New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

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Joe Jacobs


Joe Jacobs (Boxing.  Born, New York, NY, May 7, 1897; died, New York, NY, Apr. 24, 1940.)  A colorful manager of boxers, Joe B. Jacobs handled four champions, as well as heavyweight contender Two-Ton Tony Galento.  Jacobs’ champions were heavyweight Max Schmeling , light heavyweight Mike McTigue and two featherweights – Andre Routis and Johnny Dundee.  Known as “Yussel the Muscle,” Jacobs, though Jewish, shepherded the career of Schmeling, billed as the Nazi champion from Germany in the tense days before World War II.  He was eminently quotable and, therefore, a favorite of boxing writers.  After Jack Sharkey defeated Schmeling in a title bout June 21, 1932, at the Madison Square Garden Bowl, Jacobs claimed foul and said, “We wuz robbed.”  On another occasion, after attending a baseball game with promoter Mike Jacobs, no relation, on a cold, raw day, he said, “I shoulda stood in bed.”

Mike Jacobs


Mike Jacobs (Boxing.  Born, New York, NY, Mar. 10, 1880; died, Miami Beach, FL, Jan. 24, 1953.)  For more than a decade, Michael Strauss Jacobs was the most powerful promoter in boxing.  In 1907, Jacobs opened a theatre ticket brokerage office in the lobby of the Hotel Normandie.  He soon branched out into handling sports event tickets and became effectively a co-promoter of many fights by taking large blocks of tickets.  In 1934, Jacobs began promoting boxing cards on his own and, after a Barney Ross-Billy Petrolle match drew over 10,000 at the Bronx Coliseum, he formed the 20th Century Sporting Club.  Three years later, Jacobs won a court battle with Madison Square Garden and in the settlement became the Garden promoter.  He already had rights for major outdoor events at Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds.  During the reign of Joe Louis, Jacobs was the primary promoter of his title fights and also initiated the “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports” Friday night fights at the Garden, first on radio and then on television.  By 1949, declining health forced him to sell his operation (for a reported $110,000) to Jim Norris.  For many years, Jacobs’ ticket brokerage was located on 49th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.  The sidewalk in front of the office was usually so crowded with characters from the boxing business sunning themselves, it became known as “Jacobs’ Beach.”  Jacobs was the third of nine children of a tailor, Isaac (and his wife Rebecca), on the Lower East Side.

Steve Jacobson


Steve Jacobson (Sportswriter.  Born, Long Beach, NY, Sept. 19, 1934.)  A sportswriter at Newsday for over four decades, Stephen Alan Jacobson became a featured columnist in 1979.  Jacobson joined the Newsday sports staff in 1960 and spent a large part of his first 19 years there covering the Mets and Yankees.  In 1988, his body of work as a columnist earned him a Pulitzer Prize nomination in commentary.  In 2001, Jacobson began a Sunday column entitled “The Last Word,” which after April 2002 was his sole assignment.  His final column appeared Mar. 30, 2003.  He began his New York newspaper career as a copy boy at the Daily Mirror in 1956 following his graduation from Indiana U.  Jacobson also worked on high school sports at the Long Island Press (1958-60) before moving to Newsday.  He has written two books in sports, including The Best Team Money Can Buy (1978), about the 1977 Yankees world champions, and has written specials for ESPN.

Irving Jaffee


Irving Jaffee (Skating.  Born, New York, NY, Sept. 15, 1906; died, San Diego, CA, Mar. 20, 1981.)  A victim of circumstance in 1928, Irving Jaffee became a national star in speed skating at the 1932 Olympics.  At St. Moritz, Switz., Jaffee easily turned in the best time in the grueling 10,000-meter event but the final was cancelled due to deteriorating conditions, and he was left with an unofficial victory.  At Lake Placid, N.Y., four years later, Jaffee took no chances, winning gold in both the 5,000-meter (9:40.8) and 10,000-meter (19:13.6) races.  He later gave exhibitions between periods of hockey games at the Garden.

Leon Janney


Leon Janney (Broadcasting.  Born, Ogden, UT, Apr. 1, 1917; died, Guadalajara, Mex., Oct. 28, 1980.)  A child star in the movies (1929-32), Leon Janney appeared in several Hal Roach “Our Gang” comedies and a dozen feature films (notably, Penrod and Sam, 1931).  Janney came to the attention of New York sports fans decades later when he hosted a post-game show known as “The Rheingold Rest” after games on Channel 9 during the Mets’ first two seasons (1962-63).  In between, he appeared frequently on the stage, television, and, especially, radio, where he became famed for perfecting a wide range of dialects and accents.  Janney starred on radio as Richard Parker in a show of the same name (1939-44), later translating the role to television.  Among his other credits were the television soap opera, The Edge of Night and the off-Broadway production, The Threepenny Opera.

Murray Janoff


Murray Janoff (Sportswriter.  Born, New York, NY, Apr. 26, 1915.)  A member of the sports staff of the Long Island Press for 41 years (1936-77), Murray M. Janoff covered tennis, harness racing, pro football, college and pro basketball, baseball, and track and field.  Janoff also covered the U.S. tennis championships (now known as the U.S. Open) at Forest Hills’ West Side Tennis Club and the National Tennis Center for 61 years (1936-97).  He joined the Press in February 1936 and was there until the paper closed Mar. 25, 1977.  Janoff then began freelancing for the wire services (A.P., U.P.I., and Reuters) and covered the U.S. Open for Reuters for 21 years (1977-97).  He helped organize the U.S. Tennis Writers Association (1938) and the U.S. Harness Writers (1948), and was an early member of the Metropolitan Basketball Writers, who started the N.I.T. in 1938.  Janoff served as president of the tennis, basketball, football, and track and field writers associations.  He also covered the Mets, several Super Bowls, World Series, and N.B.A. playoffs.  Janoff covered the first Knicks game (Nov. 1, 1946, at Toronto) and was on that beat for 30 years.  He covered both the Football Giants and Jets and authored three books.

Larry Jansen


Larry Jansen (Baseball.  Born, Verboort, OR, July 16, 1920; died, Verboort, OR, Oct. 10, 2009.)  After a stunning 30-6 season with San Francisco of the P.C.L., Lawrence Joseph Jansen was sold to the Giants.  Jansen did not disappoint, winning 21 of 26 decisions in 1947 with a team that finished fourth and would have done much worse without the righthander.  He was 18-12 in 1948 and 19-13 in 1950.  Jansen was also the winning pitcher, in relief, in the third game of the 1951 pennant playoff against Brooklyn.  That gave him a 23-11 record for that season with the most wins in the N.L., but he was 0-2 in the World Series against the Yankees.  Jansen was released in 1954 and pitched for Seattle in the P.C.L. (1954-57), with a brief big league return to Cincinnati (2-3 in 1956), meaning that he pitched for the two clubs that, for a time, shared the major league record for home runs in a season (221):  the 1947 Giants and the 1956 Reds.  The record has since been broken.  He later became a successful pitching coach, spending 11 seasons with San Francisco (1961-71) before moving to the Chicago Cubs.

Jane Jarvis


Jane Jarvis (Organist.  Born, Vincennes, IN, Oct. 31, 1915; died, Englewood, NJ, Jan. 25, 2010.)  On Apr. 17, 1964, Shea Stadium opened and Mets fans were treated to a new experience.  Jane Jarvis entertained the crowd at the organ.  A noted jazz artist and respected teacher, Jarvis was only the second organist to play regularly at a New York ballpark.  Neither Yankee Stadium nor the Polo Grounds (where the Mets played their first two seasons) had organists.  Only Gladys Goodding, the legendary organist at Madison Square Garden and Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, had preceded Jarvis in New York baseball.  She held forth at Shea for the first 17 seasons (1964-80) the Mets played there.  Jarvis (nee Luella Jane Nossett) had played for the old Milwaukee Braves at County Stadium before hooking on with the Mets.

Joe Jeanette


Joe Jeanette (Boxing.  Born, North Bergen, NJ, Aug. 26, 1879; died, Weehawken, NJ, July 2, 1958.)  Despite being hampered by the endemic racism of his time, Joe Jeanette became successful as both an athlete and a businessman.  Jeanette apprenticed as a blacksmith with his father and then drove a coal delivery wagon but turned to boxing as a profession.  He capitalized on an already-sizable reputation as a brawler in his earlier jobs.  In a 15-year career (1904-19), Jeanette had 154 official bouts, winning 56 by knockout, losing just nine and fighting nine draws.  He was knocked out only once (by Sam Langford in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1916).  Jeanette by 1909 had earned sufficient stature to begin fighting internationally.  Over the course of his career, Jeanette fought in France, England, and Canada, appearing in Paris 11 times.  He also fought 41 times in New York, five times each in Brooklyn and Jersey City, and three times in Newark.  For most of his career, Jeanette was restricted to facing other black fighters.  He fought Langford 14 times, had five bouts with Sam McVey, one with Harry Wills, and eight with Jack Johnson, whom he beat three times.  All of Johnson’s New York appearances were against Jeanette (two in 1906, one in 1908 and a three-round exhibition Nov. 27, 1945).  Jeanette fought at about 190 pounds most of his career.  In retirement, he became a noted fight referee in New Jersey while operating a thriving bus and limousine business in what is now Union City, N.J.  Jeanette also operated a gym for fighters above his garage and among the fighters who trained there was James J. Braddock, later heavyweight champion.

John Jeansonne


John Jeansonne (Sportswriter.  Born, Crowley, LA, Nov. 2, 1946.)  John Fred Jeansonne joined the U.P.I. sports staff in New York as a reporter fresh out of the University of Missouri in 1969.  Jeansonne has been at Newsday since 1970, covering the Islanders (1972-74) at their inception, the Football Giants (1973-78), and then Olympic sports.  He has covered the U.S. Open tennis championships since 1982.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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