New Jersey Jackals at their new home at Hinchliffe Stadium (Photo courtesy Hinchliffe Stadium)

The news last year that the New Jersey Jackals were moving from their long-standing residence at Yogi Berra Stadium in Montclair State University to Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson caused some disappointment among locals used to having baseball in their backyard. The new home of the Jackals, a historic stadium that opened in May 2023 after a $100 million renovation, is less than 20-minute drive from Montclair.

(Photo courtesy Hinchliffe Stadium)

The stadium, built in 1932, was the home of the New York Black Yankees, a franchise in the Negro National League from 1936-1948. The team played a pivotal role in giving African Americans a chance to play professional baseball when Major League Baseball blocked their participation. When the New York Black Yankees disbanded for financial reasons, the Negro National League folded in 1948 (the Negro American League lasted through the 1950s).

Larry Doby, one of the most famous Negro National League baseball players, and a Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, played at Hinchliffe Stadium when he was with the Newark Eagles. Doby, who was raised in Paterson, was a Montclair resident from 1960 until he died in 2003. In July 1947, three months after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the National League with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Doby broke the color barrier in the American League when he signed with the Cleveland Indians (now the Cleveland Guardians). Doby helped his team win the World Series in 1948 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.

The New Jersey Jackals are honoring the history of Hinchliffe Stadium and Doby.

Scott Freier, aka “The Trumpet Guy.” (HANK GREENBERG)

Scott Freier, a Bloomfield resident and dedicated Jackals season ticket holder, is glad that the Jackals’ are embracing their local heritage, particularly that of Doby. “They’re celebrating him,” Freier said. “They’ve done two great events, one on Juneteenth and one on the anniversary [of Doby’s first Major League Baseball game]. I was here for both of those events. I got a picture with his plaque from the Hall of Fame later. I’d like to celebrate the heroes from the local area, which is important.” 

Freier adds a unique touch at each game he attends by playing a vibrant red and black painted trumpet, igniting the enthusiasm of fans and players alike. He’s even got business cards calling himself “The Trumpet Guy.” 

Tom Mancini and grandchildren enjoyed a day at the stadium. (HANK GREENBERG)

Tom Mancini and his grandchildren at a New Jersey Jackals game.Tom Mancini and three grandchildren traveled from New York to watch the Jackals. It was their first time at a Jackals game in either location. When Mancini asked his grandchildren, “Are you guys having a good time?” The three kids gave an emphatic “Yes!” His grandson pointed out excitedly that his sister retrieved a foul ball. Mancini wished more activities were available for children to do during the game. Notably, the iconic Jackals mascot, Jack the Jackal, was absent from Hinchliffe Stadium.

“At minor league baseball, there should be a lot of different shows going on, mascots, for the children,” Mancini said.

Leaving Yogi Berra Stadium was a blow to some of the Jackals’ most dedicated fans. Barbara Rudy, a Montclair resident who had Jackals season tickets for 25 years, likes Hinchliffe Stadium but says Yogi Berra Stadium offered a more complete experience. Rudy has only taken one trip this year to see the Jackals in Paterson.

“The stadium is very nice, actually. The bathrooms were nice. I’m surprised,” Rudy said. “The seats at Hinchliffe are a little farther away from the field itself. At Yogi Berra Stadium, we were right on top of the action.”

Rudy also wished she was given more notice about the move to Paterson.

“When they moved [to Paterson] after 25 years, I got zero communication about this,” Rudy said. “I was a charter member. I have been going to Jackals games since 1998. My whole family had been season ticket holders. I was there in 1998 at the first game, 25 years ago.”

Stan Willey, a Fair Lawn resident who held Jackals season tickets for 10 years, also stopped going regularly because of the move. For Willey, driving into Paterson is not worth it.

“The commute here, I don’t enjoy my commute on the highway,” Willey said. “I am coming across tough roads that I have to cross. Even though it’s half the distance, it’s much harder.”

Even though Freier loved Yogi Berra Stadium, his loyalty to the Jackals runs deeper.

“I love the Jackals,” Freier said. “My wife and I got married at Yogi Berra Stadium, and Jack the Jackal was in a tuxedo at our wedding. If you’re asking me why I’m still cheering for this team, it’s because this is our team. They may do many things I can’t control. What I can control is that I want to come and see them. They’re not that far away. It’s not that expensive. And I like baseball.”

(Photo courtesy Hinchliffe Stadium)

Details to See the New Jersey Jackals at Hinchliffe Stadium

Location: Hinchliffe Stadium, 1 Jasper Street, Paterson, N.J.
Tickets: General admission to the Jackals is $15. Purchase in person or online. For $25, attendees can sit in the Fun Zone or at the Field Tables. The Field Tables are private tables with four chairs directly behind the first baseline. These tables offer the closest views in the ballpark.
The Hinchliffe Parking Garage is located directly next to the stadium. A parking pass costs $15 and must be purchased online.
Food & Drinks: The concession menu offered hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, beers, fries and water.
Good to know: The stadium offers beautiful views of Paterson and Garret Mountain. Hinchliffe Stadium is a 10-minute walk from the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park.