Montclair baseball stars sparkled on the diamond (History & Heritage)
Major League Baseball’s opening day was Thursday, March 30, and Montclair has had a long-standing association with baseball. So many people from town have played the game that several books wouldn’t be enough to cover them all. A few even rose to stardom.
Everybody knows about Yogi Berra and Larry Doby. So much has been written about those two superstars that there is no point in rehashing their careers.
We don’t have space to mention all the teams that have graced our fields, but will dig a little deeper into history and cover some of our great players from long ago.
We’ll start with George W. “Mule” Haas. He was given the nickname “Mule” by a sportswriter who compared his powerful hitting to a mule’s kick. He had a 12-year career in the major leagues.
He played four games as an outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1925. Then he was out of the majors for a while. He was picked up by Connie Mack’s spectacular Philadelphia Athletics (now the Oakland Athletics) and helped them win two World Series championships and the 1931 American League pennant.
His three-run home run in the fourth game of the 1929 World Series brought him public acclaim. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox and played five seasons for them. He played his final season with the Philadelphia Athletics before retiring from baseball in 1938.
He, his first wife (Marie Stuckey), then his second wife (Eileen Weeks), lived at 109 Valley Road.
Another champion, who didn’t live in Montclair while he was playing, was Robert A. “Bob” Harvey, a two-time All Star who played for the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues from 1943 to 1948, except for one year, 1945, when he played for the Birmingham Black Barons.
He helped the Eagles win their unforgettable 1946 championship (on a team that included Larry Doby). He had a lifetime batting average above .300 and a “rocket” arm. The Newark Eagles were sold in 1948 and moved to Houston. He finished his career in 1950 there.
He married Catherine Lewis from Montclair in 1945. In 1951, they moved into her parents’ home on Gardiner Place.
Patricio Scantlebury, father of Brian Scantlebury, Montclair’s acting township manager, was born in Panama and pitched for the Panamanian National Team. He came to the United States in 1944 to pitch for the New York Cubans in the Negro Leagues. He pitched in two All Star East/West games.
In 1950 he was the most valuable player of the National Baseball Conference World Series. The National Baseball Conference was an organization that at one time included amateur and semipro teams from the vicinity of Wichita, Kansas.
He played in Mexico, then in Cuba, where he played for the Havana Sugar Kings, an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. That brought him to the attention of the Reds, and he played one season for them. He returned to the minor leagues and retired from professional baseball in 1961.
Long after he “retired” he continued to play for and coach teams. Besides being an excellent pitcher, he hit well and often played first base. Patricio and Celeste (Harris) Scantlebury lived on Maple Avenue for a while.
Bill R. “Brud” Johnson grew up in Montclair and played third base for some of the township’s best sandlot teams. He moved up to the semipro Montclair Pro Giants.
He entered the New York Yankees farm system in 1936, where he played for a couple of years before becoming a major leaguer with the Yankees in 1943. He missed a couple of seasons when he was in the Army (1944 and 1945).
He came back to the Yankees and played in four World Series under renowned manager Casey Stengel. He made the 1946 American League All Star team.
In 1951 he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and played with them until 1953, when they sent him to their affiliate in Columbus, Ohio. He retired and went to work as a shipping manager for a textile mill in Augusta, Georgia.
A few Montclairians played well enough to have respectable careers in the minor leagues. Although he played several sports in high school, Clary Anderson found baseball to be his sport. We remember Anderson as Montclair High’s athletic director and coach of many amazing football and baseball teams.
He played three years on farm teams associated with the New York Giants (now the San Francisco Giants). His friend and fellow Montclairian Frank “Footer” Miller also played in the Giants farm system around the same time.
Carl “Nookie” Lombardi, a star athlete from Montclair High, made it to the Yankees farm system in 1947. John Tupper played in the Kansas City Athletics farm system. The Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City, Missouri, before they became the Oakland Athletics.
Arthur E. Berry Jr.’s 1962 obituary says that he “played for the Newark Eagles in the 1920s and 1930s.” Unfortunately there are precious few records to back up that claim. For one thing, the Newark Eagles didn’t exist before 1936. He could have played for one of the teams that became the Newark Eagles.
There was a “Big” Art Berry who was a standout catcher on various local teams, including the Montclair Colored Stars and Royal Colored Stars, which were among the amateur and semipro local teams from which the Newark Eagles drew their players.
If he did play for the Eagles, he would have faced the issues faced by many players of the era. Unlike baseball players today, they didn’t make much money playing ball. They had to have full-time jobs as well. Berry drove trucks for several firms.
He and his wife, Gladys, moved from Caldwell to 76 High St. in 1956.
“History & Heritage” is a series on Montclair history written by representatives of the Montclair History Center and the Montclair Public Library. Mike Farrelly is a trustee of the Montclair History Center and has been the official township historian, a volunteer position, since 2004.