This Week in History: Trenton’s Swinging History of Baseball
Baseball is dubbed America’s pastime, and with good reason. This beloved sport has been celebrated in communities nationwide since the first professional baseball games were played during the Civil War. From Major League Baseball to the community t-ball team, players and fans have coalesced to rally around their shared love of the sport. Like many regions throughout the country, Trenton has a long and fascinating past intertwined with the game. Over the years, the city has been home to several teams that have made their mark on the field and in the hearts of generations of Trentonians. Read on to learn more about how baseball has grown and evolved here in Capital City.
The first professional games of baseball were played around the time of the Civil War. As the country was amid great turmoil, many soldiers fighting in the war turned to baseball as a pastime. More than just a physical activity, the sport became a meaningful way for service members to connect between the battles, and they continued to play long after the fighting had ceased. While the nation attempted to rebuild after the war, baseball catalyzed connection and healing. As the sport grew in popularity, baseball continued to help break down barriers and was at the forefront of some of our nation’s most critical moments.
The City of Trenton was home to several baseball teams, each with rich histories and complexities over the years. One of the earliest teams to emerge was the Cuban Giants, the first professional African-American baseball team. The name Cuban Giants came about because the team played in Cuba for the winters of their first two seasons. The group, initially founded in Babylon, NY, in 1855, played in Trenton from 1886-1889 after being purchased by Walter E. Simpson. During their time in Trenton, the team played at the Chambersburg Grounds, where they’d go on to win their first 40 games. During the team’s tenure, they won the championship game in 1887 and 1888 and continued to play in various locations until the team’s dissolution in 1915. Although other African-American teams played in Trenton during this time, the Cuban Giants were the most prominent.
Another favorite team to take to the field in the City of Trenton was the Trenton Senators. Originally dubbed the Trenton Giants, the Senators came on the scene at the peak of Trenton’s baseball prominence. The Capital City had already been dubbed a hot spot for several teams, and the Senators saw an excellent opportunity to make their mark in Trenton. After struggling to find somewhere to locate the team, Senators’ owners finally struck a deal with Trenton Cathedral Parish, and the team agreed to play at Dunn Field. The team featured several stars in the Garden State, including Alex Sabo, George Case, and Johnny Welaj. The Senators played in Trenton until 1939, when the team was ultimately transferred to Springfield, Massachusetts. Although their time in Trenton didn’t last long, their spot in the history books remains prominent today.
After the Trenton Senators were transferred to Massachusetts, the community remained without a baseball team until the Trenton Thunder took the field in 1994. To this day, the Trenton Thunder remains the community’s premier baseball team, featuring some of the country’s most prominent up-and-coming players. Over the years, the team has been affiliated with various Major League Baseball teams, including the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Today, the Thunder serves as a feeder team for the MLB Draft League. Finally, the Thunder’s 30th season is finally ready, so catch a game this summer and enjoy some of the classic Capital City baseballs.
Although the teams and the faces may have changed, the love of baseball in New Jersey’s Capital City has remained constant since the sport’s early days. For decades, the sport of baseball has been a catalyst for social change, a source of unity for fans and players alike, and a source of enjoyment for fans from all walks of life. The legacy of Trenton baseball is still being forged, and we cannot wait to see the legends made right here in our backyard. Batter up!
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