Happy 50th, 1969 Mets! And thanks for your patience, non-Baby Boomers. We are almost done now.
All that remains on the half-century anniversary nostalgia tour for the Best 16 Months in New York Sports History is a celebration of the 1969-70 Knicks, coming to a media outlet near you this winter and spring.
In case you have not been following our story so far, here is what you have missed:
On Jan. 12, it had been 50 years since the Jets won their first Super Bowl.
Wednesday marked 50 years since the Mets won their first World Series.
Next up: May 8, 2020, 50 years since the Knicks’ first NBA championship.
For those of you under 55 who have taken an interest in these milestones, thank you for reading and thank you for caring. But for those who have been rolling your eyes and turning the page, all is forgiven.
Sports memories are like others in life, only more so: If it happened before you can remember, it is history. If it happened when you were beyond young adulthood, it is current events.
If it happened when you were approximately between the ages of 7 and 27, it is nostalgia.
So, here we are: The Jets/Mets/Knicks thing aligns almost perfectly with Baby Boomers’ youth, and from the start, the world has been all about us. This is our last chance to revel in it before we reluctantly cede the spotlight for good.
There are other factors at play here, notably that those three franchises have enjoyed little glory since, with only two other titles among them – the 1972-73 Knicks and 1986 Mets. So fans of those teams under 40 or so have no championship memories at all to fill the generational gap.
Also, we are in the middle of a more widespread New York-area championship drought, the longest since 1905-21, with the Yankees now on the ropes in the ALCS. If they lose, it will be at least eight full years between New York sports titles.
But still . . . We old-timers are realistic enough to realize – or should be – that these looks back have tested the goodwill of generations for which names such as Bobby Pfeil, Rod Gaspar and Duffy Dyer sound like something out of the 19th century.
For an illustration, look no further than Yankees Old-Timer's Day celebrations.
Players from the late 1970s now get the sort of polite applause that Yankees of the 1950s received once upon a time, when they were no more than black-and-white newsreels come to life for many of us.
Now it is the late 1990s Yankees who are in the prime of their nostalgia years, even though their dynasty seem like a current event to me.
Hey, it’s all good. Just part of the process, 1969 was a long time ago!
Consider this: After the Nationals won the National League pennant on Tuesday night, ESPN hosts giggled over the choppy, ancient footage from the last time Washington, D.C., saw a World Series winner – in 1924.
But that was only 45 years before the Mets won it all, meaning there certainly were fans from the New York and / or D.C. areas who attended games during both the 1924 Giants-Senators World Series and the ‘69 Mets-Orioles Series.
Those fans no longer are with us, presumably, which helps put this into perspective. So, again, thank you for your patience with those of us for whom the past is receding at an alarming rate.
We have earned the right to bore you with stories such as Mrs. Kern putting the game on the radio in our fourth-grade class when Game 5 was tied at 3 after seven innings, but how I missed the Mets’ two runs in the eighth while on my way home, only to turn on the TV in time to see fans storming the field.
In 1986, I was fortunate enough to see the Mets win it again in person, and since then I have witnessed many other big games thanks to my job quickly typing words about sports.
But no matter how old you are or what you have seen, there is nothing quite like the first time. Thanks again, Mrs. Kern, wherever you are.