A new tour that offers a look at New York’s long history with sports has a bit of history itself. In the 1980s, Bill Shannon, a baseball historian, author and official Major League Baseball scorer had an idea for a sports museum in Manhattan. But after years of fits and starts to make that project a reality, the idea faded away. “It didn’t work fundamentally because we couldn’t raise the money,” said Jordan Sprechman, himself an official scorer for the New York Yankees and New York Mets who had worked with Shannon on the museum project.
Nonetheless, Sprechman never let go of the idea of somehow sharing the stories behind New York’s sporting legends. And now that idea has manifested itself in New York Sports Tours, which began operation earlier this year with the simple premise of bringing the city’s sports history to life by taking visitors across midtown Manhattan with stops at areas of historical significance.
It turns out there are plenty of sites to see, even within the relatively confined area of Midtown Manhattan. On the three-hour tours, visitors learn about more than 70 locations, including the home of Harry Frazee, the Boston Red Sox owner who sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, and details about that fateful sale. Visitors can explore the history of Tin Pan Alley through the guise of “Take Me out to the Ballgame.” There’s even some sports history with President Trump, recalling his days of ownership in the USFL. And throughout the tour, visitors are reminded of the cultural and societal changes that sports have helped foster—much of that through events in New York.
“Basically New York Sports Tours is a New York sports museum on wheels,” Sprechman said. “Instead of people going to the venue, we bring the venue to them.”
Tours take place in a luxury vehicle that can seat about 10 people and are enhanced throughout with artifacts that riders can see and touch. There are also about 30 mini-documentaries shown along the way, narrated by Sprechman and Mary Carillo, the former tennis star and broadcasting veteran. Sprechman said the information is so well-researched, even Carillo learned something from the project. “As she was reading her script, she’d step out of the recording booth and say, ‘Is this true?’ I said, ‘What can I tell you Mary, it’s true!’”
The tour costs $150 but visitors can also pay $50 more for a steakhouse dinner with a New York sports personality. Sprechman said he is hoping the tour will appeal to people visiting New York as much as it will to locals, and could serve as an outing for groups meeting in the city.
“Sport fans would definitely love it if they have any appreciation of history,” he said. “Even non-sports fans would say they learned an awful lot about it. This tour uses sports as a vehicle to tell broader societal and cultural story.”