Jill Beauchesne - USSoccerPlayers - MISSOULA, MT (July 8, 2004) - John “Jukey” Nanoski started playing soccer when he was 12 years old, only the soccer ball he used back in the 1930’s looked a lot different than the soccer balls of today—it was smaller, thicker, and brown—resembling a handball. After playing for Stetson High School, Jukey went on to play for the Kensington Blue Bells, one of the top amateur teams in the Philadelphia area, and then played in Brooklyn for the St. Mary’s Celtic of the American Soccer League.
Jukey says that his best moment in soccer came in 1939 when Celtic played Chicago for the National Open Cup and he had three of the five goals in the two-game final series. Today, Jukey still lives outside of Philadelphia and works in landscaping. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the same year as Pele, a man who, according to Jukey, “likes a couple glasses of wine … ”
The title of this series is “Where Are They Now,” so that’s where we’ll begin today. Where are you living and what are you doing now?
I live on Richton Road in Philadelphia, in a suburb called Parkwood. I’m retired now, but I do a lot of landscaping. Yesterday I worked down at my granddaughter’s house.
Do you still get out to play or watch any soccer? How involved are you in the game nowadays?
I go regularly to the girls and boys games in the youth leagues. I also watch the Philadelphia Soccer Club, they’re an amateur team in Philly. They have a field over on the Boulevard. If I get a chance, I like to watch pro soccer for something to do. I like it, but they’re too fast for me sometimes.
Back in your playing days, could you ever have imagined you’d one day be inducted into the Soccer Hall of Fame? Can you describe your career?
Well, I started kicking the ball when I was 12 or 13 years old. I went to Stetson High School, and kicked a wooden ball around with my friends. I belonged to the Philadelphia Athletic Club, and from there I got onto the playground at the recreation centers and played some soccer. I played at 5th and Westmoreland, it was called the Westmoreland Rec Center. I played on a U-16 team for one year, and we won the division. After that, I made a third-division amateur team, the Kensington Quoit club. I played there, and we won the third and second division.
Then I got asked to play with the Kensington Blue Bells, the best team in the city. I got three bucks a game. Well, if you won, you got three dollars. A tie was two dollars and a loss was one dollar (laughs). In 1938, we won the Pennsylvania league championship. After the game, we were at the club and after a couple of beers someone asked me if I would like to play for Brooklyn.
I played on the Brooklyn Celtics and did pretty well there. I led the ASL in goals. We won the National Championship in 1938 and 1939. I played all over the country with them. I was the leading goal scorer in 1942 and 1947. Oh, and with the Blue Bells, I had 54 goals in one year. I had a lot of good friends making a lot of good passes for that to happen.
I also belong to the Philadelphia Soccer Hall of Fame. I’ve lived in Philadelphia ever since. I was inducted into the National Hall the same year as Pele. He’s a good guy. He liked to drink a couple of wines. It was fun.
How are your friends and family members involved in soccer, if at all?
My son used to play, but he passed away. He also umpired for baseball and softball, and he was a soccer ref. His name was Michael. My grandson played soccer but he’s working now. He played with a team called the Lighthouse.
What were some of your greatest moments while playing soccer?
The greatest thrill I ever got was when we played Chicago in Sparta Stadium for the 1939 Championship. Back then, we had a two game final, one in each hometown stadium. We were lucky to beat them 1-0 in Chicago, and I scored the goal. Back in New York, we played in Starlight Park, and we beat them 4-1. I got two goals in that game. So I had three of our five goals in the Cup that year.
I also belong to the Old Timer’s Hall of Fame. The group helps out young kids. We make big donations to the associations and leagues all of the time.