Why We Need an HBCU Classic at Hinchliffe Stadium

Baseball will return to one of the only Negro League ballparks still standing. HBCUs need to take advantage of this too.

A rendering of the renovation plans for historic Hinchliffe Stadium
Source: Clarke Caton Hintz / Courtesy Erik Stover

As the Summer turns to Fall and the leaves begin to change, the focus in the baseball world shifts from the dog days of Summer to the scintillating pennant chases. However, elsewhere in the baseball world, monumental news occurred.

The New Jersey Jackals of the independent Frontier League announced they would move their home games to the soon-to-be revitalized Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey. Hinchliffe Stadium is one of three former Negro League ballparks still standing with the other two being Birmingham’s Rickwood Field and Jacksonville’s J.P. Small Stadium. Hinchliffe was the home of the New York Black Yankees and saw baseball greats such as Josh Gibson, Larry Doby, and Oscar Charleston take the field.

Hinchliffe Stadium returned to the limelight as former MLB All-Star Harold Reynolds advocated for a “Field of Dreams” type game at the former home of the New York Black Yankees. Yet, why let MLB teams be the only ones to take in the historic landmark?

Hinchliffe Stadium also has a proud football history as it was home to the Paterson Panthers of the American Pro Football Association and the American Football League from 1936-1942 and 1946-1950. The stadium also hosted games featuring the Portsmouth Spartans (now the Detroit Lions), the New York Giants, and the Brooklyn Dodgers of the NFL along with numerous local high school games.

Continuing Hinchliffe Stadium’s rich history as a football venue makes just as much of a difference as bringing back baseball to the venue and what better way to do this than to bring an HBCU Classic to the area? Let’s call it the “Black Yankees Classic.”

There are a few ideal teams to play in a game at Paterson’s Negro League Stadium. The MEAC’s three mid-Atlantic schools, Howard, Morgan State, and Delaware State are all about a couple of hours away from Paterson. Howard just drew over 35,000 in last weekend’s HBCUNY Classic against Morehouse at MetLife Stadium. Having an all-MEAC affair would be huge for a conference lacking the flagship classics the SWAC has.

Philadelphia’s Lincoln University is also an ideal school for the game. Lincoln’s recruiting could use the boost of playing regularly in a culturally important game as they continue to struggle in the CIAA. Lincoln also makes a lot of sense considering Philadelphia was home to the Philadelphia Stars, a longtime member of the Negro National League.

With that in mind, another route the “Black Yankees Classic” can take is featuring HBCUs from former Negro League cities as a homage to Hinchliffe Stadium’s history. Notable HBCUs that would fit this criterion include Tennessee State (Nashville Elite Giants), Edward Waters (Jacksonville Red Caps), Morehouse and Clark Atlanta (Atlanta Black Crackers), and Texas Southern (Houston Eagles). This would be a fitting crossover of both football and baseball.

HBCU classics come and go. However, a game at Hinchliffe has the cultural and historical significance to last and keep the legacy of not only HBCU football but Negro League history alive.