Tuesday, October 28, 2008

1964 - The saga begins...

I started this blog because I needed an outlet for saying goodbye to a place I will miss dearly, Giants Stadium. I encourage any who read to chime in with their own stories of their times at the Stadium. It is a beautiful venue that is being brought down well before it's time. I will start at the beginning, when my father first obtained season tickets. This dates back well before Giants Stadium, but is the set up for all to follow. Enjoy and contribute...

The year was 1964. I only know the story from my father telling me many years ago. He passed away in 2001, so I can not go back to him to verify my memory of the account. Therefore, I will embellish to fill in the blanks.

My father grew up just outside of Manhattan in scenic Union City, NJ. He was an avid sports fan, as were most boys growing up near New York in the 1950's. How could you not be with Willie, Mickey and the Duke across the river. He was the second son of Italian immigrant parents. His father was not much of a team sports fan. The only sport to his interest was boxing. My grandfather, whom I am partially named after (Francesco Rocco Marchesani), made his living as a bartender. The one he was working at when this story takes place is called Longchamps. It does not exist anymore, so I can only imagine that in it's prime, the establishment was frequented by many sports fans. This becomes significant as our story unfolds. My father's first love was baseball. Along with his love for baseball, he became a huge fan of the New York Football Giants. Again, this was an easy thing to do at that time, as they were one of the premiere franchises of the NFL. I do not know how many games my father attended as a non-season ticket holder, so I am not sure how exactly he became interested in season tickets. I do know that the opportunity to obtain them came through my grandfather.

This is my vision of what happened. I only recall some of the major facts. The rest is pure speculation. Here goes...

Apparently, the challenge behind obtaining season tickets at that time was access to the season ticket application. In today's world, this would never be an issue, as everyone have access to everything, provided you have enough money to pay for it. Up until that time, the Giants did not issue season tickets for every seat in Yankee Stadium. They held onto "obstructed view" seats until the day of the game and sold them at the ticket office. I assume the demand for these seats became so overwhelming, the Giants decided to offer these as season tickets too. One day, some man walks into the bar where my grandfather is working. I always pictured someone from the Giants from office who was having a hard day. Maybe he just found out his wife is seeing some other guy. Who knows. I just assumed it was a guy having a bad day, who was cheered up by the friendly barkeep with the hard Italian accent. I see my grandfather mixing one of his best drinks and chatting with this fellow. After a few drinks, the man's spirits are a bit lifted, mostly because of the pleasant disposition of the man behind the bar. In return for helping to lift his mood, the guy offers my grandfather an application for Giants season tickets. I picture this almost like the Golden Ticket in Willy Wonka, accept that my immigrant grandfather has no idea what this guy is giving him. In fact, I see my grandfather a little annoyed that no cash tip was left for him, but he decides to take the worthless paper home anyway. Mainly because he noticed the Giants logo on the paper and recalls his 23 year old son, Peter, chatting incessantly about this team at the dinner table.

Upon returning home, Frank (this is the American version of his name) finds Peter half asleep in his bedroom after a long day at work. He greets his son with a loving smile and tosses the paper gently in his direction. Peter stirs and asks, "What's this pop?" "I dunno." answers Frank. "Some sciocco left me this for a tip today." Peter opens the paper and immediately sits up when he sees the Giants logo in the upper right hand corner. "Pop! Do you know what this is?" Peter exclaims. "Whaddaya askin' a me for? I justa said, I hava no idea." (This is a sad attempt at my grandfather' broken English. If you have ever seen the movie Moonstruck, think of the guy who played Cher's grandfather without the beard). Peter leaps to his feet and hugs his father. "This is the happiest day of my life! I can't wait to tell the guys!"

The next day at work, Peter begins to complete the application. I can't imagine it is as complicated as the current PSL application sitting on my desk. But that is something to comment on later. When Peter gets to the section regarding "number of seats" he is perplexed at what to do. Initially, he thinks, "two seats". The assumption being, why be greedy? However, his friend Tony (OK, this name is made up, but you can not have a story about Italian Americans in the 1950's, living near New York without a momo named Tony involved) looks over his should and notices the number "2". He smacks Peter in the back of the head and says, "Put down 8 you moron. They could just as easily turn you down for 2 as they could 8." Turns out, Tony ain't such a moron! Peter enters "8" in the application and sends it in.

Later that night, he is hanging out at his favorite bar in Union City with his buddies Vinny, John and Gene. He tells them about the application and the number of seats he requested. He continues by stating he wants them all to go in on it with him. John looks at Peter and patronizingly says, "Hey, that's great. Sure. I'd love to be in." Apparently, Peter has been excited about similar situations before and not come through. John, being a bit of a cynic, just doesn't see it happening. Vinny is elated, as Peter has proven his worth enough times with baseball tickets to believe he will pull this off.

A few weeks pass and then it happens...

A letter comes in the mail with the Giants logo on the return address. Peter's mother, Lena (full first name Giuseppina) pulls the letter from the mailbox while Peter is at work. She looks curiously at the strange shaped hat on the logo and annoyingly tosses it on Peter's pillow. Peter drags himself home after another long day of work to find the envelop. Again, he is immediately energized and tears it open with the speed and accuracy of a surgeon. The letter reads;

"Dear Mr. Marchesani,

Welcome to the family of the New York Giants. We gratefully accept your application for season tickets. You have been awarded 8 seats in section 114. Please be advised, these seats are at field level, so they are considered obstructed view. Enclose your check for $??? to cover the seats for the 1964 season...."

Peter begins to dance around, hooting and hollering with joy. His mother walks in and smacks him in the head. "You gonna disturba da neighbors! Whatsa matta for you?" Truth be told. I do not recall my grandmother having near the accent of my grandfather. However, this was long before I knew her, so I assume she lost the accent over time.

In the evening, Peter waltzes into the bar grinning from ear to ear. Vinny knows immediately what these means. "You got'em, didn't you? You lucky bastard!" Peter cooly looks over and says, "Today, we are all lucky, my friends."

And thus, a legacy was born. Unfortunately for Peter, the period from 1964 to 1980 would be the worst in Giants history. They had two winning seasons in all that time and basically were the equivalent of the current Detroit Lions. In some ways, it was worse. Fans had to endure games at four different venues before Giants Stadium opened in 1976. These included Shea Stadium and the Yale Bowl in freaking Connecticut! Still, that day had a significant impact on my family. It ranks just ahead of 2/4/2008 (Super Bowl XLII for those of you not paying attention), as the greatest day in my family's history as it relates to our love of professional sports.

As I stated I have no facts to back most of this up. I am also sure that my brothers and maybe even my mother will chime in with additional pieces of the story. Personally, I am sticking with this version.

Stay tuned for most stories from my own 30 plus years of attending games at the current Giants Stadium. This is serving as a cathartic farewell to a place that is filled with amazing memories. Many have more to do with family and friends then football. Join me in saying farewell.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

That is a great version of that story. It works just great for me. Thanks for adding me as a contributor. Maybe this can turn into something.