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Yankee Stadium Soccer History


September 20, 2008
Part 2: The busy Sixties

By Charles Cuttone
Executive Editor

Pele made several appearances at Yankee Stadium with his Brazilian club Santos in the 1960s
Pele made several appearances at Yankee Stadium with his Brazilian club Santos in the 1960s
The 1960s were the busiest for soccer at Yankee Stadium, starting with a number of appearances by Pele and his Brazilian club Santos, and ending with the ballpark being shared by two clubs in rival North American leagues.

With constraints put on them by the Yankees, the Skyliners and the Generals often found themselves playing on successive nights while the baseball team was on a road trip. The Skyliners, operated by Madison Square Garden, were actually Cerro of Montevideo, Uruguay, while the Generals, owned by a local group of investors, were an assemblage of players, several of whom had played in local leagues.

The Skyliners opened the season drawing the better crowds, with fans coming not only to see the South Americans, but their opposition in the United Soccer Assocation, which imported teams from around the world. But as the season wore on, both teams, and indeed both leagues, saw attendance wane, leading to the eventual merger of the leagues and the formation of the North American Soccer League for 1968.

With the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field gone, Yankee Stadium became the focal point for foreign clubs making stops in the United States. Benfica, Inter Milan, Racing, and Juventus all made appearances in the Bronx.

Still, it was Pele that was the leading attraction, with crowds upwards of 35,000 turning out to see the Black Pearl whenever he came through the Big Apple.

Some highlights of the 1960s:

June 5, 1966
Pele scored once and set up another goal, and had two more called back for offside, as Santos thrashed Inter Milan 4-1. Despite being repeatedly fouled, Pele showed his magic to the crowd of 41, 598 in the second half, getting the ball in front of the goal, dribbling past a defender and blasting a shot past the Inter goalkeeper.

April 22, 1967
The New York Generals played their first-ever game in the National Professional Soccer League, the forerunner to the North American Soccer League. In front of a crowd of 7,213, the Generals beat the Chicago Spurs 2-1. Luis Cesar Menotti, then a 26-year old, scored the first goal for the Generals. He coached Argentina to their World Cup title in 1978.

May 21, 1967
Michael Ash scored two goals as the Generals snapped a five-game losing skid with a 2-2 tie against the Atlanta Chiefs. But the big story this day was a national telecast by CBS, complete with commercials during the run of play. Referee Eddie Pearson signaled stoppages in play for fouls and injuries with a red flag, so commercials could be inserted into the telecast.

May 27, 1967
Menotti scored two goals in the Generalsí 3-0 win over the California Clippers.

May 28, 1967
The United Soccer League debuted at Yankee Stadium with the New York Skyliners (Cerro of Montevideo) playing Toronto (Hibernians of Edinburgh) to a 1-1 tie in front of an announced crowd of 21,871.

June 15, 1967
St. Louis Stars goalkeeper Miguel de Lima made 12 second half saves to stop a swarming Generals attack in a 2-1 St. Louis win. De Lima later served as an assistant coach with the Cosmos.

June 16, 1967
Emotions ran high in the game between the Skyliners and the Chicago Mustangs (Cagliari of Italy). After one of the Italian players was knocked down late in the game, a throng of about 40 fans rushed the field and chased and attacked referee Leo Goldstein, who needed to be rescued by the police.

July 4, 1967
Perhaps epitomizing how hard it was to draw fans, the Generals planned to give away shirts to the first 5,000 youngsters attending their game with the Los Angeles Toros (a 2-1 win). There were plenty of shirts left over, as only 3,492 attended the game.

July 6, 1967
A crowd of 7,102 was on hand to see what was essentially the USAís South American derby, a 2-2 draw between the Houston Stars (Bangu of Brazil) and the Skyliners. It was the Skylinersí final game.

August 26, 1967
Sandro Mazzola scored the only goal as Inter Milan defeated Pele's Santos in front of 37,063. Pele did not play the second half of the game after being injured late in the first half.

October 15, 1967
The Israeli National team defeated an American Soccer League all-star team 3-1, in front of 22, 232. Two members of the Israeli team, Mordechai Shpigler and Roby Young, later played for the Cosmos.

April 21, 1968
The Generals opened their second season with a 0-0 tie with the Toronto Falcons. A crowd of 6,989 was on hand to see the game on an oddly configured field. Because the Yankees did want the infield damaged, the width of the soccer field was reduced to 50 yards. It had been 80 yards in 1967.

May 1, 1968
Warren Archibald, one of the NASLís early great scorers, tallied twice in a 2-1 Generals win over the Baltimore Bays.

June 21, 1968
A crowd of 43,702 saw Pele score on a fantastic header, but it was teammate Toninho who stole the show with three goals as Santos beat Napoli 4-2. Jose Altafini had both goals for the Italian side.

July 12, 1968
Santos made their second appearance of the year at Yankee Stadium, this time being upset by the New York Generals 5-3, only their fifth loss in 61 games to that point in 1968. A crowd of 15,645 saw Pele held scoreless. Marking him was the man who would later become his coach with the Cosmos, the late Gordon Bradley.

August 21, 1968
The Generals took on another impressive opponent, this time losing 4-1 to Real Madrid.

September 1, 1968
Two of the greatest players of their era, Pele and Eusebio, met at Yankee Stadium when Santos took on Benfica. Neither player scored in the 3-3 tie, but after Pele was fouled, Brazil World Cup captain Carlos Alberto converted a penalty kick. The game was a double header with the Generals beating Detroit 4-1 in the opener. Six players on the visiting sides would later play in the NASL: Pele, Edu, Carlos Alberto, Rildo, Eusebio and Antonio Simoes.

May 30, 1969
Barcelona defeated Juventus 3-2 in front of 20,157

June 27, 1969
Inter Milan beat Sparta of Prague 4-0 and A.C. Milan beat Panathinaikos 4-0 in the first day of the four-team United States Cup of Champions.

June 29, 1969
A.C. Milan defeated Inter Milan 6-4 to win the United States Cup of Champions in front of 14,331.
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