Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Fabled Hinchliffe Hangs On

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Fabled Hinchliffe Hangs On

Article excerpt

Another baseball season has started, and Hinchliffe Stadium is still standing.

From where I sit, that counts as a victory, for the faded Paterson structure has weathered time and the elements, as well as the bungling and rivalries of politicians.

It remains a testament to history, baseball and our changing culture. Today we need such symbols from the past to remind us who we are as a people, and how far we've come as a society.

In case you are new to the Hinchliffe story, the stadium was built during the Great Depression and has hosted everything from automobile races, to boxing matches, to football games. It also was once home to the so-called Paterson City Club, a scrappy baseball team that took the field against all comers, including, one historic weekend, teams that featured Native American stalwarts such as Chief Bender and Jim Thorpe.

Hinchliffe's identity today, however, is most often linked to the old Negro Leagues, formed during America's shameful, racially segregated days, and in a time when baseball's major leagues strictly forbid participation of black ballplayers.

Before Jackie Robinson and Paterson's own Larry Doby crossed that color line in 1947, African-American stars were forced to excel in their own leagues. Hinchliffe Stadium welcomed those teams, including the New York Black Yankees and the New York Cubans, as well as future Hall of Famers Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and Satchell Paige.

Crucially, Hinchliffe is one of the last places standing where Negro Leagues games were played.

As Brian LoPinto, a co-founder of Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium, told me Friday, the stadium has received surface renovations and some cleanups, and its front gates have been removed and refurbished. Joe Malinconico of Paterson Press reported that the stadium is also getting a $500,000 grant from the National Park Service for work done on Hinchliffe's once glorious exterior façade.

None of that, of course, is enough to save it.

LoPinto, who lives and breathes Hinchliffe and its many idiosyncrasies and is a fount of knowledge about local baseball history, said due to "years of neglect and degradation," a full restoration and renovation of Hinchliffe is estimated to cost "between $25 million and $35 million. …

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