Live From New York, It’s a Conehead


The New York Times

Sunday, October 29, 2006
Cheering Section


Andrew Levy has gone from being an original Conehead to being the head of his own sports marketing company

In the winter of 1986, Andrew Levy received a phone call from his childhood friend Lynn DiGioia, who was staying at her family’s vacation home in
San Juan, P.R.


“I told Andrew that I met a major league baseball player named David Cone,” she recalled last week. “I told him that David pitched for the Kansas City Royals, and that he was playing winter ball for Ponce.”


In March 1987, DiGioia placed another call to Levy, with whom she attended Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven.


“I called to tell Andrew that David was traded by Kansas City to the Mets,” DiGioia said. “I wanted the two of them to meet.”


They met soon after. Levy made a fine first impression and became friends with Cone.


“The first thing I realized about Andrew was that he was a baseball nut,” Cone said. “He was a true fan.”


The next season, Levy paid tribute to him by forming the Coneheads, a cheering section for Cone that gathered in the left-field bleachers at Shea Stadium wearing the pointed headgear made famous in “Saturday Night Live” sketches featuring Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman.


Levy, who started the Coneheads with friends from Lehigh University, his alma mater, would hold up a sheet on the days Cone pitched with two words that marked their territory: Cone’s Co’ner. When he later played for the Yankees and other American League teams, they continued to support him at Yankee Stadium.


“I can tell you that the Coneheads were a motivating factor whenever I took the mound,” Cone said. “I didn’t want to let them down.”


Levy, then living in Long Beach, N.Y., was selling restaurant equipment and supplies. DiGioia and Cone, who had made contacts in the world of sports memorabilia, steered Levy toward a friend in that business. In 1989, Levy took a job with a sports marketing company booking athletes for special events.


The next year, he opened a sports memorabilia business in a Manhattan department store, enlisting the services of athletes to help promote it. Cone, the former Knick Walt Frazier and the former Jet Browning Nagle were among those who made appearances.


“Suddenly, I was on the other side of the fence, working with players instead of just rooting for them,” Levy said. “I saw the kind of incredible buzz that is created when a player is brought in to endorse a product.”


Using contacts he was making in the sports world, Levy decided to branch out. He slowly began a new life as a sports marketing agent, representing athletes in memorabilia and appearance deals.


By the mid-1990s, he was representing Cone and the former Yankees Don Larsen, Goose Gossage and Graig Nettles. He worked with dozens of others, including the former Knick John Starks and the former Giant Ottis Anderson.


“To be great at this job, you have to build up a network of people who trust you,” Levy said. “I like to think I’ve done that.”


Levy, now 41 and living in Manhattan, is the president of Wish You Were Here Productions and serves as vice president of the David Cone and Don Larsen Foundations.


Larsen, who pitched the only perfect game in World Series history 50 years ago, will be honored Saturday in Manhattan at an event called the Perfect Evening. Scheduled to attend are 6 of the 11 living players who have pitched perfect games: Larsen, Cone, Len Barker, Tom Browning, Dennis Martínez and Mike Witt.


“Andrew really worked his tail off on this event, which took several years to put together,” said Larsen, 77, who lives in Hayden Lake, Idaho.


“We all had some nice days on the baseball field,” Larsen said of the perfect pitchers. “I’m looking forward to it.”


So are Cone and his wife, the former Lynn DiGioia. “I’m proud of Andrew,” she said. “He’s come a long way.”


Cone said: “To tell you the truth, I really didn’t think Andrew could pull it off as a one-man operation, but he has. It’s a tough business where honest people are hard to find, but athletes trust Andrew because he is a hard-working guy with a lot of integrity. I knew that when he was a Conehead.”