During the Jim Crow era, African-American athletes and fans had limited choices when it came to large gatherings for sports tournaments and special events. With the development of the Negro League baseball teams, the need was amplified as teams traveled the country to play against one another.
On Saturday, September 17, 1932, Hinchcliffe Stadium in Paterson, NJ was dedicated to fulfill that need. The 10,000-seat stadium was home to Negro League baseball teams on the East Coast; the New York Black Yankees, the New York Cubans and the Newark Eagles.
Christened on Thanksgiving Day, the stadium was also built as a sports arena for low income kids to practice. Hinchcliffe housed baseball games, boxing matches, football games, concerts and auto sports. Hinchcliffe was also the site of one of Duke Ellington’s final concerts in 1971. Hinchcliffe Stadium was built with public funding.
In 1942, Larry Doby, the second Negro League player to break the color lines of major league baseball after Jackie Robinson, was hired by the Newark Eagles to play at Hinchcliffe. It was where Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson perfected the game. The structure provided a haven for the Negro League games until around 1944.
Around 1963-64, the public school system purchased Hinchcliffe and welcomed semiprofessional football games and international soccer tournaments. This only lasted until 1997 when the stadium closed its doors, leaving the structure open to vandals. In 1996, Friends of Hinchcliffe Stadium came together to bring restoration to the historic site.
Finally, in 2004, the stadium was named to the National Register of Historic Places. On April 16TH, Jackie Robinson Day, the city of Paterson will sponsor a community clean-up of the stadium, with 500 volunteers expected. All are asked to come and help resort the history of Hinchcliffe.
The cleanup is part of the “HOPE Crew” for “Hands-On-Preservation Experience,” initiative sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information click here.
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