned to coaching after his playing career--with historic clubs like Philadelphia Nationals, Uhrik Truckers and Philadelphia United German-Hungarians--was complete. He led both the Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals and Philadelphia Spartans and coached Frankford High School. Bahr returned to his alma mater, Temple, to take over the soccer program in 1970.
In 1974, he became head coach at Penn State, where his Nittany Lions made 12 NCAA tournament appearances during his 14-year tenure.
Bahr compiled a record of 448-137-70 as a collegiate coach.
Fleetwood native and former Penn State midfielder Troy Snyder remembers a coach with "a big heart and a soft heart," who established a welcoming culture in State College.
"Everyone had a lot of fun," said Snyder, who played for Bahr from 1984-86 and appeared for the Under-20 and senior national teams. "He would always knock the ball around with us at practices. You never felt pressure. He just always made you feel comfortable. He was like one of the players. You always wanted to be around him."
Snyder also singled out Bahr's tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. When Penn State upended mighty UConn and coach Joe Morrone in Hartford one season, despite being thoroughly outplayed, Bahr said at a reception afterward, "Well, Coach Morrone, I out-coached you this game."
"I may not have this word for word, but he would say, 'By the time you learn the game, you understand the game, you'll be too old to play it,'" Snyder recalled. "And that's so true. His stature in the soccer community was very large--a good man."
Jeffrey Maierhofer was a Penn Stater who found a field crowded with All-Americans when he arrived on campus in 1980. That didn't stop Coach Bahr from instilling confidence in the freshman...sort of.
"He said, 'Jeffrey, I'm going to start you,'" recalled Maierhofer, whose older brother Scott was a sophomore on that team. "'And I'm going to keep you in until you mess it up.' I tripped over my own feet on my first run."
Still, Bahr kept faith in Maierhofer and put him in places to succeed, specifically on set pieces where, despite being 5-8, Maierhofer became an header specialist.
"The guys wanted to play for him, man," said Maierhofer. "If you wanted to play, you had to work hard. But he never demanded that we work hard. We respected him so much that we wanted to work for him. We wanted to impress him so bad that it was infectious. And we worked our tails off.
"He was a father-type person, a role model. He never made it seem like he was the coach. He was jovial. He made jokes with us. But he made you want to work for him. That was the genius of Walter Bahr."
Bahr is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, the United Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame, the Eastern Pennsylvania Soccer Association Hall of Fame, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Soccer Hall of Fame and was the Head of Delegation for U.S. Soccer at the 1990 World Cup.
"It's a sad day in the soccer community," said Dave MacWilliams, a Kensington native and former Temple head coach. "We lost a true pioneer as a player, coach and mentor. His legacy will last forever."
“We are all saddened by the loss of Walter Bahr, a true legend in soccer in the United States,” U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro said in obituary posted on USSoccer.com. “His contribution to one of the most iconic moments in U.S. Soccer history was only part of a lifetime of selfless contributions to the game. As a coach, a mentor, a friend, and a colleague, Walter touched the lives of so many people in our sport, ensuring a legacy that will last for generations. Our thoughts are with his family and all those who were impacted by this extraordinary man.”
Bahr is survived by his wife of 71 years, four children, eight grandchildren and one great grandchild.
A Visitation will be held at the Koch Funeral Home 2401 S Atherton St, State College, PA 16801 from 5-8PM on 28 June. A Memorial Service will be held at St Andrews Episcopal Church 208 W Foster Ave, State College, PA 16801 at 1100 on 29 June with a reception from 2-4 at Mountain View Country Club in Boalsburg, Pa. In lieu of flowers the family requests any memorial donations be made to the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
Soccer Figures Pay Tribute to Walter Bahr