Welcome! I hope you find these reflections on faith and life interesting, useful, and perhaps at times challenging. I use both prose and poetry to cover a wide variety of topics, including political and other contemporary issues. Your constructive comments are appreciated, and if you like a particular article or poem, I'd be immensely grateful if you'd let me know by clicking on "Like."
Richard Stoll Armstrong
My life-long affection for baseball history began long
ago on Sunday afternoons. My father would pack my mother and me into the car at
our Kearny home. Our firs stop would be at his favorite Kearny Avenue deli to
pick up a barbecued chicken (made with Lawry’s seasoning salt, a recipe that I
use to this day) and, along with a container of my mom’s homemade iced tea,
we’d head to a parking lot adjacent to Newark Airport. There I was allowed to
engage in one of my favorite pastimes – watching the big planes taking off and
landing at the airport, at very close range.
Ruppert Stadium, Newark, NJ
Many times on the way home my Dad would stop at an
abandoned baseball stadium with huge light towers in Newark’s Ironbound
section, the old Ruppert Stadium. After parking the car, he would tell me stories about the Newark Bears baseball club of his youth in the 1930s – of
Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller, Joe Gordon, Marius Russo, and other stars, and of those magical times when the AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees was one
of the dominate teams in minor league baseball. From those days on forward, I
always wished for a rekindling of baseball in the city of my birth, Newark, New
Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium, Newark, NJ
In 1999 the “Bears” finally did return to Newark and
a brand new, 35-million-dollar Riverfront Stadium, financed by Essex County.
The stadium was the dream of ex-Yankee and Newark native Rick Cerone, who also
sought to rekindle his father’s memories of the Bears.
It has not gone well, however. Low attendance has plagued
the Newark Bears from the very beginning. Playing in the high-level,
independent Atlantic League, the Bears struggled to attain a thousand fans per
game, while the nearby Somerset Patriots, also in the Atlantic League, were
drawing five thousand or more every night.
Forced to leave the Atlantic League, the Bears became
members of the Can-Am League, another independent league whose quality of play
is a grade below that of the Atlantic League. But in the minor leagues the level
of play should not matter so much. The “affordable family entertainment” factor
does, however, and even though the current Bears ownership and staff have done
a good job of sprucing up the stadium and providing a bona fide minor league
experience, the plain and simple fact is the community does not support the
Last night, I sat, with 313 other dedicated souls at
Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium, watching the Newark Bears lose a
doubleheader to the New Jersey Jackals. Around 8:30 PM they announced over the
public address system the death of James Gandolfini, star of the “Sopranos”
television series. As they proceeded to play the Sopranos theme, I looked at
the Stickel Bridge towers beyond left field, the backdrop of so many Sopranos
Essex County based scenes. I was immediately overwhelmed by the empty seats,
and the eerie feeling of the loss of some of my personal New Jersey icons – the
Bears, James Gandolfini, and my Dad’s memories.