By Anthony Covino
With the 100-year anniversary of the Negro League Baseball celebrated this year, there are only a handful of Negro League stadiums left standing in America. Hinchliffe Stadium, a 10,000-seat ballpark located north of the Passaic River in Paterson, completed in 1932, is part of that heritage.
Vacant since 1997, the stadium is decaying and defaced with graffiti.
But what a glorious history it had in its day. Some of the best ever played at Hinchliffe, a 20-minute drive from campus, west on I-80.
Let’s single out some of the best: Paterson native Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League; Jackie Robinson, who broke the color line in the major leagues; Satchel Paige, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and “Smokey” Joe Williams. So many others.
Its historic past is poorly reflected today.
“This is a stadium that unfortunately has symbolized the decay and decline of the city,” André Sayegh, Paterson’s mayor, told The New York Times in 2019.
The Paterson city council has approved a $77 million rebuilding plan for the stadium, expected to begin this year. The plan includes housing, a restaurant, a parking garage, and a gallery, which Mayor Sayegh said will be similar to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo.
“What we’re trying to do is put Paterson back on the map, and part of that is restoring the stadium to its previous glory,” Sayegh told The Times.
Hinchliffe Stadium completed its first baseball season in 1933, hosting the Negro Leagues playoffs, similar to the World Series today. In 1934, the New York Black Yankees called Hinchliffe home.
Hinchliffe became a part of Paterson’s history beyond the Negro League. High school athletes played at the stadium. The Thanksgiving Day football game with Paterson’s rival high school was a city tradition.
The stadium was home to many more sporting events such as boxing and auto races. The stadium even hosted concerts with big-name performers such as Duke Ellington and film stars/comedians Abbott and Costello.
Once the stadium was abandoned, a piece of Paterson was lost.
With construction starting this year, will the Hinchliffe Stadium project be a success?
This signals a huge step in reviving one of the most iconic Negro League baseball stadiums in America and an important part of Paterson itself.
Photos by Student Lifestyle Editor Kenny Lo.