One Strange Sunday
by John Delach
To say the least, I was perplexed. At 19, being told that I’d been selected to be the Godfather of the new-born daughter of the youngest son of our next door neighbor; I didn’t get it at all. For Christ’s sake, I’m psychologically divorced from something like this being completely absorbed in my own affairs. I’m in my junior year of college and totally uninterested in anything else. Why in hell would they select me? It made no sense!
Whatever, I had no choice, no input; my points meant nothing. My mother delivered this message in no uncertain terms; she would be the Godmother and, by extension, I, the Godfather.
The baby girl’s parents were the son and daughter-in-law of our next door neighbors, the M family, my mother’s tenants and good friends. Each family lived in one of the two apartments on the upper floor at 1821 Himrod Street, a two-story, four-family railroad flat in Ridgewood, Queens. Granted, Florence M. the grand-dam of their family supported my single-parent mother through thick and thin helping to raise me. In truth she even loaned me the $37.50 I needed to buy my initial season ticket to the New York Football Giants a year earlier in 1962. But how the hell did this translate into this invasion of my world?
Making matters worse, the baby’s baptism was scheduled for the same day that my Giants were at home against the St. Louis Cardinals, November, 24, 1963. Just in my second season, this meant I had to miss my first home game: Damn, damn, damn!
My good friend, Jimmy, was only too glad to relieve me of my ticket. The Giants were flying high just on the cusp of selling out and game day tickets had ceased to exist. Big Blue was still in a tight race to win the NFL East for the third straight year and this was during the time when all home games by league rule were blacked out.
You may have already made the connection that the President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy, was shot to death in Dallas, Texas on November 22nd, the Friday before the baptism.
What you may not be aware of though, by Saturday morning, all regular programming on radio and television ceased. TV concentrated on news but the traditional AM New York radio stations; WMCA, WNBC, WABC, WOR and WHN switched their programming to somber classical and chamber music. Regular programming didn’t resume until Tuesday morning the day after JFK’s funeral and burial.
This change of format included WNEW, the radio home of the Giants, silencing Marty Glickman, the team’s radio voice. Unbelievably, despite the depth of the terrible grief that befell the nation, Pete Rozelle, Commissioner of the NFL, was so tone deaf that he decided to go forward with all eight games scheduled for that Sunday.
(Joe Foss, Commissioner of the rival AFL, postponed his league’s games. In time, Rozelle, realized his decision was his worst act as commissioner.)
Sunday found me wearing a sports jacket and tie, gathered with my mother, my goddaughter to be, her mom and the families at their Maspeth home waiting the time to ride to Resurrection RC Church for the 3 PM baptism. (Dad was absent serving his country as an MP in Germany having been drafted into our then, peace time Army.)
Still annoyed being there and starving for any news of the game, I separated myself and tuned their TV to WCBS, Channel 2, hoping to catch some update. Instead; oh my God, sitting there alone; I witnessed Jack Ruby step into the picture, gun drawn, and fatally shoot JFK’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, in a Dallas police station. My cry of: “Holy shit,” got everyone’s attention.
The shock of that scene was, in a way, the tipping point for all Americans. Already grieving, we couldn’t absorb any thing else. Numb, that’s what we were, numb. I fulfilled my role at the baptism, we had a reception of sorts back at the house that I don’t remember and left to go home.
Somehow I discovered the Giants lost that day. It didn’t seem to matter.
Today, when I think about all of this, I realize that my goddaughter is now 53 and I do regret that I can’t recall her name.