St. Louis’ famous Italian neighborhood known as “The Hill”, featuring some of the finest Italian restaurants from gourmet to home-style bakeries will soon be a backdrop for a major feature film.
The Missouri Film Commission held a press conference, May 19, at St. Ambrose Catholic Church, to announce that “The Game of Their Lives”, based on the true story of the 1950 U.S. World Cup soccer team, which will begin five weeks of filming this June and July at St. Louis-area locations.
During the press conference, St. Louis Front Page took the opportunity to speak with Ty Keough, who was sitting in the audience. “The story is about an underdog group of Americans soccer players who beat what was at that time considered to be the greatest soccer team in the world – the English who invented the sport,” stated Keough.
“Five St. Louis guys started that game and played the entire game, including my dad, Harry Keough, and four guys from The Hill,” stated Keough. “Frank Borghi, the goal keeper was the star of the game because he was able to shutout the very powerful English attack. Gino Pariani, Pee Wee Wallace. Charlie Columbo was the big mean central defender (center back) from The Hill.”
“What we are talking about is based on a book called “The Game of Their Lives,” which was written by Geoffrey Douglas,” continued Keough. “He does an excellent job of taking you into the neighborhoods that these guys grew up in. How the whole country was different. We are talking 1950. The neighborhoods that they came from, the kind of families that they came from, the kind of values that they had. It’s a great underdog story.”
“It’s like the team that you grew up playing baseball with went and beat the New York Yankees. So this is the team who went and beat the English. The English at that time were full time pros. The American team was at most a semi-pro team,” he said.
Keough, who played six seasons with the St. Louis Steamers, is now the lead analyst for ESPN II and ABC’s coverage of major soccer. He spoke proudly of his father, who still participates in the Senior Olympics and coaches little league teams.
Following the press conference, Harry Keough told St. Louis Front Page that “It was a real thrill for us. We’ve gotten some recognition over the years but not a heck of lot of recognition.”
Keough commented that “It is regrettable that some of the guys won’t be here to enjoy it.” He spoke enthusiastically of his teammates as he identified all the players in that memorable game.
“Frank Borghi, who was from The Hill, was the goalkeeper. Right fullback was myself, Harry Keough. Center back was Charlie Columbo, who was also from this neighborhood.The left back was Joe Maca. He was originally from Belgium. He was living in New York at the time. The halfback was Ed McIlhenny, who was originally from Scotland, and playing in Philadelphia. The other halfback was Walter Bahr. On the outside right was Frank Wallace, who was from this same neighborhood. The inside forward was a neighbor of his, Gino Pariani. The center forward was Joe Gaetjens, a black fellow from Haiti, who was living in New York for about two or three years. Joe was the one who scored the big goal. He had a Belgium name because his father was from Belgium and his mother was a black lady from Haiti. The inside left was John Souza, who was from Paul River, MA., where a lot of Portuguese-Americans played soccer. On the left wing playing with him was Edward Souza. It was spelled the same way but they were not related.”
“In those days you didn’t have any substitutes. Eleven men put on the uniform and if somebody got hurt, you played without them,” stated Keough.
“We had Bill Jeffrey as a coach who was a very nice man. I think his low-key approach to everything had a lot to do with us doing so well. He didn’t come in saying, I’m going to do this. He was very sociable and had joined the team at a late time. He just said, ‘Well, we’ll just do the best we can with what we got.’ And, certainly we did,” stated Keough.
Produced by Los Angeles-based Crusader Entertainment, “Game” reunites director David Anspaugh and screenwriter Angelo Pizzo, who teamed previously on the hit films Hoosiers and Rudy. Actors Gerard Butler will portray Borghi and Wes Bentley will portray another U.S. team member, Walter Bahr. Bentley’s credit include roles in American Beauty and Four Feathers. Butler can be seen this summer in Tom Raider 2 and Timetable.