The last time the Giants brought it home to New York was 2012 — and let’s not even get into the Jets. Still, the Vince Lombardi Trophy has much deeper roots in New York, especially here in Westchester. Long before Eli Manning and company hoisted the NFL’s iconic sterling-silver prize — long before any winning team did — the trophy was just a football atop a cereal box on a kitchen table in Irvington.
It all started in the 1960s when Pete Rozelle, who was the commissioner of the NFL, went out to lunch with Oscar Reidner, the head of design for Tiffany & Co. and a longtime Irvington resident. Rozelle was looking to design a trophy for the AFL-NFL World Championship Game at the time. As Rozelle described his vision of the trophy during the lunch, Reidner began sketching his interpretation of it on a napkin.
The next day, after pouring himself a bowl of cornflakes for breakfast, Reidner cut up the box so it could be a base for the football. Yet he still needed the football to place on top of it. Knowing that a sportswriter by the name of Bob Smith (who wrote a number of novels, including Heroes of Baseball, Baseball in America, and Babe Ruth’s America, among others) lived around the corner, Reidner went over, knocked on his door, and asked if he had a football Reidner could use. Sure enough, he did.
And thus, the Super Bowl trophy, then-known as the “World Championship Trophy,” came to life.
The Green Bay Packers, whose members included none other than Westchester’s own Bob Hyland, and whose coach was Vince Lombardi, received the trophy first. Three years later, the trophy was re-named in honor of the then recently deceased Lombardi.
But the Lombardi trophy’s tie to Westchester doesn’t stop with Reidner. Pat Hanlon, vice president of communications for the Giants for more than 29 years, has lived in Irvington for two decades. Oddly enough, he bought his house from Oscar Reidner’s daughter, who told Hanlon about her father’s connection to the trophy. “When we heard that, my wife and I looked at each other and said, ‘This is meant to be,’” recalls Hanlon. When the Giants won the Super Bowl in ’08, Giants President, CEO, and co-owner John Mara let Hanlon take the trophy home for his son’s fifth birthday party. When Hanlon got home, he placed the trophy on his kitchen table. “I said, ‘Oscar, your trophy is home.’”
That year, Hanlon took the Lombardi trophy on a tour of the county, telling fellow residents of its Westchester roots. “It just reinforces what a small world we live in.”