Although New Jersey doesn’t host any major league baseball teams, the sport has long been a fixture in many local communities, particularly as a youth pastime and recreational activity. In the early decades of the 20th century, baseball was a popular activity throughout the United States.
In the agricultural communities of southern New Jersey, with daily farming responsibilities, recreational activities were limited. In Alliance, recreation included swimming or fishing in the Maurice River, and in the winter sometimes ice skating on nearby flooded cranberry bogs. Religious services offered a sense of community and were often accompanied by other activities. 1
During this time, baseball became an important escape for both the players and the fans. In southern New Jersey, adult leagues formed in Williamstown, Glassboro, Millville, Pittman Grove, and other towns. In Alliance and neighboring communities, teams developed in Brotmanville, Carmel, Norma, Rosenhayn, and Woodbine. 2
“As is the case everywhere else, baseball is the favorite sport of the boys of our school.” -Norma Yearbook, 1932-33
In 1904, Jake Spiegel and several other community members working for the Allivine Canning Company, formed the Norma Athletic Association to raise funds for a recreation area. After only six months, they had enough money to buy four acres and build a baseball field. A few years later, in 1913, the Norma Athletic Association Hall was built. Not only was this the center of baseball activities, but the hall hosted community events like weddings, dances, concerts, and more. 3
Eddie Stavitsky (left), with members of the Hebrew Orphan Home Baseball Team, 1917.
Baseball held a special place in the memories of community members. Herman Eisenberg recalled:
“The hub around which all the local activities centered was the Norma Athletic Association…the baseball team was the major activity of the association. That, more than anything else, gripped our youthful imagination, which showed that we were really Americans.” 4
The Norma Athletic Association Hall, as seen in Yoval 1932.
1. Tom Kinsella, Growing American: The Alliance Agricultural Colony in South Jersey-A History (Galloway, NJ: South Jersey Culture and History Center, 2021), 49.
2. Kinsella, Growing American, 51.
3. Kinsella, Growing American, 51.
4. Ellen Eisenberg, Jewish Agricultural Colonies in New Jersey, 1882-1920 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995), 161.