425 Lexington Avenue is where Jackie Robinson’s office was when he worked for Chock Full o’Nuts. A few blocks away is where the NFL headquarters are located, which happens to be the block where an angry Joe DiMaggio watched Marilyn Monroe film her iconic scene in The Seven Year Itch.
These are just two stops that will be seen on New York Sports Tours, which takes people on a three-hour trip around Manhattan, showing different locations, some more famous than others, but all with interesting stories. Most people know of the 21 Club, but how many know that former Giants kicker Pete Gogolak, the all-time points leader in team history, worked there in the offseason?
“What I like are things that resonate with people that are sports fans or not sports fans,” company president Kevin O’Keefe said. “There are a lot if stories in it. That’s what we’re trying to do. And we’ve been fortunate. People saying, ‘You know, I wasn’t a big sports fan but I enjoyed this tour because you presented it in a certain way where it’s not just about sports statistics but American history.'”
The idea for the tour started with Bill Shannon, an official scorer at Mets and Yankees games, and one of the most respected sports historians. Shannon died in 2010, but the idea was continued by fellow official scorer Jordan Sprechman and O’Keefe. “We tried to do something in a museum form and then put our heads together and thought lets being people to where the history actually happened,” O’Keefe said. “So we see it as a New York sports museum on wheels and we take people to the places.”
Over two years of research was done to make sure that everything said on the tour was accurate.
“My favorite part is the things that we keep discovering,” O’Keefe said. “That’s what’s great. I am totally turned on by history of sports in New York. At night, I will say, ‘Ok, I want to find out one more thing’ and I’ll dig down and go back to original sources.”
The tour includes short videos narrated by broadcaster and Queens native Mary Carillo, and former New York Times sports editor Neil Amdur.
One of the best stops is the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue. The Knicks played NBA Finals games their in the early 50s, and it also hosted Globetrotters games. Pratt Institute’s Cyndi Merserve was the first woman on an NCAA men’s varsity basketball team and played their against Baruch. The armory was also the site of a vigil after 9/11, and the Yankees made a trip to visit survivors and family members.
The logo for the tour is of Diana, the statue that was at the top of the second Madison Square Garden building. The current MSG is seen towards the end of the tour, blocks away from Keens Steakhouse, the final stop of the afternoon.
To book a tour visit www.newyorksports.tours.