Just whose Bears are these, anyway?

As the Newark Bears prepare to begin their inaugural season in the Can-Am League, they’ve got a snazzy new redesigned website (it’s quite sharp) and an interesting new set of game times. But that’s not what first struck me when I went to the site from Paul’s and Phil Hoops’ sites.

It’s the year in the masthead:

Look, I give the current Bears all kinds of credit for embracing Newark’s baseball history — both that of the legendary Bears and of the Eagles of the Negro Leagues. But, as with the Nationals, I can’t get on board with “Since 1917.” I’m not even sure “stretching the truth” is going far enough in this instance.

First, it’s obviously not the same Bears franchise. The Bears teams of yore were affiliated clubs — often with the Yankees — and saw the likes of Yogi Berra and Jerry Coleman call Ruppert Stadium home. The current club’s name is certainly an homage, but it’s not as if this club is a direct descendant.

Second, Newark hasn’t had a team continuously since 1917. There is a pretty significant 49-year gap between the 1949 Bears leaving town and the current version being born. In fact, if you want to get technical about it, baseball was absent from the city for an even 50 years, because Riverfront Stadium didn’t open until 1999.

Third — and this is more tongue-in-cheek and related to how the words in the masthead are read — there was no internet in 1917. That’s taking the words “Official home of the Newark Bears since 1917” quite literally.

And that’s where I think some tweaking would help. Maybe “since” isn’t the right word there. While “Est. 1917” still might not be completely accurate, because this isn’t the same franchise, the first iteration of “Newark Bears baseball” was established in 1917, so there is some truth to that. Or maybe they should go even further back — add a tagline to the effect of “Carrying on Newark’s baseball tradition, established 1877.” Since it’s not the same Bears franchise, why start with 1917? Why not acknowledge all of Newark’s past teams?

I’ll admit that (quite obviously), I don’t have all the answers. Heck, I’m not sure I have one good answer. I just know that “Since 1917” doesn’t sit well with me.
Then the other thing that struck me on the site was the start times for most games (I can’t seem to get a link that goes directly to May, when games start, so you’ll have to scroll through to get there): On weekdays, first pitch will often be at 5 p.m. And opening day is at 11 a.m., on a Thursday, as is the second game of the season the next day. Considering Newark’s attendance problems (177th in average attendance out of 281 professional minor league clubs), I guess they figure they’ll try to get more school and camp groups with the weekday morning/afternoon games and also try to keep Newark’s 9-5 employees downtown with first pitch set for quittin’ time. I can understand that thinking — how many people would stick around for 90 minutes or two hours after work, killing time before the start of a 7 p.m. ballgame? Maybe a 5:30 first pitch would be more convenient, but for a team that doesn’t have television tie-ins and plays in a ballpark in a business (and not residential) area, it’s not a bad idea. Now it remains to be seen if it has any effect.

One comment on “Just whose Bears are these, anyway?

  1. It doesn’t bother me that much that the various owners of the Bears since 2009 want to latch onto the old pre-war Newark Bears teams. No one else is doing anything with Newark’s baseball tradition.

    I don’t like the way that they’ve tried to erase every aspect of the Bears’ existence from 1998-2008. Why not talk about some of the colorful players from this incarnation of the Newark Bears?

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