Diplomacy and Baseball: A Peak inside HPL’s Vertical Files

25 Jan

This is the first in a series of monthly blog posts that give insight into Hoboken History by taking a look at materials in our History Collection.

Ambassadors profiles.jpg

Image Courtesy of the Jersey Journal

In the summer of 1988, a group of teenage boys from Hoboken was tasked with a very important diplomatic mission. The boys, all 14 and 15 years old, were members of a baseball team traveling to the Soviet Union to play the game abroad and hopefully improve relations between Soviet and American youth. The team, renamed the Hoboken Ambassadors for the trip, embarked on a multi-city tour of the Soviet Union, playing multiple Soviet teams (usually made up of players several years older than them), exploring the country, and eating unusual foods, and the entire journey was dutifully reported day by day in both the Jersey Journal and Hudson Dispatch.

Baseball in the Soviet Union wasn’t the most fun part of the trip – the Ambassadors went undefeated against players who were physically stronger and older than they were, but lacked the baseball experience that they had – but the boys reported that they greatly enjoyed meeting the people in the three cities they stopped at on their whirlwind tour, Moscow, Kiev, and Tblisi. This was perhaps the actual most important part of their trip, as they were serving as cultural envoys for the United States at a crucial time in the history of the Cold War (Perestroika was well underway and Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech had occurred approximately one year before the tour). The Ambassadors all spoke to how meaningful the trip was for them and how friendly and accommodating the Soviets they met were, although there were definitely some things left to be desired: second baseman Rickey Huggins stated the first thing he wanted to do upon arriving home was “going to White Castle,” whilst infielder/pitcher Blair Degaeta Jr. planned to “go to Biggie’s and order a cheesesteak and fries.”

The Hoboken Ambassadors vertical file has been completely digitized and, along with 286 other subject files, can be found on the Hoboken Public Library website. To read the Ambassadors’ entire story chronologically, go here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1W1t2Nnk4oLsC9lGNpa2eVk4L8j_60nvo/view

If you’re more interested in other historical subjects, all 287 vertical files can be perused at your leisure here: https://hobokenlibrary.org/history-collection/hoboken-vertical-files/

Hoboken Library cardholders can also access full back issues of new and older newspapers online including the Jersey Journal from NewsBank.

Love Baseball?  Stop by the library on Saturday, January 26 at noon, for A Society for American Baseball Research Meet Greet and Lecture.

Written By:
Steph Diorio
Local History Librarian/Archivist

Steph loves writing and talking about the collections under her care, so feel free to ask her to talk about any of the historical materials at the library and setup a research appointment.

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