Morgan Memories – The Boys of Spring
There is something about timing – it is said to be “everything”. I had not been able to find my Little League photo from, uh, circa 1968, and then my longest time friend Eric sends me a copy of his. In my research to find what goes on in Morgan, NJ these days for Little League, I stumbled into the fact that Opening Day of the 2011 season was at 12 noon on Saturday, April 16, the same weekend this write-up was originally posted. How about that!
The two primary organized youth sporting activities in Morgan in the late 1960s were baseball and football. Perhaps there was something else but not to my knowledge. Most likely, perhaps Kozy Lanes had a bowling league until it morphed into Club Bene. At the time, Soccer was a little known and even lesser understood commodity. In my case soccer was a totally unknown commodity. I’ll cover football in a future page – this one is about baseball. While the baseball teams were not organized through Jesse Selover Elementary School, the two baseball fields were right next to it. Today there are three baseball fields next to Selover.
When the boys from Morgan Avenue and Dodd Place played baseball during the Spring and Summer, we used either sponge or whiffle balls and played on the street. There was a specific street and a specific place on that street. Probably we used chalk to mark the bases on Morgan Avenue just north of Willow Street. Looking back as an adult (or so I’m told), I guess I can now understand why Sadie Dowdell didn’t like getting her window broken by a foul ball. BTW, while I don’t think the Sadie Dowdell who lived on Morgan Avenue was the same Sadie Dowdell who was the long term South Amboy Librarian and name sake of the current South Amboy Library, what are the odds of there being two people with that same unique name living in the same area? Sorry Ms. Dowdell. The kids really did treat you terribly. Some of them have since told me how much they regret their childhood behavior toward you.
For boys, there were three levels of leagues then. There were girls’ teams then as well but I don’t know much about them. All games were played in Morgan between the various different Morgan teams. There was no travel involved for “Away Games” since there weren’t any.
The first level was called something I can’t imagine it would still be called: Midget League. I don’t know the exact age range for this league but we were the youngest kids. The field we played on was the one right next to Selover’s driveway at the northwest intersection of Woodland Avenue and Jersey Street. Memories of most of this time period have fully faded away for me but I recall playing catcher a lot.
The highest level was the Babe Ruth League. This was for the oldest boys, pre-High School I think, and was played on a field at the bottom of the hill behind Christ Church Cemetery. I was never in this league so I can’t say anything about it.
The middle level, and the one I have some memories of, was Little League. I don’t recall how many different teams there were at the time but each team was sponsored by a local business or community based organization. My team was Margol Ford. Ironically to this day I have no idea where Margol Ford was physically located though recently I did run into this Grand Opening advertisement on page 3 of the August 17, 1967 South Amboy Citizen which placed it somewhere on Route 9 in Madison Township.
Each team had a unique accent color for their uniforms, specifically the color of the baseball cap and the color of the number on the shirt. These are the team names and colors that I remember (or don’t remember):
- Gabriel Tire – Royal Blue
- Lions – Red (Orange?)
- Margol Ford – Purple
- Morgan Liquor Store – ?
- Sun Valley Furniture – Green
There were also other sponsors, Robert E. Lee Inn, Kaiser’s Bar team (see below), Morgan Fireman, probably others but not during my time. Eric was on Margol Ford with me, Eric’s brother Mark was on Morgan Liquor Store, and our other childhood friend Rick was on Sun Valley Furniture.
From memory, the season began with a Morgan Lions Club pancake breakfast in the cafeteria/auditorium of Jesse Selover Elementary School. No doubt this was a fund raiser for the Lions (and their Little League team) but it also was a way for them to provide the community with one of their primary passions, the administration of vision examinations. Lined up next to the stage was a series of eye exam machines staffed by one of the very dedicated members of the Lions Club International including our wonderful neighbor Andy. No one could have had a better neighbor than Andy (except perhaps Andy).
According to Diane Norek Harrison, who writes the “Remembering the Past” feature for the on-line newspaper NJToday.net, the Morgan Lions Club was chartered in May 1954 with Sayreville Lions Club as their sponsors. They were charted as the Bayview Lions Club in 1958.
Following the pancake breakfast was the procession of Little League teams down Lincoln Street or Jersey Street, right onto South Pine Avenue, right on another street – probably Bayview Ave, then back to the Little League field for the first game. According to Christina DiPoalo Olender, daughter of Morgan Lumber founder and Morgan Fire Chief John DiPoalo, the Morgan Lumber truck transported the judges along the route and served as the portable public address system.
While my athletic abilities were nothing to write home (or write blog) about, I have to say what stands out most for me was our coach, Mr. Prevoznak. He was (and still is) the father of my Selover through high school class mate Michael and was one of the most decent, caring, patient and helpful people I have encountered in my 29++ years on this planet. I recall him helping allay my fears of smacking into the back fence from my illustrious right field position when trying to catch a fly ball out to deep right. He simply said to back all the way to the fence while feeling for it with your ungloved hand then to come in as necessary. He also said to always use two hands to catch the ball. The only way he could have been more accurate was to have told me to use two hands when I dropped the ball.
During this phase of life, those of us in Morgan would go into the candy section of Kaisers Bar on the north side of Route 35 at Tyler Street (later Covellos Italian Seafood Restaurant and torn down in 2016) to spend a quarter for a five pack of Topps baseball cards complete with a stick of bubble gum. Though I lost interest in baseball after the miracle NY Mets won the pennant in 1969, to this day I have my two metal band aid boxes containing my baseball card collection; one for the NY Mets and one for every other team.
Originally posted on April 12, 2011, reposted on August 3, 2013, and George Mekula photo added on October 2, 2016.