A Bonus Story for the Start Location


  Depictions of the Biltmore Hotel (with flag) and Grand Central Terminal (center front) appear on a postcard from 1913, the year both structures were opened. Vanderbilt Avenue is the road between the two buildings.

Depictions of the Biltmore Hotel (with flag) and Grand Central Terminal (center front) appear on a postcard from 1913, the year both structures were opened. Vanderbilt Avenue is the road between the two buildings.

In addition to the tour's personalities who changed culture and society through sports-related activities — men and women called New York Game Changers on the ride — there are many others. Take Robert Ripley.

  Ripley, who lived for many years at the New York Athletic Club (NYAC), won   the NYAC handball championship in 1925.

Ripley, who lived for many years at the New York Athletic Club (NYAC), won the NYAC handball championship in 1925.

  Ripley holds his first published Believe It Or Not. The strip first used a Believe It or Not title in Ripley's next submission.

Ripley holds his first published Believe It Or Not. The strip first used a Believe It or Not title in Ripley's next submission.

In 1935, when the Biltmore Hotel stood on the full block bordered by Vanderbilt Avenue, East 44th Street, Madison Avenue and East 43rd Street, the building was the start of many sightseeing outings and the host of a dinner for New York Game Changer Lou Gehrig, a Manhattan native.

The image of Gehrig on the cover of the dinner program was drawn by Robert Ripley. A semi-pro pitcher, Ripley had unsuccessfully tried out to play for baseball’s New York Giants in 1913.

The Gehrig dinner, with Gehrig standing under an American flag to the left of 12 men seated at the long table. The banner to the right of the flag that's over Gehrig reads, "Welcome Iron Man Lou Gehrig New York's Own."

  Ripley's drawing on the cover of the dinner program carried a "Believe it or not!" tag. 

Ripley's drawing on the cover of the dinner program carried a "Believe it or not!" tag. 

Said Ripley of his Giants experience, "It ruined me as a baseball player and made me a cartoonist.”

Starting at 25 dollars a week, Ripley made his mark as a sports illustrator for The New York Globe, whose content was nationally syndicated.

One day in 1918, with his deadline approaching for his sports cartoon, Ripley couldn’t think of a subject. He quickly created a strip with a roundup of some odd athletic feats, and what we know as Ripley's Believe It or Not! was born.

With the early strips, Ripley significantly expanded interest in sports outside of the mainstream staples at the time — baseball, boxing and horse racing.

Ripley's Believe It or Not expanded to non-sports subjects, popularized illustrated trivia, and made Ripley more money than any athlete of his time.

Here’s a Believe It or Not fact: The first-known regular playing of the Star Spangled Banner was during the 1898 baseball season at the third of Manhattan’s four Polo Grounds, at home games of the New York Giants.

Eighteen years later, President Woodrow Wilson ordered it played at military and other occasions. 

But it was Ripley championing the song in his Believe It Or Not strip starting in 1929 that led to President Herbert Hoover in 1931 signing legislation making the song the nation's official national anthem.

  Robert Ripley (left) and New York Yankees legend Babe Ruth attend a Believe It or Not promotional event in Madison Square Garden on May 9, 1939.

Robert Ripley (left) and New York Yankees legend Babe Ruth attend a Believe It or Not promotional event in Madison Square Garden on May 9, 1939.

  Above: In 1898, the year of this shot of the Polo Grounds (the upper park with wall signage), the Giants started their historic playing of the Star Spangled Banner there. Below: Robert Ripley speaks on July 27, 1929.

Above: In 1898, the year of this shot of the Polo Grounds (the upper park with wall signage), the Giants started their historic playing of the Star Spangled Banner there. Below: Robert Ripley speaks on July 27, 1929.