RIP Newark Bears (updated Nov. 29)

Bears-logo-on-scoreboardUpdated Nov. 29:

The Newark Bears Facebook profile has this message today:

To all… As previously posted, the Newark Bears are undergoing redevelopment phases, ultimately creating a stronger organization. Part of these plans were to evaluate the right league affiliation. Although the Bears will not continue their affiliation w the Canam league during the 2014 season, this should not reflect the status or livelihood of our organization. We will release more information upon taking our next steps towards building ur better & stronger Newark Bears Professional Minor League Baseball team. We thank all of our fans and supporters for being so awesome!! Happy Holidays, Your Newark Bears Family

Original post:

In a classic move of burying bad news, league officials waited until the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to announce that the Can-Am League will operate as a four-team division of the American Association in 2014.

Quoting from the press release:

Four teams will make up the Can-Am League in 2014: the Quebec Capitales and Trois-Rivieres Aigles from the province of Quebec; the New Jersey (Montclair) Jackals; and the Rockland Boulders of Pomona, N.Y. The Newark Bears will not operate in 2014.

[Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball commissioner Miles] Wolff commented, “The Can-Am League is extremely pleased to continue its alliance with the American Association. It has been a great rivalry with the teams in the central U.S. and Canada, and we believe it sets the stage for growth of the Can-Am in 2015 and beyond.” The Can-Am League has already announced that Ottawa, Ontario, will join the league in 2015; several other cities are under consideration for inclusion in 2015.

Ever since the Newark Bears dropped out of the Atlantic League, it sort of felt like the writing was on the wall. I’m thankful for friends I made because of the Bears, and many fun nights at Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium over the years.

I invite anyone else who enjoyed going to Bears games to share their happy memories, but I don’t want to rehash their failings tonight.

About Paul

NY Mets enthusiast, toy collector, amateur gardener, Christian. I like to take pictures & write things.

Posted on November 27, 2013, in Newark Bears and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Where’s everyone going to defect to? I am leaning towards Somerset as The Atlantic League knows what they’re doing and put on good baseball.

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  2. I’ll always remember former Yankee Jim Leyritz in 2011 as a coach in Newark. He was always one of my favorite Yankee non superstars. He signed lots of items for me. It was great to meet him 15 years later after that night in Atlanta when he put the Yankees back in the World Series.

    Two questions;

    What happens to the stadium?

    Will the Bears have some type of final yard/ merchandise sale? The Allentown Ambassadors had one when they folded in 2004.

    In addition to Somerset and the NJ Jackals, the Lakewood Blueclaws are an excellent option. WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy Hart will be there on 7/13/14 and there will be a Darin Ruf bobblehead give away in August.

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    • I don’t think the Bears would have all that much to sell – the team store was pretty empty the last time I was there. The 2013 uniforms are about the only things that I could imagine that would be of any interest.

      The stadium is Essex County parkland, unless I’m mistaken. Rutgers-Newark, NJIT, and perhaps that amateur league that played some games there this year will continue to be tenants.

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    • I’d like a jersey or 2

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  3. Not here to pee on the grave. Heck, I’ve done that plenty of times already–and when they were still living, though in their death throes.

    I worked there in 2009. Everything from running the board to official scorer to actually broadcasting the games for the final six weeks of the season. What a blast!

    Getting to meet the Bears. Carl Everett, especially, was a hoot. Yes, I know he’s reportedly said some oddball things in his time (none to me), but he was great for conversation. And, meeting the road managers… Gary Carter, may he rest, had hands like meathooks. He could have easily broken my hand when we shook hands. I’d have sworn that he could probably catch without a glove. But, don’t interrupt him looking for lineups while he’s playing cards. Man, he stared daggers through me when he was playing with Dave LaPoint. It was like “Here’s the lineup. Now get out.” Butch Hobson, Sparky Lyle…great guys. But the one I’ll very fondly remember was Joe Ferguson. What a soft-spoken gentle man (and gentleman, too).

    It’s a shame the team had absolutely no chance when they dropped out of the Atlantic League–a move I will never understand. And, even with the interleague play, I don’t understand how the CanAm will survive with two teams here and two other teams eight hours away and the rest in the midwest. That could leave the door open for that Atlantic League feeder league. We shall see.

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  4. The stadium is owned by the Essex County Improvement Authority. NJIT, Rutgers Newark and GNT finals are played there. Essex County and Newark are still paying $1.1 million dollars a year each until 2029 to the debt service on the cost of construction in 1999. Stadium is for sake for $17m.

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    • Wasn’t the Pontiac Silverdome up for sale for something like $500,000 (actually, it went for $583K four years ago)? $17 mil for Riverfront? What a rip-off!🙂

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  5. Paul, you did a great job covering them.

    Kudos man!

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  6. If the stadium is for sale an indicator of the sale price might be the stadium where the New Jersey Cardinals and Sussex Skhawks played. That sale was in the range of $ 750,000 to $ 1,100,000. Pricing is somewhat complicated due to the cell tower.

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    • Richard,

      Going from memory here, but the Bears used to have a real sweetheart rent deal. So, considering that there were 6,000 people disguised as empty seats there every night likely means that the Bears’ death won’t lead to much in the way of mourning or loss for Newark or the Essex County Improvement Authority.

      The best thing that could happen to Newark at this stage would be to somehow procure an affiliated minor league team, especially if it belongs to one of the locals. Second choice would be an Atlantic League team with an owner who knows how to market it. Blast emails isn’t marketing. As much as it does OK in Little Falls and Rockland, two fairly bucolic settings, the independent equivalent of short season-A isn’t attractive enough to draw fans to Newark. It HAS to be better ball. After all, why would I want to go to Newark if I can get a better night out in the other two places?

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      • I agree with you on having an affiliated team- Allentown is living proof of that. Wouldn’t both the Yankees and Mets have to approve it?

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        • Freddy,

          Yes.

          Longer answer… The bad news in this scenario happened a couple years ago when the Yanks wanted to use Newark as a one-year AAA home when the Scranton ballpark was undergoing renovations. From what I remember reading, the Yanks told the Mets they’d give them pretty much anything they wanted, minor league-wise, in return for pitching their tent in Newark for a single year. And the Mets said no because, when they wanted to put a minor league club on LI, the Yankees said no. So, after acting like petulant little children, nobody got anything.

          The reason why I brought this up is because, had the AAA Yankees played in Newark two years ago, there would have been no guessing as to the viability of minor league ball in Newark. In other words, had it not worked, there’d be no reason to talk and speculate about it now and we’d all know that any sort of minor league ball in Newark means almost certain failure to whomever owns the team.

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  7. I was already going to more NJ Jackals games ever since the Bears moved into the same league (slightly easier trip for me). I’ll still make it to the Den for NJIT baseball.

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  8. Will in Central NJ

    If this is the Swan Song for the Bears, it is a sad ending but not one we couldn’t see coming.

    Perhaps my favorite memory: a midweek matinee in 2003, when Rickey Henderson batted lead off as DH. After two at-bats, he was pulled and given the rest of the game off.

    Thirty minutes later, Henderson came out in street clothes and sat in the “pit seats” behind home plate checking his cell phone messages. I was a few seats away, so I moved closer and asked for an autograph. One of the other fifty fans remaining (since the summer campers split) recognized Henderson from afar and began heckling him loudly.

    “Yo Rickey! I got some cards! Deal you in?”

    Henderson, not shying away from some Rube’s challenge, replied, “Yeah! C’mon down! I’m right here!” Rickey was yelling at him right over my head as he signed for me.

    Meanwhile, there was a game –remember the game?— going on. The opposing pitcher stepped off, the HP ump glared at Bears manager Bill Madlock, who came up to the top step of the dugout and wildly motioned with his arms to Henderson to cut the crap out. Rickey and the heckler continued briefly, then quit, with the game resuming.

    If pro baseball never returns to Newark, at least I’ll always have this, and other unique memories. Thanks for the forum allowing us to share them, Paul.

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  9. From the Bears website yesterday, 11/29 (obvious Twitter)…

    “The Newark Bears r n process of creating a stronger org. Altho we will not b affiliated w Canam , this doesnt reflect our status/livelihood.”

    Are they planning to put a team on the field in some league (what I don’t know) in 2014? Is this either mere bluster or someone talking who’s in complete denial that the organization is truly dead? What organization is out there that would take this team into their fold?

    Speculation, anyone?

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    • The only chance of joining a league would appear to be a summer college league. In those leagues you do not have to pay the players.

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      • Richard,

        There is the Atlantic College Baseball League. Around here, there’s a team that plays at Overpeck Park and another in Berkley Heights. There’s also Staten Island and Queens, another down by Trenton and three or four in eastern PA. All play at county parks/high school fields with grandstands/small college parks. So, though NJIT and Rutgers-Newark call Riverfront home, I’m not sure if the ACBL will or would as there’s nothing more depressing than playing in an empty ballpark. Plus, the league probably couldn’t afford the ballpark rental. Unless they get a sweetheart deal, in which case the Essex County Improvement Authority and Newark will make next to nothing. And what that has to do with the current Bears owners is a mystery. Other than that…🙂

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    • I think all of the established pro leagues have set their 2014 schedules and the teams should be in the process of selling ticket plans already.

      I don’t see a way for a team that’s not part of one of those schedules to be added for next season, but I guess it’s not completely impossible.

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      • I believe that the Frontier League has a Grays ie. travelling team. Perhaps the Bears could replace them. The road trips would begin in the Pittsburgh area (Washington Pa.) They do it in hockey in the ECHL. The question is would the Frontier Leasgue accept the Bears unless significant new financing appears???

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        • Richard,

          I don’t think they’d accept the Bears, period, as the nearest team to them is about a six-hour bus ride away. At the least, that would up the travel costs a bit.

          Then again, the Can Am has two teams here and two teams eight hours away and plays interleague with teams in the midwest. So, I guess anything is possible.

          Now, throw in that the Bears don’t draw and there’s absolutely no upside for the Frontier League to expand here. Though Newark is kind of like being on the frontier…🙂

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  10. Supposedly the CANAM is adding a team from Ottawa in 2015. The Bears could sit out 2014 & rejoin the CANAM in 2015, making it a 6 team league/division

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    • Can you (or anyone else) think of a sports team that managed to successfully return after sitting out a season? I’m drawing a blank.

      I wish the Bears’ owners nothing but success, but they’ve got a difficult road ahead.

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      • Paul,

        Off the top of my head, I can’t think of one, either. The minor league agreement comes up every other year, meaning that, in the affiliated minors, a city/town would likely be off-line for two years, and, if a team returned after being out of business for a period of time, it would very likely be with another organization. The first example that popped into my head was Manchester, NH. They were a Yankees AA farm club back in the early ’70s (so was Three Rivers with the AA Reds back then, too). 30 years later, they’re Toronto’s AA franchise. Still are.

        As I’ve said, I’d tend to bet on past performance when it comes to the Bears. Two things going against them are that Nashua dropped from the Atlantic League to the CanAm and lasted four years before going out of business while Atlantic City lasted but two. The Bears have completed three seasons since, meaning they should be just about cooked. The second part is at the turnstiles. 900-something average in 2011, 600-something in 2012 and 450 last season. And I know, firsthand, how teams lie (uh, sorry, take liberties) about their attendance, meaning even that 450 was probably a bit on the high side. They’re heading in the wrong direction. If they numbers were going up, they might be playing in 2014.

        They’re not coming back (or they could try but won’t last long) under current ownership. In other words, they might give it a go in ’15 but it’ll be more of the same unless they figure out how to market the team, which they haven’t yet and while Danielle has yet to do with her Aggressive Promotions business. And no new owner with an ounce of sanity would resurrect this team in the Can-Am, not with three more desirable places to go and two in the same league not all that far away (Somerset, Jackals, Boulders). In order for Newark to draw, they have to offer something better than that as it’s not really a nice place to see a game.

        My money’s on that 2015 thing being little more than bluster for Newark.

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