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Our Athletic Employees

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By Margaret Gurowitz
Dec 17, 2010

Members of the Johnson & Johnson Women’s Basketball Team, 1946-1947 champions of the New Brunswick Industrial League

As a company that will be 125 years old in 2011, Johnson & Johnson has many traditions:  some recent, and some dating back almost to our founding.  One of the most fun traditions throughout our history has been our employee athletes and sports teams.

The Johnson & Johnson Employee Baseball Team: Our Earliest Employee Team

For well over 100 years, employees at Johnson & Johnson have participated in organized sports.  The earliest record we have of our employee athletes is from 1895:  an article in The New Brunswick Times about a widely anticipated and very spirited baseball game played between a team of Johnson & Johnson employees and a team from the Norfolk and New Brunswick Hosiery Company, located across Hamilton Street from Johnson & Johnson.  The teams trained beforehand (the Johnson & Johnson employee team practiced for two weeks, and the game was such an anticipated event that Company management gave them time during the work day to practice).  The two businesses, situated right across the street from each other, managed to work up a healthy rivalry by game day.  Many tickets were sold for the game, which was played on Nielson Field in New Brunswick.  Johnson & Johnson hung a huge banner out of the windows of one its buildings in a show of support for its employee team.  Not to be outdone, the Norfolk and New Brunswick Hosiery Company workers decorated their office cat with colored ribbons as part of the show of support for their team.  Employees from both companies came to the game to cheer on their co-workers.  To the great shock of spectators, because the teams were said to be evenly matched, the Johnson & Johnson employee team lost the game 18-8.

New Brunswick Times 1895 article about the big baseball game between employees of Johnson & Johnson and the Norfolk and New Brunswick Hosiery Company

Just a few years later, by the early 1900s, many of our employees belonged to a variety of sports teams that competed against each other, and against teams from other companies in local and regional leagues.  We had a 1907 women’s basketball team, made up of members of the Laurel Club.

Our 1907 women’s basketball team.

And our 1955 women's basketball team

Basketball was a long tradition among our women employees. Alert readers will have noticed the change in uniforms from 1907 to 1955, which no doubt made it much easier to play.

Bowling was another popular sport through our history, with our employees not only playing on Johnson & Johnson employee teams, but on multi-company teams as well.

Our 1902 Employee Bowling Team

In 1900 a small bowling team from Johnson & Johnson joined the New York area league of teams from other health care companies.  Our 1902 team was drawn from the Company's business office, and consisted of our assistant treasurer, the Company's cashier, a statistician and two bookkeepers.  In 1902 three of them started to represent the Company on a broader “New York” team that had three employees from Johnson & Johnson, two from Colgate & Company, several from Parke Davis & Company, Dodge & Olcott and, interestingly enough, one from Seabury & Johnson, our founder Robert Wood Johnson’s first business, which had continued on for some years without our founders, keeping its original name.

The 1903 Multi-Company “New York” Bowling Team Members

In 1916, Johnson & Johnson employees formed a larger men’s bowling team, with 36 members…including Robert Wood Johnson.  (In case readers are wondering, his bowling scores are not, unfortunately, recorded in our archives.)

Robert Wood Johnson, Future Chairman and CEO, Employee Bowling Team Member

In 1917 he presented the prize in the Johnson & Johnson Bowling Club Second Annual Tournament.  The team was a mixture of employees from a variety of levels in the Company, and it probably provided the teammates with a good opportunity to socialize and (as we would say over 90 years later) network.

In 1942, an official employee athletic association for women employees was formed, with a president, vice-president, treasurer and other officers.  They decided to participate in eight sports, including swimming, tennis, bicycle riding, archery, horseback riding, softball, and bowling. As was fitting, they met in the former Laurel Club headquarters, which four decades earlier had been home to our pioneer women athletes on the basketball team and the site of our earliest employee exercise facilities. Here’s a photo of one of our employee athletic association for women employees bowling:

As Johnson & Johnson decentralized and grew, our employee teams expanded out of New Brunswick and into our operating companies.  With the growing popularity of softball, our employees participated in inter- and intra-company softball leagues, many with impressive records. In 1969 our Finance organization’s men’s softball team boasted a 7-0 regular season record and won the playoffs in their league 3-0.

The Johnson & Johnson Industrial League Men’s Basketball Team of 1942

In basketball, the Johnson & Johnson Industrial League men’s team had a longstanding tradition as tough competitors on the court.  They topped the New Brunswick league in 1942 and, during the 1969 season, they defeated other New Jersey health care company teams to win the championship.

The Debuggers, an IT employees women’s softball team from 1969

Employees in the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies participated in employee sports teams from 1895 until about the mid-1980s.  Today, our employees around the world go to the gym to help improve their health or they play sports in their local communities. We’ve even had some employees around the world who have been Olympic athletes. New Brunswick, our hometown since 1886, no longer has the organized “industrial sports leagues” of the past century.  But during the heyday of those industrial leagues, Johnson & Johnson employees played a big part.

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All comments will be reviewed before posting. Since this blog is about history, topics that don’t directly relate to the history of Johnson & Johnson and its operating companies won’t be posted. Product comments generally will not be posted unless they are of historical interest. Some unrelated issues may be forwarded to Johnson & Johnson folks for follow-up as appropriate. I’m also not going to post any comments that have inappropriate language... so be nice!
Craig Rothenberg
DECEMBER 21, 2010 11:57 AM

This is really terrific, Margaret...a series of great stories and snapshots of our athleets going back more than a hundred years. Thanks for sharing. When we launch our company's first men's lacrosse team, I want to be a part of that!

Ai Ling
JANUARY 05, 2011 03:10 PM

I think it's mangificent that these memories were captured from over a hundred years ago. The photos really do tell a lot and I enjoyed browsing through them. Thanks!

Rick Remlinger
OCTOBER 08, 2013 12:53 PM

Is the baseball team picture from 1913 or is this from the actual 1895 team. I found an old 1913 baseball publication clipping and it shows this picture. I would love to know if its earlier! Thank You

OCTOBER 08, 2013 01:41 PM

Hi Rick,

The photo is the 1913 Johnson & Johnson employee men's baseball team. We don't have a photo of the 1895 team in our archives, unfortunately. What was the 1913 baseball publication with the photo of the J&J team? I would love to learn more about it!