When my dad became NYJets team internist in 1963 (actually Titans), I was a 12 year old tomboy whose life instantly changed. My entire family loved and played sports and now had an exciting new obsession.
From Polo grounds to new home Shea Stadium, my mom, dad, 2 brothers and myself would arrive 4 hours prior to game time. My dad went into check players before game, we’d wait and greet all the players ( from Matt Snell to Larry Grantham to Don Maynard) and their wives as they entered the stadium. After the games we all went upstairs to the “Diamond Club” to eat as did the players. One of biggest Jet fans was Robert Keeshan, better known as Captain Kangaroo on TV and my dad would bring stats of the game to him as we ate.
Joe Namath was the first big pay football player, $400,000, back in ’65. Had bum knees that my uncle operated on and had charisma beyond belief. He was “Broadway Joe” with a bullet arm and loved the night life of NY. Everyone knew him- as player, as guy women swooned over, and star on TV commercials. He was the “Elvis” of sports. He was mobbed at every hotel if he came out of his room. Yet I got to know him as a 14 year old as the Jets had Thanksgiving dinner together at Shea every year for players, staff, and families. I was a senior in high school when the Jets won Superbowl III and I got to go to the game. I remember the victory party when Joe walked in with girlfriend Suzie Storm and I felt total happiness. All the kids in school that used to tease me every year about the Jets being losers would be silent when I returned. Then when the Jets beat the Giants in the Yale bowl in an exhibition game, Joe said THAT was more meaningful than beating the Colts. I still detest the Giants from being second best to them for years. Now we ruled!
Joe was so good to young people. So many adults wanted things from him but kids (back then), were innocent fans and Joe always signed autographs “to someone (name), then signed it. Always personalized. Many times Joe would come to my house for check-ups and I would bring my swim team over (dads office connected to our house) and he’d come and talk to them. One day Joe was looking at homes so I got to ride in his convertible through main street in Babylon – now that was cool for a teenager! When I was at Ohio State he became unofficial member of my sorority ZTA and even wore a sorority shirt for us. If I had a nickel for every time a person has Said “you really know Joe Namath?” I would be rich. Every summer camp I would bring kids to Jet camp and Joe would pose for pics with them. When I went to work for the Jets in 1974, I was the only secretary/receptionist/scouting assistant in whole new complex and players were accessible and I could go to locker room, yell “girl back” and bring players up to talk to fans on the phone or whatever, and I baked a lot of apple pies for Joe that he would come up front and eat. Times were so different back then.
My Greek grandmother knew “zero” about football but was an amazing cook. Because her two sons were Joes doctors and Uncle Jim made the famous Namath knee brace, she sent him Greek goodies, and Joe never missed sending her flowers on her birthday till she died at 105. I saw Joe and his two daughters at the Jets 40th Superbowl reunion as I took my dad since my mom passed 6 years ago. Joe spent hours with the team and families and I got to hear stories between this close knit team forever bonded. What a thrill.