This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues of professional baseball. Several high profile athletes, politicians, and celebrities have taken part in celebrations, namely the “tipping the cap” videos that have been shared on Twitter. The celebration was initiated by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.
Long before there was a hockey team called the New Jersey Devils at Lafayette and Mulberry Street, a Negro League team called Newark home. From 1936-1948, the Newark Eagles played in the city as one of New Jersey’s first professional baseball teams (two other teams, the Newark Peppers, and Elizabeth Resolutes player short stints in the Federal League and National Association, respectively). While in Newark, the Eagles won the 1946 Negro World Series. MLB Pitcher Don Newcombe began his career with the Eagles playing on the team from 1944-1945.
A Little About the Eagles
The Eagles had a much more lasting impact on the field. Their most lasting and famous impact is they were the first professional baseball team owned and operated by a woman, Effa Manely, who posthumously became the first and only woman elected into the Baseball Hall Of Fame. As for their impact on the town, one of their players, Max Manning, explained it as “the Eagles were to (black) Newark what the Dodgers were to Brooklyn.”
Obviously, times have changed, and the only current professional team to call Newark home is the Devils. Ever since the move to Prudential Center, the Devils have been actively involved in the Newark community, which might be as untraditional of a hockey market as you can imagine. Even if many in the Newark community might not be old enough to remember the Newark Eagles, the Devils should find a way to have a tribute to the baseball team that once called the city home.
Bring in the Throwback Jerseys
When it comes to NHL teams celebrating things, the most common thing is to have a special jersey for players to wear. The NHL only allows a team to use three types of game jersey a year, typically a home jersey, an away jersey and an alternate. But there is a loophole that allows teams to wear pretty much whatever warm up jersey they want, as we see a lot of teams do on Veterans Day and St. Patrick’s Day. Those jerseys usually get auctioned off to provide money for charity.
The Devils should have a special warmup jersey to honor the Newark Eagles. If the team decided to have a promotion night around the Eagles, this would be the game to wear them. The colors of the Eagles were mostly navy blue, with red as well. Some logos had an eagle above the term “Newark,” while teir jerseys looked like the Los Angeles Dodgers’ uniforms, with “Newark” in place of “Los Angeles” in almost the same blue color and typeface.
The Devils could go one of two ways with a warmup jersey. The first option is to keep the Devils jersey the same but with the navy blue primary Newark Eagles color scheme. The second, and most interesting is to make a jersey that combines the Newark Bears legacy and the Devils. Maybe a white jersey with “Newark” in the blue typeface? It might look like the Nashville Predators’ jerseys from this past year’s Winter Classic; keep the red and black and stripes on the arms and shoulders like the current Devils uniforms. Plus, keep the current Devils logo as a patch on the shoulders. That would be a perfect way to mix the old and the new.
Have MLB Join the Party
For these types of promotion nights, the Devils usually partner up with other businesses and places. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum would be an obvious partner. They might even send over a team and some Newark Eagles memorabilia to put together an exhibit at Prudential Center for fans to see during the game.
Another logical partner would be Major League Baseball, more specifically their R.B.I. Program. Their R.B.I. program, which stands for “Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities,” already has a few teams in the Newark area. Youth baseball also has a strong footing in the area, following Elmora’s run to the Little League World Series in 2019 from nearby Elizabeth, NJ. It would be a great idea to bring in local little league teams as a celebration of them and the Newark Eagles who paved the way.