As I was penning my last article, I came across a news report of the 2009 inductees into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. After perusing the article in the newspaper, two questions came to mind. The first was the query from my earlier essay - my quandary as to who is a New Jersey native. The members of the Hall are supposedly New Jerseyites. The second concerns the choices made this year and last year (the inaugural induction ceremony).
Chosen for membership into the New Jersey Hall of Fame last year were Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Albert Einstein, Toni Morrison and Yogi Berra. Of the five inductees, only Sinatra and Springsteen were born here and raised here qualifying them as "natives" in my book. Yogi was born in Missouri but settled there since his debut with the New York Yankees in the 1940's. He also has the qualifications to be a native. But neither Morrison or Einstein was born in New Jersey and came to the state after age 50. Do they both qualify? To me they would qualify as semi-natives since Einstein lived in the Garden State for the rest of his life and Morrison has lived here long enough.
This year's list of inductees has thirteen names. All are associated with the Garden State either by birth, death or the fact that they lived here long enough to qualify. Of the thirteen, I have quibbles about Walt Whitman, Guglielmo Marconi, Shaq O'Neal and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Of the four, only Shaq was born in New Jersey but left too early in life to qualify him as a native. He only rates a "friend of New Jersey." How the other three even got listed as being from the Garden State leaves me dumbfounded. Their only qualification seems to be that they lived there for a brief period of time. Talk about stretching the definition of "native." Can someone please explain their relevance in the Hall of Fame? Do they truly qualify as people from New Jersey? I have the greatest respect and fondness for them but not as Jersey people.
Last of all, the newspaper column mentioned that failing to make it this year were Woodrow Wilson (ex-President of the United States), Jack Nicholson (male actor with most Oscar wins and nominations), Count Basie (jazz musician) and Philip Roth (author of Portnoy's Complaint and Goodbye, Columbus to name a few). Now what kind of a Hall of Fame omits its native-son President or the world's greatest actor but mentions Shaq, Jerry Lewis or Abbott & Costello? Yes, we puzzled people truly want to know. What are your thoughts on this? I would love to know.