Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rec Division strikes out on memorializing Joe Black

Joe Black and the 1961 Hubbard School baseball team.

Plainfield Rec Division supervisor Dave Wynn stepped up to the plate last night ... and struck out over the Division's failure to memorialize Plainfield native and baseball legend Joe Black.

Summoned to the Council table by President Annie McWilliams, Wynn had no convincing explanation for why his division had failed to implement a unanimous resolution adopted by the City Council in 2004 memorializing Black by naming the Rock Avenue baseball complex after him.

Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson averred that the resolution might be unenforceable and perhaps the Council would want to consider an ordinance instead. After a lengthy discussion by the Council, including some back and forth with Williamson, McWilliams said it was not a matter of whether the original resolution was enforceable, but WHY it had not been effectuated in the first place.

Councilor Mapp refreshed memories by offering some historical detail, recalling that Mr. Wynn had objected at the time, bringing forth former Rec director John Pepe, who contended the fields already were known by another name and suggesting the ball diamond at Hub-Stine Field as an alternative. Notwithstanding, the Council adopted the resolution regarding the Rock Avenue complex -- unanimously.

Barring any further explanation, the only conclusion to be drawn is that Wynn decided on his own initiative to ignore the Council's wishes.

After the discussion got under way, Wynn and DPWUD Director David Brown were joined at the table by Board of Ed president Lisa Logan-Leach, who said that the Board of Ed had discussed naming the Hub-Stine ball field after Black as long as ten years ago, and would be taking the matter up again at Tuesday's (today's) meeting.

Former Board of Ed members I spoke to do recall a discussion of naming the ballfield after Black, but say that no action was ever taken by the Board and, after the Council weighed in in 2004, believed the matter had been settled.

Joe Black, the Plainfield native and outstanding athlete, became the first black pitcher to win a World Series game (in 1952), and has been in the news recently (see here and here) with the issuance of a biography by his former Hubbard School student Steven Selzer, Meet the Real Joe Black: An Inspiring Life, with a foreword by Bill Cosby. (More information about the book and ordering a copy can be found here.)

Council President McWilliams left the resolution of the matter open, pending the discussion at this evening's Board of Ed meeting, but made it clear that the Council considers it had taken definitive action and wanted to see the matter resolved as soon as possible.

Black's nephew, Jason Greer, son of his sister Phyllis, was present after the discussion had taken place. Invited by
Council President McWilliams to the table to say a few words to the Council, he spoke of how stressful it was on his mother to have the matter of recognizing her brother unresolved after all these years. 'The family just wants closure,' he said.

A perfectly reasonable request, by my lights.

ASIDE: I ran into Dave Wynn after the Independence Day Parade and he said he felt my post (see here) questioning the reassignment of the New Dems from slot 28 to slot 48 was unfair to him.

He said he needed the ability to rearrange elements of the parade as conditions warranted, and that moving the New Dems from their assigned slot (28) to a new one further back (48 out of 52) was not politically motivated nor meant to be a slight.

If I were in Dave's position, I certainly would like to have the freedom to rearrange parade elements if needed, and can agree that he should have that ability.

However, it would certainly help avoid the suspicion that political motives are afoot if the LETTER ISSUED BY REC stated that any assignment of a slot was subject to review and changing before the parade starts. Hopefully, it will contain some such language in the future.

Further, I suggest that the signup form for the parade include the contact person's EMAIL ADDRESS, with a notice that the Rec Division will contact them via email with any changes and the reasons for making them.

If changes like this are made for future Independence Day parades, I would consider modifying the headline of this story to 'Rec Division: One ball, two strikes'.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Joe Black, my Phys Ed teacher at Hubbard Junior High School in the 60's if my memory serves me right.


Michael Townley said...

It is fitting that the City (albeit belatedly) should recognize one of its greatest athletes. It did so (again belatedly) by naming the park at East Third Street after Milt Campbell.
As to the naming of the Rock Avenue facility, I suggest that a suitable sign be erected so that all the people who pass by that intersection on a daily basis can see Joe's name and his professional achievement.
This should be in addition to a sign with similar recognition that would be visible from inside the facility for the spectators and young ball players to easily read.
Naming a baseball diamond in the middle of the Hub Stine Athletic Field should complement the Council's action, not supplant it.

Anonymous said...

How did a SBA firm "Incubator" get a social service grant for $186,00 and has never provided anything other that speeches. Provide job training and placement. This is a backroom deal between Green and Malcom.Jeff Dunn. Check out their website and resume's nothing changes in this city. It is a joke even in Union Cty. DCA.

Rob said...

Those who hide from transparency and an honest open forum have an agenda separate and different from that of others. Streets, buildings, airports and a multitude of other items are renamed after people all the time. Does anyone truly believe that there were all these streets across American named Martin Luther King Blvd.or John F. Kennedy Blvd. since they were built? No, they were renamed by simple agreement or resolution. Dave Wynn is taking his cues from Laurel and Hardy -- do what you want and ignore what everyone else is saying. The sad part is, he doesn't realize how foolish his mentors Mayor Jerry and Assistant Mayor Sharon look. And dancing along to the same tune. Sweet. Nothing like watching a slow train wreck unfold before your eyes...

Anonymous said...

Can anyone post a copy of the resolution that was passed in 2004. Let's see exactly what it says about renaming the field and what action the recreation division would have to take upon passing of the resolution.

Anonymous said...


Why is Plainfield Action Services listed as the provider of services on every page of the actual grant submitted under the Incubator grant. The Incubator has no staff and is in the business of leasing office space at its park avenue location. Is'nt Plainfield Action Services the agency that misappropriated a $300,000 grant a few years ago and is the Incubator just a cover for the same kind of shenanigans.

Dan said...

To the commenter who wants to send/fax me info.

I have no fax access. Attachments can be emailed to me at --

dandamon at comcast dot net.