Scrapbooking a Champion

By Dennis D'Agostino, Knicks Team Historian

Forty years ago, Allan Kaufman was among the millions of young New Yorkers who were captivated by a legendary Knicks team blazing toward its first NBA Championship.



Click to view the 1969-70 New York Knicks Scrapbook
Now it turns out that he was one in a million.

Today, Kaufman, 59, lives in East Brunswick, NJ. The father of three grown daughters, he’s been involved in the pharmaceutical industry for more than 30 years. But the most striking evidence of his long-ago Knicks fandom now lives here online: the voluminous scrapbook he kept of the day-by-day highlights of that magical season.

From Opening Night against Seattle to that final, fabled Game Seven against the Lakers, it’s all here. . .yellowed clippings and fading photos documenting virtually every game on the road to the title. More than 300 pages in length, now preserved and captured electronically by Chicago Albumen Works based out of Housatonic, MA, the scrapbook provides a sentimental journey for its author, who was a freshman at Fairleigh Dickinson University when he started the massive project in October of ’69.

“Honestly, I can’t really tell you why I decided to start the scrapbook,” says Kaufman. “If (the Knicks) didn’t make it all the way, then it would have been useless. Who knew how it was going to turn out? I really, truly, don’t know the reason I started it all. But I also figured that if the Knicks were ever going to win a championship, it was going to be that year.

“I just thought that, the way the previous season ended, when they gave Boston a real run for their money, this was their opportunity to win. Unless something really radical happened, there was no way anyone was going to stop them. But for the life of me, I can’t remember what the focus was that made me start it, except for the belief that it was going to be a special year.

“I had never done it for any other team. Maybe it goes back to my vested interest in collecting autographs, which I’ve done for the past 45 years or so. Not movie stars, but Hall of Famers from most of the major sports. Maybe this was just an outreach of that, in which I decided, `Why not?’ Also, my dad had done a scrapbook of the 1951 Playoffs, the Giants versus the Dodgers.”

The pages of Kaufman’s scrapbook brim with the tenor of the New York sports pages of four decades ago. The grainy photos, the daily updated team stats (how else could a fan obtain them, back then?), the “TV Rosters”. The sometimes-quirky headlines: “Knicks Bid to Reign Faces Royal Test”. . .“Bulls See Red, Wave White, Feel Blue”. . .“Knicks Spot Hub Trouble --- No Russell”. . .”That Sonic Boom was Our Knicks”.

And the bylines, a litany of legendary names. . .Leonard Lewin, Larry Merchant, Milt Gross, Leonard Koppett, Phil Pepe, Dick Young, Joe O’Day, Jim O’Brien, Gene Ward, Bill Gallo. . .

Kaufman, who lived in Yonkers at the time and commuted to FDU, used the sports pages of the Post and the Daily News as the primary sources for the scrapbook. In those days, the Post was an afternoon paper and the key source for coverage of late-ending West Coast games. One of the few instances he used the Times was also the most prominent: Koppett’s Page One story of the Game Seven win over the Lakers adorns the cover of the scrapbook.


Allan during his college years at the Grand Canyon
“I used the stories from the Daily News and the Post because I followed their sports sections the most,” says Kaufman. “My dad was a working class man and I was brought up on the News and Post. Also, one of my high school teammates (in Yonkers) was Bill Gallo’s son, and he was a big Rangers fan. Every so often he was able to get tickets for us.”

All of that season’s key moments are captured in Kaufman’s pages. The Knicks’ then-record 18th straight win (over Cincinnati) was celebrated on the back page of the Post with a simple (but huge) headline: KNICKS:18, along with a wire service photo of an exultant Walt Frazier after hitting the last-second free throw that put New York ahead. The last-ditch Christmas Day win over Detroit was captured by a previously-unseen (to these eyes, anyway) Bill Jacobellis photo of Willis Reed’s game-winning layup off Frazier’s inbound with just one second left.

There are bits of NBA history amid the Knicks’ saga. One headline reads: “Pete Takes Hawks’ $1.9M”, a reference to a prized rookie named Maravich and a then-unheard-of salary figure that would be pocket change today. The same day the Knicks ousted the Milwaukee Bucks from the Playoffs brought another bit of news --- “Big O Joins Lew” --- the joining of Oscar Robertson with the then-Lew Alcindor that would lead to a Bucks championship the following year.

The offbeat is here as well. In a purely-‘70s column titled “The Mod World of the NBA”, Gross comments on the players’ ever-changing styles of dress: “(The players) not only stand astride the realm of sport, but are strides ahead in haute couture. In thirty-one years on the sports beat, I have never seen anything approximating the mode of dress which has run through the league like a virus.” Later in the season, the Knicks’ Nate Bowman and the Sixers’ Archie Clark were injured minutes apart after running into a heavy ABC-TV camera perched down on the Garden baseline. Both were livid, and NBA commissioner Walter Kennedy later said of the offending cameras, “They’re not supposed to be there and won’t be allowed there.”

And the most famous injury in Knicks history, the one that came in Game Five against the Lakers, was predated by headlines that had run days, even weeks, earlier: “Now Reed Hurting”. . .“Reed’s Knee Hurts Knicks”. . .“Willis Walking with Pain. . .and Lew’s (Kareem) No Cure”.

Kaufman’s scrapbook followed him and his growing family over the decades, through moves to upstate New York and eventually to New Jersey. It was often out of sight, but never out of mind.

“I knew I had it,” says Allan, who also serves as a high school basketball referee in his spare time. “I knew where it was. It was just sitting there all these years. Occasionally, I’d go back and look at some of the articles.

“My middle daughter is the big sports fan and she had looked at the book. It was during the 1994 season, when the Knicks lost to Houston in the Finals and the Rangers won the Stanley Cup the same year. We had gone to a number of games and she liked that old scrapbook, so I put it away in a storage unit. Now, like everything else, when my daughters moved out of the house, my wife said that it was time to start cleaning out some of the old stuff.


Allan today with his wife Diane
“I found another scrapbook I had done, when man landed on the moon in ’69. So I knew I had the Knicks scrapbook. I asked all three of my daughters if any of them wanted it and they all said no. I didn’t want to sell it. I thought of who could best use it, and that’s when I thought maybe the Knicks could. I just sent it in.”

Now, through a medium that didn’t even exist back then, we can relive the Knicks’ 1969-70 thrill ride, day-by-day. Flip through these pages and you can almost imagine yourself at the Garden on that final, magical Friday night of May 8, 1970.

Which, by the way, Allan Kaufman actually was.

“I went to all four of the championship games against the Lakers,” he remembers. “In those days, Ticketron was handling tickets. I’m living in Yonkers and I found that the Ticketron office near there opened up a half-hour earlier, for whatever reason, than those down in the city. They opened at 9:30 instead of 10:00. So I was able to get tickets for all four games, up in the blue seats.”

Amid technology that changes at warp speed, the scrapbooking industry has actually enjoyed a rebirth in recent years. Although he doesn’t see himself on such a project again, Kaufman hopes for another scrapbook-worthy season from the current Knicks.

“I’m still a Knicks fan,” he says. “It’s been more difficult, obviously, the last few years. You hate to compare eras, one with another. It’s a different ballgame. You’re hoping the team will turn around because there’s nothing better than listening to a packed crowd at the Garden when the team is doing well.”

“Like I said, my middle daughter was the big Knick fan. The remnants of her doors being unhinged by her kicking them down when they lost to Houston is still a sight.”

This book ---- Allan Kaufman’s gift to all Knicks fans --- has a much happier ending.


Knicks team historian Dennis D'Agostino was the 2000 winner of the NBA's Splaver/McHugh Award for public relations excellence. His Garden Glory: An Oral History of the New York Knicks (Triumph Books 2003) is available on amazon.com.