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Jim Brown

Sport: Soccer

Born: December 31, 1908

Died: November 9, 1994

Town: Westfield

James Brown was born December 31, 1908 in Kimarnock, Scotland and grew up in Troon, on Scotland’s west coast. Jim was the oldest of four soccer-playing brothers. His uncle, Alex Lambie, was a star player for Patrick Thistle in the 1920s. Jim went to work in the local shipyard as an apprentice riveter at the age of 13. Although he never played soccer for an organized team, he played enough as a teenager in company and town games to master the game. By this time, Jim’s father had deserted the family and moved to America in the years after World War I.

After Jim turned 18, he sailed to the U.S. hoping to track down his father. He settled in the town of Westfield, NJ and put his riveting skills to work in a local factory. His soccer skills came to the attention of the Bayonne Rovers, one of the state’s top clubs. Jim played the first four games of the 1928 season for Bayonne and scored in each game. His bright hair earned him the nickname Red in the newspapers. He moved over to the Newark Skeeters and began a career that would see him play on the forward line for five more teams in New Jersey and New York between 1929 and 1932.

Jim signed his first pro contract in 1930, with the New York Giants of the American Soccer League. As the inaugural World Cup approached in 1930, Jim was deemed eligible to play for the U.S. squad because his father had become an American citizen. Jim was one of four Giants to suit up for the team—George Moorehouse, Shamus O’Brien and Phil Slone were the others. Jim scored the only goal for Team USA in the tournament, at the end of a 6–1 loss to Argentina.

The Great Depression took its toll on soccer in America. In 1932, Jim decided he could make more playing in the UK. Several English clubs hoped to sign him and sent representatives to the docks to vie for his services. Manchester United sent its manager by tugboat to Jim’s ship, and the deal was done before he set foot on British soil. In his first game, Jim curled a corner kick directly into the back of the goal. He played 40 games for ManU from 1932 to 1934 and scored 17 goals, making him the club’s second-highest scorer. Jim’s support of a player’s union put him on the wrong side of management, however, and he was transferred right after scoring the winning goal in the Manchester Cup against crosstown rival Manchester City.

Jim finished his Association career playing mostly for the reserve squads of Brentford and Tottenham Hotspur. Neither club wanted to promote him to the senior team because of his union views. A nonleague club, Guilford City, signed Jim and he tallied 148 goals in 150 games. Seven of those goals came in a single game—six on headers. He still owns the club records for career goals and goals in a game.

Knee problems slowed Jim’s progress in the GeorgeBrownASLAllStars2late-1930s. The final highlight of his career came in 1940, when he joined Clyde of the Scottish League. Just as he had in his ManU debut, Jim scored on a direct corner in his first game. After war broke out, Jim returned to the Troon shipyards, where he contributed to the war effort in his old job as a riveter. In his 13-year career as a pro soccer player, he scored 271 goals.

After World War II, Jim returned to the U.S. and found work as a high school soccer coach in Greenwich, Connecticut. He also coach the Elizabeth (NJ) Falcons of the American Soccer League for a couple of seasons in the late 1950s.

His son, George (left)—born in 1935 in England—was a chip off the old block when it came to goal-scoring. He was a top pro in the 1950s and made an appearance for Team USA in 1957 in a World Cup qualifier and later competed for America in the 1959 Pan American Games, taking home a bronze medal. Jim was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1986 and George—who also enjoyed a long coaching career—was inducted in 1995. They are the only father-son combo in the Hall. Unfortunately, Jim was not around to enjoy this distinction. He passed away in 1994 in Berkeley Heights at the age of 85.

Jim's grandson, James, won a pair of state soccer championship in the 1980s as a member of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood soccer team. He can be contacted at robyburns@hotmail.com.

 

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