A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from July 19, 2004
1963: John J. Fitz Gerald obituaries
John J. Fitz Gerald died during a newspaper strike in New York City. He never received proper credit for "the Big Apple."

Much historical work on the Fitz Gerald family has been done by Mary O'Donnell, of Skidmore University at Saratoga.

These three newspaper obituaries do not mention "Big Apple," but that had long faded by 1963. Fitz Gerald died in his home at a welfare hotel (the former Hotel Bryant, now Ameritania at Times Square) at 230 West 54th Street (now "Big Apple Corner").

His birth date is stated in an obituary as March 7, 1893, and it is said that he had just celebrated his 70th birthday in 1963, but his birth certificate shows that he was born on March 7, 1892.

A military record from Family Search shows that John Joseph Fitzgerald served in the Army from May 26, 1918, until May 6, 1919. There is also a World War I Draft Registration Card. His mother, Elizabeth Leonora Fitz Gerald, died on October 12, 1931, at 350 West 55th Street (a block away from the Hotel Bryant, where he would live for many years). A 1940 Census record apparently shows that he was married to Mona Fitzgerald (maiden name Mona Bliss, an illustrator). The mother-in-law is listed as Augusta Bliss. His wife died in January 1941.

His brother, James Vincent Fitz Gerald (1889-1976), was a sports columnist for the Washington (DC) Post. His nephew was David Tarrant FitzGerald (1924-2014).

16 January 1929, Miami (FL) Daily News, pg. 1, col. 4 ad:
John J. Fitz Gerald, turf expert of New York's racing authority "The Morning TELEGRAPH" will head the staff of writers reporting the races for Daily News readers.
(Miami Daily News ad. A photo of John J. Fitz Gerald is shown. -- ed.)

15 August 1931, Binghamton (NY) Press, pg. 3, col. 3 photo caption:
Leading N. Y. Turf Writers at Sun Briar Court
Leading New York turf writers came from Saratoga Springs by air plane late Friday afternoon to see the 36 yearlings being broken and trained at Sun Briar Court, Pictured on their arrival here, they are, left to right, Peter H. Curran of Sun Briar Court, Norris Royden of the Daily Running Horse, Harry Williams of the Daily Racing Form, "Dick" Bennett, pilot of the plane, John J. Fitzgerald of the Morning Telegraph and Frank Ortell of the World-Telegram.

15 August 1931, Binghamton (NY) Press, pg. 14, col. 3 photo caption:
New York Turf Experts Visit With Exterminator
Turf expert of leading New York racing journals took time out in their inspection of the yearlings at Court Manor this morning to have another visit with Exterminator, the champion gelding. Trainer Johnson and Frank Ortell of the World-Telegram are with "Peanuts," Exterminator's pony companion, at left. The others, left to right, are: John J. Fitzgerald of the Morning Telegraph, Exterminator, Norris Royden of the Daily Running Horse, Walter Moriarty of the New York Press and Harry Williams of the Daily Racing Form.

14 October 1931, Washington (DC) Post, pg. 15, col. 4:
John J. Fitzgerald, turf writer for the Morning Telegraph, was called to New York by the news of the illness of his mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Fitzgerald, who died soon after his arrival.

14 October 1931, New York (NY) Times, "Deaths," pg. 23, col. 7:
FITZ GERALD -- On Monday, Oct. 12, 1931, Elizabeth L. 350 West 55th St., mother of James V. and John J. Fitz Gerald. Interment Albany.
(Elizabeth Leonora Fitz Gerald is the full name. -- ed.)

7 January 1941, Miami (FL) Herald, pg. 14A, col. 3:
Tropical's (Tropical Park, in Miami, FL -- ed.) turf clans were saddened by the death of the wife of the veteran turf writer, John J. Fitz Gerald in New York Saturday.

18 March 1963, New York (NY) Morning Telegraph:
Publicist for Many Tracks
John J. (Jack) FitzGerald
Turf Scribe, Dies at 70
John Joseph (Jack) FitzGerald, 70, for many years one of the turf's leading writers and publicists, was found dead here yesterday in his midtown hotel. The "Gray Fox," as he was fondly known by his many friends in the sport, had been ailing for some time. In 1960, during the Saratoga meeting, he had been hospitalized for hypertension after collapsing in the paddock.

Mr. FitzGerald, born in Saratoga Springs March 7, 1893, had a long and rich association with racing. He joined the staff of The Morning Telegraph in...illegible--ed.) to buy horses, a career cut short by his induction into the army.

He rejoined The Morning Telegraph's staff following his discharge in 1919, serving as reporter and handicapper until 1924 when he began to write a column which was widely read. He left the paper in 1940.

Mr. FitzGerald, a former president of the New York Turf Writers Association, served as publicity director at Garden State Park, Tropical Park and Atlantic City Racetracks at various times. He joined the Atlantic City official family when the track opened in 1946 and, following his tenure as head of the publicity department, continued his association, until his death, as a stakes missionary. He also was employed by the Daily Sports Bulletin, a turf daily, in recent years.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
19 March 1963, The Saratogian (Saratoga Springs, NY), pg. 3, col. 3:
J. FitzGerald, Turf Writer, Dead at 70
One of the last of the old time turf writers, John J. "Jack" FitzGerald, originally from Saratoga Springs, died in New York City yesterday.

Mr. FitzGerald was formerly the turf editor of The Morning Telegraph and a turf reporter for it for some 27 years.

The 70 year old Mr. FitzGerald left the Telegraph in 1940 to do public relations for various racetracks. He was the public relations director of Garden State, Tropical Park and Atlantic City racetracks at various times.

He has been associated with Atlantic City Track since it opened in 1946, first as a publicity director and then as a "stakes missionary," which he was at the time of his death.

His surviving brother, James, was also for many years a newspaperman, beginning his career on the old New York World and serving a stint as the sports editor of the Washington Post. He is now the public relations director of Georgetown University.

Mr. FitzGerald left Saratoga before finishing high school. He joined the staff of the Telegraph in 1912. He left in 1918 to buy racehorses, but this ended abruptly with a call to service. He rejoined the Telegraph after his discharge in 1919.

He succeeded John I. Day as the turf editor in 1925, at 32, one of the youngest ever in the job. He also wrote a racing column from 1924 until he left in 1940.

Mr. FitzGerald was also at one time the president of the New York Turf Writers Association. He was the sports editor of the Daily Sports Bulletin, a sports daily, in recent years.

He had been in poor health in past years. He collapsed in the paddock at Saratoga during the 1960 season, after which he was hospitalized for a time. Frank Sullivan, a famous Saratoga Springs newspaperman, among his friends here, reported this morning.

Mr. FitzGerald was known as the "Gray Fox," among his friends in the sport, according to this morning's Morning Telegraph.

19 March 1963, The Sun (Baltimore, MD), pg. 22, col. 5:
Fitzgerald, Veteran
Race Writer, Dies

New York, March 18 (AP) -- John Joseph Fitzgerald, veteran racing writer and track publicist, died today in his mid-town hotel.

The "Gray Fox," as he was known in horse racing circles, had bee nailing since 1960. Fitzgerald celebrated his 70th birthday March 7.

Fitzgerald, a former president of the New York Turf Writers Association, served as publicity director at Garden State Park, Tropical Park and Atlantic City race tracks at various times.

He began his career with the Morning Telegraph in 1912 as a turf reporter. Fitzgerald also was employed by the New York Daily Sports Bulletin, a racing daily.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityThe Big Apple1920s: John J. Fitz Gerald and the N.Y. Morning Telegraph • Monday, July 19, 2004 • Permalink

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