Monday, October 26, 2009

New Jersey- A State Divided By Baseball (And Football, Basketball, Hoagies and Subs)

With all due respect to suffering Mets fans- who must be beside themselves this Monday morning because their worst nightmare has happened- today New Jersey is a battleground, divided by loyalties to the Bronx Bombers and the Fightin' Phils. Its not quite Bleeding Kansas circa 1859, but it is a state cordoned off into two sections, the South rooting for the Philadelphia Phillies, and the North for the New York Yankees in the upcoming "I-95 World Series".

To understand New Jersey and New Jersey sports loyalty, you have to talk about the cities of New York and Philadelphia. In the early days of the republic Benjamin Franklin once referred to New Jersey as a "barrel tapped on both ends". Two cities that became metropolises in the 19th century are on opposite borders of the Garden State. We get our broadcast news from New York and Philly, many of our citizens work in those cities, most of our major roads connect New York and Philadelphia....literally, all roads lead there.

We don't like being called "bedrooms" for New York or Philadelphia, because New Jersey is so much more than that.....but to a certain degree, we are an extension of those two cities and their metropolitan areas. And no where is that more apparent than in the loyalties New Jersey sports fans have for professional sports fans.

So where is this great divide? Where does it became more Eagle fans than Giant/ Jets fans, or in this case Phils vs Yanks? Its a good question. Ask ten different New Jerseyans "Where is the dividing line between North Jersey and South Jersey?" and you'll likely get ten different answers.

The map above will give you a rough idea....but I'll admit, its up to debate because my definition will be different from that of someone else.

Here's my un-official North Jersey/South Jersey test.

(1). Do you eat subs or hoagies?
(2). Do you pronounce "color" as "keller"?
(3). Eagles or Giants?
(4). Wildwood or Seaside Heights?
(5). Bagel and cream cheese or hot pretzel with mustard?




(to the uninitiated- Cicely and Megan are meteorologists for the ABC (Philly) and CBS (NY) affiliates respectively.

OK....if you answered "(1)Hoagie, (2)Yes, (3)Eagles, (4)Wildwood, (5)Hot pretzel with mustard, (BONUS Cicely) ....there is a 99% certainty that you can call yourself a South Jersey Philly centric...and will probably be rooting for the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.

But then again....even THAT criteria isn't entirely accurate....because I haven't even talked about "what is CENTRAL Jersey", which many, myself included, regard as a separate entity- a microcosm WITHIN a microcosm.

I know....I'm not sounding logical. Fair enough, Mr. Spock.

I think you have to live in New Jersey to really get it. And maybe if you did, you'd be as crazy as I am.

Thoughts on the World Series

Now that its been established that what I said doesn't make any sense, wait until you see how the three candidates for governor of New Jersey handle the North Jersey/Yankees- South Jersey/Phillies situation. Prepare to hear a lot of himming and hawwing, evading the question, and double talk from Jon Corzine, Chris Christie, and Chris Daggett. Pick one team, and alienate half the state, and likewise if you pick the other.

I wonder which of the three decides to declare "split loyalties", and wear a gimmicky hat that can be reversed from one team to the next, or some other kind of silliness?


Their names are Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter. These four are what remains from the Yankees championship years 1996, 1998-2000. They came up in their early 20's, they are now in their mid to late 30's, with Rivera turning 40 next month. This very well may be the last World Series for four of the greatest ever to wear Yankee pinstripes. That alone will make this a special event for Yankee fans ,and for the MLB community. "Georgie", Andy, Mo, and The this their last hurrah?


Being a Trenton Thunder partial season ticket holder I had a chance to see many of the players from both Series participants back in their Double AA. The Thunder are a Yankee affiliate, and are in the same division as the Reading Phillies. Waterfront Park is usually loaded with Yankee and Phillie fans when the teams meet, and we did see some stars of the future. The Philies came to Trenton with the likes of Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. And the Thunder gave us a look at young Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Bret Gardner, Phil Hughes, Phil Coke, and Joba Chamberlain.

All grown up...or still growing...and on the biggest stage of all.


1950- That was the last time the Yankees and Phils played in a World Series, The Yanks sweeping the Phillies 4-0. The Yankee names included Hank Bauer, Jerry Coleman, Phil Rizzuto, Bobby Brown, Joe Collins, Whitey Ford, Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds, Lawrence Peter Berra (aka Yogi), and Joseph Paul DiMaggio.

And the "Whiz Kid" Phillies had Richie "Whitey" Ashburn, Del Ennis, Andy Seminick, Robin Roberts, and Jim Konstanty.

That was an era when Philadelphia had two baseball teams and New York City had three. There were only 16 teams in Major League baseball, eight in each league. They played 154 games per year, there was no inter league play. Each team played 22 games against each of the remaining seven members of their league. The city furthest west for the Majors was St.Louis, which had the Cardinals and the Browns. The furthest South for MLB was Washington, with the original Washington Senators. A handful of African Americans were in the majors; Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Monte Irvin, Satchel Paige. The Yankees had none in 1950, and would not integrate until the arrival of Elston Howard in 1955. The Boston Red Sox would be the last team to have black ballplayers, with the arrival of Pumpsie Green in 1958. There were even fewer Latino players in 1950....Vic Power, Luis Aparacio, and Roberto Clemente would impact the game later in the decade. No franchise had moved in the Major Leagues since the relocation of the Milwaukee Brewers to St. Louis and the old Baltimore Orioles to New York in nearly 50 years. Few games were on television....and 1950 few people had TV sets.

Fifty-nine years has passed since the last Yankee- Phillies Series. It was a time- an an America- that seems even more remote and distant than that.

For more on the 1950 World Series click here, from Baseball


Sue said...

Oooooooh I can't wait to sink my teeth into this post!! OK, I'm living in Salem County, I have been here since I was 11 and before that lived in Gloucester City. You wouldn't think there was that much difference but there is lots!! I say wooter, they say waaater. I say sub, they say hoagie. Everyone said I had quite an accent when I moved here, isn't that odd?? Yes we here are Phillies,Eagles, Flyers fans. Only thing I will dispute is the food, give me the bagel and the pretzel! lol. I do agree with your N S split, but it's so weird how a few miles up 295 can give such differences in accents. Gloucester to me was so much like NY, even tho they are sooo south joisey!!
This was alot of fun Hugh!!

Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

Sue- I live in the New Brunswick area. Its pretty much "New York Centric" here. If you go South on US 1 about 15-20 miles to Princeton, Plainsboro, Lawrenceville it begins to change to about 60-40 Philly....and the accent ("keller" for "color")becomes noticeable.

"PhillyCentric" snakes up to Mercer County, and Trenton, and gerrymanders back towards Long Beach Island- the half above Barnegat Inlet is North Jersey/New York, the southern half is South Jersey/Philly.

This really is a true "Jersey thing". People from other parts of the country might not get it...but if you live here, you do.

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