At 48 years of age, I have lost some of my recall ability, as you can imagine, but there are two things I will never forget as a child: going to my first baseball game, and attending my first football game.
My first live baseball experience was in 1965 when I was four years of age. Shea Stadium was a state-of-the-art palace at the time, not that a four-and-a-half year old boy would know the difference.
The Mets won the battle, but lost the war, as you probably know.
Baseball was fun, but I loved football.
My support for Big Blue goes back further than most. I am one of the few writers on this site that can claim to have attended Giants home games in four stadiums over a period of five decades.
My father was an old New York Giants baseball fan and, by nature, he became a rabid New York football Giants fan. His spectator days go back to the 1940s at the Polo Grounds. By virtue, my brothers and I inherited our love for the football Giants from him.
It was 1967. The Vietnam War had yet to peak. Many American cities were still left to be burned. The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were still alive and well. Woodstock was still two summers away. Richard Nixon was unemployed and, most importantly, I went to my first New York Football Giants game.
I had never seen the Giants play a home game—not even on television.
Keep in mind that Giants home games were rarely televised back then because of the NFL’s blackout rule. A team had to sell out—or sell a certain percentage of seats—for the local TV blackout to be lifted. That was impossible at the time because Yankee Stadium held 80,000 seats and there was no way the faltering Giants were getting that many butts up to the crumbling Bronx.
I listened to the home games on the radio. Marty Glickman, the former Olympian was the play-by-play announcer. For those of you who never heard one his broadcasts, you missed out on something special. Glickman had a cadence, similar to that of Marv Albert, but not as pronounced. (Albert was actually a protégé of Glickman’s). The color commentator was usually former Giant Al De Rogatis, who would eventually work for NBC in the 70s.
October 8th. Normally the Bronx would be preparing for a World Series game, but the Yankees had fallen on hard times. Instead, the New York Football Giants were hosting the winless, expansion New Orleans Saints at Yankee Stadium that day.
When the time came, my father and I jumped into his friend’s car, a Buick the size of an aircraft carrier, and zipped merrily up to the Bronx.
The Bronx was once a thriving, middle-class borough consisting of immigrants from all over the globe. It was composed of tight-knit, strong communities, was very difficult to navigate.
That all changed with the construction of three expressways—The Cross Bronx, The Major Deegan and the Bruckner. These roads were designed to connect New Jersey with Connecticut and Long Island without clogging up the streets of the Bronx and Manhattan, which they did, but the residual effects devastated the region.
The Giants and the Yankees both suffered from the “white flight” of the 1960s . Middle-class families fled the Bronx for the spacious, lung-friendlier suburbs. This, combined with the fact that both franchises had tanked performance-wise, sparked a burgeoning legion of new Mets and Jets fans.
That aside, I had a great time at the game. All my favorites were there—in blue jerseys! Fran Tarkenton and Homer Jones. Tucker Frederickson and Ernie Koy. Aaron Thomas, and my personal hero—No. 40, Joe Morrison. Spider Lockhart was there too.
The Giants almost handed the Saints their first franchise victory, but Tarkenton rallied them to a 27-21 win. All was right with the world.
Every time I smell cigar smoke and stale beer, I think back to that day.
It would be years later that I learned that the five of us only had four tickets. My father greased the ticket taker to let me through the turnstiles.
The Giants had me hooked before that day, but I was totally immersed in Blue from that moment on. I’ve either gone to, watched, or listened to every Giants game from 1967 to the present.
Wherever the Giants played, near or far, I wanted to go. When Yankee Stadium was going through a remodeling in 1974, we went to the Yale Bowl. In 1975, I walked to Shea Stadium (don’t be alarmed, I lived in Flushing) to see the Craig Morton Giants fall short in six of the eight games.
When the Meadowlands opened, the first game was against the Cowboys. I’m sorry to report that I was not in attendance. My older brother wanted to go, so you know how those things turn out. I had to work, but I listened to Glickman’s call on the radio. The Meadowlands would become a second home to me over the years.
As time went on, I ended up losing my season tickets when my friend’s father passed away and the family took them over. That didn’t deter me from going to games though. Other friends would take me or I would scalp.
My biggest thrill was being in attendance at the Rose Bowl for Super Bowl XXI, when the Giants defeated Denver for their first NFL Championship in 30 years.
Since then, I’ve gone to three or four games a year. I like to stay home and watch more than I used to. That’s a sign of aging I guess, but the enthusiasm is as strong and as vibrant as that six-year-old kid’s was in 1967.
When people want to talk Giants, they seek me out. They know I’ve seen the highs, the lows and the in-betweens. They know I’ll know a player’s uniform number from 1973 or where a guy played his college ball or what our record was in 1987.
Whether it’s a conversation or question about the Giants’ past, present or future, they know that I’ll have the right perspective or answer.
And they know that I’ll be more than happy to give it to them.