In 1957, Billy Graham preached to his longest set of meetings. The New York Crusade went on for a record 16-weeks, concluding on Sept. 1, 1957. More than 2.3 million people attended the meetings with more than 61,000 indicating a decision for Christ, and an estimated 96 million more had seen at least one of the meetings that were televised.
The Crusade initially had been scheduled to end on June 20, but with the meetings running at capacity (or beyond) almost every night, the Crusade committee quickly decided to extend it by three weeks, with a closing rally planned for Yankee Stadium on July 20. From my standpoint, the decision to extend wasn’t so easy; by the end of those first six weeks, I was already physically depleted.
I also had run out of sermons and was having to prepare a new one every day. Some nights during those later weeks, I sat on the platform and prayed silently, “O God, You have to do it. I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.” And yet when I stood up, all of a sudden the words would begin to come—God giving me strength and spiritual power in a way that could not be explained in human terms.
The final service in Yankee Stadium on July 20 was truly unforgettable. The stadium was jammed with a record crowd of 100,000 people, with another 20,000 outside who could not get in. The heat was fierce—93 degrees outside and 105 degrees on the platform—and how anyone (including me) managed to concentrate is still beyond my imagination.
Vice President Nixon came and sat on the platform with us, extending greetings to the audience from President Eisenhower. That was the first time a national political leader of his prominence had attended one of our Crusades.
At that point we faced the decision whether or not to extend the services yet again. A few committee members thought we should not continue. Yankee Stadium was a fitting end, they felt, and anything else would seem like an anticlimax. Noting that hundreds were still coming forward, Dan Potter said to Charlie Riggs, “How can we stop when a new church is being born into the kingdom of God every night?”