The summer of 1969, with apologies to Charles Dickens was the best of times it was the best of times. And for me it was a life changer. I turned 20 that summer. My life was based in and around Long Island but I was starting to see the world in a different light.
Men wore leisure suits and women were not afraid to sport fur coats in the evening. I was in style with my “Mod Squad” – ‘Linc’ afro and occasional green leisure suit. (The suit was retired to a landfill years later.)
My mom and her friends went to the beauty parlor every weekend and took turns hosting Mahjong and Scrabble nights. In December they would listen to the calling of birth dates for the Viet Nam draft lottery. (I was # 336!)
Family was important with personal and verbal interactions the norm. At least one weekend a year we went upstate to Kutschers Country Club for a vacation ala “Dirty Dancing.” 1969 was no exception.
I worked every summer before 1969 but mostly in summer camps. This summer I had a real job working at the old Silvercup Bread Factory in Long Island City. I told the interviewer that I liked the aroma when I was driving over the 59th Street Bridge so I stopped in for a job. He told me that was probably the first honest answer he had ever heard and hired me on the spot.
I worked nights and weekends because those offered the highest pay rate and I was on the job on the historic evening of Sunday July 20th. My shift was almost over when something fell on my foot and I was hobbled. Unable to walk I was carried out to the curb where my dad was waiting to drive me home. In the car I listened to Neil Armstrong’s famous words about walking on the moon. I had to laugh that I couldn’t even walk on the Earth!
I recuperated with my friend Lenny in Puerto Rico spending the money I had just saved from the job and returned home in plenty of time to watch the Mets make their pennant run.
I was an avid fan of the Mets since they were born. They filled the void left by the Brooklyn Dodgers, a team my grandfather taught me to root for in the 50’s and then against from ’58 on. I even have photos with Gil Hodges and pitcher Clem Labine from Ebbets Field and a pretty good condition stub from Don Larson’s perfect game 5 in the 1956 World Series (I was still a Dodger fan.) Also in a plastic protective bag is the scorecard from that game and a baseball personally autographed by the entire Brooklyn Dodger team.
Ball players did not make the utterly ridiculous salaries they make these days back then so most of them had off-season jobs. Clem Labine worked with my dad selling textiles in the winter to make some extra cash. Imagine the likes A-Rod having to earn a living without baseball today!
Although the Mets had never even had a winning season I somehow felt this was going to be their year. I even kept a detailed daily diary of Met game results for 1969. My cousin’s company had season tickets and his seats were great. He sat between Home Plate and first base in the first Loge box above field level. Since he couldn't get to every game I was given many weekday tickets. My boss back then always asked if I was feeling better the day after I used them. “Yes sir thanks for asking.” (I hope he doesn’t read this.)
I was at the doubleheader against Montreal on September 10th when the Mets won both games and moved past the Chicago Cubs into first place for the first time ever! The ticket price on the stub says $3.50! You can't watch an inning for $3.50 now.
I was also lucky enough to be at Shea Stadium for the Monday October 6th game against Atlanta and watched destiny continue as the surging Mets sweep past the Braves in the first ever NLCS.
But the Mets were going to have to win the ‘Fall Classic’ without me at Shea because my cousin wouldn’t relinquish any tickets. I am about ready to forgive him.
We knew the World Series crown was inevitable if the groundskeepers could ever repair the infield. What a celebration we had after disposing of Atlanta!
But who could blame us? Like me, the Mets had come of age in the summer of ’69.