The Camden Merritt, New Jersey’s Premier Nineteenth-Century Baseball Team
With the emergence of baseball as America’s national sporting pastime, Camden civic and business leaders decided in 1881 to organize a professional team. This article examines the brief but spectacular history of the Albert Merritt Base Ball Club, one of the best minor league teams of the nineteenth century. Examined are the social and economic reasons for organizing a professional team, the unique founding of the club, the construction of a playing facility, and team finances including player salaries. The 1883 Merritt, which advanced every player to the major leagues, was a juggernaut, dominating the inaugural season of the Inter-State Association, one of two officially organized minor leagues. But despite success on the field with a 27-8 (.771) record, the team suddenly disbanded on July 21. The case study of the promise and perils of professional baseball as a civic and community enterprise culminates in a discussion of the club’s demise because of internal financial problems and inability to compete with two major league teams across the Delaware River in Philadelphia.
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