The Boys of Summer
County Baseball League gave us real hometown heroes
by Eleanor Peak Zane
In the early years of the century when automobiles were an oddity, and television was only a dream of visionaries ... warm, summer nights were spent with
family and neighbors visiting on front porch steps. The quiet of the early evening was often pierced by the sound of bat hitting ball and the cheering of fans at
the local baseball diamond. The year was 1926, and the Standard and Jerseyman ran the headline, "County Baseball League Organizes With Six
Residents of Salem County like most other communities in those days were eager to patronize the local teams. Baseball was the all-American pastime, and
each little town boasted their own team. The first teams in the Salem County League consisted of Woodstown, D.O.D., Penns Grove, Carneys Point, Salem
Glass Works, and. Salem Congolium. Among these and other teams which were later part of the league, it seems available male in Salem County must have
been playing baseball. Maybe they were! Many of the members even played on more than one team. The Penns Grove team’s roster listed men who also
played on the many DuPont Company teams, known as Laboratory teams. Many Carneys Point team members also played on the Mechanics' and Engineers'
teams from DuPont. The keen competition kept them on their toes and the frequent games (some men played every night), made for some mighty brilliant
players. Almost every boy had a local hero to emulate.
Some players in that first year were also active local football team members. The roster of the baseball games read almost like the football line-up. Penns
Grove was managed Warren Smith and assisted by James Lose. Pitchers were Mathieu, Brank, Parks, and Homan. Catchers were Bake and Remsburg.
Other team members were Engle, Lehman, Guest, Catts, Morrison, Sadler, B. Smith, K. Kille, Matthew Ammons, and Whidby.
"The Carneys Point team consisted of manager Charles Sayers, pitchers Thomlinson, Creamer and Spicer, catchers Bennett and Peak, with Mercer, Blohm,
Myers, Welch, Patterson, Pennington, and Shepherd filling the other positions.
Carneys Point led the league throughout the season that first year, only to be defeated by Penns Grove during the playoff. Penns Grove won the county title,
and the Salem County League finished the first year with the promise of growth in the years to come.
The county teams began to swell in numbers, and so many good teams emerged during the next decade, that it's hard to name them all. Some of the
outstanding ones, those which live in. the memories of baseball enthusiasts, will be remembered for the great performances they gave. The Pedricktown
team, the Mayflower team, the Salem Braves, Penton, and Smokeless. Powder were all powerful teams which consistently gave the fans a good show. Many
other teams in the County will be fondly remembered by older, local residents. I would have liked to have been a part of those cheering crowds, and had the
opportunity to meet with some of the men who made local sports history. I wish we could reminisce about the days when the sport belonged to the "big boys"
of the town. The torch has now been passed to Little Leagues, Babe Ruth Leagues, and Young Men's Leagues. Gone are the days when the sport was
dominated by working men who today would be considered too old to play on any¬thing but the "Old- Timer's Leagues."
During those early years, other leagues were also formed around Salem County. The South Jersey League, formed in 1928, consisted of teams from Salem
and Cumberland Counties. Penns Grove, Salem, Elmer, Bridgeton, Vineland, and Millville were included. Other well known leagues from that era were the Bi-
County League, Salem Twilight League, DuPont League, and the Church League. There may have been others of which this writer is not aware.
Not long after taking the post of President of the South Jersey League, Bridgeton mayor Linwood W. Ericson resigned. The Mayor objected to Sunday ball
games, and Penns Grove played on that day. W. Fred Ware of Millville was elected to take his place as President. From baseball's earliest days, Sunday"
games were a subject of real controversy. From The South Jerseyman newspaper dated July 16, 1895, the following article made headlines. "Preached
"South Jersey is baseball crazy, and it is questioned where the craze will end. The ministers, with but one exception have made little opposition to the sport,
but in Bridgeton last Sunday it is said that several of the pastors preached against the sport. Their sermons were aimed at the business men, old and young,
who neglected their business to attend the games of baseball. Reverend S. W. Lake spoke in strong terms against the game, while Rev. Dr. Mace, in his
prayers, called on the Supreme Being to stop old men going crazy over the national game.”
Evidently, this feeling that the game was taking over the lives of the small town business men was not shared by all citizens. The following week this same
newspaper used a whole page to describe the games and the scores of the week. There was even a picture of the Salem Baseball Club, rare for local
newspapers in those days. This is an indication of the importance of the national pastime.
As far back as DuPont has been in Salem County, there was probably some baseball team to represent them. A 1920 article from the Hexagon (which was the
DuPont News of that day), tells of the teams that were then in the limelight. The names reflected the areas where the men worked; Chemical, Operating,
Engineering, Mechanical, Benzol, and Naphthalene Intermediates. Later DuPont News articles indicate that the interest in baseball and softball at the DuPont
plants never decreased. If time allows, I hope to one day do an article on those teams. Names of teams and players have changed, but the love of the game
by those industrial "Boys of Summer" persists to this day.
The Bloomer Girls
On August 2, 1928, a record crowd of 1,500 fans turned out at the Y.M.C.A. field to see an unusual game. The "Bloomer Girls," a professional team from New
York played against the Smokeless Powder team from Carneys Point. It is said that women fans, regardless of hometown loyalties, all rooted for the girls.
Their enthusiasm was in vain; the “Bloomer Girls” had an off day and lost to Smokeless Powder 16 to 8.
During the late 30's, local interest was boosted by an occasional game with a professional team from out of town. At those games, many times played in
Woodstown, there were some very good black professional teams which to play. The Bacharach Giants and the Philadelphia Stars were two which sometimes
played in Salem County to large crowds. The professionals had to be paid, sometimes as much as $100, which was big money in those days. As a result, the
fans, who usually could see a game for free, were asked to pay $1.00. How times have changed!
Baseball diamonds were to be found all around the County, although not as well maintained as the fields of today. Some "ball parks" were just converted cow
pastures, but the Y.M.C.A. in Carneys Point and the D.O.D. had regulation fields.
Pedricktown "Best All Best All Around Town Team"
Although the County League started in 1926, it wasn’t until 1935 that one of the most popular teams in the history of county baseball joined the league. Until
that time, Pedricktown had been active in the Church League. “Win” Joslin, of Pedricktown, took over the task of team manager about 1937 and for almost 25
years served the team known for years as the "Best All Around Town Team" in South Jersey. The distinction was earned not only by their standout
performance in their own circuit, but also by contests outside the Church League.
Most of the Pedricktown roster remained the same year after year. Many players held the same position for the 25 years they were led by Joslin. Some of the
more memorable team members were Eddie Price, Franny Roche, Win Joslin, Melvin Bennet, John "Deadbird" West, Walt Sparks, Thurmon Drabold, and Cal
Smith. Pitchers were Jack Sparks, Mac "Lefty" Sowers, Dinger Vogeding, Bob Carney, and Jim Scroggins. I'm sure there were others I've neglected to
mention, for which I apologize. Let's hope some die-hard baseball fans will remember some of them and let me know so I can make additions and corrections
in a future article. However, the men mentioned were the nucleus around which that. team rotated, and is remembered by old-timers as "one hell of a team”.
The Pedricktown Home Boys" always played to win. They drew large crowds and gave them a first-class game of baseball prowess.
Other Outstanding Teams
Pedricktown, Penns Grove, and Carneys Point, in the years between 1935 and the 1950's, were joined by several outstanding teams. The ever competitive
Salem Braves managed by Leonard Gibson (Ole Gibby), Penton managed by John Zarin, and the Mayflower team managed by AI Martell, were colorful teams
whose games gave the fans something to talk about from one week to another.
The trend toward men's teams continued into the years after the second World War. The Servicemen's Club sponsored a team, a team called the Vets, and
lots of teams from work places, especially the DuPont Company were active and well patronized into the 40's and 50's.
Throughout the hey-day off home town teams, many other names were to be remembered for the color tradition they gave to the game of baseball. Names
such as Dunn, Jones, Thomas, Gibson, Gould, Bur¬ton, Roots, Shorts, and Miller of the Braves; Stout, H. Agnew, Kirsch, Terrell, Cannon, Smith, Joslin,
Parkell, Carney, T. Agnew, Damask, and Roach of the Penns Grove Vets' and Woodstown's Thompson, Wright, Bee, Wetherby, Litler, War¬len, Lewis, Loper,
Fox and Conrad.
Deepwater, under the direction of Pete Eckley, and Pennsville, managed by Mr. Sepler, the Royals, the many church teams, all added to the color and
excitement of the game. Some unforgettable names like Goslin, MacDonald, Conrad and Jacobs linger in the mind and stir up memories of watching the
papers and listening to the radio to catch the news about the "hometown boy" who made good on the big time teams. But also unforgettable, in the minds of
family and friends are others who will always remain dear to the locals. Names like Terrell, Newell, Pollack, Roche, Parker, Nolan, Scanlin, Keats, Stockdale,
Clark, Bradley, Rhea, Dwyer, Acton, Roberts; Crawley, Rogers, Wolder, Craig and Long to name a few.
It's impossible to name all the veterans who played in the county league during those years. Many of the names can only be found in the old records, and of
course, in the hearts and minds of the fans and players who still recall the days when local "hometown" teams were the source of real, everyday "heroes." I
salute you, one and all. May you always thrill to the sound of the whack of the bat, and the call to "play ball."
Special thanks to AI Martell, Frannie Roche, Bob Carney, Marian Martell, Bowen Stock-dale and Selina Christenson for use of pictures and information.
I dedicate this article to the "gentleman" pitcher, "Loose as a Goose" Bob Carney.
SEPT 12, 1996