Posts Tagged ‘Josh Gibson’

Hamtramck Stadium – Detroit’s Diamond in the Rough

March 16th, 2019

Hamtramck Stadium is located at 3201 Dan Street in Hamtramck, Michigan, one block east of  Joseph Campau Avenue.

Entrance, Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The ballpark was constructed by John Roseink in 1930 on land owned by the Detroit Lumber Company. Roesink was owner of the Detroit Stars, a member of the National Negro League.  Hamtramck Stadium also was known as Roesink Stadium.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Located in the Veterans Park, the city of Hamtramck, Michigan, took over ownership of the ballpark in the early 1940s.

Historic Marker, Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The State of Michigan placed a historic marker near one entrance to Veterans Park, at the northeast corner of Joseph Campau Avenue and Berres Street.

Historic Marker, Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Hamtramck Stadium is on the National Trust for Historic Places. If you approach the ballpark from Dan Street, the historic marker is located two blocks west on Joseph Campau Avenue.

Historic Marker, Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

It is remarkable that Hamtramck Stadium still exists, given the fate of so many lost ballparks around the country. The distinctive grandstand of Hamtramck Stadium appears almost to hover over the playing field.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Hamtramck Stadium, at least the portion nearest the grandstand, has not been used for baseball since the 1990s. The grandstand currently is not open to the public.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The history of Hamtramck Stadium is rich and much of the factual history recounted here is from the websites Detroit: the History and Future of the Motor City and Hamtramck Stadium: Historic Negro League Ballpark

Back of Ticket Booth, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

When Hamtramck Stadium opened in 1930, it featured a 12-foot high outfield fence, box seating, and right field bleachers.

Steel Supports, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The grandstand that remains is constructed of steel beams and girders supporting a mostly wooden floor and ceiling structure.

Steel Supports, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The first game played was on May 10, 1930, when the Detroit Stars hosted the Cuban Stars. The Cuban Stars won that 13-inning contest 6-4.

Access Ramp to Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The ballpark’s grand opening was held a day later, on Sunday May 11, 1930, and the Detroit Stars defeated the Cuban Stars 7 to 4. Former Detroit Tiger Ty Cobb threw out the first pitch, with over 9,000 fans in attendance that day.

Grandstand Ramp, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The Detroit Stars played only two seasons at Hamtramck Stadium, as the team’s league, the Negro National League, folded half way through the 1931 season.

Ball field, as Seen From Center Grandtand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

However, those two years were remarkable. Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium has determined that 18 members of baseball’s Hall of Fame played at the ballpark.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

They include Negro League players Turkey Stearnes, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Willie Wells, and Mules Suttles.

Grandstand Railing, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Portions of the grandstand were renovated by the city in the 1950s and again in the 1970s.

Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

On June 28, 1930, the first night baseball game in the state of Michigan was played in Hamtramck Stadium using a portable lighting system. The Detroit Stars faced the Kansas City Monarchs with a crowd of over 10,000 people in attendance.

Baseball Field Light Stanchion, Located Beyond Outfield of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan – Editor Note: this is not a light stanchion from the first night game

Hamtramck Stadium is one of the last surviving Negro League baseball parks. Others include Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama and Hinchcliffe Stadium in Patterson, New Jersey.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

A third stadium, West Field in Munhall, Pennsylvania, recently was demolished in 2015, although the field remains and the site still hosts local and high school baseball and football.

Ramp, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Rickwood Field is still utilized as a baseball park by the city of Birmingham and hosts a minor league game once every year, known as the Rickwood Classic. Effort is underway to preserve and restore Hinchcliffe Stadium, which, like Hamtramck Stadium, is listed on the National Trust for Historic Places.

Grandstanp Ramp, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Concession stands and additional storage buildings located along the third base side of the stadium were constructed by the city of Hamtramck in the 1950s.

Mural, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Those buildings now include murals that help tell the story of the ballpark.

Mural, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Fun Fact: Right Field is located adjacent to the Grand Trunk Western Railroad Line. Those old enough to remember “We’re An American Band” will recognize the railroad from which the band Grand Funk Railroad got its name.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The following video of Hamtramck Stadium includes a walk through the grandstand and a drive around the stadium.

Hamtramck Stadium was home to the city’s 1959 Little League World Series champions, featuring local legend Art “Pinky” Deras, considered one of the greatest Little League World Series players.

Concession Stand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Three years ago, members of the former Navin Field Grounds Crew banded together to form the Hamtramck Stadium Grounds Crew. Their interest in the historic ballpark helped bring renewed attention to the history of Hamtramck Stadium, and helped begin the process of restoring this once-proud ballpark.

Hamtramck Stadium Grounds Crew Members Tom Derry and Elaine Rucinski, with Calvin Stinson at Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

In the northern-most point of Hamtramck Stadium’s center field is a second baseball diamond used and maintained by Hamtrack Public Schools.

Baseball Field Located Beyond Outfield of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Like Hamtramck stadium, this smaller ballpark has a certain old-school charm, with its tall, fenced backstop and rustic light stanchions.

Baseball Field Located Beyond Outfield of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Also worth visiting is Keyworth Stadium, located in the same complex, Veterans Park, just north of Hamtramck Stadium.

Exterior Wall, Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Hamtramck Public Schools owns Keyworth Stadium, and hosts athletic events such as local soccer and football, as well as other community events.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The stadium was constructed in 1936 as Michigan’s first Works Progress Administration project.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The first event held at the stadium was a rally featuring President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his second campaign for President in October 1936.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Keyworth Stadium’s grandstands are a bit rough around the edges, and certain sections are cordoned off by chain link fence. However, the fact that the stadium remains a living part of the city of Hamtramck is a testimony to city and its appreciation of such historic places.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

hamtramckstadium.org, with the help of assistance of the Piast Institute, Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, and Detroit’s own  Jack White, have launched campaign to help restore Hamtramck Stadium. The campaign began in early 2019 and has set a goal of raising $50,000. Anyone interested in contributing can contact patronicity.com for more information, and to make a donation. Opportunities such as this to help reclaim a historic, almost lost ballpark, are rare, and truly are worth the effort.

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Gus Greenlee’s Field In Pittsburgh’s Hill District

March 25th, 2015

Greenlee Field was located at the intersection of Bedford Avenue and Junilla Street in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From 1932 until 1938 it was the home of the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro National League (the Crawfords joined the NNL in 1933).

Former Site of Greenlee Field, Intersection of Bedford Avenue and Julian Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Former Site of Greenlee Field, Intersection of Bedford Avenue and Junilla Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Greenlee Field is important not just because it was the home field of arguably the greatest Negro League team of all time – the 1935 Pittsburgh Crawfords – but because it was the first major league ballpark owned and operated by an African American. Gus Greenlee, the owner of the Crawfords, began construction of Greenlee Field in 1931, the same year he bought the team. Greenlee, a WWI veteran, wore many hats. In addition to owning the Crawfords, he was a boxing promoter, nightclub owner (the Crawford Grill), and a pioneer in Pittsburgh’s numbers racket (an illegal lottery).

Gus Greenlee, Owner of the Pittsburgh Crawfords (photographer unknown)

Gus Greenlee, Owner of the Pittsburgh Crawfords (photographer unknown)

Crawford Grill No. 1, which Greenlee opened in 1930, was located at the intersection of Crawford Street and Wylie Avenue at 1401 Wylie Avenue. Crawford Grill No. 1 was destroyed by fire in 1951 and subsequently demolished to make way for the Civic Arena parking lot. Crawford Street was an important part of the Hill District and provided the inspiration for the team’s name, the Pittsburgh Crawfords. At the intersection of Crawford Street and Wylie Avenue also stood the Pittsburgh Bath House and Recreation Center, which was the original sponsor of the then semi-professional Pittsburgh Crawfords.

Melon Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Circa 2006

Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Circa 2006

The building in which Greenlee opened Crawford Grill No. 2, beginning in 1943, still stands in Pittsburgh’s Hill District at the intersection of Wylie Avenue and Elmore Street, just  a half mile southwest of the Greenlee Field site.

Crawford Grill No. 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Crawford Grill No. 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Historical Marker for Crawford Grill No. 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Historical Marker for Crawford Grill No. 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

In 1933, Greenlee founded the Negro National League and was instrumental in establishing the East-West Classic, an annual Negro League all-star game played in Chicago. During his tenure as owner of the Crawfords, which ceased after the 1938 season, Greenlee stocked his team with many future Hall of Fame players including Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Oscar Charlestown, Judy Johnson and James T. “Cool Papa” Bell. The 1935 Crawfords, which included the above Hall of Famers, except Paige, is considered by many to be the greatest Negro League team ever to play the game.

Historical Marker, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Historical Marker, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Greenlee Field’s home plate, and the entrance to its grandstand, was located near the intersection Bedford Avenue and Junilla Street.

Entrance to Greenlee Field on Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Associated Press Photo)

Entrance to Greenlee Field on Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Associated Press Photo)

After the 1938 season, Greenlee Field was demolished. Several images of the ballpark in its hey day can be viewed on line by searching “Greenlee Field” in the Teenie Harris Archives, Carnegie Museum of Art (Charles “Teenie” Harris was one of the founders of the semi-pro Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1926). Soon after demolition of Greenlee Field, the City of Pittsburgh began construction of the Bedford Dwellings housing project, which remains today at the ballpark’s former site.

Former Site of Greenlee FIeld, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Former Site of Greenlee FIeld, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Greenlee Field’s left field corner was located at what is now the intersection of Bedford Avenue and Barnett Way. At the time of Greenlee Field, Watt Street intersected Bedford Avenue where what is now Barnett Way.

Former Site of Left Field Corner, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Former Site of Left Field Corner, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Because Greenlee Field was built on a hill, the playing field was located several feet above street grade.

Former Site of Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Looking from Left Field Corner Toward Home Plate

Former Site of Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Looking from Left Field Corner Toward Home Plate

Just to the east of Watt Street (which no  longer runs through the site) was the Pittsburgh Municipal Hospital, which can be seen in some of the photos of Greenlee Field available in the Teenie Harris Archives.

Team Picture of 1937 Homestead Grays Taken at Greenlee Field With Hospital Visible Beyond Right Field Fence

Team Picture of 1937 Homestead Grays Taken at Greenlee Field With Pittsburgh Hospital Visible Beyond Right Field Fence (photo from diversity.appstate.edu and courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame Cooperstown)

A park known as “The Garden of Hope” now sits at the former site of the hospital.

Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Looking Toward Former Site of Center Field Corner from Left Field Corner

Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Looking Toward Former Site of Center Field Corner from Left Field Corner

Greenlee Field’s former infield site is accessible from Chauncey Drive.

Chauncey Drive, Former Site of First Base, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Chauncey Drive and Beford Avenue, Near Former Site of First Base, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Where Chauncey Drive makes a 45 degree turn is the approximate location of second base.

Chauncey Drive Intersection Near Former Site of Second Base, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Intersection Where Chauncey Drive Makes a 45 Degree Turn, Bedford Dwellings, Near Former Site of Second Base, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Chauncey Drive, Looking Toward Downtown Pittsburgh, Near Former Site of Second Base, Greenlee Field

Chauncey Drive, Looking West Toward Downtown Pittsburgh, Near Former Site of Second Base, Greenlee Field

Some buildings located along Bedford Avenue date back to Greenlee Field. Three row houses at the intersection of Junilla Street and Bedford Avenue are located across the street from what would have been the home plate grandstand.

Row Houses at 2500-04 Bedford Avenue, Dating Back to Time of Greenlee Field

Row Houses at 2500-04 Bedford Avenue, Dating Back to Time of Greenlee Field

Three townhouses located 2520-24 Bedford Avenue are located across the street from what was once left field.

2420-22 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

2420-22 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The townhouse on the corner of Bedford Avenue and Watt Street (Watt Street was relocated after demolition of Greenlee Field) is now a market. With a little imagination, it is not hard to picture what Greenlee Field might have looked like standing at the entrance to that market.

2420 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Samba Market, 2420 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Just three blocks west of the former site of Greenlee Field, at the northwest corner of Somers Street and Bedford Avenue, was another Negro League ballpark, Ammons Field. The semi-pro Pittsburgh Crawfords played at this field, beginning in about 1926, as did the professional level Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays beginning in 1930. Ammons Field also is notable as the field where Josh Gibson first played baseball for the semi-pro Crawfords in 1928. For more information about Ammons Field and the history of the Crawfords, see James Bankes’ fine book The Pittsburgh Crawfords.

Historical Marker for Ammons Field

Historical Marker for Ammons Field

The City of Pittsburgh has paid tribute to Ammons Field and Josh Gibson with a historical marker. Located behind the Ammons Recreation Center at Bedford Avenue and Kirkpatrick Street is a youth baseball field dedicated to Josh Gibson.

Josh Gibson Field, Ammons Recreation Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Josh Gibson Field, Ammons Recreation Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

As noted in the informative website Agatetype.typepad.com, the actual location of the original Ammons Field utilized by the Crawfords was one block east of Josh Gibson Field, the current park. The former location of the modest grandstand and home plate is visible on the bluff beyond Josh Gibson Field’s left field fence.

Josh Gibson Field Looking Toward Former Site of Ammons Field Home Plate, Somers Drive and Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Josh Gibson Field Looking Toward Former Site of Ammons Field Grandstand and Home Plate at Somers Drive and Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Former Site of Ammons Field Home Plate, Somers Drive and Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Former Site of Ammons Field Grandstand and Home Plate, Somers Drive and Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh’s Hill District, and the former site of Greenlee Field, is located just two miles west of the former site of Forbes Field, and one and a half miles southwest of the former sites of Three Rivers Stadium and Exposition Park, as well as the Pirates current ballpark, PNC Park. If you are a fan of  the game and the history of the game, and you find yourself in Pittsburgh on a baseball trip, a stop at the former site of Greenlee Field and Ammons Field, is a must.

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West Field – One of the Last Surviving Negro League Ballparks

March 20th, 2015

West Field is located at the northwest intersection of West Street and Orchard Street, directly behind the Munhall Borough Police Station (1900 West Street), in Munhall, PA. The Borough of Munhall is located seven miles southeast of Pittsburgh, just south of Homestead, Pennsylvania.

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field was constructed in 1937 with funds from the Public Works Administration. Although it has functioned mainly as a town ball field for the Steel City School District’s baseball, softball, and football teams, West Field is notable because of its connection to Negro League baseball.

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Beginning in the late 1930s up until at least 1948, West Field was used by the Homestead Grays for exhibition games, practices, spring training, and Negro National League contests when the Gray’s home ballpark Forbes Field was unavailable. During the early 1900s, the Grays played at another ball field in Munhall (known as the 19th Avenue Playground) located near the intersection of McClure Street and 19th Avenue. Some early 1900s newspaper accounts also refer to the Grays playing at another field in Munhall, also known as West Field, which was located in the Homestead Park section of Munhall near what is now Leigh Street (thanks Bob for the information).

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

What is extraordinary about West Field is that, although it is deteriorating, the ballpark grandstand, seating bowl, and playing field remain relatively the same as they did when such stars as Buck Leonard and Josh Gibson played there.

View of Grandstand from Pitching Rubber, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

View of Grandstand from Pitching Rubber, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Thus, West Field is one of the last few surviving Negro League ballparks.

West Field Grandstand Steps, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field Grandstand Steps, Munhall, Pennsylvania

According to Trib Total Media, beginning in April 2015, the ballpark is scheduled to undergo a five million dollar renovation, courtesy of a generous grant from the Campbell Educational and Community Foundation. Upgrades include new seating and a turf field that will accommodate football, baseball, and softball.

Infield and Third Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Infield and First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

It is uncertain just how much of West Field’s historic grandstand and seating bowl will be preserved as part of the renovation, although Trib Reporter Mike Divittorio has stated that the Borough will renovate the lockers in the grandstand and add new seating on top of the existing benches. Given West Field’s important history, and its status as one of the last surviving Negro League ballparks, care should be taken to preserve the structure for future generations to appreciate.

First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

According to a 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interview of Elijah “Lucky” Miller, a former Homestead Grays bat boy, the Grays used the dugout located along the third base side of the grandstand.

Third Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Third Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Next to the third base dugout are the entrances to the players locker rooms.

Entrance to Locker Rooms, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Entrance to Locker Rooms, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Entrance to Home Player Locker Room, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Entrance to Home Player Locker Room, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

The locker rooms were located at the end of a tunnel that ran underneath the grandstand.

Tunnel Under Grandstand Leading to Player Locker Room, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Tunnel Under Grandstand Leading to Player Locker Room, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Like the Gray’s home dugout, the visiting team dugout – once used by such teams as the New York Black Yankees – remains at the site, frozen in time.

First Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

The view from the dugout is largely unchanged from the days when the ballpark hosted Negro League baseball.

View of Field From First Base  Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

View of Field From First Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Out beyond left and center field is the Munhall Municipal Building, which was constructed between 1941 and 1945 (completion was delayed because necessary building materials were in short supply during World War II). The building currently houses the Munhall Borough Police Department.

The Munhall Municipal Building Located Beyond Center Field, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

The Munhall Municipal Building Located Beyond Center Field, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

The view from right field looking toward the infield and the grandstand is like looking back in time.

View of Grandstand from Right Field, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

View of Grandstand from Right Field, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field Circa 1955 (photo from cover of 3rd Annual Prep League World Series program, August 1955)

West Field Circa 1955 (photo from cover of 3rd Annual Prep League World Series program, August 1955)

Having hosted countless sporting events for almost 80 years, the stadium is in desperate need of repair. The concrete that supports the first base grandstand seating is crumbling and presumably much of it would need to be removed and replaced. Renovation plans call for installing seating for 800 in the ballpark, a significant decrease for a stadium which currently holds 3,000.

Third Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

At the top of the first base grandstand is a walk way that leads around to the top of the third base grandstand. If you are planning to visit the ballpark prior to its renovation, this walkway provides an excellent panoramic view of West Field.

Walkway Along Back of First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Walkway Along Back of First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Walkway Behind Third Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvaina

Walkway Along Back of Third Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field is located on property also used by the Borough of Munhall for storage and repair of its service vehicles. The grandstand, and the entrance to it behind home plate, is accessible only by walking through a storage yard.

Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Hopefully the grandstand will be saved and restored. Although it currently is covered with graffiti and the grounds around it are littered with debris, the 1930s era structure itself appears to be in good shape and worthy of being preserved.

Entrance to West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Entrance to West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

In 1987, the Borough of Munhall rededicated West Field as William W. Knight Memorial Park, in honor of the former major of Munhall.

Monument Honoring William W. Knight, Former Mayor of Munhall Borough

Monument Honoring William W. Knight, Former Mayor of Munhall Borough

The Borough of Munhall has a unique opportunity to celebrate and preserve an important part of our country’s history. Updates will be posted here once more is known about the proposed renovations, and as they progress.

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

In the meantime, here is a video walk around of the ballpark in it’s current condition.

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Paterson New Jersey’s Hinchliffe Stadium – A Diamond In The Rough

September 10th, 2014

Hinchliffe Stadium is located at the intersection of Liberty Street and Maple Street in Paterson, New Jersey.

Entrance to Hinchiffe Stadium at Intersection of  Liberty and Maple Street

Entrance to Hinchliffe Stadium at Intersection of Liberty and Maple Street

The ballpark is set directly behind Paterson Public School No. 5, located at 430 Totowa Avenue, just three blocks northeast of the entrance on Maple Street to Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park.

Paterson Public School No. 5, Paterson, NJ

Side View of Paterson Public School No. 5, Paterson, NJ

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).

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Looking Northwest  Along Maple Street

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Looking Northwest Along Maple Street

Constructed in 1931 and 1932, the ballpark was financed by the City of Paterson at a cost of approximately $250,000.

Panoramic Photo of Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Facing Maple Street

Panoramic Photo of Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Facing Maple Street

The ballpark was designed by Fanning & Shaw, a local architectural firm, in the Art Deco style.

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

The stadium’s exterior walls are constructed of poured concrete.

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Fronting Liberty Street

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Fronting Liberty Street

The exterior walls include many architectural flourishes such as clay tile roofing and plaster inlay plaques created by Paterson native Gaetano Federici.

Detail of Hinchliffe Stadium Exterior Fronting Liberty Street

Detail of Hinchliffe Stadium Exterior Fronting Liberty Street

Ownership of the ballpark was transferred from the city to the Paterson School District in 1963. In 1997 the school district closed Hinchliffe Stadium, unable to pay for its continued upkeep.

Entrance Gates to Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

Entrance Gates to Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

In the last 20 years, the stadium’s structure has continued to deteriorate from neglect. Were this just another aging high school athletic stadium, Hinchliffe might already have been lost to time.

Hinchliffe Stadium Ticket Windows Facing Jasper Street

Hinchliffe Stadium Ticket Windows Facing Jasper Street

However, Hinchliffe’s rich history is what may just save it from demolition and ultimately what might ensure its restoration for future generations to appreciate.

Detail of Ticket Window Facing Jasper Street, Hinchliffe Stadium

Detail of Ticket Window Facing Jasper Street, Hinchliffe Stadium

Most notably, Hinchliffe is recognized as one of the last surviving ballparks where a significant number of Negro League games were played.

Inside Ticket Booth, Hinchliffe Stadium

Inside Ticket Booth, Hinchliffe Stadium

Starting in 1933, the Negro National League New York Black Yankees called Hinchliffe their home, continuing for 12 seasons until they departed at the end of 1945 (the Black Yankees played their home games at Triborough Stadium in 1937). Many Negro League greats played at Hinchliffe, including one 1934 contest between the Black Yankees and the Pittsburgh Crawfords featuring future Hall of Famers James “Cool Papa” Bell, Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, and Judy Johnson. Other Hall of Famers who played at Hinchliffe Stadium include Martín Dihigo, Monte Irwin, Buck Leonard, and Satchel Paige (note: it is unclear whether Paige actually played in a game at Hinchliffe). Hinchliffe also was home to the Negro National League New York Cubans in the mid 1930s.

Detail of Hinchliffe Stadium Ticket Booth From Inside Stadium

Detail of Hinchliffe Stadium Ticket Booth

Future Hall of Famer and Paterson native Larry Doby grew up playing at Hinchliffe Stadium, first as a star at Eastside High School playing both football and baseball, and later as a member of the Negro National League Newark Eagles, beginning in 1942.

Entrance of Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

Entrance of Hinchliffe Stadium (Interior) Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

In addition to Negro League baseball, Hinchliffe stadium hosted professional soccer (the New Jersey Stallions and New Jersey Eagles) and football (Paterson Giants, the Silk City Bears, the Paterson Panthers and the Paterson Nighthawks), as well as boxing and auto racing. Notable athletes who played at Hinchliffe include future football Hall of Famers Vince Lombardi playing for the Brooklyn Eagles in a game against the Panthers, Earl Clark playing for the Portsmouth Spartans in a game against the Giants, and Bill Dudley playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game against the Panthers. For more information about Hinchliffe’s rich history, see Hinchliffe’s Stadium’s application filed with National Trust For Historic Preservation Application which provided much of the history outlined above and Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium.

Hinchliffe Stadium Grandstand With Paterson Public School No. 5 in Background

Hinchliffe Stadium Grandstand With Paterson Public School No. 5 in Background

Thankfully, many historians and fans of the game have stepped in to help protect Hinchliffe including Brian LoPinto, founder of Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium.

Hinchliffe Stadium, View of First Base Grandstand From Home Plate Grandstand

Hinchliffe Stadium, View of First Base Grandstand From Home Plate Grandstand

In 2004, Hinchliffe Stadium was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.

Scoreboard, Hinchliffe Stadium

Scoreboard, Hinchliffe Stadium

In 2013 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. On July 22, 2014, the Hinchliffe Stadium Heritage Act sponsored by Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr., passed the U.S. House of Representatives. That bill would expand Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park – which sits just south of the ballpark – to include Hinchliffe Stadium.

Hinchliffe Stadium Looking Toward Former Center Field With Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park in Background

Hinchliffe Stadium Looking Toward Former Center Field With Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park in Background

Even with all that has been done to help ensure Hinchliffe Stadium’s future, the current condition of the ballpark, and the passage of time, continue to  work against it.

Third Base Grandstand, Hinchliffe Stadium

Third Base Grandstand, Hinchliffe Stadium

The poured concrete structure that helped sustain the ballpark since it’s construction in the early 1930’s is crumbling, which will require extensive repair or replacement of the actual concrete.

Hinchliffe Stadium Grandstand Staircase

Hinchliffe Stadium Grandstand Staircase

An assessment of the stadium conducted by the City of Paterson concluded that although much of the concrete is salvageable, the cost of restoration and modernization could be as high as $44 million. The City of Greensboro, North Carolina, is facing a similar challenge as it grapples with how best to restore historic War Memorial Stadium which, like Hinchliffe, is constructed mainly of poured concrete.

Hinchliffe Stadium Bathroom

Hinchliffe Stadium Bathroom

Although the continued existence of Hinchliffe Stadium is not yet a certainty, the good news on many fronts suggests that the ballpark might just stand the test of time.

Houses Fronting Totowa Avenue, Paterson, NJ

Houses Fronting Totowa Avenue Near Hinchliffe Stadium, Paterson, NJ

Restoration of the ballpark would be good news not only for the citizens of Paterson, New Jersey, but for baseball fans and historians far and wide. However, to paraphrase Nelson Wilbury, “it’s gonna take a whole lot of spending money to do it right.” If you are interested in helping preserve Hinchliffe Stadium, contact Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium. And while you are at it, be sure to thank them as well.

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Posted in Hinchliffe Stadium, New Jersey ballparks | Comments (2)