BREAKING: Baseball is back as MLB Owners and Players Union agree on new CBT

yankees, mlb, rob manfred

BASEBALL IS BACK, Yankee fans! After months of quiet, nothing, rumors, and loads of BS, the players union and league owners have come to a conclusion on the new CBT, meaning Spring Training can being as soon as Friday.

Per Jeff Passan of ESPN:

BREAKING: Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have reached a tentative agreement on a new labor deal, sources tell ESPN. While it still needs to be ratified by both parties, that is expected to be a formality, and when it is:

The next few days for baseball are going to be intense as free agency blows wide open and teams rush to secure new talent with just a month until Opening Day officially starts on April 7.

Pat yourself on the back, you survived the grueling wait without baseball this spring, but we can finally enjoy the 2022 season fully. Expect there to be plenty of double-headers and makeup games after the first two series of the season were canceled. However, the news is about to get far more exciting!

MLB Owners and Players Union make progress toward ending the lockout

manfred, mlb, baseball

Finally, a bit of positivity regarding the Players Union and MLB owners. During a meeting in Manhattan on Monday afternoon, both sides connected for two hours, significantly longer than in previous conferences.

The MLBPA has been demanding more flexibility for players in free agency and trying to get more money in the process, but the owners stood firm, forcing the union to adjust their demands.

According to The Athletic, the MLBPA dropped a significant request to introduce an age-based free-agency system:

The Major League Baseball Players Association dropped its request to introduce an age-based free-agency system into the sport on Monday, withdrawing a proposal in one of the three major areas MLB had shown no interest in changing, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Athletic.

The MLBPA dropping the age-based free agency means that it will remain six years for players to reach an opportunity to test the open market.

There were talks of adjusting how service time was calculated, but the owners believe the sport would become one-sided in favor of teams with more salary space, so providing lesser clubs with opportunities to hold onto their players is ideal.

Of course, this means players won’t be able to cash in on their contributions and skills until after they’ve passed the threshold, which is what the union is fighting for.

In addition, the union also revised a proposal to alter revenue sharing, decreasing the demand of $100 million to $30 million. There are plenty of hurdles left for both sides to clear before they can make significant progress toward solving the CBA, but this was a great step in the right direction.

The two sides will meet once again on Tuesday afternoon to continue proceedings, so things could get done quickly unless they hit another snag, in which weeks could pass before further talks ensue.

New York Yankees: MLB/CBA negotiations to restart soon?

The New York Yankees and the other 29 MLB teams have been sitting idly by, unable to make any transactions to improve their teams as there is an MLB lockout in effect due to the sides not coming to a new agreement. Commissioner Rob Manfred immediately instituted a lockout when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expired on December 1, 2021. Since then, no substantial talks have taken place.

With just about six weeks left before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reports that there are hopes that discussions will begin again to address the economic issues that caused the lack of an agreement. However, if they don’t start soon, it could affect the start of spring training. Drellich reports:

Major League Baseball is preparing new core economic proposals to deliver to the Players Association. When they’re presented, likely this month, core economic talks in the sport will have restarted for the first time since owners initiated a lockout on December 2, marking a positive development.

The two sides are so far apart that the money issues for both sides probably won’t be resolved quickly or easily. Because it is labor vs. owners, the primary issue is money, who gets it, and how much, and when. These problems will be contentious because the players feel the owners have had their way with them in the last several agreements, and they are not going to allow that this time.

The players want more of the revenue coming to them, as the last several seasons, their share and shrunk. In addition, they want to see an end to the occasional practice of service-time manipulation (i.e., when teams hold back a clearly ready prospect to delay his free agency and arbitration eligibility for an entire year) and the “tanking” problem, among other matters. This amounts to wanting more pay earlier in their careers. They will also be seeking incentives to make teams more competitive. They also want to see an end to the luxury tax ceiling to accomplish this.

Hal Steinbrenner and the other owners would like to keep everything just like it is, maintaining the status quo. They believe things as they are, have worked out for them just nicely. So for them, they don’t want to see a change in timelines for arbitration eligibility — currently three years of MLB service time in almost all instances — and free agency — now six years of MLB service time. Although those are the major issues, many other issues, including play rules, could cause the talks to come to another halt. 

None of these issues are new, being discussed several times before. That being the case, even those talks supposedly started again don’t look for early resolutions. Add to that the growing animosity between the two sides, and it is not looking good. Manfred, for his part, should be the man to get an agreement done. He is a lawyer and has a degree in labor relations. Unfortunately, he seems to be owned by the MLB owners. Regardless look for at least some action during January; time is running out on getting the 2022 baseball season.

New York Yankees: Corey Kluber set to make highly anticipated first start on Saturday

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

It’s finally happening. On Saturday, Corey Kluber makes his highly anticipated debut for the New York Yankees.

After a few seasons of up-and-down performances from the starting rotation, the Yankees needed to find a way to bolster their pitching staff over the winter. They decided to take a flyer on Kluber, a former Cy Young Award winner despite making just eight starts since the beginning of the 2019 season.

His velocity isn’t what it once was, now topping off around 90 mph, but scouts believe his stuff is as good as ever. The Yankees needed experience in their young rotation — a veteran to fill the void of the departing Masahiro Tanaka. And that’s exactly what they got, but the question is, will Kluber pan out the way the team hopes?

We’ll get our first taste of Kluber on Saturday afternoon against a talented Blue Jays squad. Toronto knocked off the Yankees in game one of the season on Thursday, and now it’ll be up to Kluber to put New York in the win column for the first time in 2021.

Kluber pitched relatively well in Spring Training, but his stats are taken with a grain of salt. In four starts, Kluber gave up four earned runs across 13 innings. Not bad, but again, it’s Spring Training. Pitchers are often working on different parts of their game in spring starts, so it’s hard to translate what Kluber did in March to what he’ll do when he climbs the Yankee Stadium mound on Saturday afternoon.

With Deivi Garcia waiting in the wings, 2021 will likely be Kluber’s only in pinstripes. His goal for this season is to stay healthy and give the team quality starts. However, a Cy Young Award caliber season could keep the almost 35-year-old around longer. Kluber’s comeback campaign begins Saturday, and Yankee fans are expecting big things from their No. 2 pitcher.

 

Religion of Sports New “Crushed” Podcast on Baseball’s Steroid Era

Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is set for April 1st, and Religion of Sports has baseball fans covered with a brand new podcast. “Crushed” takes a deep dive into the controversial steroid ERA, the infamous 1998 home run chase, and the lasting legacy.

Longtime sportswriter Joan Niesen hosts the seven-part narrative series. She was one of many people who became enamored with baseball as she watched Mark McGwire break records in her home city of St. Louis. Niesen’s experiences and expertise in baseball brings a very unique voice to a compelling topic. Niesen brings to life the high and lows of a period that changed the game forever.

“It’s been fascinating to dig in deeper to the steroid era and its enduring legacy,” Niesen said. “I’ve learned a lot, and I
think this podcast will help listeners separate the truth of that time from the myths.”

“Crushed” features plenty of notable guests and illustrious names from the era. Former MLB All-Stars Rick Honeycutt and Royce Clayton provide the unique perspective of players who live competed during this period. The chairman of the 2005 Congressional steroid hearings and former U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich joins the series. Roger Maris Jr., of course, the son of former single-season home run record holder Roger Maris, are just a few of the tremendous guests for the series.

“Crushed” is free and available to all listeners on April 1st. Fans can stream all episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can listen to a the trailer for the series here!

The Legacy of Hinchliffe Stadium, Part II: Larry Doby’s Legend

ESM’s look into the legacy of Hinchliffe Stadium and one of its most renowned attractions: MLB trailblazer and Hall of Famer Larry Doby.

For Part I, click here

Major League Baseball is a rare league where second place isn’t guaranteed any form of glory. With five teams from each reaching its postseason bracket, for example, at least one runner-up is guaranteed to be denied entry.

But, in the case of Paterson, New Jersey’s own Larry Doby, his second-place entry held true meaning to the game of baseball and eternally changed the sport, particularly its so-called “Junior Circuit”.

Lawrence Eugene Doby shattered a major baseball color barrier on July 5, 1947. Upon his entry into the Cleveland Indians’ mid-summer tilt against the Chicago White Sox, pinch-hitting for reliever Bryan Stephens, Doby became the first African-American player to partake in an American League game, less than three months after Jackie Robinson made his well-documented debut for Brooklyn. Though Doby struck out in his first plate appearance, it wasn’t long before he was making an impact. The very next day, Doby’s first career MLB hit drove in a run in Cleveland’s 5-1 victory in the latter half of a doubleheader. It would become the first of 1,515 MLB hits over a 13-year career.

But that was far from Doby’s first professional baseball hit, though few were aware of it at the time. Prior to his full-time MLB entry, Doby tallied at least 100 hits as a member of the Newark Eagles, a Negro league staple for 13 seasons, whose statistics were recently ratified as “Major League” tallies by the powers that be in December. Alongside fellow New Jersey resident Monte Irvin, Doby played an integral part of Newark’s triumph in the 1946 Negro World Series, where the Eagles upset the legendary Kansas City Monarchs (headlined by Satchel Paige) in a seven-game set.

Yet, to the naked eye, Doby’s legacy appears somewhat forgotten. While Robinson (rightfully) gets literally an entire day dedicated to his heroics, Doby’s name may be a bit taboo to the casual fan of America’s pastime, even with an invitation to Cooperstown extended in 1998. But make no mistake…those with an intricate knowledge of the game and its integration know of Doby’s vital role.

Doby’s days of baseball stardom, a dominance of athletic events in general, began at Hinchliffe Stadium, starring at Paterson Eastside High School on Maple Street’s diamond, gridiron, and track. Hinchliffe later played a role in netting Doby his first professional opportunities as well. The intersection of Liberty and Maple hosted Doby’s first professional tryout in front of the renowned Manley family, Abe, and future Hall of Famer Effa, who signed Doby to partake in their high-flying Eagles’ endeavors.

In celebration of Doby’s legacy, ESM recently had a chance to sit down with Doby’s son, Larry Jr., to gain his perspective on the ongoing events at Hinchliffe Stadium, as well as his father’s legacy. Doby Jr. has developed a strong career of his own traversing baseball fields across the country, though he’s making different kinds of fireworks in the outfield. The younger Doby has been a staple of Billy Joel’s road crew for over two decades. In 2017, Doby partook in Joel’s first visit to Cleveland, where his father’s number (14) adorns the right upper deck at Progressive Field.

Q: What does the legacy of Hinchliffe Stadium mean to you and your family on a personal level? 

LDJ: On a personal level, my father was never one to speak much of his baseball career. As a young boy, I would always, obviously, want to hear about it. I think anybody would be interested in what their father’s job was, so to speak. Obviously, in what my father did, I was a little bit more interested in hearing the stories. He was never one to talk about that much, but he always, always, always, talked about playing football on Thanksgiving at Hinchliffe Stadium against Central High School.

That was the biggest thing in his athletic career, that’s when he made it. The whole town was there. I don’t know what the numbers were for the games, I’m going to guess it was maybe five-to-ten thousand people. But I guess he felt like the whole city was there watching them, and those are some of his most found memories of his athletics. Those are the ones he shared with me. Therefore, to me, it’s obviously something where I’d sit and I could see in eyes how meaningful (Eastside football) was to him.

Learning the history behind the stadium in general was a great experience too, all the different events that it hosted, what it meant to the city of Paterson, the fact that they had (auto) races there, the fact that they did plays, that Abbot and Costello were there. It’s one of the few remaining stadiums that the Negro Leagues actually played in. It’s just very heartwarming that they see fit to restore it and make it better than it ever was and make it something where some high school kids in Paterson can have some of the fond memories that my dad had. That’s a nice thought and I’m hoping it does actually happen. They’ve been talking about it for a while and it seems that now, through the efforts of many, that it’s going to happen. I’m looking forward to seeing it returned and maybe see it restored to a better condition than it ever was.

Q: How important is it to preserve such a piece of African-American history in this era of reckoning?

LDJ: I’m a person who doesn’t believe that they should tear statues down. I feel like it’s history, whether it’s good or bad, and it should be learned and it should be told correctly. As they say, those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. I would’ve liked those (torn-down) statues to have the real history of what those people represented.

As far as Hinchliffe, whenever you can represent a historical site correctly, I think it’s beneficial. The Negro Leagues to me are a great example of American ingenuity. American ingenuity isn’t only white or Black. (The players) said ‘wow, we’d like to play baseball, show our abilities’. The powers that be didn’t allow them to play with them so they started their own leagues. It floruished for many years and some of the greatest players in the history of the game had their start there. Some of the greatest players in the history of the game played their whole career there and were never able to show their wares on a national site. Therefore, I think it is important and I think it does legitimize and bring attention to the efforts of those people that participated in those leagues.

Q: What’s the best way that people can get involved and educate themselves on this restoration so as to further the cause?

LDJ: That’s a great question, but I don’t know and I wish I had an answer. I know that the mayor is behind this 100 percent and that he’s trying to involve a lot of local businesses and companies in this undertaking. I know my friend Brian LoPinto knows the history backward and forward and might be able to help those who want to get involved. [Author’s note: Brian LoPinto, one of the top voices of the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium, has been an essential contributor to this project]

Q: What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about the Doby family story?

LDJ: It’s basically the same story as Jackie Robinson. It’s not going to get the notoriety or attention because (my father) was number two. I just think it’s so ironic. America is a lot of things. It’s a land of opportunity and a lot of other things. But it’s also a land where it’s so big-hearted and where we give people a second chance. Somebody messes up, people I think love to see people overcome obstacles and rise to the top. The funny thing is that we are so ingrained in giving people second chances but we’re not as fond of the second people to do certain things.

My father happened to be second (in baseball’s integration), so his impact is not known as well and understood. I guess it’s just to say that my father was a humble guy. He never really tooted his own horn. If he wasn’t that kind of person, maybe his story would’ve been known more, but, again, he would always face being number two. The thing that he was proudest of, the thing I’m most proud of, is that because of he and Mr. Robinson’s efforts, little boys were allowed to dream of playing in the big leagues. People came after them. That’s what I would be most proud of, that’s what I would say sums up the kind of person he was. All that stuff started at Hinchliffe. It’s a special place.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice your father bestowed to you? 

LDJ: I guess the best piece of advice he ever said to me was to treat people the way they treat you, and the way you want to be treated. Those are some of his words that still ring true to me this day. We all have natural prejudices. But there’s no room in society for racism. That’s when you say ‘I don’t care who this person is because they’re of this race. I don’t like them, I don’t want to deal with them’. I think treating people the way you would like to be treated and treating them as individuals, I think, is his most important advice to me.

Q: How proud are you of the impact your father has left, particularly on the Paterson, NJ area?

LDJ: I’m probably as proud as any son could be of his father. I know that one of the reasons why Paterson holds him in such high esteem was because he never forgot it. Paterson never forgot him, equally. All of his athletics began there, pretty much. He played on integrated teams and had a lot of success. He flourished as an athlete. It was a Negro League umpire (Henry Moore) that had seen him play. That’s the guy that suggested he play in the Negro Leagues. He tried out at Hinchliffe, and the rest, as they say, is history.

He was grateful to his coaches, his teammates, his friends, all the people that supported him in Paterson. I think the legacy is intertwined. He wouldn’t be who he was without this stuff starting in Paterson. In hand, he brings Paterson notoriety because of what he did after he left. It’s a nice love story.

Q: When you look at the state of baseball today, where have you and your family made the largest impact, and what areas need to be improved in terms of being fully welcoming?

LDJ: What he’s done is allow people to come after him. Without Jackie Robinson and my father, there’s no Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson. Those two guys were the first. It was a great experiment, that what it was called. Can a Black guy play with white teammates? It’s crazy when you think about it today, but then it was a great experiment. They knew that if they didn’t succeed, there might’ve been a long, long time before another person of color was given an opportunity to play Major League Baseball.

The proudest thing about my dad was that, because of him, the door was always open. People came after him. Maybe he didn’t enjoy all the fame and notoriety, but the ones that did are pioneers, sometimes, are not. Their work makes it possible. They don’t get to enjoy the fruits of their labor but that’s what I’m most proud of. After Mr. Robinson and my father, the American pastime was truly All-American.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The Legacy of Hinchliffe Stadium, Part I: History on Liberty

In celebration of Black History Month, ESM studies the legacy of Hinchliffe Stadium, a tragically decaying part of our nation’s history in Paterson, NJ.

History lives at the intersection of Liberty and Maple Streets in Paterson, New Jersey. Tragically, those who venture to the area, a stone’s throw away from the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, are often unaware that they’re walking the same steps, breathing the same air as some of baseball’s bravest legends. The Great Falls sit in the shadow of a baseball cathedral and testament to American resiliency and strength, a multi-purpose facility known as Hinchliffe Stadium. 

One could hardly be blamed for not recognizing the significance behind Hinchliffe. The stadium resembles a set piece from a post-apocalyptic series like The Walking Dead, its grandstands populated by uncontrolled vegetation and graffiti. What should be the playing surface is a vacant, cracked, concrete lot. Etchings of Negro league teams from an event held several summers prior are perhaps the only evidence that baseball was once played here.

Those who have documented and witnessed the history Hinchliffe has hosted find its deterioration a downright shame. Through a combination of bureaucratic negligence and mishandling, Hinchliffe was fallen into a state of disrepair. Today, it’s one of only two major Negro Leagues’ ballparks still standing in the country (the other being Rickwood Field in Birmingham). But it’s being treated as anything but the living museum it should be.

“Hinchliffe is one of a few remaining stadiums that played host to Negro League games,” Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City said of the stadium’s importance. “From that standpoint, it actually makes the stadium and the grounds artifacts. I know people don’t always look at it that way…but it’s an artifact. It can be a living, breathing artifact again. That makes it really important.

“The historical significance that it hosted all the great Negro League games and all the Negro League stars who played there really does makes (reclamation) something that we have a vested interest in wanting to see come to fruition.” 

As the country celebrates Black History Month, America is undergoing a period of reckoning and education about the prejudiced, violent, racist parts of its past, which have tragically crept into its present as well. Hinchliffe’s glory days were situated at the height of the turbulence, as the stadium was a haven of sorts in the era of segregation. From its opening, it was defined by the heroes of Nego league baseball lacing up their cleats through “barnstorming” events and more. Local and national names alike patrolled its dirt and grass. Some made their mark in both, namely Larry Doby, a Paterson-raised outfielder that broke the American League’s color barrier in 1947. 

Through this reckoning, some wrongs are being righted. Last December, Major League Baseball announced that Negro league records and statistics would now be counted in their stat ledgers. But, as recent times have demonstrated, the path to justice and equity has barely been traversed. Look no further than Hinchliffe’s dilapidated state, despite its status in history. 

But as the country seeks to make amends, Hinchliffe may yet have its moment in the restoration spotlight. 

The day before MLB’s groundbreaking announcement, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that Paterson would receive $20 million in additional tax credits to go toward renovation projects, headlined by the efforts at Hinchliffe. A volunteer group, Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium, was founded in 2002 and spreads awareness and education, working alongside local historians. Among their progress when it comes to the restoration has been composing grants and petitions, as well as numerous public speaking appearances. To date, their efforts have earned over $500,000 in grant money toward preservation. 

“Our goal, pretty much from the outset, is this idea of creating awareness and being an advocate for the stadium, basically saying, ‘Hey Paterson, you have something pretty special here, you might want to take care of it,” FOHS co-founder Brian LoPinto said. “I think the most important thing is to accept and realize the fact that without the African-American, Negro Leagues components, I don’t think that Hinchliffe Stadium would have the type of national significance that it has. It’s the only national historic landmark that honors baseball. It’s the only sporting venue that’s within the boundaries of a national park.” 

LoPinto formed the group in 2002 alongside Dr. Flavia Alaya and they work alongside local and national contributors like Jimmy Richardson and BallparkBrothers’ Gary Aufforth. 

“Imagine a young African-American baseball player standing in the same batter’s box that Larry Doby once stood in.” 

This is the story of Hinchliffe Stadium and its past, present, and future, told in four parts, as ESM honors those who braved the ultimate evils of history to fulfill the American Dream…

Hinchliffe Stadium’s home plate, as seen in a 2020 art exhibit (Photo: Geoff Magliocchetti)

Play Ball

Named after the Hinchliffe family, which left a political and economic impact in the city, the establishment opened in the midst of the Great Depression. At its forefront, Hinchliffe will always be first remembered for the baseball history it was able to foster despite the most heinous of limitations. A stadium uncannily resembling both the Polo Grounds in Manhattan and Circus Maximus in ancient Rome, diamond warriors fought an enemy like no other: racism. 

In an era where basic rights were denied to Black citizens across the country, the national pastime was part of the attempted hijacking as well. But Black baseball had developed a strong following, particularly on the east coast in the decades before Hinchliffe opened its Art Deco gates. The Garden State had briefly played host to the Philadelphia Pythians in Camden shortly after the Civil War. But due to segregation laws, true facilities and organized leagues were hard to come by. 

Hinchliffe would go on to play host to not just some of the more renowned teams in the Negro Leagues (including the New York Black Yankees) but its barnstorming efforts would give rise to some of the most talented names to lace up cleats and wear leather on the diamond. Among these legends were Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, and James “Cool Papa” Bell. Others were local legends on their way to making an impact on the national stage. Orange-raised Monte Irvin was such a name, as was Larry Doby, who made a permanent mark on the game as the first Black player in American League history. Each has since earned a plaque in Cooperstown. 

“He was one of the legendary players that called Hinchliffe home,” Kendrick said. “Larry Doby, in the annals of history, has kind of been the forgotten man. He shouldn’t be. Larry Doby is as substantial to the story of the integration of our sport as anyone. As a society, we always celebrate the first. Jackie (Robinson) was celebrated, and rightfully so. But we lose sight. It was only a few weeks that Larry Doby joined the Cleveland Indians to integrate the American League.”

“Larry Doby went through just as much, maybe even more, than Jackie, because it was Cleveland, which almost was like being in the South.” 

Doby went on to play 13 MLB seasons, all but three of them in Cleveland. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. 

A mural paying tribute to Larry Doby stands just outside of the stadium, as seen here in 2020 (Photo: Geoff Magliocchetti)

First Rounds, Downs, and Laps

Though best known for its spot in history created by baseball, the stadium made an immediate local impact through gridiron happenings. 

One of its first events was the annual Thanksgiving matchup between Eastside and Central (which later became John F. Kennedy) in 1932, a tradition that carried on through the mid-1990s. Nearby Clifton High School would host games as well. In addition to the local antics, the stadium featured professional endeavors of at least three football teams: the Paterson Giants and Nighthawks, as well as the Silk City Bears. The Paterson Giants suited up weeks before Eastside and Central did, falling to the Portsmouth Spartans…a.k.a. the modern-day Detroit Lions. 

Pigskins weren’t the only things being passed in the confines of Hinchliffe; the stadium also featured professional auto racing events several years before NASCAR started its engines further down south. The noise of motors and the fragrance of gasoline could be detected for miles on race days. 

Hinchliffe’s auto racing endeavors would later be documented on Lost Speedways, a web television series dedicated to asphalt cathedrals lost to time or neglect. The episode is available to stream on Peacock. 

The hits kept on coming for Hinchliffe, quite literally in the form of high-stakes boxing matches. John Regan, a former insurance examiner for the state of New Jersey, frequented the Hinchliffe stands for local events like the circus and holiday fireworks displays. Joining him in the grandstands was comic and Paterson native Lou Costello. Regan would also emerge on Hinchliffe’s formerly green blades on the field as an outfielder. 

“I was born three blocks from the stadium…My father fought there in the Diamond Gloves back in the 1940s. I played baseball there, so did my brother,” Regan said in recalling the impact Hinchliffe has left on his life. “It’s a shame it’s come to where they have to try and rebuild it again. It should’ve never fallen into disrepair.”

Even those away from the bleachers were making history at Hinchcliffe; the 1946 Diamond Gloves competition was the first New Jersey-based sporting event to be televised.

A view of Hinchliffe Stadium’s scoreboard (Photo: Geoff Magliocchetti)

The (Base)Path Ahead

The fight to reclaim Hinchliffe from the elements and ages has only just begun, unfortunately. But through the efforts of locals like LoPinto and others, much-needed change is coming to Paterson. After countless bureaucratic and political errors…none of which, sadly, will appear on Hinchliffe’s dilapidated scoreboard…things finally appear to be trending in the right direction. 

In materials provided to ESM, one of the first steps LoPinto has outlined to get things rolling is the return of the home plate passed over by Doby, Irvin, and their compatriots to its rightful resting spot. In this endeavor, the FOHS is collaborating with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

“The return of the Negro Leagues diamond serves more than just a memory; it respects a crucial moment in African American history and ensures the critically significant baseball heritage isn’t erased,” NTHP representative Brent Leggs wrote in a letter to Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh. “The original placement of home plate will also serve as a tangible lesson and authentic connection in place to many young athletes searching for their own Field of Dreams.”

Stay tuned for Part II next Sunday, February 14, which will feature an exclusive interview with Larry Doby Jr. 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Yankees: Can Mike Ford have a role in 2021?

New York Yankees, Mike Ford

New York Yankees first-baseman Mike Ford had a breakout 2019 season. He hit .259 with 12 home runs and 25 RBIs in his first major-league season, adding a .909 OPS. However, 2020 was a completely different story, finding himself at the alternate site at times. With the Yankees potentially adding multiple infielders this off-season, it leads questions as to whether Ford will have a role on the team in 2021.

Potential Reinforcements

Mike Ford provides a lefty spark off the bench, but may not be an option down the road. He struggles against righties with just a .205 average and his defense lacks.

That being said, the Yankees are looking to add infielders this off-season. The main priority is to retain DJ LeMahieu, but are also in the mix to trade for Francisco Lindor and to sign other free agents, such as Andrelton Simmons or Tommy La Stella.

If the Yankees were to re-sign LeMahieu and acquire one more infielder, it could potentially risk Ford being out of a spot. It could potentially also put current first-baseman Luke Voit out of a spot if LeMahieu were to move over to first-base.

But, since Ford is a lefty, it could help his case for staying if LeMahieu switches to first. There’s almost a greater chance that Ford stays over Voit in many situations, as lefty power is very valuable, especially at Yankee Stadium.

If the Yankees can return Mike Ford back to 2019 form, there’s a very real chance that he keeps a role with the Yankees. Him being a lefty helps his chances of staying in New York.

Four New York Yankees players nominated for the 2020 All-MLB Team

The New York Yankees announced on Thursday that four players have been nominated for the 2020 All-MLB Team. Fans have through November 13th to vote for players on the MLB.com website. Here are the four Yankee nominees:

Gerrit Cole

In his first season in pinstripes, Cole pitched to the tune of a 2.84 ERA with a 7-3 record. He had a 94 strikeouts over 73 innings with a 2.2 WAR and a 0.959 WHIP. Cole averaged 1.7 home runs per nine with 2.1 walks per nine.

Cole teamed up with back-up catcher Kyle Higashioka for the final four starts of the season, and had a 1.00 ERA with Higashioka behind the dish. It’s likely Cole and Higashioka will frequently be teaming up in 2021 and beyond, assuming Higashioka remains the back-up.

DJ LeMahieu

To nobody’s surprise, DJ LeMahieu had another stellar season for the Yankees. He won the batting title with a .364 average, hit 10 home runs and drove in 27. His OPS was a spectacular 1.011 with a 177 OPS+. LeMahieu did all that and totaled a 2.8 WAR despite a stint on the IL.

After two great seasons in The Bronx, LeMahieu is now a free-agent, with the Yankees hoping to retain him for next year and beyond.

Luke Voit

Voit had a breakout season with the Yankees, proving that he deserves to be the first-baseman of the future. Batting .277, Voit lead baseball with 22 home runs and was fourth in RBI with 52. He added a .948 OPS with a 156 OPS+.

Voit battled a foot injury all season, but managed to be one of the few Yankees to stay off the IL all season. Now that the season is over, he can rest and get his foot ready for the spring.

Gio Urshela

Urshela followed-up his 2019 breakout season with a solid 2020 season. In 151 at-bats, Urshela bat .298 while hitting six home runs and driving in 30. He had an .858 OPS with a 136 OPS+ and a 1.9 WAR.

Additionally, Urshela’s 0.7 dWAR is good enough to be an AL Gold Glove award candidate at third-base. He will be looking to win his first Gold Glove despite his stellar defense all throughout his career.

Could the New York Yankees reunite with Austin Romine in 2021?

After the 2019 season, the New York Yankees let backup catcher Austin Romine walk in free agency, and he signed a 1 year, $4.1 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. Since the deal was just one year long, it means he’s a free agent once again. Could the Yankees reunite with him in 2021?

It’s no question that the Yankees have struggled to get output from the catcher position over the past few seasons. Ever since Aaron Boone became manager, things went downhill for Gary Sanchez. 2019 was mediocre for him with a .238 average and a .841 OPS, but bat under .200 with a sub-.700 OPS in both 2018 and 2020.

Could a Romine reunion in The Bronx could help with that problem? With Gary Sanchez struggling and question marks surrounding current back-up Kyle Higashioka, Romine might not be a bad signing.

Romine’s 2019 season with the Yankees was solid. With Gary Sanchez making multiple trips to the IL, Romine’s role expanded. He hit .281 in 228 at-bats, hitting eight home runs and driving in 35 runs. He had a .748 OPS with a 96 OPS+. For a backup catcher, those numbers are very respectable.

With the Tigers in 2020, Romine didn’t see as much success as the year prior, but played well enough for his role. He was technically the starter, however he didn’t play as much as many starting catchers do. In the 60 game season, Romine bat .238 in 130 at-bats, hitting two home runs and driving in 17. He played just 37 games.

The Yankees have seemingly developed a catching problem over the past three years. Could bringing Austin Romine back in pinstripes help with that problem?