Mayor Sayegh and the Paterson Rebirth of Hinchliffe Stadium

PATERSON – The Greeks had the ancient gods and in America we have baseball, so perhaps it’s no accident that the mighty Hinchliffe Stadium with its stark white lines against a rocky mountaintop hearkening to mythological realms bears a resemblance to the Acropolis.

“It was actually modeled on the Circus Maximus of Rome,” said Mayor Andre Sayegh, sporting a Larry Doby jersey and shouldering a shovel fashioned out of a baseball bat as he walked onto the sunny green field amid the smell of fresh white paint slapped on stucco and with the crash of the Great Falls on rocks in the middle of his city, a constant reminder of the deeper intimations of a natural order.

First elected mayor in 2018 and reelected in 2022, Sayegh – himself a long-suffering New York Mets fan – long saw Hinchliffe, which sits on an outcropping above the 77-foot falls and a statue of Paterson’s founder Alexander Hamilton – as a cornerstone of his city’s rebirth. Next month, on May 19th, Sayegh will formally unveil the $100 million renovation project at a ribbon cutting ceremony. On May 7th, “Johnny Briggs Day” will feature a classic clash between Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) and Eastside High School. Briggs was a 12-year Major Leaguer for the Phillies, Brewers and Twins.

Andre Sayegh surveys Hinchliffe. 

 

Built in the Great Depression, opened in 1932 and condemned in 1997, Hinchliffe served as the home of two Negro League Baseball Teams before the integration of Major League Baseball, and holds the memories of 20 Hall of Fame Baseball Players, including the great Larry Doby of

Eastside High School, the first African-American ballplayer in the American League, just 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson joined the National League.

“Legends played here,” said Sayegh, proud of Paterson’s history as the home of heroes at a time when other stadiums closed their doors. “This is the real Field of Dreams. Iowa is just a movie set compared to this. Hinchliffe is a victory for history.”

The majestic temple also served as host for the Duke Ellington Orchestra and Sly and the Family Stone, and for the city’s annual Turkey Bowl game on Thanksgiving between Kennedy and Eastside high schools. Sayegh wants to tie Hinchliffe to the river walk above the Great Falls in his quest to turn his home city into a destination. “Just yesterday planning board approved 39 McBride Avenue [right across the street from the stadium] as a food hall with a rooftop restaurant and a view of the Great Falls.”

When he found out that the next World Cup will take place in New York and New Jersey, he sent a text to Governor Phil Murphy recommending Hinchliffe as a practice field. He’s also pursued talks with the New York Jets.

What other dreams materialize he doesn’t know.

But he and another local guy, Al Dorso (see a video of him tell the story of the stadium’s rebirth below), at the very wanted a home for the New Jersey Jackals, Dorso’s Passaic-based professional ball club, and now they have one.

And on 180 days out of the year, so do the youth of Paterson, who will play here, baseball and football, as in years past, when the school district had the field and produced stars like running back and future Passaic County Democratic Committee Chairman John “Hurry” Currie.

That was the 1960s.

But “for over two decades, the children in School Five looked out their windows and saw a symbol of decay and decline – homeless individuals seeking shelter in the locker rooms,” said Sayegh. “Now they can look outside and see a symbol of greatness. We’re trying to create a city of synergy. Our students represent the future, the falls represent the past and the stadium stands for our potential and the role Paterson has played in shaping America.”

In addition to the revitalized stadium, Hinchliffe will feature a Kansas City, Missouri-affiliated museum housing the history of African American baseball, the struggle for social justice, and the story of Larry Doby.

“Our MVP,” said Sayegh. “Most Valuable Patersonian.”

Other components include 75 units of senior citizen affordable housing, and a parking garage, as Paterson continues its own internal struggles. Just last month, following the fatal police shooting of 31-year-old Najee Seabrooks, the state Attorney General’s Office took over the embattled police department.

Sauegh said he’s hopeful.

“As long as there’s a partnership it’s going to be good,” said the mayor. “The trust between police

Garrett Mountain in the distance.

and public is a national challenge. Remember, when I started as mayor, not a single police officer was wearing a body camera. Now every officer wears a body camera. There is an increase in deescalation training, and community advisory board.”

Working on renovations as Sayegh spoke, Dorso said he hopes his home city treats the historic gem with the respect the stadium deserves.

Whatever happens, two local forces feel reunited – and in an appropriate mystical embrace in the presence of a timekeeper called Paterson, for in the background of this most American temple, the sound of water on rocks never ceases. Thomas Wolfe wrote a book called Of time and the River and it could very well be a title used to designate the zen-like symbiosis of Hinchliffe Stadium and the Great Falls, because neither the game of baseball nor the river pays attention to time.

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8 responses to “Mayor Sayegh and the Paterson Rebirth of Hinchliffe Stadium”

  1. Great article! I love the comment about baseball and the falls… this place DEF has a palpable feeling of awe and history… so great! History lovers unite!

  2. This news is fantastic for both Paterson and Mayor Sayegh, who has been performing admirably as the city’s leader thus far. The project is set to infuse the city with an even more positive atmosphere and promote further development. Awesome! Can’t wait to go visit!

  3. I remember being so excited for the Thanksgiving Game between Eastside and Kennedy as a child. Beyond that, the history of this field deserves to be upheld and celebrated. Great job in bringing back Hinchcliffe Stadium to the city of Paterson!

  4. I attended school 5 in the sixties, good memories of the turkey bowl and field day in the stadium. Great to see the rebirtg!

  5. Yes! This is wonderful! Mayor Sayegh,has failed Paterson! When I ride through all the areas named after our great Americans, Rosa parks Blvd, Martin Luther King etc and truly see transformation in all these areas. Then we can truly feel all of Paterson’s residents are equal! Paterson is no where near it’s TRUE greatness unless the folks who fought and died for this country are included! We are Americans with a different hue to our skin, that’s it,we are Americans!

  6. Yes! This is wonderful! Mayor Sayegh,has failed Paterson! When I ride through all the areas named after our great Americans, Rosa parks Blvd, Martin Luther King etc and truly see transformation in all these areas. Then we can truly feel all of Paterson’s residents are equal! Paterson is no where near it’s TRUE greatness unless the folks who fought and died for this country are included! We are Americans with a different hue to our skin, that’s it,we are Americans!

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