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NJ Negro League landmark gets grant

Ticket booths at entrance to Hinchliffe Stadium to be preserved

Hinchliffe Stadium, the only baseball site to be given National Historic Landmark status by the National Park Service, has received another assist toward the efforts to renovate the former home of the New York Black Yankees and the New York Cubans.

American Express, in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, recently announced a $300,000 grant to be used to preserve two original ticket booths at the main entrance to the art deco concrete stadium in Paterson, N.J.

"We are so grateful to American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for their continued efforts toward the rehabilitation of Hinchliffe Stadium," said Brian LoPinto, president of the nonprofit Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium. "This is a strong step in the right direction for a place that is so rich in Negro League history."

The money should cover the restoration of the two ticket booths to their original appearance, LoPinto said, and that will include refurbishing the concrete surfaces, window grates and decorative tiling. The hipped roofs and their terra-cotta tiles would also be rebuilt.

"Our goal is to spend the funds in 2016, but ideally within a larger renovation project," LoPinto said.

A full restoration of the stadium is expected to cost anywhere from $20 million to $45 million, according to various reports. Initial engineering and environmental assessments are about 90 percent complete, The Associated Press has reported.

It was at Hinchliffe Stadium in 1942 where Paterson resident Larry Doby caught the eye of the Newark Eagles and began his journey to become the American League's first black player. Other Hall of Famers who played at Hinchliffe include Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Judy Johnson, Oscar Charleston and Martin Dihigo. When Yankee Stadium closed after the 2008 season, Hinchliffe became the last ballpark in the New York metropolitan area that hosted Negro Leagues games.

Opening in 1932, Hinchliffe also hosted high school and professional football, boxing matches, concerts, track and field events, and midget auto races. Paterson native Lou Costello and his comedy partner, Bud Abbott, performed there -- perhaps including their famous "Who's On First?" routine into their show. Ownership transferred from the city to the school system in the 1960s, and the stadium saw use as a home to various high school sporting events until it closed in 1997. It has sat vacant ever since, falling into disrepair as vandals have quite literally chipped away at the structure and squatters have made it a temporary home.

Recent years have seen bursts of activity in a positive direction, however. Auto shows have brought back some of the midget racing cars that once sped around Hinchliffe Stadium's oval, and a rodeo was held there last month. In April 2014, to mark the stadium's designation as a National Historic Landmark, hundreds of local students came out to apply fresh coats of white paint to cover the graffiti that had accumulated over nearly two decades.

Larry Doby Jr. was on hand that day, too, and thought of his father.

"He just would have been extremely proud that they are restoring it, because it had so many great memories for him," he told "It's a big day for this town, and it would be a very proud day for him."

Dan Cichalski is a senior editor at
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