Short History of St. Louis Water Polo
By Wally Lundt
game of Water Polo received world-wide sanction as an Olympic event at
the 1904 World’s Fair here in St. Louis. This combination of a World’s
Fair and the Olympics drew athletes from around the world who came to participate
in the usual Olympic individual events. Water Polo was the first
team sport ever played in the Olympics. It was played in a muddy
lagoon in Forest Park with an under-inflated, soft ball which could be
submerged by a player and then moved underwater. There were few rules
and the game was so rough that all European teams boycotted the event.
Water Polo was brought to St. Louis by Carl O. Bauer from Germany when
he became Athletic Director of the Missouri Athletic Club in the 1920’s.
In 1927 when the Meramec River Patrol was formed by Carl Bauer and Commodore
Flint of the American Red Cross, Water polo was used as a conditioning
activity for this organization dedicated to rescuing swimmers who were
in trouble on our nearby rivers. Most Missouri Athletic Club players
were members of the Meramec River Patrol.
Bauer and the MAC hosted the 1946 Olympic Water Polo Trials in St. Louis
at Marquette pool in south St. Louis. The St. Louis team came in
second. First place went to the Olympic Club from San Francisco,
1950 the MAC won the A.A.U. Junior National Water Polo Championship in
Detroit, Michigan. Also in 1950 and 1951 the MAC won the Mid-Atlantic
Championships in Bermuda. Three St. Louis players received National
A.A.U. “All American” honors that year. They were field players Richard
Newman and Barry Queensen, and goalie Don Clooney.
Newman was elected in the United States Water Polo Hall of Fame in 1982,
and was elected as a member of the Missouri Hall of Fame in 1991.
the mid-1960’s the St. Louis Water Polo Association was founded.
A summer league made up of 7 to 9 teams from the Greater St. Louis Area
played a weekly schedule of games at Clayton Shaw Park. In 1968 the
Clayton Invitational Water Polo Tournament was started. For 32 years
this July tournament has attracted teams from around the Midwest, the South,
Canada and one summer a junior national team from Holland. It is
the longest running, annually held water polo tournament in the country.
1968 the St. Louis Water Polo Association hosted the Senior National Indoor
Championships at Rang Pool at Lambert Field. There were three St.
Louis teams, two California teams, two Chicago teams and the University
of Indiana team. The St. Louis Water Polo Club “A” Team, coached
by Wally Lundt, finished second. The Downey Club of California was
the winner. The St. Louis “A” Team, an all-star team, was made up
of Dan and Don Casey, Jim Spiegel, Allen Leet, Alan Stiffelman, Bennett
Katz, Steve Rennard, Morton May, Ron Roman, Joe Guigon, and Don Clooney.
Other players from St. Louis included Mark Kessler, Steve Stiffelman, Art
Kelley, Dick Newman, Chris Mutrux, Bill Patten, Gary Miller, Robert Amelung
and Jerry Scherbel.
1971 Clayton hosted the A.A.U. Junior Olympics Water Polo Tournament, a
nationwide meet for 15 year olds and under. The Clayton Water Polo
Club took the gold.
1960 Coach Wally Lundt of Clayton High School felt that swimmers needed
a Fall team sport as a conditioning activity to precede the winter swimming
season. He persuaded two other area swimming coaches, Steve Neilson
of Ladue High School and Bill Pohlman of University City High School, to
form the first Water Polo High School League in St. Louis. During
the 60’s, Clayton was the dominant team. They won the District Championship
in 1960, ’61, ’62, ’65, ’67, ’68, ’70, ’71, and for the last time in 1974.
University City took the honors in ’63 & ’64. St. Louis University
High School joined the league in 1961 and captured first place in ’66 and
’69. In 1962 a freshman – sophomore team schedule was added.
During the 60’s, the following teams joined the high school league: Cleveland,
Lindbergh, Hancock, Mehlville, Webster Groves, Parkway Central and Country
Day. In the early ‘70’s, Principia, Affton, Parkway West and
Berkeley added teams. By the mid-70’s, Parkway North and Oakville
swelled the number of teams to fourteen. Teams joining since 1980
were Parkway South, John Burroughs, Eureka, Marquette, Summit, Lafayette,
Chaminade, DeSmet and Kirkwood. The 1999 District Championships will
feature the play of twenty schools.
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