Baseball Returns to the ‘Hallowed Grounds’ of a Negro Leagues Stadium

Gary Phillips, The New York Times

Saved from demolition, Hinchliffe Stadium in New Jersey underwent a $100 million renovation. It will now serve as a minor league ballpark and a Negro leagues museum.

Hinchliffe Stadium today (Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times)

PATERSON, N.J. — When Bob Kendrick visited Hinchliffe Stadium in 2014, all he could do was hope.

Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., had journeyed east for a ceremony that recognized Hinchliffe as a National Historic Landmark. The stadium is one of the last of the Negro leagues ballparks still standing, but it was almost impossible to tell at the time.

Back then, Hinchliffe was abandoned, as it had been since 1997, and pavement covered the area where the field had been. Overgrown vegetation, graffiti and shattered glass littered the stands where fans had watched future Hall of Famers perform. Idols like Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston and Martín Dihigo all played in Hinchliffe. So had local products like Monte Irvin and Larry Doby, who followed Jackie Robinson in the first wave of integrating the American and National Leagues on their own paths to Cooperstown.

Doby, a standout at Eastside High School in Paterson, was the A.L.’s first Black player after his successful stint with the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. The Eagles discovered him at a Hinchliffe Stadium tryout. Two other teams, the New York Black Yankees and the New York Cubans, called the stadium home as well.

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Any trace of that history had been obscured by negligence. So it was hard — and perhaps unrealistic — to visualize the park being restored to its former glory. But Kendrick allowed himself to dream.

Less than a decade later, Hinchliffe Stadium is at the end of a massive redevelopment project that has cost more than $100 million. The initiative, which broke ground in April 2021, features a multisport athletic facility, a preschool, a restaurant and event space, parking, affordable senior housing and a museum devoted to the venue’s glory days, which ranged from the 1930s to the ’80s.

And this weekend, professional baseball games will return to the site. 

Read more about the plans for the stadium in the original article.

Learn why baseball leagues were segregated in this exhibit about Jim Crow laws.

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