When I heard of the passing of Frank Borghi today I got a feeling in the pit in my stomach. The last remaining St. Louis survivor from the 1950 team who did the impossible of beating the mighty England 1-0 in Brazil was gone. Unlike others, I never had the pleasure to actually meet Mr. Borghi, yet from the stories I have heard and uncovered over the last 9 months I feel like I had. It is only right that I take a minute to remember someone who was very special to me, and the soccer community in St. Louis
Frank Borghi was born April 9th, 1925 in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up in the Italian neighborhood of the Hill. His childhood home on Marconi bares a plaque with his name on the side walk outside. A baseball player first, he later turned to soccer. Not having the foot skills necessary to be a field player he became a goalkeeper. He would never kick the ball if possible, but rather relied on his incredible arm strength from years of playing baseball to throw the soccer ball down the field after making a save.
Frank, like many men of the time served in World War II as an Army medic. In one of the famous stories of the time, he actually mended to an injured St. Louis Cardinals broadcasting legend Jack Buck. Try to imagine that; two hall of fame titans before their prime, serving our country alongside one another. Frank was awarded both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service.
Upon returning from World War II he took to the soccer fields of St. Louis and helped the powerhouse team of St. Louis Simpkins-Ford win two U.S. Open Cups in 1948 and 1950 alongside his future World Cup teammates PeeWee Wallace, Gino Pariani and Charlie Colombo. When selected for the 1950 US team he would prove powerful in goal against England. He once said he hoped to hold England to a few goals, as in 4 or 5, but he did even better then that. He held the world powerhouse at bay by not allowing one goal. After the game Brazilians rushed the field and carried him out on their shoulders.
Yet, Frank was a normal man. By all accounts he was private and polite. The true gentleman, he would run Calcaterra funeral home after the death of Paul Calcaterra in 1970. The funeral business was Frank’s day job and soccer was probably the fun job.
So, why did Frank Borghi touch so many of us here in St. Louis? Because he truly was one of us. He was an everyday man who did extraordinary things. A man from the most St. Louis of St. Louis neighborhoods, who found glory in Brazil, and lived the true American dream will never be forgotten. We can only hope that that spirit lies within us all.