Credit for Patenaude long overdue

SOMERSET, Mass. -- Bertrand "Bert" Arthur Patenaude Jr. remembers seeing his father play soccer only once. By his recollection, he was 5 or 6, and his father was playing at the Ponta Delgada in Fall River, Mass. He doesn't remember much about the action except that his father was injured during the match.

"He got hit and then he went down in a heap," said Patenaude, 77. "I can still see him laying down there on the field."

That's hardly the memory most who saw Bertrand "Bert" Arthur Patenaude Sr. play during the 1920s and '30s would recount.

The more accurate depiction of Patenaude's soccer ability came from strangers who stopped him in the grocery store or walking down the street in Fall River to say: "Are you Bert Patenaude? You were a great player."

Acclaim followed Patenaude wherever he trod in southeastern Massachusetts. As the first player to record a hat trick in a World Cup game, in 1930, he'd gained international notoriety in addition to his local renown as the star striker who led the Fall River Marksmen of the American Soccer League to back-to-back U.S. Open Cup titles in 1930 and '31.

However, for all the laurels that were cast Patenaude's way, a stigma was attached to his name and his World Cup accomplishment long past the day he died.

The dark cloud originated the day in Montevideo, Uruguay, when Patenaude scored his "hat trick" in a 3-0 U.S. victory over Paraguay.

"He wasn't the type of man who would've taken credit for something that he didn't do," Bert Jr. said. "He would have told them from the very beginning."

By the book

Dated July 17, 1930, the official FIFA match report had goals scored by the United States in the 10th, 15th and 50th minutes. The goals in the 10th and 50th were credited to Patenaude. The 15th-minute goal was awarded to Tom Florie. However, the U.S. Soccer Federation's account had Patenaude scoring in the 15th minute, giving him three for the game. A third account of the action only complicated the matter further: The Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation has the second goal as an own goal by Paraguay.

At home, Patenaude stood as the first player to score three times in one game in the World Cup. By the international soccer community's standards, it was not Patenaude but Argentina's Guillermo Stabile (who netted three goals during a match against Mexico two days later) who registered the first World Cup hat trick.

Without a consensus of who scored the second goal, Patenaude's feat had a de facto asterisk placed next to it.

"In his mind and in his heart, he believed that he'd scored three goals," Bert Jr. said.

Bert Sr. was born on Nov. 4, 1909, in Fall River. He died on his birthday in 1974. Patenaude was inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 1971.

He was among the most prolific goal scorers in the original American Soccer League, netting 114 goals in 158 matches from 1928-31. Patenaude started his career with the Philadelphia German-Americans before returning home to play with the Marksmen later in the 1928 season. The next season he was joined by Billy Gonsalves -- who also grew up in Fall River and was known to many in his time as the Babe Ruth of American soccer -- forming a feared scoring duo.

Patenaude and Gonsalves also joined forces on the national team that represented the U.S. at the first World Cup in 1930.

"It speaks to what soccer was here," Bert Jr. said recently at his home in Somerset, Mass. "I don't think there's a greater honor than representing your country. But not only that, you're representing your hometown and Fall River was a major soccer power at that time."

An industrial city built on the foundation of its granite quarries and powered by the flow of the Quequechan River, Fall River prospered in the 19th century because of its textile mills. Those who worked in the mills were for the most part Irish, French Canadian and Portuguese immigrants. They brought with them their culture and pastimes. Soccer was a common thread many of the city's residents shared.

The Spindle City's soccer prowess first came to bear in 1917, when the Fall River Rovers captured the National Challenge Cup. A number of teams from the city went on to U.S. Open Cup victories in the ensuing decades, including Patenaude's Marksmen teams.

Fall River continued to leave its mark on international soccer throughout the decades. In the 1950 World Cup, when a ragtag group of semi-professionals from the U.S. took down the English soccer empire in a 1-0 shocker, two Fall River natives, John and Ed Souza (no relation), were on the field.

Like most from his hometown, Patenaude carried a blue collar mentality to life and soccer.

"He was hard-working," Bert Jr. said. "His best asset though was his speed. He could really get around defenders quick."

After his soccer career ended, Bert Sr. worked a number of jobs but primarily painted and hung wallpaper. The family lived on Middle Street in the shadow of the towering edifice of St. Anne's Church across from what is now known as Kennedy Park. Bert Jr., an only child, spent his down time playing baseball, not soccer, with his neighborhood friends in the park.

Bert Jr. and his wife, Muriel, have three children. Patenaude owned and operated his own insurance agency, which he recently sold. He stays busy working part-time as a real estate agent. People ask him about his father to this day.

"It's amazing how people remember. Everywhere I go, I hear about him. Even when I was at a meeting a couple of weeks ago and the guy sitting next to me said he saw a guy in an article that had the same name as me. I told him, 'That was my dad.'"

Patenaude's name was in the news again recently. Landon Donovan tied and then broke Patenaude's U.S. record for career World Cup goals, notching his fifth in the extra-time loss to Ghana.

Unlike his records of volume, Patenaude's claim to being the first to score three in a game will always stand. It's too bad he didn't live long enough to have that confirmed.

Finally, recognition

One day Bert Jr. received a message from his son, Bertrand M. Patenaude.

The youngest of the Bertrands is a lecturer at Stanford University and lives in Menlo Park, Calif. He's a scholar of Russian history and his most recent book chronicled the final years of Leon Trotsky. To no surprise "Butch," as his parents call him, is fond of research and has enjoyed digging up pearls on his grandfather's soccer career.

He'd just tripped across something that changed everything.

"I couldn't believe it," Bert Jr. said. "Just to think it took that long to figure it all out."

Bert Jr. had been waiting his entire life to see what his son sent him that November day in 2006. His father had waited until the day he died.

FIFA posted a message on its website that, at first glance, would have seemed a mundane detail from a World Cup game that happened long ago. It began:

Credit where credit is due: thanks to evidence from various historians and football fans, as well as lengthy research and confirmation from the US Soccer Federation, American Bert Patenaude has been retrospectively entered in FIFA's records as the first player to score a hat trick in FIFA World Cup history by virtue of his three goals in the USA's 3-0 win over Paraguay in Montevideo (Uruguay) on 17 July 1930.

Bert Jr. keeps a printed copy of the correction in his collection of artifacts from his father's career. Along with scrapbooks full of yellowed newspaper clippings, ornamental team pennants and countless photos, the printout produced from his computer might be the most valuable item in the collection.

"It's not something that's never going to happen again," Bert Jr. said. "It'll be done many times and it has been done many times. This isn't a record that isn't to be broken. But it was a record of first accomplishment. It's not going to be the only, but he'll always remain the first."

He paused.

"I do think it would have given him peace of mind."