Oh wow, 1969 was just amazing

The year was 1969, a landmark year, perhaps the most incredible year of the 20th Century. Rob Kirkpatrick wrote all about in in 1969: The Year Everything Changed.

Here’s a Top 10 list of accomplishments, events, trends and happenings of 1969:

1. Man on the Moon

2. Woodstock

3. Amazin’ Mets

4. Nixon and Vietnam turmoil

5. Movies – Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

6. Rock and Roll – Beatles last concert, Led Zeppelin, Altamont and the Rolling Stones

7. Joe Namath and the guarantee

8. Student demonstration time

9. Chappaquiddick

10. Charles Manson and the Zodiac Killer

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7/20/69: Man on the Moon, Baseball as Usual

 

Casey Stengel always said the Mets would win when they put a man on the Moon. Both miracles happened in 1969.

The whole world didn’t stop on July 20, 1969, when astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon. It just seemed that way.

For even as astronaut Neil Armstrong was landing on the powdery surface of the Moon that day, uttering 11 of history’s most famous words —  “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” — the sports world carried on.

That famous Sunday featured a full schedule of baseball games, with many teams playing doubleheaders as was the norm in those days.

In Montreal, Bobby Pfeil’s bunt single in the 11th inning scored Ron Swoboda and gave the Mets a 4-3 win over the Expos and a split of their doubleheader. Montreal won the opener, 3-2.

The Mets, who would go on to miracles of their own that October, fell five games behind the Cubs in the National League East. Chicago’s Ferguson Jenkins and Dick Selma both pitched complete games as the Cubbies beat the Phillies, 1-0 and 6-1, at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia.

In Atlanta, Pat Jarvis pitched a six-hit shutout as the Braves maintained their one-game lead over the Giants and Dodgers in the NL West.

Orioles Rule AL East
Meanwhile, Syd O’Brien’s two-run triple in the eighth inning led the Red Sox to a 6-5 win over the Orioles. Despite the loss, Baltimore still led Boston by 11 names in the AL East.

And a shutout by Jim Perry, Gaylord’s brother, helped the AL West leading Twins to a 4-0 win over the Seattle Pilots and a four-game lead over Oakland.

The same day that Eagle landed on the Moon, Oakland left-hander Vida Blue, who went on to win the AL MVP and Cy Young award in 1971, was the losing pitcher in his major league debut. The A’s and Angels split a doubleheader that day.

In the Bronx, Gene Michael’s single drove in Roy White with the winning run as the Yankees beat the Washington Senators, 3-2, in 11 innings. Walk-off win was not yet part of the baseball vernacular.

This was the first year of divisional play in the majors. Four new teams — the Seattle Pilots and Kansas City Royals in the AL and San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos in the NL — joined baseball in 1969.

On that Sunday, July 20, Rod Carew of the Twins at .364 and Matty Alou of the Pirates at .354 and were the batting leaders. Oakland’s Reggie Jackson led the AL with 37 home runs; San Francisco’s Willie McCovey was tops in the AL with 30. Atlanta’s Phil Niekro led the majors with 15 wins.

Jacklin Celebrates British Open Win
In other sports, Tony Jacklin was still celebrating his win in the British Open the week before, first by an Englishman in 18 years.

And in football, Joe Namath and the rest of the Super Bowl champion New York Jets were gearing up for training camp at Hofstra University.

That same weekend, a car, shown above, driven by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., plunged off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island near Martha’s Vineyard. Kennedy managed to escape the submerged vehicle, but his passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned. (Kennedy subsequently pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a suspended two-month jail sentence.)

In 1969, the average family income in the United States was $8,389.00, and the price of gasoline ranged between 29 and 35 cents a gallon. A six pack of Coca Cola was selling for 59 cents and Hershey bar was .10 cents. The cost for a new Ford Mustang was a whopping $2,832.00 for a standard model.

Richard M. Nixon was President of the United States, Woodstock was on the horizon and man was on the Moon.

Related Links

1969: Magical Time, Magical Year

Woodstock: Better Late Than Never


Top 10: The Best of the SportsLifer

1. Woodstock: Better Late Than Never

“The thing the sixties did was show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.”

– John Lennon

Well, I finally made it to Woodstock, 39 years too late.

2. Empty Seats at Yankee Stadium

As the Yankees get set to open their final season in the original (albeit renovated) Yankee Stadium, look ahead to what I predict will be the toughest ticket in New York sports history — Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium in 2009.

Yankee tickets weren’t always tough tickets. Even during the great championship runs and dynasties, an SRO crowd in the Bronx was a novelty, not a daily occurrence.

3. NFC East Is NFL’s Beast
Historically, what’s the best division in the NFL?  If you use Super Bowl titles as the ultimate criteria, then it’s the NFC East, hands down.

4. Running Backs Once Ruled at Syracuse

Just like USC is known for producing tailbacks and Penn State linebackers, Syracuse University was once a football factory for running backs.

5. Celtics-Lakers Would Be Historic NBA Final

They’re the Lennon and McCartney of basketball, the Rogers and Astaire of hoops, the Batman and Robin of the hardwood.

6. All-Star Game: The Price Ain’t Right
The last time the All-Star game was held at Yankee Stadium in 1977, tickets were priced $10-15 for box and reserved seats. That’s a far cry from the $150-725 price range for the July 15 midsummer classic, and roughly two-three times the cost of tickets for last year’s game at San Francisco.

7. The Lifeline That Is Football

On a November afternoon in 1963, five days before President John F. Kennedy is assassinated, a 12-year old with this mother, father and cousin sees Y.A. Tittle and the Giants pound the 49ers in Yankee Stadium.

 

8. The Best of Yankee Stadium: Post-Season

As Yankee Stadium closes its doors, this is the final of a three-part retrospective on the moments that shaped Yankee Stadium, New York and the world of sports.

9. Top Ten All-Time Quarterback List

1. Johnny Unitas (Colts, Chargers, 1956-73)
A three-time champ with Baltimore, nine times an All-Pro, seventh all-time with 290 touchdown passes. Holds the NFL equivalent of Joe Dimaggio’s streak, 47 straight games with a TD pass.

10. Bidding Adieu to The House That Ruth Built

It’s been compared to the Colosseum, been called The House That Ruth Built.

Mel Allen, the late Yankee broadcaster, once said, “St. Patrick’s is the Yankee Stadium of cathedrals.”


1969: Magical Time, Magical Year

Standin on your mamas porch
You told me it would last forever
Oh the way you held my hand
I knew that it was now or never
Those were the best days of my life

Bryan Adams — “Back in the Summer of 69”

When I finally find the time to write my book, I’m going to frequent the wireless cabana aside the beach sunny day after sunny day and muse about 1969.

What a year! 1969. The crowning point of the Sixties, of peace, love and happiness….and war, riots and assassinations.

On May, 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before a joint session of Congress and put out a bold challenge to the American public.

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

A little more than eight years later, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong, mission commander of Apollo 11, became the first man to set foot on the moon. The images of the lunar landing flickered across American television screens from coast to coast that hot summer Sunday.

“That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind ” Armstrong proclaimed as he stepped off the landing module and onto the lunar surface

It happened. In 1969. Man on the moon.

Early on a Saturday morning that same weekend, Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, the youngest of nine in the Kennedy family, was driving a car with Mary Jo Kopechne when he drove off a bridge near Chappaquiddick Island off Martha’s Vineyard. The Senator swam to safety, but Kopechne died in the car.

It happened. In 1969. Chappaquiddick  On the same weekend that Armstrong set foot on the moon.

Ted Kennedy’s brother, President Kennedy, a man of vision, was assassinated in 1963, five years before his brother, Robert Kennedy met a similar fate.

Certainly, those were turbulent times. Malcolm X was killed in 1965; and then, in 1968, Martin Luther King was shot to death.

It was a time of racial disharmony, with riots in New York and Detroit and Los Angeles and hundreds of cities and towns across America.

In the third week of April, 1969, militant black students at Cornell University used force to take over a school building demanding a black studies program.

And later that year, in October, the Weathermen, a radical offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society, orchestrated the “Days of Rage” riots in Chicago.

Also in October, college students across the country marched as part of a protest against the Vietnam War. Some met with resistance.

It happened. In 1969. Radical times. Racial unrest. Riots. Peace marches.

And in New York that same October, the Mets completed their miracle season by beating the heavily-favored Orioles to win the World Series. After years of futility, baseball’s worst team throughout the Sixties was a totally unexpected champion.

It happened. In 1969. The Miracle Mets.

Earlier in the Sixties, February of 1964 to be exact, the Beatles arrived. The four young mopheads from England made their first American appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The British invasion had begun.

The next year, the Beatles toured the USA and played Shea Stadium.

Some five years later, in 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their famous Bed-in in Montreal.

And in the summer of 69, a tiny little town in upstate New York named Bethel hosted the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival. Or just Woodstock. Three days of fun and music, and nothing but fun and music. A defining moment for rock and roll and the counter culture.

It happened. In 1969. Rock and roll. The counter culture. Woodstock.

In 1960, the American Football League kicked off it inaugural season, an alternative to the established NFL. Ridiculed at first, the AFL soon posed a financial challenge to the NFL, and the leagues eventually merged.

The first Super Bowl was played in 1967, and the Green Bay Packers throttled the Kansas City Chiefs. The Packers won again the next season, and the Baltimore Colts were huge favorites over the New York Jets in Super Bowl III in Miami.

Yet the Jets, led by quarterback Joe Namath, upset the Colts and took one giant step for the AFL.

It happened. In 1969. Joe Namath. Woodstock. The Miracle Mets. The Weathermen. Chappaquiddick. Man on the moon.

Richard Nixon. Charles Manson. The My Lai massacre.

And so much more…..in 1969.


Woodstock: Better Late Than Never

“The thing the sixties did was show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.”

— John Lennon

Well, I finally made it to Woodstock, 39 years too late.

Back in the summer of ’69, just out of high school, I was on the New York State Thruway, just over the Tappan Zee Bridge, when the transmission on the old Ford woodie wagon gave out. Never made it past Tuxedo Park.

I did see Jimi Hendrix at the Westchester County Center in White Plains in 1968, and I caught the Who in an amazing concert at Holy Cross College barely a month after Woodstock. Yeah, and in 1973, I made the trek to Watkins Glen in upstate New York along with 600.000 others to see the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead and the Band live and in concert.

But Woodstock was THE rock concert of all-time, the singular event that defined the Sixties for present and future generations.

So this week I drove up to Bethel, N.Y., near Monticello, to see The Museum at Bethel Woods, shown right, which celebrates the Woodstock festival and the spirit of the Sixties.

(To clarify, Bethel is about an hour and a half from Woodstock, which bore the name of Music and Arts Festival. Frame of reference, Max Yasgur’s farm was in Bethel.)

It’s a wonderful museum and brought back some memories and flashbacks of that time in America’s life. And the music — from Richie Havens to Hendrix, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Santana, Janis Joplin and the Jefferson Airplane — was amazing.

How did they ever pull off a show like Woodstock, in the middle of nowhere, with more than 400,000 people? And with no cell phones?

Woodstock Weekend in Sports

Meanwhile, there are some sports parallels for Woodstock weekend beginning Friday, August 15, in the summer of 1969. Going into baseball action that weekend, the Mets were in third place in the National League East, 10 games behind the Cubs and a game behind the Cardinals.

Over the weekend, the Mets swept Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders from the expansion Padres, and were sitting eight games back of the Cubs by the time Hendrix played the National Anthem at Woodstock on Monday morning. The Miracle Mets run was underway.

The Yankees were in fourth place in the newly-formed American League East, tied with the Washington Senators 22 1/2 games behind the Orioles. The Yankees did win two of three in Chicago on Woodstock weekend.

The Jets, fresh off their Super Bowl III triumph, crushed the Giants, 37-14, at the Yale Bowl before 70,874 fans to stamp themselves and the AFL as legitimate, at least in New York.

And In golf, Raymond Floyd edged out Gary Player by a stroke to win the PGA tournament in Dayton, Ohio.