Hinchliffe Stadium may have been built for football, but it is baseball that marked the time. It’s the only National Historic Landmark honoring baseball, the only sporting venue within a National Park and one of the last remaining Negro League stadiums. Hinchliffe has national significance and baseball prevented its demolition.
There is a responsibility about Hinchliffe’s rehabilitation that transcends Paterson. As the conversation continues regarding the final design, it’s important to acknowledge that Hinchliffe’s renaissance has everything to do with the Negro Leagues.
Soon there will be discussions about the playing surface, lighting and field layout. While these items have a price, it’s important to factor in the intangible value, which is priceless.
The intangible value of returning the baseball diamond to the exact location where Josh Gibson, Monte Irvin and Paterson’s Larry Doby played would be invaluable. Imagine an African-American ballplayer standing in the batter’s box where Doby once stood? Imagine the lessons that the Paterson Public Schools could teach young students about a poignant time that took place in their hometown?
Some argue that returning to this original and sacred location wouldn’t be appropriate for competitive use. That, frankly, is incorrect. The current proposal places left field over 500 feet and right field under 200 feet from home plate, certainly not appropriate for competitive play. The estimate is 280 feet to both lines if returned to the original location. Although short distances, this would be more palatable in regard to competitive play.
With very few Negro League stadiums, it is incumbent that Paterson returns the baseball diamond to its original location to properly honor the reason that Hinchliffe is still with us in the first place.
While returning the diamond to the exact location where Negro League action took place is paramount, there are other items that need to be thoroughly reviewed.
The current proposal calls for a race track, yet, it is widely known that the race track would not be suitable for competitive use. Why place a race track at Hinchliffe Stadium that would be ineligible for high school competition? Perhaps Pennington Park would be more suitable for a track?
So if the proposed location of the baseball diamond wouldn’t be suitable for high school competition and the track wouldn’t be suitable for high school competition, why make these decisions?
It is important to recognize that Hinchliffe Stadium is not simply a local stadium and it deserves to be treated with more precision. The cookie cutter model of using artificial turf should be reconsidered. Forbes Magazine published an article entitled: “How Taxpayers Get Fooled On The Cost Of An Artificial Turf Field.”
Who is to pay for this cost? Will it be the City? The Paterson Public Schools? Either way, maintenance will need to be done or else the stadium will simply fall into disrepair again.
Perhaps grass should be considered?
This current mayor constantly talks about business incubators. Perhaps an urban sod farm incubator would thrive in Paterson? A sod farm incubator would accomplish the following:
- Grow grass for the stadium
- Can be used as an educational opportunity for a William Paterson University based field-turf program
- A potential to sell some of the grass
- Use the grass to replenish Paterson parks.
Also, keep in mind that studies have shown that the rubber pellets in artificial turf have been linked to cancer in children.
Hinchliffe Stadium’s rehabilitation has taken way too long due to sheer indifference. At the very least, returning the Negro Leagues diamond to its original location would make the wait all worthwhile and would showcase Paterson as having done the right thing, even if it may be unpopular to some.
The reality is that Hinchliffe Stadium needs Paterson more than ever to make the right decisions on its legacy. This begins with returning the baseball diamond to its original location where Negro League ballplayers actually played.
Written by Brian LoPinto, president of the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium.