It wasn’t that 1966 was a woeful year in every way. The Beatles came up with “Revolver” in 1966. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” was released in 1966. “Gunsmoke” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” were still going strong.
But if you were a New York sports fan in 1966, you were for the slog of your life.
We’ve referenced ’66 here a lot, because that was the gold standard (or was it the zinc standard?) for New York sports in a way even the town’s current title-free skid is hard to match. Now, luckily for New York (and it’s descendants), ’66 was quickly replaced by 1969, Dark Ages replaced in an eye blink by Golden Ages. As great as 1969 and 1970 were, though?
The year 1966 was brutal.
And yet a funny thing happened. Actually, six funny things happened:
The Giants went 1-12-1 and didn’t fire Allie Sherman.
The Jets went 6-6-2 (seventh straight non-winning season) and didn’t fire Weeb Ewbank.
The Yankees went 70-89, finished last for the first time in 54 years, and didn’t fire Ralph Houk.
The Mets went 66-95 and didn’t fire Wes Westrum.
The Knicks went 30-50 and didn’t fire Dick McGuire.
The Rangers went 18-41-11 and didn’t fire Emile Francis.
(Now, before we proceed onward, take a look at those teams and those records again and be grateful for things like last year’s ALCS and this year’s Rangers and all the small things that give us joy in sports. Because in 1966, most of the things that had made Fun City fun were no longer … well, fun. As Billy Joel once said: “The good old days weren’t always good.”)
We are here, of course, because the Nets fired Kenny Atkinson on Saturday, an absurdly dumb and short-sighted decision that I’ve addressed elsewhere in these pages and a move that means the longest-tenured manager or coach in New York City, as of right now, is ….
…. Aaron Boone, with all of two years on the job.
My Post colleague Peter Botte faithfully keeps meticulous count of the ever-shortening time of tenure among New York coaches and it has almost become a comical pastime, one that reads thus (unless something crazy has happened between my writing this and you reading this, and I wouldn’t put that by anybody):
Boone (December 2017), David Quinn (May ’18), Barry Trotz (June ’18), Chris Armas (July ’18), Adam Gase (January ’19), Alain Nasreddine (December ’19), Mike Miller (December ’19), Joe Judge (Jan. ’20), Luis Rojas (Jan ’20), Jacque Vaughn (March ’20).
And, gosh, by any measure that tells a tale of some abject failure. And also one about the times we now live in. We have had impatient owners with itchy trigger fingers before (never forget George Steinbrenner’s spinning-wheel managers office). But it’s hard to summon another time when all of our teams were so fire-happy.
Which isn’t to say they’re wrong, either: Almost every successful coach and manager followed a guy who was whacked with cause. That’s the law of the jungle, especially in the sporting wilderness of New York City.
The worst of that ’66 crew eventually found that there’s a limit of patience, too. Westrum begat Gil Hodges. McGuire begat Red Holzman. Francis became one of the great coaches in the city’s history. Everybody loved Weeb.
Time was, you could think about unpacking your bag around here before wondering where you would have to ship it next. Time was.
You ever wonder if the owner of the Rangers thinks about offering to have a heart-to-heart sit-down with the owner of the Knicks? I’m told they’re close.
All David Byrne did last week was remind the world why it was always so essential to the “Saturday Night Live” coolness quotient to always have a strong musical presence.
Four years after we lost her at 44, it’s important to remember that a crowded array of local colleges, high schools and junior high schools play ball daily on Shannon Dalton Forde Field in Little Ferry, N.J., a note-perfect tribute to the Mets’ former PR executive.
I’m sure even Larry David would agree: Carl wasn’t the Jets’ first victim.
Whack Back at Vac
Joe Nugent: Four vital pieces to the Yankees’ 2020 team are now injured and likely to miss some, most or all of the season. None actually played in a baseball game. These injuries were discovered by doctors after these “world-class” athletes reported for work but couldn’t work. Yankees fans have a right to be disgusted. If Judge, Stanton, Paxton and Severino were hurt, these injuries should have been taken care of before Halloween.
Vac: Once upon a time, such frustrations used to be the exclusive purview of Mets fans.
Tony Giametta: James Dolan is like the vicious dog who guards the house, in this case, The Garden. No one is safe: Marv Albert, Charles Oakley, Spike Lee, the fans, his security, the mailman. Free agents know to beware. Hopefully Leon Rose is allowed to be the second coming of Bob Gutkowski and fumigate the place.
Vac: The more the years pass, the more Gutkowski is remembered as a combination of Branch Rickey, Red Auerbach, Winston Churchill and Gandhi.
@KassyMeisel: I would say Mark Messier is tied or above Reggie in terms of stepping up to the situation and bringing it under as intense pressure.
Vac: I’d disagree only to the extent that the Yankees will always have a spotlight attached to them a thousand times brighter than the Rangers. But Messier is also a good standard.
Jeffrey Moritz: Alex Bregman being HBP is likely to become “dog bites man” news for MLB. James Dolan soiling Knicks brand by snubbing Marv Albert is certainly “dog bites man” for the Knicks. I hope Aaron Judge injury reports are not the next regular example of an ugly litany for Yanks.
Vac: You honestly can’t be a baseball fan and hope the same thing about Judge. This has to stop eventually.