Gino Pariani, part of great World Cup upset, dies at 79
ST. LOUIS -- Gino Pariani, who played for the United States on the 1950 team that produced one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history, has died. He was 79.
He died Wednesday night after having bone cancer for two years, his family said Thursday.
Pariani, the son of Italian immigrants, grew up playing soccer in St. Louis' famed Italian neighborhood, "The Hill" and was part of the mostly amateur team that jolted the soccer world with its 1-0 defeat of powerful England in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
A few days after he married, Pariani boarded a plane for Brazil with his St. Louis teammates. The Americans won 1-0 on a header by Joe Gaetjens in the 37th minute.
The English team featured the likes of Alf Ramsey, who would go on to become England's 1966 World Cup-winning coach, and Tom Finney. Both were eventually knighted for their soccer exploits. England was so deep in talent, the great Stanley Matthews did not play that day.
The Americans never got out of the first round of the tournament, and Uruguay went on to win the title.
Pariani and four other players from St. Louis were part of the starting lineup. With his death, only four players from that team are still alive. The story of the 1950 squad was told in the 2005 film, "The Game of Their Lives."
Daughter Denise Steen said her father never boasted about those heady days, but pictures of the team throughout the house were a constant reminder.
"He loved the game, loved watching and playing," she said.
Pariani also played on the U.S. Olympic team in 1948. He and fellow World Cup team member Frank Borghi grew up on Daggett Street, where a sidewalk plaque marks their celebrity.
Borghi, now 82, described his lifelong friend as an "excellent soccer player and a fine human being."
"He was an excellent inside right," he said. "He loved the game."
Steen said her father and his surviving teammates were treated like kings during filming of the movie in St. Louis, and each had his own director's chair.
"He really enjoyed life," Steen said. "He wasn't malicious. He didn't cuss. For a man to raise seven kids and never say 'damn it' was good. My mom took care of that."
He is survived by his wife, Janet, seven children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
A wake is planned for Monday in suburban Affton, with the funeral Tuesday.