10-19-2011

The New-York Historical Society Launches the Online Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports

Invites Sports Fans to Contribute Their Own Scholarly Entries


New York, NY, October 19, 2011 — The New-York Historical Society is proud to announce the launch of the Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports, a dynamic new online database of sports figures from the New York metropolitan area—the region with the richest and longest sports history of any in the United States.

Now readily accessible to the general public at sports.nyhistory.org, the Biographical Dictionary comprises over 1,750 profiles of figures both celebrated and lesser-known who have had a significant impact on professional, amateur and college sports in the New York City area. Encompassing the region within a 75-mile radius of the playing fields of Central Park, the Biographical Dictionary profiles sports figures from today’s star athletes all the way back to William T. Porter, who founded one of the very first sports weeklies, Spirit of the Times, in 1831 in Baltimore before moving the publication to New York City in 1835.

The vast majority of the entries were written by Bill Shannon, the legendary official scorer at Mets and Yankees home games, former Madison Square Garden executive, baseball and tennis historian, author, and one of the founders of the New York Sports Museum & Hall of Fame which had an archive, but never had a physical home. Mr. Shannon died tragically in a house fire in October 2010 at age 69. After Mr. Shannon’s passing, the Trustees of the New York Sports Museum agreed to assign the archive to the New-York Historical Society. The release of this archive marks the one-year anniversary of his death.

The database offers access to biographies of some the best-known names in the history of sports, from Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson to Sugar Ray Robinson and John McEnroe. The inclusion of some entries will be surprising, such as the biographies of the recently deceased Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis (a star athlete at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn) and of billiards great Minnesota Fats (Manhattan’s Rudolph Wanderone). Other entries cast new light on figures whose achievements have been obscured by the passage of time. These latter include Ned Irish, who made college basketball a big-time sport; Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel; Tad Dorgan, the sports cartoonist who gave the world the “hot dog;” and Cliff Montgomery, winning quarterback of Columbia University’s 1934 Rose Bowl team, and Marty Glickman, better known for his illustrious broadcasting career as the first “voice” of the New York Knicks, but who was also a star college athlete and Olympian.

The New-York Historical Society is inviting sports fans to submit their own scholarly entries for possible inclusion in the Biographical Dictionary. Mr. Shannon deliberately left placeholders for sports figures about whom he intended to write. Fans are encouraged to contribute information about them or other New York athletes.

Former Yankees publicist Marty Appel and Major League Baseball official scorer Jordan Sprechman, both of whom served with Mr. Shannon as officers and trustees of the New York Sports Museum, are guest editors of the project.

“It would have given Bill great pleasure to see this body of work find a home at an institution he so admired,” stated Mr. Sprechman. “To have it readily available to researchers, historians and fans was his ultimate dream, and now it can also serve as a legacy to his scholarly research and love of New York sports history.”

“The New-York Historical Society’s online portal is the perfect home for Bill’s project,” stated Mr. Appel. “He loved sports, and he loved the city’s learning institutions. While his dream of a New York Sports Museum did not come to be, this dictionary will be the ongoing fruit of it: a gift to everyone who appreciates New York’s rich sports history.”

About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research, presenting history and art exhibitions, and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, the New-York Historical Society has a mission to explore the richly layered political, cultural and social history of New York City and State and the nation and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.

The New-York Historical Society is recognized for engaging the public with deeply researched and far-ranging exhibitions, such as Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America; Slavery in New York; Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School at the New-York Historical Society; Grant and Lee in War and Peace and the 2009 exhibition Lincoln and New York. Supporting these exhibitions and related education programs is one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, works of American art and other materials documenting the history of the United States and New York.

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