Diamond in the Rough

As the MLB season reboots, here are a dozen things to know about baseball in New Jersey.

The roots of baseball run deep in the Garden State. You may know that the first officially recorded game was played in Hoboken in 1846, and have probably seen the Currier & Ives print a few times, but for most people, that’s about it. New Jersey, in fact, has played a long, complex, inspiring, diverse, often messy, and surprisingly important role in the evolution of the game. Here are 12 fascinating facts that provide a rough idea of New Jersey’s place in baseball history…

1     Seven players who were either born or grew up in New Jersey have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame:

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Mike “King” Kelly (Paterson) in 1945; “Sliding” Billy Hamilton (Newark) in 1961; Leon “Goose” Goslin (Salem) and Joe “Ducky” Medwick (Carteret) in 1968; Monte Irvin (Orange) in 1973; Larry Doby (Paterson) in 1998 and

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Derek Jeter (Pequannock) in 2020.

2    In 2016, American Leaguers Rick Porcello (Chester) and

 

 

 

 

Rob Tringali

Mike Trout (Millville) became the first New Jerseyans to win baseball’s two top awards in the same season. Porcello won the A.L. Cy Young Award and Trout was the A.L. Most Valuable Player.

3    In 1972, Maria Pepe pitched three games for a Hoboken team before Little League Baseball threatened to revoke the entire league’s charter. The National Organization for Women (NOW) funded a lawsuit  that resulted in all Little League chapters allowing girls to play.

Fritsch Cards

4     New Jersey produced several star players in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, including pitcher Dolores Lee, who went on to become Jersey City’s first full-time female police officer. After learning that she was being paid less than the JCPD’s minimum salary, she prevailed in one of the state’s first high-profile sex discrimination cases.

5    During the 1930s and 1940s, the Newark Bears were the top farm team of the New York Yankees. The Bears won eight International League pennants in 13 seasons. The 1937 Bears are considered by many experts to be the greatest minor-league team of all time.

6    The Newark Eagles of the Negro National League were we co-owned and operated by Effa Manley in the 1930s and 1940s. Manley was the first woman enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame.

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7    Paterson’s Hinchliffe Stadium, built-in 1932, is the lone remaining venue in New Jersey where Negro  League baseball games were regularly played. It was the “home field” of the barnstorming New York Cubans and New York Black Yankees.

Four Star Productions

8    Seton Hall University became the Pirates in 1931 after an 11–10 comeback win over Holy Cross. A sportswriter described the team as a “gang of pirates” and the name stuck. Among the many stars who played for Seton Hall was Hall of Famer Craig Biggio and Chuck Connors, aka TV’s Rifleman.

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9    In 1915, New Jersey fielded its one and only “major league” team, the Newark Peppers of the Federal League. The Peppers were owned by oil magnate Harry Sinclair.

Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum

10   In 1887, the Newark Little Giants of the International League signed catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker, one of the best African-American ballplayers of the 19th century.

11   In 1875, Joe Mann, a student at Princeton, pitched baseball’s first recorded no-hit game, against Yale. Mann used a curveball learned from future Hall of Famer Candy Cummings.

D. Benjamin Miller

12   Four New Jersey teams have won the Little League World Series: Hammonton (1949), Wayne (1970), Lakewood (1975), and Toms River East (1998). Future All-Star Todd Frazier led off the 1998 championship game with a homer and was the winning pitcher.