Home Runs at Hinchliffe
July is for Independence Day, backyard BBQ’s, pool parties, and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Fans of every team watch the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game to see their favorite players shine with superstars and future Hall of Famers.
Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park in Paterson, New Jersey, about 15 miles outside Manhattan, has its own claim to a Hall of Famer. The park boundaries include historic Hinchliffe Stadium – the only ballpark in the National Park System – and the hometown of the second African American player in Major League Baseball and the first in the American League, Larry Doby.
Seven-time American League All Star, Doby was a four-sport athlete at Paterson’s Eastside High School before he was scouted by the Negro National League’s Newark Eagles. In 1942, then 17-year-old Doby was given a tryout for the Eagles at Hinchliffe Stadium after a local Negro Leagues umpire urged the ball club’s owner to see Doby for himself.
By 1946, Doby and the Newark Eagles won the Negro World Series after a seven-game battle with the Kansas City Monarchs. Three-months after Jackie Robinson was drafted to the Brooklyn Dodgers, Doby signed with the Cleveland Indians, becoming the first African American player to go directly from the Negro Leagues to the majors.
Doby went on to play with the Indians for ten years, winning the World Series with teammate Satchel Paige in 1948. What would make you vote for Doby to be in the All-Star Game? The slugger’s solo home run in the bottom of the third inning in Game 4 of the 1948 World Series, the first home run hit by an African American player in the major leagues.
MLB idols, Negro Leagues greats, and future Hall of Famers all played Hinchliffe Stadium at Paterson Great Falls NHP. Until its closure in 1997, the stadium was also famous for its midget car racing, the annual Thanksgiving Day high school football game between Eastside and Central High Schools, and concerts by the likes of Duke Ellington.
In August 2017, the National Park Service, City of Paterson, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium are making history with restoration efforts to preserve and protect the stadium, starting first with the exterior façade and ticket booths. The goal is to reopen the stadium for high school sports, concerts, and amateur baseball games – giving new life to the 1930’s building with nearly a century of stories to tell.
Maybe the stadium’s future includes a blockbuster ballgame, with an All-Star team of Paterson celebrities. Who would be on Paterson Great Falls NHP All-Star team? City legends, baseball heroes, and of course the founder of America’s first industrial city in Paterson, NJ, Alexander Hamilton.
- Manager: Alexander Hamilton, founder of Paterson, the first planned industrial city
- Pitcher: John Philip Holland, Paterson school teacher and engineer to develop first submarine to be formally commissioned by the U.S. Navy
- Catcher: Josh Gibson, “Babe Ruth of the Negro Leagues” and second Negro Leagues player to be inducted to Hall of Fame
- First base: Lou Costello, Paterson native and comedic legend
- Second base: Louis “Lou” Duva, Boxing Hall of Fame trainer and manager and Paterson legend
- Third base: Samuel Colt, founder of Colt firearms and the Colt Gun Mill, started in Paterson and part of the national park
- Shortstop: Victor Cruz, hometown hero and NFL wide receiver
- Right field: “Cool Papa” Bell, known as the fastest man in baseball, famed Negro Leagues base stealer, and Hall of Famer
- Center field: Larry Doby, Hall of Famer, Paterson native, and 7-time MLB All Star
- Left field: Monte Irvin, Newark Eagles star, MLB star outfielder, and Willie Mays mentor
In 2017, the #FindYourPark/#EncuentraTuParque theme is Parks 101, showcasing the lesser-known stories of our country’s national parks. Stay in touch to hear stories like Hinchliffe Stadium and read about more baseball history in national parks.
It’s not over til it’s over for Hinchliffe Stadium and this year, NPS, Paterson, and partners are making sure the history and story of the stadium, park, and city are preserved for future generations. Special thanks to Darren Boch, Superintendent of Paterson Great Falls NHP, and Brian LoPinto, President of Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium, for their expertise and support.