No Minor Accomplishment: The Revival of New Jersey Professional Baseball

Article excerpt

Bob Golon. No Minor Accomplishment: The Revival of New Jersey Professional Baseball. New Brunswick, NJ: Rivergate Books, 2008. 215 pp. Paper, $19.95.

In this book, New Jersey native Bob Golon provides a fascinating and insightful account of the return of professional baseball to the Garden State, beginning when the Trenton Thunder of the Class AA Eastern League arrived in 1994. Today, New Jersey boasts eight professional baseball teams, Trenton and Lakewood in the affiliated minor leagues; and Bridgewater, Newark, Camden, Atlantic City, Little Falls, and Augusta in the independent Atlantic and Can-Am Leagues. GoIon devotes a chapter to each of these clubs.

Based on extensive interviews with league executives, team owners and officials, broadcasters, players, managers, fans, local baseball scholars, and industry experts, Golon concludes that owning and operating a minor-or independent-league baseball team is a risky business venture. Success requires inspired and visionary leadership; tens of millions of dollars for stadium construction and maintenance; the cooperation of financiers, politicians, and zoning boards; and shrewd, modern marketing and promotion strategies. Above all, the club must identify itself with the local populace and establish itself as a community institution. Golon explains that spectators at the games of New Jersey's professional baseball clubs rarely notice the extensive business operations that make their hometown teams possible. People attend the games because they want affordable, wholesome, family entertainment in a clean and safe environment. They are as interested in the between-innings antics of mascots and other performers as they are in the game on the field. The typical spectator is more a consumer of entertainment than a baseball fan.

Traditionally, researchers interested in the minor leagues have focused exclusively on the game on the field, chronicling pennant races and the exploits of great teams and players; or they have eschewed the game altogether for the daily operations of a minor-league club, the club's role as a community institution, or the minor leagues as an integral part of the fabric of small-town America. Golon successfully combines these approaches to baseball below the major-league level. He discusses the details of stadium finance and construction and the community politics involved in getting a ballpark built. …