It Happened In Jersey...
The 1932 Brown Out
A half-decade before the Newark Eagles established their power base in New Jersey, the city played host to another Negro League team, the Newark Browns. The club was a barnstorming outfit that played several games a week, often against white semipro opponents. The Browns were part of the East-West League, a new organization created by Cum Posey. Unfortunately, the eight-team EWL folded during the summer of 1932, in part because the New York Black Yankees—owed by entertainer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson—and other top independent teams declined to join.
However, the league’s framework survived in the form of the more stable Negro National League, which began play in 1933. The Browns played for about 6 weeks and during that time were winless against EWL opponents.
Fans who attended the Browns game got a glimpse of black baseball royalty in the person of player-manager Johnny Beckwith (left), whose career was beginning to wind down at age 32. He played third base for the Browns and other teams during his career. Beckwith was a right-handed slugger who drove epic shots down the left field line. As a teenager, he was the first player to clear the center field laundry structure at Crosley Field in Cincinnati and once hit a ball at Washington’s Griffith Stadium that struck a 40-foot sign some 460 feet from home plate. In 1927, the year Babe Ruth slugger 60 home runs, Beckwith was credited with 72. During his career, he faced major league opponents in 25 exhibition games during his career and batted .313 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs.
Other notable players on the Newark Browns were infielder Harry Jeffries, outfielder Willie Gray, pitcher Henry McHenry and power-hitting catcher Heavy Johnson (right). All had long careers in baseball. The Browns played their home games at the Meadowbrook Oval, located in in the Ironbound section of the city. Despite several aging stars and fringe players, they were known for their hustle and high-spirited play.