By DANA SPITZER
When the world-renowned professional soccer team, Manchester City, comes to St. Louis May 23 for an exhibition game at Busch Stadium with Chelsea, another world-class English team, soccer fans are expected to pack the stadium with the same robust enthusiasm they bring to a play-off game for the Blues or Cardinals.
For Duke McVey, the retired President of the Missouri AFL-CIO and a member of the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame, it will bring back exciting memories.
The last time Manchester City played in St. Louis was 55 years ago when it played the St. Louis CYC All-Stars at Public School Stadium and McVey, who started playing soccer when he was eight years old, was on the St. Louis team.
The game was a highlight of McVey’s youth as a standout soccer and baseball player for CYC teams and the Junior Billikens at St. Louis University High School.
Six years before the game with Manchester City, McVey played for the St. Louis Raiders when they won the U.S. Amateur Cup Championship in 1952. In 1956, he played third base and was a relief pitcher on the St. Pius baseball team that won the CYC Championship.
Looking back on the game with Manchester City, which the All-Stars lost 6 to 2, McVey says, “I think we surprised them a little with how fast we were. We stayed on them like chiggers. We actually were bigger and stronger. But they were much better technically.”
At a dinner after the game, the All-Stars got to meet the Manchester players, some of whom were among the best in the world. It was a thrilling experience for the younger players and one McVey says he will remember forever.
McVey’s amateur soccer career ended when he got an apprenticeship for Pipefitters Local 562. Working in the field all day did not lend itself to playing soccer or supporting a young family.
Fortunately, his mother kept a scrapbook of his athletic youth that records many of his games and all of his championships. She surprised him with it several years ago before she died.
“It was a wonderful gift. I cherish the memories it brings back,” he said recently in an interview with the Labor Tribune.
McVey spent most of his years with Local 562 working in the St. James and Rolla area. At some point his leadership skills were recognized by Local 562 officers who supported a key role for him in the 1978 campaign to stop a right-to-work (for less) law in Missouri. His leadership in that campaign was recognized a year later when he ran for President of the state AFL-CIO and won with widespread support from unions throughout the state. He left the position in 2000.
Today, he and his wife spend several months a year in Jupiter, Florida, where they attend almost every Cardinals spring training game. They live in Jefferson City the remainder of the year, near children and grandchildren.
As much as he would like to be there, McVey won’t be able to attend the Manchester-Chelsea game May 23. Unfortunately, he’s scheduled for hip surgery May 22.