One of the great new experiences in New York City for sports fans is a venture known as New York Sports Tours. Described on their web page as, "An Intimate, Guided, Multimedia Story Ride to Dozens of Manhattan Locations from Sports History Followed by Lunch or Dinner with a New York Sports Personality at Legendary Keens Steakhouse," this experience is taking the city by storm. The program and experience came to fruition in 2018 and has become one of New York's best new experiences.
Recently, I had the great fortune of talking with Mr. Jordan Sprechman who is the founder of this great new enterprise. An extremely active and busy man, Mr. Sprechman gave freely of his time for me and this blog. Mr. Sprechman is is an official scorer for Major League Baseball at New York Mets and Yankees home games, a statistician for the New York Jets and Columbia University football, and the press box steward at tennis' US Open. He has also authored/edited six books on New York Sports. Mr. Sprechman is a native New Yorker and a managing director at a Fortune 500 Company. He is also an extremely respected person whose honesty and integrity precedes him.
What follows is my discussion with Mr. Sprechman.
SSTN: Please tell us a little about New York Sports Tours.
JS: New York Sports Tours is an immersive multi-dimensional tour of sights in Midtown Manhattan that connect to New York Sports history. Our experience covers all of New York Sports, not just baseball because there is so much to see, share, and talk about. The three-hour tour takes place in a luxury vehicle that drives to important places in Midtown that speak to the city's great sports history. As the luxury vehicle tours the city, there are a series of mini-documentaries on video that play in the van. Most are narrated by Mary Carillo, a New York legend herself. They tell the story of how these unique locations are connected to sports history. About two-thirds of the experience takes place through the videos, with the other third coming from the tour guide in the vehicle. The topics cover New York sports history from the 1800’s to today. It is a true multi-media experience. After the tour, we have dinner at Keens Steakhouse with a New York sports figure.
SSTN: How much of the city is covered on the tour? There would be so much to see.
JS: In short, we basically cover the area between 23rd Street to 53rd Street going as far east as Third Avenue and as far west as Eighth Avenue. We would love to do even more than that, but we need to keep the tour to that three-hour window. It's not always easy getting around Manhattan. If we went much further, too much time would be spent just traveling, and, as soon as we arrived at a location, we'd have to turn right around. Our tour as constructed keeps the participants engaged throughout.
SSTN: What are some of the big takeaways from the tour?
JS: There is so much. We don't editorialize on the tour, instead we give the stories as they were. The stories are able, of course, to stand on their own. But, and this relates to baseball, we do make two important points on each trip. First, we discuss that Babe Ruth was the greatest baseball player ever. Of that, there is no debate. Before he became one of the best hitters ever - on par with any of the greats, including Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, or others, he was one of the best, if not the best, left-handed pitcher in the game. No other player excelled in both these areas. Ruth, even after becoming an outfielder, pitched a few times as a Yankee. He never lost a game, going 5-0. The other player we always discuss is Lou Gehrig. Gehrig is the truest New York sports legend of them all. He is a true New York legend because he is totally from New York. He spent his whole life here. He was born in New York, went to school in New York, and graduated high school in New York. Lou Gehrig attended a New York college (Columbia) and then played baseball, of course, for the Yankees. He even died in New York.
SSTN: I believe he even worked for the City of New York after his playing days...
JS: Yes. He worked as a parole commissioner. That may have been because the Yankees wouldn't give him a job. It was a different time, of course. I don't think it can be argued that Lou Gehrig wasn’t the Truest New Yorker of any great athlete.
SSTN: I agree. This sounds so great. May I ask what in your background made you think to bring this experience to the city?
JS: I have been a sports fan my whole life. I am especially a fan of New York sports - all of them. I am also a history buff. In the 1980's, Bill Shannon and I discussed creating an actual museum in New York focusing on sports and their impact on society at large. It, of course, never came to be. Our President, Kevin O'Keefe, came up with this idea about fifteen years ago. He said to make the museum a tour. This would be a great way to preserve the history of sports in New York in a unique way. This needs to be done because sports and society are linked in so many ways. We need to preserve the history. It is important that this is done. In essence, we are a museum on wheels.
SSTN: In addition to the host and the videos, I understand that you also have museum quality items and sports relics on the tour.
JS: Yes. It is a true interactive experience. Participants get to see and interact with programs, tickets, medals, and sports equipment, like baseball bats. We actually allow the participants to handle the relics. They love it. Keens Steakhouse also plays a big role in this. Keens is also a historical location. Theodore Roosevelt ate at Keens. There is a lot of history at Keens. They even have the program from Ford's Theater from April 14, 1865, the night Abraham Lincoln was shot. In short, a sports tour is also, in part, an immersive course in United States history. Sports are cultural markers. People always feel strongly about sports. It's always a way to talk with others. Sports is a universal cultural solvent. Even if people don't like sports, they are happy to talk about why they don't like them.
SSTN: I want to digress, for just a moment, from the topic. As an elementary school principal, I like to find examples of good people doing good things. I think it is important to learn from others. (I try to make all things learning experiences for kids.) Mr. Sprechman, your reputation as an honest, good man, who always speaks the truth precedes you. People always speak very highly of you. What role do you think that plays in your success?
JS: Good question... You know, I just don't know another way to be. People value honesty. Dishonesty never pays. In fact, dishonesty corrodes your soul. Honesty is always the right way to go. When you are honest, you only have to remember the truth. I tell the truth because it is the right thing to do. In addition, I always try to be respectful and polite. I am conscious of other people's feelings. I always try to put myself in other people's shoes.
SSTN: In education, we talk a lot about empathy. This is what you practice. That's wonderful. Thank you for that. Going back to the tour, how has this experience been received thus far? Judging by the web site and the reviews, it seems to have taken off.
JS: Yes, it has been well received in the sense that the people find the tours very interesting and wonder why it hasn't been done before. What is most gratifying is that no one has come off the tour and stated that they didn't learn something. The feedback is great. People find it entertaining and enjoyable. And they learn. One mark of our success is that when asked if they would recommend the tour to others, almost universally, our participants say Yes!
SSTN: I saw that Brian Cashman of the Yankees is involved with this. What is his role?
JS: Brian has supported us but he isn't part of our program or staff. He personally agreed to speak at our launch event. He immediately got the flavor of this. He's been with the Yankees for over thirty years now. He gets it and understands the role of sports in New York culture and history. When Brian went to college, he was a history major. He has a feel for how important the Yankees are to the city. In his speech, Brian articulated how important sports are. He loves this idea.
SSTN: Who are some athletes who have participated in this event?
JS: Mickey Rivers has been with us. Shep Messing as well. Messing was the goalie for the Cosmos when they won the NASL Championship in 1977. There have been a number of great people. We are honored that Mary Carillo plays such a huge role. She is an award-winning broadcaster and a great athlete. When she agreed to voice the documentaries, I was thrilled. She is just great, and in fact, I could think of no one better for this experience.
SSTN: Is this an experience you'd like to replicate in other cities?
JS: We have to do Upper Manhattan first! There is so much up there: Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx, the Polo Grounds, Hilltop Park, Columbia's Baker Field… New York has such a rich history of sports - and it's so big. Before I'd go anywhere else, I'd like to fully cover this city. If this succeeds the way it can, we'll move on to Upper Manhattan. Queens would be next. Then Brooklyn. If we do all that, then, maybe we could think about another city. But, let's be honest, does any other city have as much sports and cultural history as New York? This is the place to be. It's essential. When Ban Johnson, in 1902, was running the American League, he knew that the league needed a team in New York. He understood that absolutely. That's how the Yankees, as the New York Highlanders, were born. But, it's not just baseball. Having a viable New York franchise is important for every single team sport.
SSTN: All of this sounds great. I am planning on being with you on a tour in August. I cannot wait to meet you and to share my experiences with our readers.
JS: It has truly been my pleasure. I hope to see you there.
SSTN: Thank you so very much. This has been so great. You have been so very generous with your time. I appreciate this so much. Thank you!