A few days ago, I was clearing out a few things in my aunt’s basement when I stumbled upon a New York State license plate. Not just any New York license plate—a NY World's Fair 64 plate with orange letters on a black background.
1964. The year the World’s Fair came to New York. Conjuring up memories of class trips and family visits. Exhibits like General Motors, Johnson’s Wax and the State of Illinois. And Michelangelo’s Pieta. The Unisphere.
I became a teenager that year, entered eighth grade and discovered girls, not necessarily in that order. In 1964, the nation was dealing with the pain of JFK’s assassination. LBJ was President. The Civil Rights Act was signed.
In 1964, a gallon of gas cost 25 cents and postage stamps were a nickel. My Fair Lady was the best picture and The Munsters premiered on CBS-TV.
The Beatles came on the scene in 1964. A huge earthquake rocked Alaska. Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco were born; so were Sandra Bullock, Nicolas Cage and Lenny Kravitz.
End of a Dynasty
In sports, the great Yankee dynasty was coming to an end...although few saw it coming. The Yankees would win their fifth straight American League before losing to St. Louis and a gritty Bob Gibson in the seventh game of the World Series in October. All that after Mickey Mantle’s walk-off homer in Game 3 gave the Yankees a 2-1 win—and a lead in the series.
The Mets, meanwhile, had a new home, Shea Stadium, right next to the World’s Fair in Flushing. Phillies' outfielder Johnny Callison hit a three-run home run to lift the National League to an All-Star win at Shea. And in September, the Phillies would blow the pennant, blowing a six-and-a-half game lead with 12 games remaining.
The Giants tumbled to a 2-10-2 record in 1964, this after winning five conference titles—and no championships—in the previous six years. The Cleveland Browns demolished the Giants 52-20 on a rainy Saturday at Yankee Stadium in the final game of the regular season and went on to beat the Baltimore Colts 27-0 for the NFL championship.
The Jets didn’t fare much better at 5-8-1. Another New York team, the Buffalo Bills, would defeat San Diego 20-7 for the AFL title.
And while the Knickerbockers (last) and Rangers (next to last) were languishing, the Boston Celtics were in the midst of an eight-year championship run. And the Toronto Maple Leafs were winning their third straight Stanley Cup.
UCLA won its first NCAA title in 1964; the Bruins beat Duke in the final. And Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide were national champions in football.
1964 was an Olympic year, and Billy Mills made his mark in the Summer Games in Tokyo when he became the only American ever to win the 10,000 meters. Bob Hayes won the 100-meter race, and Joe Frazier won gold in the heavyweight boxing division.