Sept. 22, 2008
by CHarles Cuttone
YANKEE STADIUM FAREWELL
Part 3: The King makes a home
The 1970s marked the beginning of the end of soccer at the Bronx ballpark. When the Generals folded after the 1968 season, it was two years before another North American Soccer League team called Yankee Stadium home, with the birth of the Cosmos in 1971. The team that played that year at the stadium was a far cry from the one that took the field just five years later.
|Pele played one season with the Cosmos at Yankee stadium, and scored his most spectacular goal in what turned out to be the final soccer game at the storied ballpark.
The Cosmos played one season at the old ballpark before moving to the more intimate confines of Hofstra Stadium for two years, then Downing Stadium on Randalls Island for two years.
With the signing of Pele in 1975, however, the team needed a more suitable park to play in, and the renovated Yankee Stadium fit the bill—at least for one season, until the Cosmos moved to Giants Stadium in 1977.
With the renovation to the stadium came a change in how the field was laid out. Where previously it was shoehorned into the outfield, running from left to right, it was now angled with one side line up the third base/left field line, leaving parts of the infield on the field of play.
Only a handful of internationals were played at the stadium in the 70s, and, although no one knew it at the time, the last soccer game played there was in August of 1976. Because of baseball conflicts, the Cosmos actually played their last game of the season, a playoff contest against the Washington Diplomats, at Shea Stadium.
Yankee Stadium was discussed as a potential venue for the 1994 World Cup, but ultimately Giants Stadium submitted a bid as the New York/New Jersey area host.
Some 1970s highlights:
May 5, 1971
The Cosmos made their home debut with Sigi Stritzl scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over the Washington Darts in front of 3, 476 fans.
May 21, 1971
Hearts (Scotland) defeated the Cosmos, 4-2.
June 9, 1971
Willie Mfum scored three goals to lead the Cosmos to a 4-2 win over the Rochester Lancers.
June 16, 1971
Charlie McCully, Willie Mfum, Randy Horton and Jorge Siega all scored in a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Stars.
July 14, 1971
The Cosmos played Appolon of Greece to a 1-1 tie, their first result against an international opponent. Jorge Siega gave the Cosmos the lead, but the Greek club equalized on a controversial penalty kick following a handball call.
July 25, 1971
Randy Horton scored both goals as the Cosmos played the Toronto Metros to a 2-2 draw.
August 2, 1971
Pele’s Santos took on Deportivo Cali at Yankee Stadium as part of a doubleheader with the Cosmos. It was another future Cosmos player that provided the spark for the Brazilians. Edu set up the first goal in the 2-2 tie, then dribbled through four Cali players before bending a shot into the net.
In the opener, the Cosmos beat Rochester, 3-2, with Willie Mfum scoring the fastest goal in club history, just 21 seconds into the game.
August 29, 1971
The Cosmos ended their first season at the stadium with a 2-1 win over the Atlanta Chiefs. When the team next returned to the stadium, both the ballyard and the team had a complete overhaul.
May 2, 1976
Pele scored the only goal in a 2-1 Cosmos loss to the Chicago Sting, in the team’s home opener at the Stadium in front of 28,436—a new team record.
May 8, 1976
The Cosmos lost their second game in four days, but Pele scored for the third straight game, a 2-1 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Atoms.
May 17, 1976
Giorgio Chinaglia made his Cosmos debut in spectacular fashion in front of 24,292 fans. The Italian striker scored two goals, assisted on one of Pele’s two goals, and also drew a pair of fouls that resulted in penalty kicks, both of which were converted by Keith Eddy in a 6-0 win over the Los Angeles Aztecs. Chinaglia’s performance completely overshadowed the presence of the Aztecs’ George Best.
May 28, 1976
England overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat Italy, 3-2, in a game that was part of the American Bicentennial Cup tournament. Francesco Graziani scored the two goals for Italy, sending the crowd of 40,650 into a frenzy. Mike Channon had two of England’s goals, while Phil Thompson had the third. Italian star Giacinto Facchetti had the equalizer because Fabio Capello (now the England coach) fouled the goalkeeper.
June 18, 1976
The Cosmos defeated the Toronto Metros, 3-0, to move into first place.
July 2, 1976
Ramon Mifflin scored two goals after coming on as a replacement with 14 minutes left for the injured Pele as the Cosmos beat the St. Louis Stars, 3-1.
July 14, 1976
Despite having three goals called back, the Cosmos defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 5-4, the start of what became one of the North American Soccer League’s great rivalries. Pele scored twice and assisted on two others.
July 18, 1976
The Cosmos scored five goals for the second straight game, routing the Washington Diplomats, 5-0. Giorgio Chinaglia scored twice and Pele had a goal and an assist.
July 28, 1976
Giorgio Chinaglia scored three goals in the Cosmos’ 4-0 win over the Dallas Tornado. Pele had two assists.
August 10, 1976
The Cosmos save the best for last with their 8-2 win over the Miami Toros. It was the last soccer game ever at Yankee Stadium, although no one knew it at the time.
Giorgio Chinaglia scored five goals and assisted on two others, giving him 12 points, a record that stood until the end of the NASL. Pele scored two goals, including the most spectacular of his Cosmos career, a bicycle kick.