The Negro Leagues’ Forgotten Cathedral
As a once-great stadium rots among the urban decay of Paterson, New Jersey, one dedicated fan seeks to restore its former glory.
The baseball sails back and forth. Brian LoPinto and I are enjoying a crisp fall morning on an asphalt field in Paterson, New Jersey, 15 miles west of Manhattan. We are in the middle of a ruin—a decaying stadium we entered through an open ticket window. The half-circle of concrete stands is covered in graffiti, and the grounds are piled high with compacted garbage: mattresses, clothes and plastic combined by rain and fire into a barely recognizable mass. Tall trees and bushes thrive, turning open pavilions into dense forests. It is a rotting concrete pile being taken back by nature.
Where I stand was once a pitching rubber. Brian is atte home plate. In my mind, I am Satchel Paige, he is Josh Gibson, and the crowd is on its feet. We are playing for the Colored Championship of the Nation, which was held here eighty years ago, when Hinchliffe Stadium was one of the finest sites in the nation to watch Negro League baseball. My 2-2 pitch catches way too much of the plat…