Dear Weblog Superfans,
#73 on my list forces me to continue some work that I did about 18 months ago, just after my aunt sent me my grandfather’s semi-pro baseball uniform (along with a kick-ass booklet about Christie Mathewson, a Hall-of-Fame pitcher for the New York Giants from the early twentieth century, that was published during his final season–maybe I’ll put up some photos of it or something later). Grandpa, I know from talking to Nonna and my mother, was a shortstop for his team and lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey, when he played semi-pro ball.
But I don’t know much more than that. The uniform is gray wool, a little stiff, and smells of cigarettes (I’d like to think grandpa’s cigarettes, but since the aunt who had kept it smokes herself, that’s probably not true), and it says ELIZ across the front and Local 823 on its sleeve. The ELIZ obviously tells me that the team, in some way, represented Elizabeth. The Local 823 says, to me, that it was a union team. Now. Grandpa’s job at the time was somehow related to cable cars and so he was eligible to join the Teamsters labor union. However, last June 19, I e-mailed the Teamsters to ask whether there was a Local 823 there at the time (there isn’t one now), and I was told nothing of substance. Namely, that Local 823 is based out of Joplin, MO, not Elizabeth, NJ. But I was given a phone number of Teamsters Joint Council 73, based out of Union, NJ, which covers the Elizabeth area. So that’s something I can pursue.
There is also a quirky little outfit called the Elizabeth Athletic Club that helped me a bit. It’s a group of guys who play baseball according to the rules and customs of 1891 base ball (as it was then called). I e-mailed the captain of that team last June, also, and was told that the best place to find information on baseball in or around Elizabeth from the early twentieth century would be the Elizabeth Daily Journal, a newspaper that published from 1872 to 1990. It appears that I can find archived papers in two places: the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark or the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Neither place is truly convenient, but the LOC I at least have experience with, because I am a big dork and went there to research various thesis papers I wrote in college. I don’t think there’s a big chance of semi-pro baseball being documented much, even in a relatively local paper, but it’s someplace else to look.
I’ll keep you informed. And I’ll put up pictures of grandpa’s uniform as soon as I find a digital camera.
P.S. Here are the photos of the uniform.