Irwin “Red” Klein was born in Yonkers on March 23, 1911, and attended School Nineteen. His basketball career began at the Prospect House on Buena Vista Avenue where his team failed to win one game in the house league. At Yonkers High School he played varsity basketball for three years, gaining All-county recognition as a center. He was featured in Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” when scored six baskets in less than two minutes against Mamaroneck High School. In his senior year he played tackle on the football team, leading them to city championship.
At New York University he played three years of varsity football and basketball. In 1935 he was named All-Metropolitan tackle, made the Jewish All American team, and was an honorable mention candidate on Christy Welsh’s All American team. He superlative play and strength led to the nickname of “King Kong” which made banner headlines through out the United States. In basketball he was center on the undefeated team 1933-34 team and three years of competition New York University won 51 games while losing 4, including a victory streak of 27 consecutive games. His teams officially initiated big time college basketball, opening Madison Square Garden in 1934 by defeating Notre Dame 25-18. He was named All-Metropolitan center and received honorable mention on all the American team. His Play in the Kentucky game led to the changing of the three second rule a change still in effect today. He was invited to Hollywood he starred in “The Big Game,” a film featuring All American football players.
He earned B.S. and M.A. degrees at New York University and played professional football with the New York Yankees in the All American Conference and the Newark Bears in the International League. He also played professional basketball with his own team, touring New York State, in one stretch playing 31 games in 26 days.
Mr. Klein was a physical education instructor at Closter and Tenafly High School in New Jersey and at Tuckahoe High School. He was appointed assistant supervisor of athletics in Westchester County in 1947 and supervisor in 1960. He was in charge of lifeguards at Tibbetts Brook Park for 17 years and officiated high school and college basketball and football games for 24 years.
He is a past president of the Football and Basketball Officials Associations; holds a meritorious service award from the Westchester County Recreation and Park Society; a citation from the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials; a citation for organizing the Private- Parochial Athletic Association; and holds innumerable award and citations from civic, fraternal, political, religious, and philanthropic organizations.
In 1968 he was among the first 10 candidates to be inducted into the Westchester County Sports Hall of Fame.