ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The first storm of 2016 is a monster with a name no one agrees on. The Weather Channel is trying to use the worst song of Weezer’s first album, while Washington Capitals fans are going with #TJSnowshie and others are going with Snowzilla which gives me a Blue Oyster Cult earworm – so much better than “My Name is Jonas.”
There goes Met-tro
Anyway, we’ve got 4 7/16 inches so far. It started coming down at about 1 p.m. here in the West End.
MANAHAWKIN, N.J. — One of the first intersections on Route 72 east of the Garden State Parkway is for Doc Cramer Blvd. Over many years traveling to Long Beach Island, I had a mild curiosity of the boulevard’s namesake and during a trip to the Beach Haven Library I learned that Roger “Doc” Cramer was a baseball player from that borough.
Perkins had advance knowledge that a special young man named Cramer might help out the major-league club. It seems that some time earlier, Perkins and his teammate Jimmy Dykes had stopped by the office of a realtor named Van Dyke to look for some vacation property, and Van Dyke tipped them off to the local phenom. Doc did not disappoint, and at the end of the second game, Perkins approached the young prospect and asked, “How would you like to come to Philadelphia tomorrow morning and see Mr. Mack?”
Cramer shot back, “What time does Mr. Mack reach the park?”
“About 9 o’clock,” replied Perkins.
“I’ll be there at 8:30,” Cramer promised, and the next day he arrived at Shibe Park to meet Connie Mack wearing a suit his brother Paul had bought him for the occasion. Doc’s father tried to persuade him not to go, but he did not listen and headed off for his tryout with his cousin Chris Sprague driving him there. Mack signed up the eager youngster and kept him on the Athletics bench for the rest of the season, then assigned him to the Martinsburg team in the Blue Ridge League.
Cramer played two games in 1929, which led to 30 in 1930 with about another 30 or so a season before becoming a starter at age 27 in 1933 after the A’s big selloff. Traded to the Boston Red Sox in 1936, Cramer patrolled Fenway Park’s centerfield for 5 seasons, earning All-Star recognition in his final four campaigns.
After the 1940 season, Cramer would be traded to the Washington Senators for Gee Walker. In his only season in Washington, Cramer would play in all 154 games, batting .273 with 25 doubles, 6 triples and 2 home runs.
After the season he was traded again, this time to the Detroit Tigers, along with Jimmy Bloodworth, in exchange for Frank Croucher and Bruce Campbell. This would be Cramers last stop in his career. He’d play for the Tigers from 1942 through 1948, finally getting his release in May.
Cramer would retire to the mainland, across the bay from Long Beach Island, in Manahawkin. A baseball complex is named after him as well.
SHIP BOTTOM, N.J. — When I was growing up, there was a certain cache in having a Ron Jon t-shirt. The Cocoa Beach, Fla. institution was advertised on countless billboards for hundreds of miles along Interstate 95 southbound, competing with South of the Border for road-weary eyeballs making the long southern trek. While the Cocoa Beach location (we made the detour circa the early 1990s) has long been “one of a kind” the beginnings was further north, at the Jersey Shore. Back then, I said this with pride, since I went to Long Beach Island nearly every summer until the mid-2000s (and now again in 2015). The claim was greeted with skepticism until I started showing up with Long Beach Island Ron Jon t-shirts and stickers.
Even just on Long Beach Island, Ron Jon has been through several incarnations. The latest and greatest is located just off of the Boulevard between 8th and 9th Streets (NJ 72) and a few blocks fro the Causeway.
The story of Ron Jon is a long and strange one that the official version kind of glosses over.
He told how in 1963, wanderlust led him to place his father in charge of the New Jersey store while he set out in a camper, fetching up at Cocoa Beach, a place with sand the color of a faded catcher’s mitt that snared swell from several directions. He set up a small shop and with sensibilities shaped at his father’s supermarket, DiMenna worked hard selling the incipient surfing lifestyle.
“If you could get in his shop, you could be successful,” Boyd said. “In the early days, you needed to get in his shop. He was a major influence for Hang Ten. We got into Ron Jon’s shop and we exploded because of him.”
Speaking of explosions, as his business grew, DiMenna explored new hobbies.
By the 1970s he had developed a dynamite fetish. He would send trees somersaulting 150 feet in the air from New Jersey’s pine barrens, once nearly impaling a low-flying plane. He smuggled sticks on a surf trip to the Bahamas in dog food containers and blasted a 100-foot geyser from a gin-clear cove, diving in and spearing hundreds of pounds of stunned fish.”It was very safe,” he said. “We had fun.”
I think Jon Bois needs to be lobbied to do a “Pretty Good” about Ron Jon.
Back at the Shore, the modern Ron Jon is mostly t-shirts and other touristy stuff. My oldest son and his cousins were treated to some t-shirts by my mother. Since I was cycling through when I stopped, I held off getting these knockoff, heavy duty solo cups, which would be perfect for gin and tonics. Now, I have incentive to return to LBI.
I also learned about hatchcover tables, which a friend of mine has — they were from ships, many of them sunk by U-boats.
You can decide for yourself whether making detour to see any of the Ron Jon shops is worthwhile, but at the very least read the story linked above — it’s an entertaining one.