The FIFA Magazine of June 1994 featured James Brown, thought at that time to be the only survivor of the United States team that had competed in the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930. But when Brown died later that year, it was discovered that an old team-mate was still alive : Philip Slone.
Philip Slone read the good news in a letter dated 6 May 1930 and signed by the Secretary of the United States Football Association, Inc., Thomas Cahill : he had been "honoured with selection to the team which will represent the United States in the World Soccer Championship games, to be held at Montevideo, Uruguay, during July of 1930".
Cahill's letter went on to ask Slone to tell the USFA what he wanted to do about "the distribution of the money which has been granted to the professional players for the trip. Do you wish same to be sent to your family or do you desire to retain some of the amount for yourself?"
There is no record of Slone's reply. Maybe he was too busy packing to set sail from Hoboken, New Jersey, on 13 June aboard the S.S. Munargo.
As the good ship pulled into the Hudson River and headed south, she carried aboard her Slone and his 15 team-mates, Jim Brown included, on the big adventure of the first-ever World Cup finals.
Outsiders from the start, the US almost caused an upset, beating Belgium and then Paraguay both 3-0 before going down 1-6 to the superior Argentinians in the semi-final.
Slone was a 23 year-old wing-half, a member of the New York Giants in the professional American Soccer League. Today, he is the only surviving member of that historic first World Cup delegation.
Emerged from obscurity
Born in New York on 20 January, 1907, Slone was for many years a forgotten man on the US football scene. But when old friend Jim Brown died in November 1994, Slone emerged from years of obscurity. And on 30 June this year, he was the guest of honour at the annual National Soccer Hall of Fame celebrations in Oneonta, New York.
Now 89, the former midfielder performed the ceremonial kick-off to a game between the US Olympic team and that of Saudi Arabia. It was the first match he had attended for many years, and just before walking onto the field he remarked with surprise : "I don't remember the field being this big!" - a particularly interesting comment when one remembers that back in 1930, the US had claimed that the field in the brand-new Centenario Stadium in Montevideo was eight metres longer than the norm and their players had trouble coming to terms with the extra space in the semi-final there...
Although he finally did not make the line-up for any of the Americans' three matches in Uruguay, Slone did get a game in US colours against Brazil in Rio on the way home. Although still in good physical shape, today he remembers little about the trip to South America, but still idolises two of its members, Billy Gonsalves and Bert Patenaude, the latter "the greatest goalscorer I ever saw".
Captain of his team at Commerce High School, Slone was first spotted by former members of the famous Vienna Hakoah team that had settled in New York and was invited to join them when they formed their own team in 1928.
"Life was hectic then," he recalls. "I played professional soccer on the weekends, worked during the week and went to evening classes at St.John's University Law School." In 1929 he graduated as a lawyer and was subsequently admitted to the New York Bar.
During twelve years as a professional, Slone remembers playing against several European teams touring the US, including Sabaria of Budapest, Racing Club of Madrid and Glasgow Celtic. He finished his playing career with New York Brookhattan.
A place in the Hall of Fame
Philip Slone's appearance at the Hall of Fame events this year came just ten years after he had been inducted into the Hall, along with 13 other members of the 1930 squad. But nobody had known where he was at that time and the celebrations went ahead without him.
Now, 66 years after being in a World Cup squad, he has formally taken his place in the Hall and enjoyed the spotlight as the lone survivor.