The seeds of this article were planted in 2008. I had stopped by Pitt Field with an old friend on the way to our 40th high school reunion. Joe Farrell, SPHS class of 1968, (no relation to me) was my teammate in the Small Fry League and later on in high school (actually, he was my battery mate as he was a pitcher and I was his catcher). He was the epitome of a wild and nutty left hander. In 1969 we would actually wind up on opposing sides, he with West Point and me with Rutgers. Given his quirky personality, Joe was the last person on earth I would have ever thought of as a West Pointer.
Anyway, he asked me if I would stop by the ball field with him on our way to the reunion to reminisce for a few minutes. He was living in Florida and had come up for the reunion. We were both crazy for baseball when we were kids, and were very close friends probably from the age of 10 through high school.
Joe was visibly moved when we walked the field. We spent quite some time that day talking about our baseball past and our failed careers (neither one of us made the big leagues, in fact both of us got cut from our respective college teams in the spring of our junior years). Joe died a few years later of cancer, and to this day I don’t know if he knew he had the disease at that point.
Last year I saw some pictures posted online of the South Plainfield Junior Baseball Club’s playing field complex. I had not been there since 1965 (my last year playing in Pony League), and was impressed that it had grown so. The person who posted the pictures had also posted pictures of some of the plaques and memorial signs that are scattered throughout the complex. Those are what spurred me on to attempt to get some recognition for those men who started the South Plainfield Junior Baseball program.
My dad, Joe Farrell, started it all. He was not alone for sure, but the leagues were his baby.
My sister Eleanor toured South Plainfield’s ball fields with me in September 2013 when she was out for a visit. She lives in San Francisco; I still live in NJ. We tried to hit all the spots: Boro Park, Pitt Field, Mildred Street. We walked behind Sacred Heart School. Franklin Field is gone but we visited Spicer Field, now known as Memorial Park. We went to the South Plainfield library (probably the first people to request their micro film in a long time), and we visited the South Plainfield Historical Society. We took some pictures of the ball fields and talked about how we could get the story of how it all began out to the public. This is the result and I hope those who love the game of baseball in South Plainfield get a chance to read about how it all came to be.
I grew up a baseball fanatic, a disease I got from my Dad. Playing ball in the South Plainfield summers was my main thing, starting in our neighborhood’s back yards and moving on to (the long-gone) Franklin Field at Grant and Franklin Avenues, and on occasion, behind Franklin School. Once I was old enough (at age 9) I played on the Small Fry Cubs (1959–1962) and Pony League Tigers (1963–1965). On to South Plainfield High for four years, multiple summer leagues throughout, Rutgers (where I mostly rode the pine for three years) and summer leagues after college until I woke up in the late 70s and realized I was the oldest guy on my team… and so packed it in.
But it was the South Plainfield Junior Baseball program that was my main love in those early years. Those were fun times, especially when we won, and I shared them with the boys I played with and against; South Plainfield names like Flannery and Lammers, Dellavalle and Angerbauer, DiSalvo and Fisher, and so many others of my generation. Growing up and playing ball in South Plainfield.
The 1950s era South Plainfield Small Fry League gave many local athletes their start. Just to name a few, Walt Kozumbo, Wally Cirafesi, Ed DiSalvo. Doug Krenicky and Drew Forgash would go on to successful football careers in college. Al Dellavalle, Jim Lammers, Jim Anderson and Tom Flannery would all play baseball for their respective colleges. Steve Timko, Ron Kuboski, Jim Kahora, and too many others to name, all played Small Fry baseball in those early years.
I was out of my Dad’s life for the last 35 or so years he lived (a whole different story) but I imagine he must have been very proud of getting South Plainfield baseball off the ground in ’55 (plus having his Brooklyn Dodgers finally winning the series that year!)
But I really wanted to thank my Dad and the other South Plainfield men who started it all in 1955… looking for a way to get their sons involved in the game they loved. And that’s what this project was all about.