Tag Archives: baseball

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.

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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.

The Bad Guys Won!: Revisiting the 1986 New York Mets

20 Nov

I am a New York Mets fan, so I was overjoyed when the Mets made the playoffs this year after several down seasons. I wore blue and orange to the library to show my support. The day after games I came to work bleary eyed and clutching coffee after staying up late to watch west coast games and games that went into extra innings.

Back to the Future II predicted that the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series in 2015, but that was not to be. In reality, the Mets lost the title to the Kansas City Royals. But the Mets have a young pitching staff with priceless playoff experience and I am excited about what the future holds for Queens.

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A friend told me about The Bad Guys Won! by Jeff Pearlman, which is a history of the World Champion 1986 Mets team. I read the book during the 2015 Mets playoffs run to send some 1986 luck their way, and to learn more about the team and the Mets’ history. I was only four years old in 1986, and my idea of appointment television was Fraggle Rock, so I did not watch that World Series. Also, I was most likely sent to bed long before first pitch.

Before reading the book, I knew that the 1986 Mets team liked to party; that they won 108 regular season games; that Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner bobbled a ground ball hit by Mookie Wilson that allowed the winning run in Game 6 of the World Series; and that the roster included famous Mets such as Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Dwight “Doc” Gooden.

This book was well-researched and included interviews with the players and coaches. The first chapter opens with the Mets’ flight to New York from Houston after clinching their World Series spot that includes epic levels of partying, a midair food fight, and some vomit. That story was the perfect way to introduce the team and bring readers into the story.

The narrative descriptions of the World Series game were exciting to read. It also showed the Mets could be as frustrating to watch then as they are now. One entertaining story was when the Mets were down 5-3  in Game 6 and a Red Sox victory seemed imminent, a rally started. Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell, and Ray Knight (who would later score the winning run on Mookie’s grounder) all got on base with two outs and all told the first base coach Bill Robinson that they were “not scoring the last out of the World Series”, in so many words with various expletives.

Something else I liked about the book was that it wasn’t too heavy on baseball statistics. Personally the emphasis on statistics is my favorite aspect of baseball, but if you don’t understand what OBS is then it can seem like a foreign language. If you are a baseball stats nerd like me, then you should read Moneyball by Michael Lewis, or see the film adaptation by the same name.

The Bad Guys Won!, which was published in 2004, made me think about how sports have been changed by modern technology. In baseball, officials have access to video replays for contested plays that could change the game for better or for worse. (Mets fans recently experienced this in NLDS Game 2.) Social media is prevalent and many players are on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. Smartphones have made it hard to conceal any bad behavior by players off the field, as websites like Deadspin and TMZ Sports will get the story plus any incriminating images and video. The 1986 Mets, in particular a small segment of players that called themselves the Scum Bunch, were very lucky to precede those sites.

In recent years baseball has been rocked by steroids and performance enhancing (PED) drug scandals that culminated in the 2013 Mitchell Report, an independent investigation of drug use in the sport that led to several player suspensions. Roger Clemens, who pitched for the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series and appears in the book, was named in that report.

This book is a great choice for any Mets fans, particularly those who followed the 1986 season. If you’re more interested in Bill Buckner’s bobble, watch season 8 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which revisits that infamous play.

My theory is that the Mets will win the World Series in 2016. Why? Because it will be 30 years after the legendary 1986 New York Mets team won the title. The Royals won their last title in 1985. If it worked for them, it can work for the Mets.

I’ll let Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard close out this post with a tweet he posted after the World Series:

 

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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