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Since its beginning in 1932, Hinchliffe Stadium had been at the center of the Paterson, New Jersey, community.

It became a home for Negro Leagues legends, including local hero Larry Doby.

Due to neglect, the stadium fell into disrepair and was closed in 1997. It sat abandoned until 2021, when the city made a plan to renovate it to honor the city’s history and revitalize the community.

But after decades of promises broken by city leaders, the March 2023 death of local activist Najee Seabrooks at the hands of Paterson police again has residents questioning who these revitalization projects are really for.

The Complex Task of Rebuilding Hinchliffe

From left to right: Larry Doby Jr., son of baseball pioneer Larry Doby; former major leaguers Harold Reynolds, Omar Minaya; Paterson mayor Andre Sayegh; and former players CC Sabathia and Willie Randolph attend the groundbreaking ceremony for Hinchliffe Stadium.

In February 2021, the city of Paterson received the necessary tax credits to carry out a full restoration of Hinchliffe Stadium. Paterson Public Schools, which owns the stadium, held a groundbreaking ceremony with the city two months later in April.


Hinchliffe is one of a handful of Negro Leagues stadiums still standing. When it reopens as a multisport facility for high schools and as the new home of the New Jersey Jackals of the Frontier League, the athletes will play where baseball history was made.

Baseball Legends Of Hinchliffe

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George “Mule” Suttles was a first baseman and outfielder who played in the Negro Leagues for over 20 years and was known for his powerful bat. Suttles starred for clubs including the Newark Eagles and the New York Black Yankees, which hosted games at Hinchliffe. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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Nicknamed “The Cuban Comet,” Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso was a left fielder who electrified spectators with his blazing speed and high-caliber defense for the New York Cubans, Hinchliffe’s home team from 1936-37. He won a championship with the Cubans in 1947 before starring in the major leagues.

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Before he played in the major leagues and won MVP and the first Cy Young Award in 1956, Don Newcombe pitched two seasons for the Newark Eagles in the second iteration of the Negro National League as a teenager.

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Larry Doby was first noticed by the Newark Eagles while playing at Hinchliffe for Eastside High School. He played four seasons with the Eagles before becoming the first Black player in the American League. Doby won two World Series titles and was a nine-time All-Star.


Maintaining the charm and aesthetic of Hinchliffe was a priority in the stadium’s renovation. Ulana Zakalak was the historic preservation consultant and physical restoration lead who supervised the restoration of everything from the stadium’s locker room windows to its ticket booths and outer wall mosaics.

The restoration of the windows involved,
first of all removing the windows from the locker room,
and we took the frames and sashes to our shop
where we cleaned them of all of the oxidation and corrosion.
And since all the glass was broken, we had a couple of pieces,
and we were able to match the glass,
which was a very fine ribbed glass,
so it was translucent and appropriate for a locker room of 1932.
The most fun part of the restoration was to
get to restore the jewelry of the stadium,
which are the terracotta plaques of Olympic athletes
that are embedded in the stucco walls on the exterior of the stadium.
These were in very bad condition
because kids, I think, had thrown rocks against these.
So we restored these plaques and we very carefully
matched the colors, and then we glazed them with a clear glaze
so that they would have a popping effect, like a jewel effect.
Also we restored the mosaics of the ticket booths
using the same technique.

Baye Adofo-Wilson

BAW Development CEO

Paterson native Baye Adofo-Wilson remembers attending football games at Hinchliffe Stadium. He can still recall the sights and sounds: the intense Thanksgiving Day battles between Eastside and John F. Kennedy high schools and the procession of the Eastside band during halftime as it covered fan-favorite tunes by artists such as Prince and Earth, Wind & Fire.

As the lead developer of the stadium’s restoration, Adofo-Wilson was charged with preserving the soul of the 100-year-old stadium while bringing it into the modern era. Adofo-Wilson had to navigate barriers both expected and unplanned, from removing a sinkhole from the field grounds to completing the stadium’s $100 million restoration under the uncertainty and restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic to navigating supply chain shortages. For Adofo-Wilson, the completion of the stadium’s vibrant restoration is a victory for the city that he hopes will impact generations of Patersonians for the next 100 years.

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Larry Doby’s connection to Hinchliffe goes beyond simply playing in the stadium. He also had roots in the city. Doby was an all-state talent in baseball, basketball and football at Eastside. To maintain his amateur status, Doby, a high school senior, played his 1942 season with the Eagles under the pseudonym Larry Walker.

Besides its Negro Leagues past, Hinchliffe was also known as an entertainment hub in Paterson in the 1930s and ‘40s. It hosted many motorsports and motorcycle races. It also put on New Jersey Diamond Glove boxing bouts, rodeos, comedy shows, circuses and concerts.

In the spring and summer, Paterson youth and high school students ran their track meets at Hinchliffe. The restored space was designed to not only bring youth back to the track, but also accommodate soccer, baseball, softball and football leagues of all levels.


Hinchliffe has a celebrated football history. Paterson’s local high schools, Eastside and Kennedy, called the stadium home. Each Thanksgiving Day, Hinchliffe would host “Paterson’s Super Bowl” between the rival teams.

The first scene that comes to my mind when I hear Hinchliffe Stadium
present day, is the Thanksgiving football game hands down,
between the rival [high] schools Eastside and [John F.] Kennedy.
For the athletes, it was about the game.
For the community, it was about the community.
It was a gathering spot to celebrate Thanksgiving,
to be grateful, and to watch some good football
between two rival schools that were playing
on a yearly basis, and we took that game very seriously.
For those of us who played in it,
it was our national championship game, it was our Super Bowl.
It didn’t matter what the record was, going into that game.
You wanted to win that game for bragging rights within
that ten square miles of the city.
I was deeply moved by the fact that
a generation of parents, a generation of students,
a generation of athletes,
a community would not experience what I experienced as a kid.
People needed to know that Hinchliffe Stadium
served as the site for the Negro League World Series.
People needed to know that Larry Doby played there.
Cool Papa Bell played there. Josh Gibson played there.
Or so many other people who were Negro League All-Stars
kinda cycled through Hinchliffe Stadium
They needed to know and understand that.
This stadium gave birth to a lot of coaches
and athletes who are contributing to the city of Paterson today.
That history probably eroded because it wasn’t written.
What we’re trying to do now through restoration of the stadium,
and the exhibition center
that’s going to be adjacent to the stadium,
is tell the story of Hinchliffe Stadium
and what it means to not only Black history, but American history.



Vaughn McKoy starred for Eastside in the mid-1980s before playing at Rutgers University. He became a lawyer and was asked by Paterson’s mayor to become COO of Paterson in 2018. McKoy had three conditions for accepting the job, including the restoration of Hinchliffe. McKoy was vital in helping the project acquire crucial tax credits.

My full name is Dale Van Rensalier,
but everybody who knows me calls me ‘Skip.’
I worked at Eastside High School. I started in 1973
and I worked there for about 20 years.
The band director of East Side High School —
They were called the East Side High School Marching 100 —
William Peter Nelson saw me emcee and asked me
if I wouldn’t mind announcing for the band.
Besides the band, I announced for some of the football games
at Hinchliffe Stadium, also.
I just became the announcer, the voice.
I guess the biggest thrill is the annual Thanksgiving Day game,
because there’d be like 10,000 strong people
for Eastside versus Kennedy.
The week, or two weeks before Thanksgiving,
it was just a big event, man, you know?
So, I’m so glad that they’ve finally, after all this
time, decided to renovate it. It’s going to be an amazing place.
Announcing for the band wasn’t a paid gig,
it was something I just enjoyed doing.
When that stadium started to dilapidate,
all I could think was all those Thanksgivings
that the place was jam-packed.
I hope that they get full usage out of it.
I hope that it does draw a lot of people here.
That they do concerts, and whatever they decide to do.
It’s one of the showcases, if not the the showcase — or can be,
it has the potential to be — for Paterson, New Jersey.
And I think it’s going to make all us Patersonians very proud.
That that’s our stadium.



Dale “Skip” Van Rensalier attended Eastside and later worked at the school for decades. He was known as the voice of the Eastside High marching band, The Marching 100. On Thanksgiving Day he sat in the stadium press box overlooking the at-capacity seating horseshoe, which he estimated was filled with 10,000 fans.

It was the thing to do on Thanksgiving,
to go to the Thanksgiving game at Hinchliffe Stadium.
So that game represented almost the pinnacle
of high school football for me,
because it was something I had watched ever since I was in
the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth grade. And I got to high school,
and I actually got a chance to go out on that field
and be among the opposing team and my team
and see all those people in the stands. It was an exciting time,
it was an experience I looked forward to.
And when I think about it now, I get chills
because it was Thanksgiving, it was the ultimate rivalry.
You knew that if you won, the turkey tastes good,
and if you lost, you didn’t really want to eat turkey.
Now to see that it’s being put back together again
to be that thing where people can come and watch,
play, enjoy themselves in the Patterson landscape.
It’s just a beautiful thing. I’m just happy for that.



As a kid growing up in Paterson, Rosser attended the annual Thanksgiving Day game envisioning the day that he would play on the Hinchliffe stage. Rosser starred for Eastside in the 1960s and went on to become the first Black quarterback in the Ivy League at Cornell. He returned to Eastside as a social worker and coach for girls basketball and football.

Baseball is probably one of the more followed sports
in Paterson itself. I noticed over the past few years,
the recreational leagues and stuff have been growing a lot more
and there’s been a lot of people that have been more attracted to that.
But there, you know, there are some negative parts of the city,
like in every. Having these recreational leagues,
and having these coaches who are willing to put in their time
and effort, you know, to help keep those kids out of that situation
is just a great thing overall for the city.
As I got older I started playing at fields like Larry Doby,
and hearing about stadiums like Hinchliffe.
Within the last few years, has been when I really started to pay attention
to the actual history of it.
I haven’t been able to experience it first-hand yet,
but with the renovations that are being made and stuff
hopefully I will one day, and so will the rest of the kids who
aspire to play a game there, or play baseball in general.
Not enough about the history behind it,
and not enough people know that it’s there.
For the last, maybe, three of four years I didn’t know
Hinchliffe Stadium existed. I mean, it would be brought up
vaguely once or twice but, you know,
there’s nothing that’s blatantly giving us information about
the stadium, or the recognition that it should be getting.
Growing up, it was just a building, you know? it was a broken down building
that looks like the same as any other failed project. And that’s not
what it should be, you know, it should have been memorialized,
and it should have been taken seriously as, you know,
that was something that was special.
A lot of people know Paterson for the wrong reasons.
If people were to know what Hinchliffe brought to the city of Paterson itself,
and the meaning behind it, it would help change the meaning a lot.
The older generations knew about it before all this rebuilding started,
but now that it’s being reconstructed and things like that, I feel
as though the younger generations are going to get as much joy out of it,
if not even more than, you know, all of the older generations have.



Nazier Mule never played a game at Hinchliffe Stadium, but he’s connected to the stadium’s and city’s baseball roots. He played games at local Larry Doby Baseball Field before becoming a fourth-round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs last year. The mayor of Paterson, Andre Sayegh, touted Mule as the future of Paterson baseball at a ceremony inside Hinchliffe on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022. “We just thought [Hinchliffe] would always be an eyesore … a symbol of a city in decline,” Sayegh said then. “But now it’s a symbol of a city that’s getting stronger.”

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In March, Najee Seabrooks a 31-year-old Black man and Paterson native, was shot and killed by Paterson police after experiencing a mental health emergency. Seabrooks was a part of the Paterson Healing Collective, a violence intervention program that worked to end violence in the city and served as community-based first responders.



Zellie Thomas’ experience growing up in Paterson is different from that of the previous generation. Born and raised in Paterson, he was in elementary school when the New Jersey Board of Education took over the Paterson Public Schools system. Thomas and his peers would soon see the elimination of programming that older generations had, such as shop classes or music programs, cut as the state focused on improving student test scores. Hinchliffe Stadium’s upkeep was also a casualty of those cuts, resulting in its ultimate tumble into disrepair. Thomas’ generation doesn’t have the same Hinchliffe memories; the stadium had closed. He learned about the stadium’s history and figures like Doby from his parents.

Thomas, a math teacher in the Paterson Public Schools system and a Black Lives Matter organizer, is part of a group of Patersonians who support Hinchliffe’s rebuilding but believe issues such as police and gun violence should be prioritized and funded before city development. The loss of Seabrooks, whom Thomas knew, has mobilized Thomas and his peers to demand action.

“Najee’s life, no matter how much money we put into Hinchliffe Stadium, Najee’s life will always be much more than Hinchliffe Stadium,” Thomas said.

“It’s not about the stadium, I think I’m happy with the way it looks — it’s phenomenal. Our community is often sold out. It’s sold out for something people claim is for one purpose and it’s for something else.”
Michael Jackson, Paterson Councilman


City council member Michael Jackson represents a portion of the Paterson community that feels wronged by the project’s process and that Hinchliffe’s promise, pitched as a resource for city youth and its residents, will not be fulfilled. They’ve voiced concern about field access and being priced out of stadium rentals for non-high school affiliated teams.

Adofo-Wilson, the project’s lead developer, said there will be opportunities for Paterson nonprofits and community groups to rent the stadium directly through the developers, at a “nominal” fee, in the near future.

Residents have also mentioned a lack of good faith and intentionality in hiring Patersonians during the project’s construction. Adofo-Wilson agrees his team could have done a better job hiring Paterson residents. He estimates 15 to 20% of those working on site were from Paterson – short of the 30% good faith effort initially agreed upon in the project contract. He is confident that number will increase when stadium operations staff is hired.

Questions have also been raised around the project’s high price tag and a lack of financial investment from the project’s developers, who stand to profit from its completion. Adofo-Wilson contends that BAW and its development partners met the 10% equity requirement of the financing agreement with the state of New Jersey by purchasing low income housing tax credits. State records show the developers bought $10.3 million of those credits. Adofo-Wilson said he understands the hesitation about the project as residents have struggled to trust their city leaders for decades.

“I think the skepticism is real because there have been a lot of failures over the last couple of decades in Paterson. I’m a Patersonian. I am doing my best to not be a part of those failures. I want to be a part of the successes.”

Despite the frustrations of the residents, Sayegh remained steadfast in his administration’s efforts to address gun and police violence and improve community relations with Paterson police.

Sayegh said the city has done a “top to bottom” audit of the Paterson police department, and traveled to Omaha, Nebraska, to learn about its police department’s efforts to curb gun violence. Sayegh, the mayor since 2018, also pointed to police-worn body cameras, which he said did not exist before he took office.

“We’ve been working almost the last five years on addressing gun violence and the way we protect and serve,” Sayegh said.

While Sayegh stated that improving the relationship between the police and the public is a “priority,” he added that he believes that shouldn’t “halt the progress” in other areas deemed priorities for the city.

“Hinchliffe Stadium doesn’t just happen overnight,” he said. “This is years in the making and it’s also a win for our city, which we need.”


Barry Rosser, the longtime Eastside coach and social worker, is proud of community members’ response to the killing of Seabrooks.

“I’m glad the people of Paterson are responding — protests, speaking out, attending council meetings, confronting the politicians on what their response is going to be,” he said. “I’m glad to see the young people that knew Najee and knew the work that he was doing and the organization he was with — they’re doing an appropriate response.”

Rosser sees Hinchliffe Stadium as a starting place in redefining Paterson — acting as a space for recreation and entertainment for city youth. His hope is that Hinchliffe’s rebirth represents a commitment to the greater revitalization of Paterson.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “We know athletics don’t solve our problem. … It signals a movement. It signals a move that you got some people, you got some money and you got an idea that you’re trying to make Paterson better.”

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Who gets to use the stadium, and when, has become a point of tension for the community. In September 2022, it was announced that the New Jersey Jackals, a pro team a part of the independent Frontier League, signed a six-year lease to call Hinchliffe home. Some residents believe the presence of the Jackals could interfere with access to the stadium for the Paterson community.

The resurgence of Hinchliffe Stadium excites Eileen Shafer, the superintendent of Paterson Public Schools. In 1997, Shafer, then the physical education supervisor, recommended that Hinchliffe be shuttered after it had fallen into a state of disrepair.

Now renovated, Hinchliffe will serve as the home for Paterson’s athletic programs.

“Our student athletes deserve to play in a state-of-the-art stadium,” she said. “That’s what’s going to happen now. There’s so much tradition and history that comes with it.”

Under the agreement, Paterson schools will have access to the stadium for 180 days of the year, with the rest to be used at the discretion of the stadium’s developers. The Jackals have made a concession for their opening season, opting to play at a different park should they make the playoffs as it would interfere with the beginning of the Paterson athletics calendar.

Adofo-Wilson said the first-year coordination between the two parties has been challenging given the timing of the stadium’s opening, but emphasized that the school district is considered the “No. 1 tenant” of the stadium with its dates being given the priority. The first game to take place at Hinchliffe will be a slate of high school games on May 17.

Shafer, who will retire in June, hopes that the refurbished stadium will impact Paterson students for generations to come. An advisory committee consisting of representatives from both the school board and city will be created to oversee an operating reserve for maintenance of the stadium.



After decades of sitting lifeless and silent and held together by history and memories, Hinchliffe Stadium will once again be filled with the cheers and jubilation that can be felt from the adjacent Great Falls.

Pro baseball will make its return to the Hinchliffe diamond. Thanksgiving Day football games will attract residents from every corner of the city.

The hope is the stadium will start anew as a place where athletic dreams are formed and cultivated by future generations.

The next phase of construction on the property includes the completion of a museum dedicated to Negro Leagues history, a food court, a parking garage and a senior housing complex.

For some, Hinchliffe Stadium marks a renaissance in the city, the beginnings of an attempt to reshape the future of Paterson. For others, the stadium serves as a long-term investment in cosmetic bandages while requests for structural change go unheard by city leaders.

“The restoration of Hinchliffe Stadium, in many ways, is a microcosm of the restoration of Paterson. To me, getting this stadium done is the first step or another step toward the revitalization of the entire city.”