The Hall of Fame this year unveiled a new initiative called “Starting Nine,” essentially a scavenger hunt for fans of each team when they visit the museum this year. The staff at the Hall selected nine artifacts from each franchise and explained the history behind them, leaving the location of each one in the museum’s 60,000 square feet a mystery, allowing visitors to seek them out.
So I’ve come up with my own list of artifacts with a connection to New Jersey, from amateur and professional teams to players born here or with other connections to the Garden State. It would’ve been nice symmetry (and alliteration) to call it “The New Jersey Nine,” but I decided I didn’t want to make any cuts. So here are 15 displays with New Jersey ties I’ve found up in Cooperstown.
Honus Wagner in Paterson
Wagner played for the Paterson Silk Weavers in the Atlantic League in 1896 and ’97, when he was sold to the Louisville Colonels of the National League. Here the 1896 Silk Weavers pose with the Soby Cup.
Larry Doby’s jersey
Born in South Carolina, Doby famously moved to Paterson and went to Eastside High School. With Eastside and later with the Newark Eagles, Doby played games at Hinchliffe Stadium before breaking the American League color barrier with Cleveland in 1947.
Young Democrats of Hoboken cap
When 12-year-old Maria Pepe wanted to play with her friends in Little League, she joined them on the Young Democrats despite the organization’s ban on girls playing. When Little League threatened to revoke Hoboken’s charter if she continued to play, her plight gained national attention (with backing from the National Organization for Women), eventually leading to Little League beginning a program for girls in 1974.
Monte Irvin’s jersey
Like Doby, Irvin was born in the South (Alabama) but graduated high school in the Garden State (East Orange). And like Doby, he suited up for the Newark Eagles as a teenager (they were teammates from 1942-46) before a Major League team pursued him.
Jack McKeon’s cap
Max Manning’s watch
Nicknamed Dr. Cyclops for his thick glasses, Manning won 11 league games for the 1946 Negro National League champion Eagles. It is believed he won 15 straight against all opponents at one point during that season, for which he was awarded this watch. Manning later lived in Pleasantville and is buried in the same Atlantic City cemetery as Hall of Famer Pop Lloyd.
Derek Jeter’s glove
Sure, he grew up in Michigan, but Derek Jeter was born in Pequannock and would visit his grandparents in the summer, cementing the Yankees as his favorite team.
The catcher who was a spy grew up in Newark and attended Princeton before catching on with the Dodgers in 1923. The Hall opened an exhibit of Berg artifacts in 2018.
Frank Sinatra’s “There Used to be a Ballpark”
Baseball’s connection to pop culture and pop music is represented, in part, by the sheet music to “There Used To Be A Ballpark” by Hoboken’s own, Ol’ Blue Eyes.
Newark’s Knot Hole Gang
The Newark Bears were a force as a Yankees farm team in the 1930s and 40s, and these pins represent the team’s fan club for kids.
Yogi Berra’s MVP
After returning from World War II, Berra played 77 games for the Newark Bears in 1946, then joined the Yankees and never looked back. He eventually settled in Montclair, becoming a New Jersey resident for the rest of his life.
The Acerra Brothers
From 1938-52, Luciano “Pop” Acerra of Long Branch coached a semi-pro team made up of his 12 sons, with 25 years separating the oldest from the youngest. These shoes were worn by Freddie, the shortstop.
The Boss is (kind of) in the Hall! I wasn’t going to bother with this one, but how could I not? When people think of New Jersey, Springsteen is often one of the first images that comes to mind.
Well, yeah, it’s an ad for a cereal. But it’s also a brief, general account of a ballgame at Ruppert Stadium in the 1930s.
The Plaque Gallery
And to wrap it all up, we have the legends themselves. By my count, there are 29 Hall of Famers with notable ties to New Jersey. Here’s a quick rundown.
Born elsewhere but lived and/or buried in New Jersey
• Yogi Berra
• Dan Brouthers (died in East Orange; I am not sure if he lived there or was just visiting his daughter)
• Larry Doby
• Frank Grant (buried in Clifton)
• Monte Irvin
• Pop Lloyd (played, lived and was buried in Atlantic City)
• Phil Rizzuto (lived in Hillside, died in West Orange)
• Mule Suttles (died in Newark, buried in Bloomfield)
• Harry Wright (died in Atlantic City, where he liked to vacation)
Associated with a New Jersey team
• Craig Biggio (played at Seton Hall, married a Jersey girl, has lived down the Shore)
• Ray Dandridge (Newark Eagles, 1934-44)
• Leon Day (Newark Eagles, 1936-39)
• Gabby Hartnett (managed Jersey City, 1943-45)
• Rickey Henderson (played in Jersey City, 1978, and Newark, 2003-04)
• Judy Johnson (played in Atlantic City, 1918)
• Walter Johnson (managed Newark, 1928)
• Biz Mackey (Newark Eagles, 1939-42, ’45-47)
• Effa Manley (Newark Eagles owner)
• Willie Mays (Trenton Giants, 1949)
• Bill McKechnie (Newark Peppers player/manager, 1915)
• Tim Raines (Somerset Patriots, 2000)
• Edd Roush (Newark Peppers, 1915)
• Ben Taylor (Atlantic City, 1919)
• Honus Wagner (Paterson Silk Weavers, 1896)
• Willie Wells (Newark Eagles, 1936-39, ’42, ’45)