During the coronavirus pandemic, Peter Schwartz has been going through his collection of ticket stubs from games and other events. This is one in a series about some of the games and events that have an interesting story.
Considering how big of a sports fan that I am, the amount of games that I’ve been to in my life and because of what I do for a living, I’m often asked about memorable games that I’ve been to. Now I’ve been very fortunate, as both a fan and a member of the media, to be at some pretty cool events during my lifetime like the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup Final, NBA Finals, and so many other incredible games spanning the world of sports.
During these times without sports, there’s been a lot of old games shown on television and my family has, many times, had to endure the following words that come out of my mouth.
“I was there” or “I was at that game.”
Even though I catch watch it on YouTube, I’m still waiting for one of these channels to show a game, or a match depending on how precise you want to be, that has been near and dear to my heart for last 42 years. That would be Soccer Bowl ‘78 when my father and I saw the Cosmos take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies for the North American Soccer League title in front of a full house at Giants Stadium.
Along with gameday, it was the days leading up to the Soccer Bowl that I’ll also always remember.
Heading into the 1978 NASL season, the Cosmos were defending champions having beaten the Seattle Sounders in Soccer Bowl ‘77 in Portland, the final competitive match of the great Pele’s storied career. It was the first year that the Cosmos played at Giants Stadium and they drew huge crowds, many in excess of 60,000 and 70,000, prompting many people to simply call the stadium “Cosmos Country”.
With Giants Stadium becoming the home office for soccer in North America, the NASL awarded the following season’s Soccer Bowl to the home of the Cosmos with the match to take place on Sunday afternoon August 27th, 1978. Hosting the Soccer Bowl was a big thing for the Meadowlands, but it would be a really special day if the home team was there and won it all.
The Cosmos began their road to the Soccer Bowl on August 9th with a 5-2 win over Seattle in the National Conference Quarterfinals. Then came the best two out of three National Conference Semifinals against the Portland Timbers. The Cosmos took game one 1-0 in Portland on August 18th and they were one win away from punching their ticket to the Soccer Bowl in their home stadium.
Tickets were already on sale for Soccer Bowl ’78 and I asked my father if we could go. The last thing he wanted to do was to buy tickets to a game and schlep out to New Jersey from Queens for a game in which we didn’t have a rooting interest. He said once we know that the Cosmos were definitely in, we could get tickets for the game. That was confirmed on Wednesday August 23rd when the Cosmos beat the Timbers in game two 4-0 at Giants Stadium.
My dad worked in Manhattan’s garment center so he commuted into New York City early in the morning and generally didn’t get home until dinner time in the evening, many times after 6 o’clock. That meant that after the school the next day, my mom would have to take me by bus to Macy’s in Rego Park where there was a Ticketron outlet (which essentially is what TicketMaster is today but not quite as technologically advanced). We bought two tickets so my father and I were set for Soccer Bowl ’78 on August 27th against Tampa Bay. I paid no attention to where the seats were because I was just thrilled to have them and my mother really didn’t know anything about sports or seat locations (still doesn’t today but I still love her!).
Before we left for the Meadowlands that Sunday morning, my dad asked to see the tickets so he knew where we were sitting. The seats were in section 317 row 30. If memory serves me correct, there were 40 rows in the upper tier of Giants Stadium.
“Row 30 in the upper deck!” my father screamed. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier? We don’t have binoculars!”
I was a little taken back by his reaction because I was over the moon that we were simply going to be in the building. Neighbors of ours that would just buy Cosmos tickets on gamedays couldn’t go because the game was sold out and they didn’t buy tickets in time. After my dad calmed down a bit, we were on our way to Giants Stadium for the game. However, my father insisted on stopping at that very same Macy’s where my mother and I bought the tickets to buy a really nice pair of binoculars to take to the game.
The atmosphere was electrifying as we were among a crowd of 74,901 in Cosmos Country. My dad and I took turns using those binoculars as we saw Dennis Tueart scored twice to go along with a tally from my favorite player Giorgio Chinaglia as the Cosmos won 3-1 for their second straight title and third in franchise history.
I don’t remember much about the ride home to Forest Hills, but I’m sure there was plenty of traffic and I may have even fallen asleep somewhere between Giants Stadium and our apartment in Queens. It was a great day and it was the first time that I saw any of my favorite teams win a championship in person. In 1979, the NASL brought the Soccer Bowl back to Giants Stadium, but the Cosmos didn’t get there as they were upset in Conference Finals by the Vancouver Whitecaps. Needless to say, my father and I didn’t go. I was heartbroken and wasn’t about to watch another team celebrate in our home.
The NASL went out of business in 1984 and the Cosmos officially folded in 1985 . Then, almost 30 years after dissolving, the Cosmos returned to the new NASL in 2013 and promptly won another Soccer Bowl. I became the Cosmos’ public address announcer when they returned to the pitch and I can’t tell you how special it was for me to be at the microphone for their home Soccer Bowl wins in 2015 and 2016. My love for this franchise began in the late 70’s, especially on that August day with my dad at Soccer Bowl ’78. When I got the job back in 2013, I’m sure my father was smiling about it in heaven.
Later this summer and fall, the Cosmos are scheduled to begin play in the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) and I’m looking forward to being back at the PA microphone. As I’m now thinking back to 1978, I’m eagerly awaiting official word that there will be a season sports slowly return from the pause caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Once the Cosmos get the green light that they will be playing, I think I’m going to buy something.
Even before COVID-19, a lot of Macy’s locations were set to go out of business, so I’m going to find another place to go get a pair of binoculars…you know…for old time’s sake!