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Fred Pepper

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Fred Pepper
Personal information
Full name Frederick Pepper
Date of birth 1887
Place of birth Netherfield, Nottinghamshire, England
Date of death 12 June 1950 (aged 62–63)
Place of death Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, United States
Playing position Inside forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1908–1912 Notts County 5
1913–1914 Hamilton Lancashire
1914–1920 Bethlehem Steel
1920–1921 Tebo Yacht Basin
1921–1922 Harrison Soccer Club 21 (3)
1922–1923 Fall River Marksmen 13 (1)
1923–1924 New York Giants 6 (3)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Frederick "Chiddy"[nb 1] Pepper (1887 – 12 June 1950) was an English footballer who played as an inside forward. Born in Netherfield, Nottinghamshire, Pepper received a basic education before finding vocation as a fireman on the local railway. Joining Notts County F.C. in 1908 aged 21, he found little success playing in the English Football League and subsequently emigrated to Canada in 1913. Settling in Hamilton, Ontario, Pepper was scouted by industrialist Charles M. Schwab from local team Hamilton Lancashire and joined his Bethlehem Steel F.C. in 1914, an important club in the infancy of organized association football in the United States.

Pepper saw much success in playing for Bethlehem; after unimpressive beginnings, he went on to play a major role in securing many titles for the side, including four American Cups, three National Challenge Cups and two National Association Football League triumphs. Becoming captain for the 1918 and 1919 campaigns, success continued until his abrupt departure in 1920. Pepper's career became somewhat volatile, signing for four amateur teams within the space of four years; all of which failed to match his record at Bethlehem. Retirement saw him remain prominent in local sporting and steel-working culture in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, in-time becoming a corn merchant until his death in 1950.

Early life[edit]

Frederick Pepper was born in 1887, one of nine children in Netherfield, Nottinghamshire, a small town prospering from the instalment of the Ambergate, Nottingham, Boston and Eastern Junction Railway. He was educated at the local Ashwell and Chandos Street Schools, the latter amalgamating in 1973 to form Carlton le Willows School.[3] Customarily leaving school at 14, Frederick found employment with London and North Eastern Railway as a fireman; it was around this time he found he had an aptitude for association football, and began playing professionally in 1908 aged 21.[1]

Playing career[edit]

Pepper, who captained Bethlehem Steel in their victory of the 1917–18 National Challenge Cup, is pictured third from the left on the front row

Joining in the 1908–09 campaign, Pepper briefly played with Notts County F.C. in The Football League; his lack of appearances is noted, however, only making 5 total appearances in the 1911–12 season, it would be his last at the club. With his wife, Pepper boarded the RMS Laconia in 1913 and set sail for North America, settling in Hamilton, Ontario. Playing for club Hamilton Lancashire, Pepper became Canada's Western Football Association League's leading scorer and helped secure the team's victory of the 1913 Ontario Cup alongside recurring teammate Sam Fletcher.[4][5] By the following year, Frederick had attracted the attention of industrialist Charles M. Schwab, who was seeking to recruit international talent for his Bethlehem Steel F.C..[5] Signing for the club and debuting on 23 November 1914, Pepper simultaneously worked for the associated steelworks whilst residing in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.[1]

Appearances in the 1914–15 campaign, akin to his time at Notts County, were sporadic in nature, seeing time in only six games and scoring a mere three goals. However, Pepper, a talented inside forward, saw more success in the following season, participating in the final of the 1914–15 National Challenge Cup, a 3–1 victory over Brooklyn Celtic.[6] Success for Frederick continued into 1916, when Bethlehem Steel won the year's American Cup in a 3-0 victory over the Kearny Scots;[7] they further defeated the Fall River Rovers 1–0 to the 1915–16 National Challenge Cup, retaining their title.[8] Despite coming runners-up in the 1916–17 Cup in a reversed 1–0 defeat to the Fall River Rovers,[9] Bethlehem Steel went on to win the final of the 1917 American Cup against West Hudson A.A. in a dramatic 7-0 triumph, in which Pepper scored twice.[10] The 1917–18 National Challenge Cup against the Fall River Rovers was subsequently won by Bethlehem Steel on 19 May after an initial match ran out of extra time at 2–2 on the 4th of that month; Pepper scored the second goal of a 3–0 victory.[11]

Joining the National Association Football League in 1917, the top flight of American association football, Pepper captained Bethlehem Steel to title wins in both the 1918-19 and 1919-20 campaigns,[12] as well as to extending their title of the American Cup, winning the 1918 event 1–0 over Babcock & Wilcox and the 1919 trophy in a 2–0 victory over Paterson F.C.;[13][14] the 1918–19 National Challenge Cup final was won against the same team by the same margin.[15] Despite signing for the club's 1920-21 season, Frederick never made a first-team roster, causing him to leave the club after six successful seasons in which Bethlehem held an impressive record of 149 wins, seven losses, 718 goals for with just 120 against.[5]

Moving to Brooklyn, New York in December 1920, Pepper joined amateur Tebo Yacht Basin F.C., where his successful reputation quickly earned him the captaincy of the team.[16] He led the likes of Jimmy Gallagher, who represented the United States in both the 1930 and 1934 FIFA World Cup finals.[5] He left after just one season when the National Association Football League amalgamated with the Southern New England Soccer League to form the American Soccer League; these changes led to the merger of Tebo Yacht Basin and Brooklyn Robins Dry Dock into Todd Shipyards, the parent corporation of both the Tebo and Robins companies.[17] Refusing to join the newly formed club, Frederick instead played for Harrison F.C., based in Harrison, New Jersey, making 21 appearances and scoring three goals.[18] He would go on to repeat similarly short spells of a single season, firstly at the Fall River Marksmen in Fall River, Massachusetts, winning 13 caps and scoring a single goal in the 1922-23 campaign;[19] as well as at the New York Giants, the last signing of his career, making six appearances and scoring thrice in the 1923–1924 season.[20]

Later life[edit]

Pepper settled with his wife in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania in retirement, home to Bethlehem Steel and it's eponymous football club. Remaining prominent in the local area's sporting culture, he served as a referee in the Pennsylvania Eastern League, eventually becoming president of the Lehigh Valley Soccer Referees Association. Frederick also held the positions of vice-president at the Eastern Pennsylvania District Soccer Association and as treasurer of the Lehigh Valley Soccer League; he disassociated with the latter in August 1929 due to disagreements over league policy. This prompted regret among the local media, which subsequently described him as "one of the greatest halfbacks that ever played in this country".[2]

Maintaining certain friendships following his playing days, Pepper liaised with the likes of Bethlehem manager William Sheridan, and teammates Johnny Rollo and Robert Morrison well into the 1940s; the latter, according to Morrison's nephew, identified Pepper by his "ugly little mug".[21] Alike his time in England, Frederick was also involved in trade union business, becoming a leading member of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) by at least 1937; he is known to have recruited successfully, given that Bethlehem suffered particular economic depravity during the Great Depression, an event that affected public attendance to matches throughout the 1920s.[21][22] Following this, he worked as a self-employed corn merchant until his death on 12 June 1950; he was survived by his 20-year old adoptive daughter, his wife died several years before him.[1]



  1. ^ English newspapers, recounting his original playing career at Notts County, referred to him as "Chiddy";[1] American sources frequently nicknamed him "Pep".[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "Death Of An Old Notts. County Player Mr. Fred (Chiddy) Pepper". Nottingham Evening Post. 13 June 1950. p. 6. Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ a b "Fred Pepper resigns from soccer league". The Bethlehem Globe. 21 August 1929. Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  3. ^ "DServe Archive Catalog Show". Nottinghamshire County Council. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  4. ^ "Men's Ontario Cup Champions". Ontario Soccer Association. Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Pioneer Pepper joined Stars and Stripes". Nottingham Post. 8 June 2012. Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  6. ^ "Bethlehems again wins soccer title". The Bethlehem Globe. 3 May 1915. Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  7. ^ Litterer, David "The Year in American Soccer - 1916". Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  8. ^ "Bethlehem retains U.S. Soccer title". The Bethlehem Globe. 8 May 1916. Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  9. ^ "Bethlehem Steel loses championship". The Bethlehem Globe. 7 May 1917. Archived from the original on 20 October 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  10. ^ "Bethlehem Steel lands the American championship". The Bethlehem Globe. 14 May 1917. Archived from the original on 20 October 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  11. ^ "Despite the rough tactics by Rovers victory comes here". The Bethlehem Globe. 27 May 1918. Archived from the original on 20 October 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  12. ^ Brown, Julian "The Rise and Fall of the Bethlehem Steel Football Club". Philly Sports Live. 27 February 2013. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  13. ^ "Bethlehem Steel Soccer Team wins American Cup". The Bethlehem Globe. 20 May 1918. Archived from the original on 20 October 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  14. ^ "Another soccer title comes to the city of Bethlehem". The Bethlehem Globe. 28 April 1919. Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  15. ^ "Another soccer championship for this city". The Bethlehem Globe. 21 April 1919. Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  16. ^ "A Swing Along Athletic Row". The Bethlehem Globe. 16 May 1921. Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  17. ^ "Sport has Banner Year during 1921". The New York Times. 25 December 1921. p. 19. 
  18. ^ Jose 1998, p. 19
  19. ^ Jose 1998, p. 37
  20. ^ Jose 1998, p. 62
  21. ^ a b Zeitlin, Dave "Ghosts of Bethlehem Steel still linger in Philadelphia soccer lore". Major League Soccer. 16 September 2014. Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  22. ^ "Interview with John S. Wadolny for In the Age of Steel: Oral Histories from Bethlehem Pennsylvania" (PDF). Lehigh University. 11 March 1975. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 


  • Jose, Colin (1998). The American Soccer League: The Golden Years of American Soccer 1921-1931. Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-1-4617-1612-9.