Hinchliffe Stadium, resting on 6 acres located at the corners of Liberty & Maples Sts (no numerical address listed), Paterson, NJ 07505. Hinchliffe Stadium first opened in 1932. It was the home of both the New York Black Yankees and the New York Cubans. In its prime, Hinchliffe held up to 10,000 fans, though sometimes even more crammed the place for special events. Hinchliffe was also used for football, boxing and even auto racing. It also had a running track that covered about 5.7 acres. It is one of only a few stadiums still surviving that was a home to the Negro Baseball League. The stadium completed its first season in 1933, hosting the Colored Championship of the Nation, the Negro League equivalent to the then only white World Series. Following in 1934, the New York Black Yankees made HInchliffe their home stadium, which lasted a little over seven years until 1945, having a two years gap from 1937 to 1939. An oval-shaped park similar to the L.A. Coliseum or New York’s old Polo Grounds, the distance to straightaway center-field was 460 feet from home-plate. One member of the Black Yankees, George Crowe, was called up to play for the Major League Boston Braves in 1952. In 1957, playing in place of the injured Ted Kluszewski, Crowe slugged 31 homers and drove in 92 runs in 133 games, at age 36. Many other fine Negro League stars played at Hinchliffe as well, though official records are generally incomplete. The Black Yankees left in 1948, an ironic victim of desegregation in Major League Baseball. Today Hinchliffe Stadium is the property of the Paterson, N.J. school system, though no games have been played on this field since 1997. The Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium continue to try to raise funds to renovate the park for potential future uses, and to preserve this historic place for posterity.
Backstory and Context
Hinchliffe Stadium (1932), a grand concrete oval planted majestically above the Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey, was placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2004. It has a permanent niche in the nation's sports and social history as one of a handful of extant stadiums that were home to professional black sports during the so-called "Jim Crow" era. At a time when baseball was an indisputable game of greats, Hinchliffe featured some of the greatest ballplayers in America, players who ironically had no access to the major leagues. The stadium played host to some of the most attributed Hall-of-Fame baseball players in America, athletes like Monte Irvin, Oscar Charleston and Cool Papa Bell all played at Hinchliffe. After the Civil Rights Act the stadium became home to high school athletics for the Paterson area.
The stadium immediately played host to Negro League and "barnstorming" games. In 1933, the stadium's first complete season hosting baseball, Hinchliffe hosted the Colored Championship of the Nation: the Negro League equivalent of the World Series. That following year, the New York Black Yankees made the stadium their home, a tenure that lasted till 1945 and was interrupted only once, when the team booked Triborough Stadium on Randall's Island in New York for the 1938 season. After World War II, the Black Yankees left Hinchliffe and took up residency at Red Wing Stadium in Rochester, New York. Hinchliffe was also home to the New York Cubans in 1935 and 1936. The baseball played at Hinchliffe Stadium was some of the best and most competitive in the game, including prodigious athletes like Monte Irvin, Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, and "Cool Papa" Bell, among many others. Hall-of-Famer Larry Doby, the legendary player who broke the American League color barrier in 1947, grew up in Paterson playing football and baseball in Hinchliffe Stadium for Paterson's Eastside High School, and was scouted from Hinchliffe for the Newark Eagles in 1942.
Also known as "City" Stadium, Hinchliffe was built by public funds at the start of the Great Depression. It was meant as a sports haven for a generation of working-class kids struggling through hard times in a city dependent on industry. But financial reality demanded it also be a "paying investment," and the City made it one. Its 10,000-seat capacity (more with temporary bleacher seating) proved an instant draw not just for baseball but for a wide range of sports: football, boxing, auto-racing, and major track and field meets, plus star-studded musical and entertainment events.
The stadium's heyday lasted well into the 'fifties. It enlarged in 1964 after ownership passed it to the City school system. After that, it kept a brief hold on semi-professional football and had a fling with international soccer in the 1980s. A decline in maintenance led to its closing even to school athletics in 1997. In the same year Hinchliffe was pronounced as one of New Jersey's Ten Most Endangered Historic Sites by Preservation New Jersey.
In 2002 on the stadium's 70th anniversary, the organization, Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium, was established to endorse by the Mayor and Schools Superintendent, is now underway to restore Hinchliffe Stadium as the physical and spiritual core of a new Sports Academy complex, and to promote it as a resource with designers of New Jersey's first Urban Park at the Great Falls.The formation of the group was urged by backing pressure of the Paterson School district with the threat of demolition. Restoration is currently being considered as part of a redevelopment program for this area of Paterson.
Most recently, the proposed federal legislation to create a National Park out of Paterson's two Landmark Districts (Great Falls Natural Landmark and S.U.M. Historic Industrial Landmark) has taken the daring step of defining the new park to include Hinchliffe Stadium! Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr., of the 8th Congressional District, who has spearheaded legislation supported by the entire New Jersey Congressional delegation, is author of a fine op-ed on this whole National Park proposal.
During the recent official comment period on the Park Service's Special Resource Study Report, Dr. Flavia Alaya, on behalf of the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium, sent a letter of support for stadium inclusion within a Great Falls/SUM National Park.
Hinchliffe Stadium is named after Paterson’s former Mayor John V. Hinchliffe (although the mayor himself once claimed that the stadium was named after his Uncle John, also once the mayor of Paterson).
David B. Stinson