Posts Tagged ‘New York Black Yankees’

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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Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium

January 28th, 2015

Professional baseball was played at the corner of East Ferry and Michigan Avenue in Buffalo, New York, for 72 years beginning in 1889, through the end of the 1960 season.

Postcard, Buffalo Base Ball Park, Buffalo, New York (David Ellis Publisher)

Postcard, Buffalo Base Ball Park, Buffalo, New York (David Ellis Publisher)

Originally known as new Olympic Park (old Olympic Park housed Buffalo baseball teams from 1884 to 1888 at the intersection of Richmond Avenue and Summer Street), in 1907 the ballpark was renamed Buffalo Base Ball Park. The original wooden ballpark structure was raised in 1924 and replaced with a concrete and steel structure, and renamed Bison Stadium. In 1935 the ballpark was renamed Offermann Stadium, in honor of Frank J. Offermann, the recently-deceased former owner of the Buffalo Bison.

Entrance to Offerman Stadium (photo courtesy of the Buffalo Sports Museum)

Entrance to Offermann Stadium (photo courtesy of the Buffalo Sports Museum)

The site’s primary tenant was the International League Buffalo Bison, who played there from 1889 to 1960. According to Philip Lowry’s Green Cathedrals, Major league baseball also was played at this site for one year in 1890 when the Buffalo Bison of the Players League played their home games at new Olympic Park. The Negro National League New York Black Yankees played games at Offermann Park as a neutral site in the 1940s. The Negro American League Indianapolis Clowns played some games at Offermann (neutral site) from 1951 to 1955. Professional football also was played at the site, including National Football League Buffalo franchises (the All-Americans from 1920 to 1923, the Buffalo Bisons from 1924 to 1925, and 1927 to 1929, and the Buffalo Rangers in 1926).

Bethel AME Church, intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Bethel AME Church, intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

The ballpark was located directly behind what is now the Bethel AME Church (formerly Covenant Presbyterian Church), with home plate near the back of the church at the intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue.

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue, Buffalo, New York

The ballpark faced Southeast towards the intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue. Center field was located on the northwest corner of that intersection. After the ballpark was demolished in 1962, Woodlawn Junior High School was constructed on the site. To see an aerial photograph of Offermann Stadium from 1956 click here (fixbuffalo.blogspot.com).

Corner Stone for Woodlawn Jr. High, Buffalo, New York

Corner Stone for Woodlawn Jr. High, Buffalo, New York

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts now occupies the site.

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Located on the Former Site of Offerman Stadium.

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Located on the Former Site of Offermann Stadium.

In 2012, John Boutet of the Buffalo Sports Museum spearheaded a drive to place a historical plaque at the site. The plaque notes that Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Hank Aaron all played baseball at Offermann Stadium. Babe Ruth played one of his first professional games at what was then Buffalo Base Ball Park, pitching in 1914 for the International League Baltimore Orioles.

Historical Plaque at the Former Site of Offerman Stadium

Historical Plaque at the Former Site of Offermann Stadium

The former site of right field was located at the northeast corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue.

Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York, Former Site of Offermann Stadium’s Right Field

The former site of left field was located at the southwest corner of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street.

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street, Buffalo, New York, Former Site of Offermann Stadium’s Left Field

The area behind what was once the ballpark’s home plate is now a parking lot for the school.

Former Site of Offerman Stadium Infield

Former Site of Offermann Stadium Infield

In addition to Bethel AME Church, many other structures surrounding the ballpark date to the time of Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium. The houses in the photograph below sat just beyond the ballpark’s center field fence.

Houses at the Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Masten Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Houses at the Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Masten Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Houses at the intersection Masten Avenue and Ferry Street sat beyond the ballpark’s left field corner.

Houses at the Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street

Houses at the Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Building at 78 East Ferry Street ran parallel to third base.

Brick Building Located on Ferry Street, Near Former Site of Third Base Line

NFTA Metro Building Located on Ferry Street, Sat Parallel to Former Site of Third Base Line

In 1961, the Buffalo Bison moved ten blocks south from Offermann Stadium to Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium.

Aerial View, Buffalo War Memorial, Buffalo, New York

Aerial View, War Memorial Stadium, Buffalo, New York

In 1988, the Bison (American Association) moved two miles southwest to Pilot Stadium, later renamed Coca-Cola Field

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bison

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bison

Coca-Cola Field includes a wonderful museum – The Buffalo Sports Museum – featuring memorabilia from and information about Offermann Stadium, as well as Buffalo’s other ballparks. It certainly is worth a visit if you haven’t been there already.

Buffalo Sports Museum Display Featuring Offerman Stadium, as well as Former Buffalo Bison Luke Easter

Buffalo Sports Museum Display Featuring Offermann Stadium, as well as Former Buffalo Bison Luke Easter

The City of Buffalo boasts a rich baseball history, much of it taking place years ago at the intersection of  East Ferry and Michigan Avenue. Although the ballpark is long gone, enough of the neighborhood that existed at the time of Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium remains to give anyone with an interest in the National Pastime with a sense of where the ballpark once stood. The former ballpark site is located just three miles north of Coca-Cola Field and for fans of the game it certainly is worth the trip.

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There Once Was A Ballpark – Rochester’s Silver Stadium/Red Wing Stadium

September 24th, 2014

Silver Stadium was located at 500 Norton Street in Rochester, New York. The ballpark opened in 1929 as Red Wing Stadium, and was home to the International League Rochester Red Wings. The Red Wings were then an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, who also constructed and owned the ballpark.

Red Wing Stadium, Rochester NY (Postcard by Rochester News Co., Curteich Chicago C.T. Art Colortone)

Red Wing Stadium, Rochester NY (Postcard by Rochester News Co., Curteich Chicago C.T. Art Colortone)

The ballpark is notable also as the home field for the Negro National League New York Black Yankees in 1948, and the American Football League Rochester Braves in 1936, and the American League Rochester Tigers in 1936 and 1937.

The main entrance to the stadium was through a gate behind the first base grand stand. Next to that gate was a two story house that served as both a ticket booth and administrative offices for the team. The two-story building is somewhat reminiscent of similar buildings at League Park in Cleveland and Braves Field in Boston.

Entrance to Silver Stadium, Rochester NY (George Tinker Postcard), Now 500 Norton Street

Entrance to Silver Stadium, Rochester NY (George Tinker Postcard), at 500 Norton Street

The house at 500 Norton Street remains at the site today and now is occupied by one of the city’s four Neighborhood Service Centers.

500 Norton Street, Former Ticket and Administrative Offices, Silver Stadium, Rochester NY

500 Norton Street, Former Ticket and Administrative Offices, Silver Stadium, Rochester NY

Behind the building at 500 Norton Street is a one story structure that was added to the site after the ballpark’s demolition.

Back Side of 500 Norton Street, Former Ticket And Administrative Offices for Silver Stadium

Back Side of 500 Norton Street, Former Ticket And Administrative Offices for Silver Stadium

On the eastern side of the building at 500 Norton Street are three plaques honoring the history of the ballpark.

Historical Plaques Located at Site of Silver Stadium's Former Ticket And Administrative Offices

Historical Plaques Located at Site of Silver Stadium’s Former Ticket And Administrative Offices

The first plaque details what the land there was used for prior to construction of the ballpark, as well as significant milestones in the ballpark’s history.

Plaque Honoring History of Silver Stadium

Plaque Honoring History of the Site That Was Once Silver Stadium

In 1956, local Rochester businessman Morrie Silver helped purchase the team and it’s stadium from the St. Louis Cardinals, thus ensuring that the Red Wings would remain in Rochester should the Cardinals decide to relocate to another town. It is for this reason that Mr. Silver is credited with saving professional baseball for the City of Rochester.

Plaque Honoring Morrie Silver at Former Site of Silver Stadium, Rochester NY

Plaque Honoring Morrie Silver at Former Site of Silver Stadium, Rochester NY

In 1960 the St. Louis Cardinals departed Rochester and the Baltimore Orioles became affiliated with the International League Red Wings. In 1968 Red Wing Stadium was renamed Silver Stadium in honor of the team’s owner. After Mr. Silver’s death in 1974, his widow Anna Silver remained with the team as a Member of the Board of Directors from 1975 to 1990, and as Chairperson of Board from 1981-1990. The Silver’s daughter Naomi Silver currently serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Red Wings.

Silver Stadium Historic Plaque, Rochester NY

Silver Stadium Historic Plaque, Rochester NY

Silver Stadium’s home plate was located directly north of the two story house that served as the ballpark’s main entrance.

Aerial View of Red Wing Stadium, Rochester NY (Albert R. Stone Negative Collection, Rochester Museum & Science Center)

Aerial View of Red Wing Stadium, Rochester NY (Albert R. Stone Negative Collection, Rochester Museum & Science Center)

What appears to be the outline of Silver Stadium’s first and third base foul lines still can be seen in the Google Maps Satellite View of the former Silver Stadium Site (you will need to zoom in on the site).

A Piece of Silver Stadium Rises Like a Phoenix Near Former Location of Home Plate Grand Stand

A chunk of Silver Stadium Nestled in the Grass Near the Former Location of Home Plate Grand Stand

The ballpark faced east, with the first base foul line running diagonally toward Norton Street.

Looking Toward Former Location of First Base From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of First Base From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Silver Stadium was a single-deck ballpark with a roof covering the grandstand from first base around to third base. Uncovered bleachers extended along the foul lines toward right field with a smaller uncovered section near left field.

Silver Stadium, Rochester NY (Chrome Postcard)

Silver Stadium, Rochester NY (Chrome Postcard)

The third base foul line ran diagonally toward Bastion Street.

Looking Toward Former Location of Third Base From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Third Base From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Silver Stadium closed after the 1996 season and the following year the ballpark was demolished. In its place the city constructed 14621 Industrial Park (the reference to 14621 is the area’s zip code).

Entrance at Intersection of Excel Drive and Norton Street to 14621 Industrial Park

Entrance at Intersection of Excel Drive and Norton Street to 14621 Industrial Park

Center field was located due east of home plate. Two single story warehouse buildings now sit just beyond what used to be the center field fence. The entire area that once encompassed center field remains an open field.

Looking Toward Former Location of Center Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Center Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

After the ballpark’s demolition, the city added a new street, Excel Drive, which runs north and south through the center of the former ballpark site.

Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Intersecting Silver Stadium Infield

Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Intersecting Silver Stadium Infield

Where once sat the third base grandstand is now a one-story industrial building at 85 Excel Drive, currently housing SPEX Precision Machine Technologies.

85 Excel Drive, SPEX Precision Machine Technologies

85 Excel Drive, SPEX Precision Machine Technologies

In what was once the right field corner and the right field bleachers sits a large warehouse at 10 Excel Drive. Just beyond the warehouse, across Norton Street, is Our Lady of Perpetual Help, whose steeple was readily visible beyond the right field bleachers back during the time of Silver Stadium.

Looking Toward Former Location of Right Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Right Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium, with Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s Steeple Still Visible

The building at 10 Excel Drive currently houses Premier Sign Systems. Its parking lot sits atop the right field corner.

10 Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Premier Sign Systems

10 Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Premier Sign Systems

In what was once left field also sits a large one-story industrial building and parking lot.

Looking Toward Former Location of Left Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Left Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

That building, located at 80 Excel Drive, currently houses Macauto USA Corp.

80 Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Macauto USA Corp.

80 Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Macauto USA Corp.

Second base and beginning of the outfield is marked by Excel Drive.

Former Location of Second Base Looking Toward Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Former Location of Second Base Looking Toward Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Many of the houses that sat along the perimeter of Silver Stadium remain to this day.

Houses Fronting Norton Street Located Beyond Former Site of Silver Stadium Right Field

Houses Fronting Norton Street Located Beyond Former Site of Silver Stadium Right Field

In addition, several of the industrial buildings that sat beyond the home plate grandstand remain at the site.

Looking Toward Former Location of Home Plate Grand Stand (From Home Plate), Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Home Plate Grand Stand (From Home Plate), Silver Stadium

The former school building at 1550 N Clinton Street, which sat behind the first base grandstand, remains as well, and now houses a ministry.

1550 N Clinton Avenue, Rochester NY, New Born Fellowship Ministries

1550 N Clinton Avenue, Rochester NY, New Born Fellowship Ministries

In 1997, the Red Wings moved three miles south of Silver Stadium to a new state-of-the-art minor league facility located at 333 N. Plymouth Avenue.

Exterior of Frontier Field, Rochester NY

Exterior of Frontier Field, Rochester NY

Frontier Field remains one of the finest ballparks in minor league baseball. When comparing Silver Stadium to Frontier Field it is easy to appreciate the team’s decision to construct a new ballpark in the heart of downtown Rochester.

Frontier Field, Home of the Rochester Red Wings

Frontier Field, Home of the Rochester Red Wings

Frontier Field pays homage to Morrie Silver with a statue outside the ballpark’s front gates.

Statue of Morrie Silver, Frontier Field, Rochester NY

Statue of Morrie Silver, Frontier Field, Rochester NY

The plaque at Mr. Silver’s feet states, in part: “The man who saved baseball for Rochester in 1957. Spearheading a stock drive, he and 8,221 others bought shares in the team in order to purchase the franchise and the stadium from the St. Louis Cardinals.”

Plaque Honoring Morrie Silver at Frontier Field

Plaque Honoring Morrie Silver at Frontier Field

Although Silver Stadium is now a lost ballpark, much of the outfield and many of the buildings surrounding the stadium site remain as they were were back when baseball was played at 500 Norton Avenue.

Frontier Field, Home of the Rochester Red Wings

Frontier Field, Home of the Rochester Red Wings

If you live in Rochester and attend Red Wing games, a pilgrimage just three miles south of Frontier Field to the former site of Silver Stadium is a must. The City of Rochester should place a marker indicating where home plate once sat. Given the information above, it should not be difficult to locate the exact spot.

Many great ballplayers and managers made the ballpark their home, including Rochester Hall of Famers and Baseball Hall of Famers Cal Ripken, Jr., Red Schoendienst, Earl Weaver, and Johnny Mize. Who knows? Given how much of the field remains unencumbered, a baseball game very well could break out on that field at any time, helping to bring back to that area a game that was played there for over 60 years.

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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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