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U.S. international Walter Bahr, 91, dies after complications from broken hip

Walter Bahr, left, speaks with vice-president Joe Biden before a Philadelphia Union match in 2010.
Walter Bahr, left, speaks with vice president Joe Biden before a Philadelphia Union game in 2010.

Walter Bahr, the last living member of the U.S. soccer team that upset England at the 1950 World Cup, has died at age 91.

Bahr died Monday in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, from complications that resulted from a broken hip, according to granddaughter Lindsey D. Bahr, a film writer for The Associated Press.

He is survived by his wife of 71 years, the former Davies Uhler; daughter Davies Ann Desiderio, and sons Matt, Chris, and Casey. All three sons played professional soccer, and Matt and Chris won Super Bowls as placekickers in the NFL.

A midfielder who scored one goal in 19 international appearances, Bahr collected a throw-in from Ed McIlvenny on June 29, 1950, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and took a shot from about 25 yards that Joe Gaetjens deflected past goalkeeper Bert Williams with a diving header late in the first half. The U.S. held on for a 1-0 win, a triumph portrayed in the 2005 movie "The Game of Their Lives.''

"I say the older I get, the more famous I become," Bahr told the AP in 2010. "I wasn't famous for 50 years."

A team of soccer unknowns, the U.S. won the famous match against an England side that included Alf Ramsey and Tom Finney, who earned knighthoods.

"Walter Bahr was one of the greatest people to ever be part of soccer in the United States," former U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. "Not only was he a pioneer and a fantastic ambassador for our game over many years, he was a true gentleman."

"A true legend in soccer in the United States," USSF President Carlos Cordeiro said. "His contribution to one of the most iconic moments in U.S. soccer history was only part of a lifetime of selfless contributions to the game. As a coach, a mentor, a friend, and a colleague, Walter touched the lives of so many people in our sport, ensuring a legacy that will last for generations."

Quick with a story, a laugh and a smile, Bahr started all three U.S. matches at the 1950 World Cup. The defender made his international debut in a World Cup qualifier against Cuba in 1949, joining a national team that had lost its seven previous international matches by a combined 45-2. The Americans tied Cuba 1-1 in his debut, lost to Mexico, then beat Cuba as Bahr scored and earned a trip to the 1950 tournament in Brazil.

The U.S. wasted a late lead to Spain in its opener and lost 3-1. England was coming off a win over Chile.

"We knew we weren't in the same class as the English team," Bahr said. "But anybody worth their salt when they go out onto the field, they always think there's some possibility that something can happen, that they could steal a victory.

"As much as we were very thrilled and pleased to win the game, most of us felt the same way: `How's that English club going to go back home and face their fans?' It was a lot easier for us to explain the victory than for them to go back and explain that defeat."

Born on April 1, 1927, Bahr was a graduate of Temple University and part of the 1948 U.S. Olympic team. He coached Temple from 1970-73 and Penn State from 1974-88, leading the Nittany Lions to the NCAA semifinals in 1979, when he was United Soccer Coaches College Coach of the Year.

A memorial service is scheduled for June 29 at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in State College, Pennsylvania.

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