THE NEGRO LEAGUES
NEW YORK BLACK YANKEES
NEW YORK CUBANS
The New York Black Yankees began their campaign in 1932 after an unofficial merging of the Lincoln Giants and the Harlem Stars. In their first season, the ball club played some games at the Dyckman Oval located in the Inwood section of Manhattan. A tumultuous relationship with the ballpark ownership led the club to break their lease. The team was not only losing money, they also did not receive a cut of the concession revenue.
The 1933 New York Black Yankees decided to take their chances as a barnstorming club after their misgivings with Dyckman Oval management. (Barnstorming is a term used to describe teams that travel to various locations without having a true home field. At times, teams with established home parks would barnstorm to warmer weather climates in the offseason)
The year 1933 would also mark the Black Yankees first visit to Paterson. The Black Yankees took on the Gavin Pros, a white professional team playing its games at Hinchliffe Stadium.
The Gavins weren’t the only team to call Hinchliffe Stadium home, a team called the Paterson City Club played some games at Hinchliffe, against high profile ballclubs such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Baltimore Black Sox, Chief Bender’s House of David, a club fielded by baseball Hall of Famer Chief Bender and the Oklahoma Indians, a club led by football Hall of Famer Jim Thorpe, who played baseball, mainly for the New York Giants.
The Paterson City Club folded, only leaving the Gavins to play at Hinchliffe Stadium. What local sports promoters noticed, was that attendance would increase when local professional clubs would play against black teams. With that in mind, the promoters invited the New York Black Yankees to play their home games in the 1933 Colored Championship of the Nation at Hinchliffe Stadium. The five-game series against the Pittsburgh Crawfords took place between Paterson and Pittsburgh over a 15 day span (September 5-20), a rather long time to complete a best-of-five game series.
While the Black Yankees won Game Five at Hinchliffe Stadium, something peculiar occurred, Hinchliffe Stadium promoters scheduled a game with the Philadelphia Stars on September 14, right in the middle of the series. The game against Philadelphia was rained out, but since the Black Yankees won the Championship, Paterson booking agents felt they had a hot hand. It was decided to make up the rained-out game against Philadelphia, a game that never should have been scheduled in the first place.
The unorthodox scheduling now pitted the Stars and the Black Yankees in a one-game winner take all on September 28th. This was not a very good decision as the Philadelphia Stars defeated the New York Black Yankees 14-8 and, therefore, crowned champions. Only in Paterson. Regardless of the outcome for the eight-day champions, 1933 began a love affair between the Silk City and the ballclub. At times, even the local press would refer to the team as Paterson’s Black Yankees.
The Black Yankees would provide many memorable moments at Hinchliffe Stadium:
The Black Yankees started the 1934 season with an eight-game winning streak at Hinchliffe Stadium only to be halted by non-other than Hall of Famer Josh Gibson.
In a game against the Nashville Elite Giants, 200 orphans were invited to see the Black Yankees play at Hinchliffe Stadium.
Ten days after winning the 1934 World Series, Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean and his brother Daffy played against the Black Yankees for the Brooklyn Farmers.
July 13, 1935, Terris “Elmer” McDuffie pitched a no-hitter on the Hinchliffe Stadium mound against the House of David. The Paterson Evening News reported that this was “the first time such a feat had ever been turned in by the Negro club in this territory.” McDuffie played 15 years in the Negro Leagues from 1930-45.
The New York Cubans called Hinchliffe Stadium home in 1935 and 1936.
In their first season, the Cubans made it to the Negro National League Championship Series. The opening game of the series took place at Hinchliffe Stadium with the Cubans winning 9-3 to take Game One over the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Hall of Famer Martin Dihigo (HOF 1977) played third base going 2 for 4 with a triple.
For Pittsburgh, Hall of Famers Josh Gibson (HOF 1972) hit a home run and Oscar Charleston (HOF 1976) went 2 for 4. The series went seven games, with Pittsburgh winning the Championship. Hinchliffe Stadium only served as host for Game One, the other games were split between New York, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Dihigo was a resourceful ballplayer who played all nine positions at various points in his career. He began as a second baseman, but found his true talents on the pitching mound. His versatility earned him enshrinement in five halls of fame around the globe (Cooperstown, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela).
Paterson rooters came out on June 6, 1936, to marvel at his prowess as the Cubans faced their league rivals, the Newark Eagles, with two future Hall-of-Famers in the lineup: third baseman Ray Dandridge (HOF 1987) and shortstop Willie Wells (HOF 1997). The right-handed Dihigo struck out six Newark batters in the course of the game, and then proved he was a threat with the bat as well. Dihigo hit a solo home run en route to a 12-5 victory for the Cubans.
NEWARK EAGLES & OTHER TEAMS
The Newark Eagles occasionally played home games at Hinchliffe Stadium when Ruppert Stadium wasn't available to the team. Also, the Mohawk Giants played home games at Hinchliffe Stadium in 1936, while the Cubans were on extended road trips. Local teams called the Wonder Breads and Smart Sets also regularly played at Hinchliffe in the 1940s.
In May 1933, Honus Wagner was honored at Hinchliffe Stadium
On this date, one of the greatest players in the history of baseball prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Paterson City Club. This marked the first time a Major League Baseball team played at Hinchliffe Stadium. Prior to his major league debut with the Louisville Colonels in 1897, Wagner played for the Paterson Silk Sox in the Atlantic League in 1896 and part of 1897. It was reported that Wagner “was impressed by the beautiful arena” in reference to Hinchliffe Stadium.
Born Lawrence Eugene Doby in Camden, South Carolina, he moved to Paterson, New Jersey at the age of 14 and attended Eastside High School. Doby’s athletic prowess earned him letters in four sports: basketball, football, track and naturally, baseball.
Soon after graduating from Eastside in 1942, Doby was offered a tryout with the Newark Eagles. At the suggestion of a Negro League umpire, Eagles owner Abe Manley agreed to give Doby a look, after all, the Eagles were in town to play the New York Black Yankees at Hinchliffe Stadium.
In typical Doby form, he excelled at the tryout in his home ballpark and played the rest of the summer with the Newark Eagles. At his Hall of Fame induction in 1998, Doby cited the tryout with the Eagles as his most memorable moment at Hinchliffe Stadium.
While there is no record of a “Doby” playing for the Newark Eagles during the 1942 season, there was a “Larry Walker.” Doby played under an assumed name in order to protect his amateur standing as he had the opportunity to attend Long Island University on a basketball scholarship.
His time in Newark was cut short as he served our country in the Navy from 1943 through his honorable discharge in January of 1946. In 1945, Doby was stationed in Ulithi, a major staging area for the Navy on the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It was at Ulithi that Doby heard about the Brooklyn Dodgers signing Jackie Robinson over Armed Forces Radio. Robinson and Doby would eventually integrate modern baseball in 1947.
Upon his discharge, Doby returned to Newark to play for the Eagles, he and teammate Monte Irvin led Newark to a 1946 Negro League World Series Championship. Doby batted .272 with one home run in the series and recorded the last out of the Eagles championship season.
On July 4, 1947, Larry Doby played his final game in an Eagles uniform. Between games of a doubleheader, Doby was informed that the Cleveland Indians purchased his contract. The Indians intended on having Doby’s debut in Cleveland. However, when the transaction was leaked in the press, management felt they had no choice but to have Doby join the club on their road trip in Chicago. When Doby arrived in Chicago, he was not allowed to stay at the team’s hotel.
After an arduous train trip, Larry Doby made his Major League debut on July 5, 1947 becoming the first African American in the American League, as well as the first ballplayer to go directly from the Negro Leagues to Major League Baseball. In his first game, he was asked to pinch hit and struck out. What can one expect from a young 23-year old who took a train half way across the country after playing a game the previous day, being given the cold shoulder and being diverted to Chicago.
Doby, a second baseman by trade, only appeared in 29 games and mustered five hits the rest of the season. With Cleveland having a solidified infield, Doby was encouraged to develop himself into an outfielder. Outside of his tryout at Hinchliffe Stadium, converting to an outfielder might have been the best decision that Doby made in his career. In the offseason, he learned to play the outfield with the help of Hall of Famer Tris Speaker as well as reading the book “How to Play the Outfield” by New York Yankees great Tommy Henrich.
Doby honed his craft and left Spring Training in 1948 as the starting right fielder for the ballclub. By mid-June, he moved to center field, a position he would hold for most of his career.
Doby hit .301 in his first full season in the majors, which culminated with the Indians winning the 1948 World Series. In the Series, Doby would hit .318 and in Game Four of the Fall Classic, he hit a crucial home run that propelled him to become the first African American to hit a home run in World Series history. After the game, Game Four starting pitcher Steve Gromek was photographed with Doby in a full-on embrace. It is widely believed that this is the first image of a
black man and a white man hugging one another.
In total, Doby played 13 years in Major League Baseball and parts of four seasons in the Negro Leagues. A seven-time All-Star, Doby led the American League, twice, in home runs (1952, 1954) and amassed 100 plus RBIs in five different seasons. In 1998, Doby was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. His plaque describes Doby as having a “staunch constitution.” Truer words have never been spoken, all thanks to one fateful day at Hinchliffe Stadium in 1942.