Learn about the year New York teams dominated during a rapidly changing world
By KATE MOSTACCIO
In July of 1969, Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made history by taking mankind’s first steps on the surface of the moon. In August of that year, more than 400,000 people gathered on a farm in Bethel for what would become known as Woodstock — another historic moment.
Perhaps lesser known but no less important, 1969 was also a banner year for the New York Jets, Mets and Knicks, according to New York State Museum Sports History Curator Stephen Loughman, a PEF member who works with the state Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education.
“That was the year the Mets won the World Series, the Jets won the Super Bowl, and the Knicks were on their way to winning the NBA Championship,” Loughman said. “It was an important year for New York sports.”
Loughman is presenting a lunchtime program, “Champions in a Changing World: New York Mets, Jets, and Knicks in 1969,” as part of the New York State Museum’s Brainfood for the Curious series. He chose now to craft the presentation because this year marks the 50th anniversary of that historic New York streak.
Taking a deeper dive into the history, Loughman’s talk will look at the connection between the moon landing, the Woodstock festival, and the New York sports world.
Super Bowl III, played Jan. 12, 1969, was the third American Football League–National Football League championship game in professional American football, and the first to use the official Super Bowl name. The game is regarded as one of the greatest upsets in American football history, with the underdog AFL New York Jets beating the NFL Baltimore Colts, 16-7.
“The Jets were from a rival league of the NFL,” Loughman said. “This win helped to solidify their league.”
For nearly 50 years, Major League Baseball’s team lineup remained the same. Over the years, some teams relocated out of New York City as populations shifted south and west — including New York’s two teams, the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers. It wasn’t until 1960 that the MLB announced it would expand and another New York team — the Mets — was born.
After a slow start, riddled with losses, the Mets gained steam and in 1969 cinched the World Series title.
“The Mets were the first expansion team to win a World Series,” Loughman said.
As for the New York Knicks, to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the NBA, the league chose the 1969-70 Knicks as one of the Top 10 greatest teams in its history.
“It was the glory year of the Knicks. New York City is a basketball mecca. This put them on the map as ‘The Knicks,’” Loughman said.
“Fifty years ago this year, Tom Seaver, Joe Namath, and Willis Reed delivered one of the most iconic years in New York sports history,” he said.
Loughman graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a degree in history and museum management. He worked as an art handler and installer before moving on to the State Museum’s history department four years ago. In addition to his position as sports history curator, Loughman manages the Rotterdam warehouse for the museum.
If you tour the New York State Museum, you can find some sports memorabilia in the Harlem section. But the New York sports history collection has a lot of room to grow — and Loughman is working to add to the collection.
“Sports are a vibrant part of the history and culture of New York state,” a flyer he worked on proclaims. “New York is home to some of the most famous teams and venues in the nation, including Madison Square Garden, the Buffalo Bills, Watkins Glen International and so many more.”
The museum welcomes stories, objects or photographs relating to New York sports, whether it’s the New York Yankees, soap box derby racing, or college sports.
“We recently received some donations highlighting winter sports in Lake Placid,” Loughman said. The collection also includes items from the Rochester Red Wings, the Tri-City ValleyCats, and the Buffalo Bills. “We’re trying to cover the whole state.”
The Brainfood for the Curious event will be from 12:10 to 12:40 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19 in the State Museum’s Huxley Theater. It’s free to attend. There will be a short question and answer period following the presentation. If you can’t make it to that event, Loughman will also give his presentation during a free History Café from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19 at The Hollow Bar + Kitchen on North Pearl Street in Albany.
And, if you have New York sports memorabilia, photos, or other artifacts you wish to donate, contact Loughman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Outright donations are preferable, but in certain circumstances we do accept loans,” Loughman said. “Donations to the museum are also tax deductible.”
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