After Success at Rickwood, MLB Should Consider Hinchliffe Next

Pat Pickens

The MLB at Rickwood Field game between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals was designed to celebrate the history of the Negro Leagues.

The game, played Thursday in Birmingham, Alabama, hit all the right notes too, with the unique uniforms and incredible stories of players who have not gotten their due for far too long. It also was the perfect vehicle to pay homage to the great Willie Mays, the all-time baseball legend who was born in Alabama and passed away June 18, mere hours before the game began.

MLB has done right to celebrate not just its history, but the sport’s past with the Rickwood game and its two trips to Dyersville, Iowa for the Field of Dreams Games in 2021 and 2022. MLB seems adamant about highlighting its past and has made tremendous strides in including Negro League stats into its official registry of statistics. 

So as baseball continues to right past wrongs from a bygone era, and celebrate historical sites from baseball history, it would be wise to target Hinchliffe Stadium as for its next historically centered MLB game.

Hinchliffe checks all the boxes of an MLB tentpole site. Its history is nearly unrivaled, since the ballpark is among the top-10 oldest baseball parks that are still operating in the United States. Only two MLB parks, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, and six minor-league parks, including Rickwood, are still operational and older than Hinchliffe, which opened in 1932 and hosted Negro League games in 1935.

Plus, the history at Hinchliffe rivals that of even Rickwood. The Birmingham-based ballpark played host to more than 180 Baseball Hall of Fame players, including Mays. But many of those same Negro League legends played at Hinchilffe, like Monte Irvin, Buck Leonard, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell, who played at Hinchliffe against the New York Cubans in the 1935 Negro League World Series.

Paige even played for the New York Black Yankees as part of his play-for-hire days, making one start. However, that game attracted so much attention that it needed to be moved to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

Hinchliffe got a well-deserved makeover and reopened in 2023, which makes it a baseball success story as well. The park was effectively left to decay in the mid-1990s before rising from the ashes in 2022 and reopening for New Jersey Jackals games in 2023.

Plus, he true star of any major-league game at Hinchliffe would be the scenery. Hinchliffe is a national historic landmark and is the only ballpark to sit inside a national park. Plus, it is adjacent to Paterson’s legendary Great Falls, which would make for exceptional visuals, especially on a national-TV broadcast.

Just imagine what the scenery would look like for a early-evening, mid-summer MLB game with the setting sun looming over the park and the Falls rushing in the background as a jam-packed crowd of 10,000-or-so fans sets the environment.

It all seems too perfect.

An MLB game at Hinchliffe, with each side donning comparable Negro League uniforms of either the Black Yankees or Cubans and a comparable Negro League rival depending on the opponent, seems only natural as the next place for the league to go.

Pat Pickens
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Pat Pickens