Sports Historian Discusses the Rise and Fall and Rise (again) of Baseball in New Jersey at the Newark Public Library
New Jersey may lay claim to the birth of baseball in June 1846 when the game was first played in Hoboken’s Elysian Fields, but Garden State sports historians acknowledge its comeback in the state stems from Opening Day at Waterfront Park in 1994 when the Trenton Thunder took the field in an effort to revitalize the capitol city.
That second birth of baseball in New Jersey, which now boasts eight minor league and independent teams, is chronicled by author and assistant director of the Plainfield Public Library Bob Golon in No Minor Accomplishment: The Revival of New Jersey Professional Baseball.
Golon will be in the auditorium of the Newark Public Library April 10 between 6 and 8 p.m., to discuss his work and sign copies of his book.
"It’s gratifying that baseball has made a comeback in New Jersey; the Newark Bears play right across the street from the library and are strong community partners," said Wilma J. Grey, director of the Newark Public Library.
In his book, Golon retells New Jersey’s modern baseball history, attributing the demise of the sport locally in part to television and televised major league games. The players’ strikes, high ticket prices, and a corporate profit-above-play atmosphere at major league ballparks in the 1990s pushed fans to seek alternatives to major league games, opening the door to the resurgence of baseball in what Golon calls a "purer form."
First up was the Trenton Thunder, which was so successful in its first seasons, it inspired others to recruit teams and build new home field stadiums around the state.
Golon, a South Plainfield resident, has been a baseball devotee since his boyhood when his father used to drive him to the old Newark Bears stadium on Wilson Avenue and reminisce about the old-time glory of the game. The stadium was abandoned by then, but was still standing.
"As far back as I can remember, I was interested in the history of baseball," Golon said, explaining his parents encouraged this passion, buying him books and magazines that discussed the history of what has been called the national pastime.
His book grew out of a presentation he made at the Bernards Public Library in 2004 to a group of youngsters about baseball in New Jersey.
"I was working there as an adult reference librarian and the children’s librarian asked me to do a presentation and stressed that it focus on New Jersey and appeal to children," Golon explained. His research led him on the quest to map out the modern history of baseball in its home state.
"For 40 years, there was no baseball in New Jersey; not even any minor league or independent teams," Golon said. "Now we have eight teams, with varying degrees of success."
In his book, Golon interviews the team owners and employees, industry executives and fans, going behind the scenes to show the risky nature of owning a minor league team; regardless of any affiliation it may have to a major league franchise.
Each of New Jersey’s eight minor league and independent teams—the Atlantic City Surf, the New Jersey Jackals, the Sussex Skyhawks (all independents associated with the Can-Am League); the Camden Riversharks, the Newark Bears and the Somerset Patriots in Bridgewater (all independents associated with the Atlantic League); the South Atlantic League Lakewood BlueClaws; the Jersey Pilots in North Plainfield, associated with the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, and the Eastern League’s Trenton Thunder, has its own marketing strategies to attract and retain fans from season to season.
Golon explores the nuances of success in the minor and independent leagues. For the fans, New Jersey’s baseball experience is about wholesome, exciting family entertainment.
This program is free and open to the public. For more information, please call 973-733-7793.
©2008 The Newark Public Library