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Bringing Back Negro League Baseball Greats

Kevin Armstrong

Inside, masons wearing hard hats smoothed cement, electricians atop scaffolds ran wires behind boarded-up windows and carpenters cut wood beams with buzzsaws. Jones, the new chief business officer of the New Jersey Jackals in the independent Frontier League, strode through narrow hallways with graffiti-covered walls; his boss, Al Dorso, the Jackals’ owner, followed. They inspected progress of the 90-year-old stadium’s $94 million refurbishment. “So many unknowns,” Jones said.

This much is certain: A re-opening date has been set. On May 20, the Jackals will play Dorso’s other team, the Sussex County Miners, on site 25 years after the stadium, which is owned by the Paterson Public Schools, was shuttered. Vandals and vagrants claimed it as their own, but recent political wrangling and architectural renderings resulted in Dorso and Jones bringing professional baseball back to one of the last two stadiums to host Negro Leaguers.

Hinchliffe, which opened in 1932, was the home field of the New York Black Yankees, the New York Cubans and the Newark Eagles. More than 20 Hall of Famers played there, including Cool Papa Bell, Monte Irvin and Josh Gibson. It became a popular venue for the Negro Leagues because it cost roughly $100 to rent for the day. By contrast, Yankee Stadium would run Negro Leagues teams more than $2,500 for a day of games.

Fresh coats of paint mark a new era in the horseshoe-shaped venue where the 1933 Colored Championship of the Nation was contested and Eastside High graduate Larry Doby tried out for the Newark Eagles five years before integrating the American League. On snow-covered gravel, Jones eyed a mixture of Art Deco and terra cotta touches as construction workers asked Dorso to move his navy Cadillac Escalade in order for trucks to motor past.

“If this team is going to be successful, it is going to be because of the community,” said Jones, who grew up in Rutherford and attended his cousins’ Thanksgiving football games at Hinchliffe. “We’re going to need them to support us in every way. Not just coming out for the games, but protecting the stadium, making sure there is no crime. This has to be a place that cleans up, becomes a bright spot for Paterson. This has to be a haven right next to the falls.”

Kevin Armstrong
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Kevin Armstrong

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