1966 was the year of the superhero, thanks to Batman. After the camp version premiered on ABC in January, starring Adam West in the title role, Batman triggered a fascination that inspired a slew of iconic guest villains:
- Cesar Romero as the Joker
- Burgess Meredith as the Penguin
- Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt as the Catwoman
- Milton Berle as Louie the Lilac
- Frank Gorshin and John Astin as the Riddler
- Victor Buono as King Tut
- Vincent Price as Egghead
Several others appeared in Gotham City’s Rogues Gallery.
Batman‘s format was simple. A villain terrorizes Gotham City, igniting frustration of Police Commissioner Gordon and Police Chief O’Hara. They call Batman on a secret telephone line which, unbeknownst to them, connects to a telephone at stately Wayne Manor, home of millionaire Bruce Wayne and his ward, Dick Grayson. Batman and Robin. The Dynamic Duo. The Caped Crusaders.
Typically, Alfred Pennyworth, Wayne’s butler, answers the telephone and slyly tells his employer about the urgent call without revealing the identity of the caller. This, so other people in the room, for example, Wayne’s Aunt Harriet, do not learn of Wayne’s alter ego.
Neil Hamilton played Gordon; Stafford Repp played O’Hara; and Burt Ward played Grayson/Robin.
On June 25, 1966, Batman and the Riddler went to New York City, Gotham City’s real-life counterpart; Adam West and Frank Gorshin reprised their roles for a “Batman Concert” in front of approximately 3,000 fans at Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets. Seven rock and roll groups were also on the bill.
When Batman showed up, “the 3,000 sounded like 30,000 now—as Batman circled the field in a Cadillac (the Batmobile was in for repairs, no doubt,” wrote Robert Sherman in the New York Times.
Gorshin took aim at the Mets’ woeful play. One example pointed out by Sherman: “Why are the Mets like my mother-in-law’s biscuits? They both need a better batter.”
Batman‘s success led to a slew of superheroes. CBS labeled its Saturday morning cartoon block Super Saturday for the 1966-67 television season; shows included Underdog, Space Ghost, and The New Adventures of Superman.
Though it set off a trend, Batman faded in appeal almost as quick as it catapulted to the throne of the popular culture kingdom. ABC canceled the show after its third season. A film version premiered in the summer of 1966. Lee Meriwether played Catwoman. West, Ward, Romero, Meredith, and Gorshin reprised their roles.
Managed by Wes Westrum, the Mets compiled a 66-95 record in 1966. It was, in a sense, a breakthrough season—1966 was the first year that the Mets did not lose 100 or more games. The barons of blue and orange finished in 9th place in the National League, 28 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, who got swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the ’66 World Series. Additionally, three teams débuted new stadiums in 1966:
- Atlanta Stadium (Braves)
- Anaheim Stadium (Angels)
- Busch Memorial Stadium (Cardinals)
Though the Mets finished 9th, it notched 2nd place in attendance for the Senior Circuit—1,932,693 of the Flushing Faithful went to Shea Stadium in 1966.
Loyalty abounds for the Mets, no matter the tally on the scoreboard.
A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on June 25, 2016.