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Jackals departing Yogi Berra Stadium; Hinchliffe Stadium pitched as new team home

With the New Jersey Jackals (Frontier League) departing Yogi Berra Stadium, there’s an intriguing offer for a potential new home: Hinchliffe Stadium, former home to Negro Leagues baseball in Paterson, N.J.

Yesterday the Jackals ownership announced that the team would not be returning to Yogi Berra Stadium, located on the campus of Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J. :

The Jackals, as well as the Sussex County Miners and Skylands Stadium, are owned by Al Dorso, whose energies have run toward turning Skylands Stadium into a true multi-use venue. Putting both teams into Skyland Stadium would make a certain amount of business sense; the Frontier League already features two teams playing out of Lexington.

Making a pitch for the Jackals: Paterson Mayor André Sayegh, who says he’s willing to work to host the Jackals in Paterson Stadium, one of five remaining Negro Leagues ballparks. Paterson Stadium hosted the New York Black Yankees and New York Cubans for several years, but it’s main use was as a high-school football and track stadium, while also hosting events like concerts and car racing. It had been neglected for many years before activists launched a multiyear campaign to restore the Art Deco facility. As you can see in the top rendering, the plan has to restore the stadium as a football/track facility; there’s really not accommodations for a baseball diamond.

However, if the Jackals can be persuaded to move to Paterson, Sayegh says the facility can be configured to host baseball. Several influencers in the baseball industry, such as Harold Reynolds, say Paterson Stadium should be targeted for an MLB game honoring the Negro Leagues, a la Field of Dreams. Whether it be MLB or MLB Partner League play, the Paterson Stadium design would need to be changed to accommodate baseball. The synthetic turf would need to be designed to be used both for football and baseball, and it looks like the track–which we’re told doesn’t meet high-school specs anyway–would be eliminated from the design. It would definitely have a Polo Grounds feel, with lot of foul space and a temporary outfield fence. Could it work? Sayegh thinks so:

Paterson Mayor André Sayegh confirmed that the city is indeed interested in a partnership between the historic stadium and the Jackals, though nothing is official as of now.

“We’re working on it. We’d love to have it,” Sayegh told New Jersey Monthly. “Paterson is stepping up to the plate with hopes of hitting a home run for Hinchliffe.

“We’re trying to bring the Jackals here.”

It’s an intriguing thought. We’ll be interested to see if the Jackals are truly interested and, if so, how much it would cost to host baseball at Hinchliffe Stadium.

Hinchliffe Stadium opened in 1932 and hosted the New York Black Yankees and New York Cubans among other events, including car racing and concerts from the likes of Abbott and Costello. The $94-million development plan will restore the former home of the Negro Leagues baseball and also feature a 315-space parking garage and a six-story, 75-unit senior housing. The efforts to restore Hinchliffe Stadium have been going on for years; at one point the Ripken organization took a swing at a renovation plan, but in the end it took a lot of persistence and effort by locals to make the project succeed.

Three other ballparks that were full-season homes to Negro Leagues baseball still standJ.P. Small Park (home of the Jacksonville Red Caps), Hamtramck Stadium (built for the Detroit Stars, restored this year) and Rickwood Field, home of the Birmingham Black BaronsLeague Park, former home of the Cleveland Buckeyes, still partially stands. (As a footnote, Indianapolis’s Bush Stadium still stands, but it’s been converted to housing. It’s still recognizable as a ballpark, but not used for that purpose. Given that more of Bush Stadium remains than does League Park, its inclusion as a Negro Leagues ballpark is certainly debatable.)

Rendering courtesy Paterson.

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