New Jersey native, ex-Jet WR Chris Hogan to enter retirement

New York Jets, Chris Hogan

The Wycoff native recently spent five games in New Orleans after working with the New York Jets last year.

New Jersey native and NFL wide receiver Chris Hogan is set to re-retire from football after 10 NFL seasons, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. Hogan’s departure coincides with his 34th birthday. He was a member of the New Orleans Saints at the time of his retirement and played five games with the New York Jets last season.

New Jersey football defined the early stages of his NFL career: born and raised in Wycoff, Hogan excelled in both football and lacrosse. He went on to play the latter at Penn State but used a leftover year of eligibility to play football at Monmouth University. Hogan became a man of many talents in Long Branch, serving as a quarterback, receiver, cornerback, and special teams contributor during the 2010 season.

Hogan entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent for San Francisco in 2011. He would spend 11 days on the local New York Giants’ practice squad later that year. The receiver would make his NFL debut as a member of the Buffalo Bills during the late stages of the following year and spent the next three in Orchard Park, tallying 959 yards and six touchdowns.

It’s likely that Hogan will be best remembered for his three-year stint (2016-18) with the New England Patriots, where he contributed to two Super Bowl causes. He earned 1,651 and 12 touchdowns over 40 regular season games. An average reception of 17.9 yards tied with DeSean Jackson to lead all qualified NFL receivers in 2016. Hogan came up big during the ensuing playoff run, earning 275 yards in AFC playoff wins over Houston and Pittsburgh. His 180 yards earned the conference title game set a Patriots franchise record.

Injuries ate up at the latter stages of Hogan’s career: a knee injury limited him to seven games with the Carolina Panthers in 2019 while his stay with the Jets was cut short due to an ankle sprain. Hogan earned 118 yards on 14 receptions over five games in green before he was released in December.

Hogan originally left football in February, embarking on a professional lacrosse career through the Premier Lacrosse League. He returned to the NFL in July through a one-year deal with the Saints, with whom he’d earn 41 yards on four receptions, including a 10-year touchdown grab in New Orleans’ opening weekend win over Green Bay.

Other Ramapo High School alumni to play in the NFL include linebacker Blake Costanzo and quarterback Chris Simms.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

ESM EXCLUSIVE: Justin Tuck comments on the 2021 New York Giants

The Big Blue legend spoke to ESM about the modern New York Giants’ endeavors as a showdown looms in Arlington.

As he proved over 11 NFL seasons…all but the final couple spent with the New York Giants…Justin Tuck is a man of many talents. For his next trick, Tuck hinted that he’d like to prove he’s capable of a skill many Twitter users have bestowed upon him.

Similar surnames have led some football-minded users to believe that Tuck is not only still an active NFL participant but is also making gridiron history: some have credited Justin Tucker’s league-record 66-yard field goal earned during Week 3 action to Tuck, apparently missing the final two letters attached to the Baltimore kicker.

Tuck believes he’s capable of such a triple…but he’s going to need some help.

“60-mile an hour wind behind me? Absolutely, I’d kick it,” Tuck told ESM with a smile.

Tuck returned to New Jersey this week for a charity golf tournament hosted by former New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia’s PitCCh In Foundation. The two-time Super Bowl champion was one of many New York legends, including former blue teammate Victor Cruz, ready to take a few swings at Alpine Country Club in Demarest, but the happenings of the current bearers of blue weren’t far from Tuck’s mind.

By the time Tuck hit the links, the Giants (1-3) were hours removed from their first win of the season, a 27-21 overtime triumph over the New Orleans Saints. Though New York has struggled in the early stages of the season, a prime opportunity to reinsert themselves into the NFL playoff conversation awaits in the later portions of this Sunday afternoon’s action in the form of a divisional showdown with the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox).

New york Giants, Justin Tuck, Michael Strahan
 Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

While the idea of the Giants’ win in New Orleans launching a playoff push is far-fetched to some, Tuck knows how one game can change the course of an NFL season: the 2007-08 Giants began the year with losses in their first two contests before erasing a two-possession deficit en route to victory in Washington. The Giants would wind up with 10 wins before shocking the world with their magical run to Super Bowl XLII, which yielded the first of two Super Bowl rings for Tuck.

Tuck felt it was hard to compare the modern Giants’ endeavor in the Big Easy to that fateful afternoon in Landover 14 years prior. He did, however, notice the missing ingredient on display against the Saints that allowed a struggling franchise to finally take a step forward.

“There is some measure of change that happened this week that wasn’t necessarily (there in) what happened weeks before that,” Tuck said. “The coaches and the players know what that is: that might be how they practice, that might be how they watch film, that might be just the thought process that they were going into this game with or kept throughout the game. In other games, they might have been like oh, we’re down again.”

“That mental capacity just decreased throughout the game. When they kept a level head and just said, listen, let’s just finish this in the fourth quarter you typically play well right?” Tuck continued. “I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but you know that team knows it, that coaching staff knows it, and hopefully we can find a way to recreate that weekend (in New Orleans) week in and week out.”

To Tuck’s point, the Giants trailed by as much as 11 last weekend against the Saints before ending the game with 17 unanswered points. It was the Giants’ first win after trailing by multiple possessions since September 2019.

Though Tuck won’t claim to know or understand the current mindset of the Giants’ players and coaches, he appears to have faith in what head coach Joe Judge is building. Tuck revealed that he has been in contact with Judge, who has called upon Big Blue alumni to assist in the current build.

“He wants us in the building, he wants us to be involved. He wants us to kind of continue to showcase what we did and the things that our players did, to have a successful team,” Tuck said of his relationship with Judge. “I think that’s smart on his behalf because we have a lot of knowledge. You think about the guys who’ve come before this team and the success that we had and the failures that we learn from. I think it’s important for us to kind of showcase that.”

“What you need to know about Joe Judge is that he’s a worker…He’s not going to get too high on the highs or too low on the lows. He’s going to go do his job every day and just become like that blue-collar coach that has normally had success with the Giants.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Historic Hinchliffe Stadium breaks ground on new renovations

Downtrodden for years, renovations have officially begun on Hinchliffe Stadium, a Negro Leagues artifact in Paterson, NJ.

After years of false starts and broken promises, a New Jersey landmark to American perseverance and strength will finally see its story told and legacy preserved.

Baseball legends and community officials descended upon Hinchliffe Stadium on Wednesday to officially break ground on renovations for the Paterson staple. The landmark on Liberty and Maple Streets in Paterson played host to local events like high school football and baseball but is perhaps best known for hosting Negro League baseball games. Hinchliffe is one of two former Negro League stadiums still standing, the other being Rickwood Field in Birmingham.

Ceremonies were hosted by Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh with numerous local baseball celebrities in attendance. Larry Doby Jr., the son of the late Baseball Hall of Famer, was among the speakers, as was MLB All-Star Harold Reynolds. Renowned names from MLB’s New York Mets and Yankees sat in the audience, including Omar Minaya, Willie Randolph, and CC Sabathia.

“There have been so many different false starts, but even coming off a pandemic, being able to get this project off the ground, seeing everybody out here, it’s real now. I’m so happy for the city of Paterson” Sabathia, a former Yankees pitcher (2009-19), told ESM. “The legacy of the Negro Leagues and Larry Doby lives on.”

A hopeful theme amongst the speakers and attendees was hope that the stadium could be used by the youth of the future. One of the most popular events held at Hinchliffe was the annual “Turkey Bowl” gridiron showdown on Thanksgiving Day between Eastside and Kennedy High Schools.

Larry Doby Jr. speaks during Wednesday’s ceremony

“Being involved in refurbishing a facility where kids can come out and play baseball and be proud of their neighborhood, that just hit him for me,” Randolph, a former Yankees second baseman (1976-88) and Mets manager (2005-08), told ESM. “History is so important, and a lot of kids don’t know the history. There can be exhibits and things of that nature to teach the kids. The coaches will be informed on how to converse with the kids on what it is. When these kids understand what it is, that’s when they’ll get involved in it.”

Hinchliffe Stadium originally opened in 1932 and became well-regarded for hosting Negro League baseball games during the Jim Crow era. Though it built a legacy as a hallowed baseball ground, particularly for disenfranchised athletes, the stadium has sat in a state of drastic disrepair and neglect under the ownership of the Paterson Public Schools. The stadium has sat in relative squalor since 1997, with many prior renovations falling by the wayside through unfulfilled promises.

An additional $20 million in tax credits approved by the state government led to shovels in the dirt on Wednesday. The event was also allowed to commence through awareness and grant writing efforts created by groups like the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium. 

Its most renowned contribution to the history of the national pastime was perhaps hosting the professional tryout of Baseball Hall of Famer and Paterson resident Larry Doby, who later broke the American League’s color barrier with the Cleveland Indians in 1947. The date was of the ceremony was chosen to coincide with 14, the number Doby wore during a majority of his 13-year MLB career, which also ran through Chicago and Detroit. It has since been retired by the Indians. Doby was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, five years before his passing.

The plans for the stadium also call for the construction of a new visitor’s center as well as a parking facility and housing.

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

Other illustrious names whose cleats touched Hinchliffe’s field include Doby’s fellow Hall of Famers Monte Irvin, Josh Gibson, and “Cool Papa” Bell. In December, MLB announced that Negro League statistics would now be considered major league numbers moving forward.

Between the statistical development and real, verifiable promises and commitments being bestowed to the Paterson landmark, the baseball stars in attendance hope the stories of the Negro League’s heroes can finally gain a wider scale.

“We know the Jackie Robinson story and obviously, it’s a huge impactful story, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. But more stories need to be told,” Sabathia said to ESM. “The New York Black Yankees, the New York Cubans, the Newark Eagles. Let’s tell all those stories and take about some of the greats that maybe didn’t make it (to MLB). I think there are so many different avenues to express what the Negro Leagues was. This is a great start.”

For more on Hinchliffe Stadium, check out Geoff Magliocchetti’s Four Part Series on the facility below…

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The Legacy of Hinchliffe Stadium Part IV: What Lies Ahead

ESM’s four-part series on Hinchliffe Stadium concludes with a look ahead to the future, as advocates remain hopeful for brighter days ahead.

It is, perhaps, all too appropriate that the fight to save Hinchliffe Stadium is fueled by resilience and perseverance. Those who made their names on the stadium’s naturally surfaced baseball diamond displayed the bravest and most vital forms of the traits during their Negro League endeavors, forever changing the course of professional baseball in Paterson, NJ, and beyond.

However, the stadium sits vacant, an eyesore in an otherwise picturesque setting of the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. Aging since its abandonment through bureaucratic follies in the 1990s, Hinchliffe Stadium supporters, on both the local and national levels, press on to preserve a facility that carries the spirits of heroes in both athletic and social realms.

“It becomes a teaching moment for us,” Bob Kendrick, the President of Kansas City’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, said of the importance of restoring Hinchliffe. “The more that we can establish these kinds of moments where we help educate people and, hopefully in the process, sensitize them to the importance of culture and heritage, to the diversity, the inclusion, the equity, that’s so important. The fact is that those elements are embedded inside the story of Black baseball in this country and Hinchliffe was a focal point of the story of Black baseball. It’s all about connecting the dots.”

The efforts of these supporters on the intersection of Liberty and Maple Streets may finally be paying off.

After decades of waiting and administrative gaffes, progress is finally being made. Earlier this month, the restoration effort was granted over $67 million in state tax credits, awarded through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. These funds are set to be used on a multi-faceted rebuild that includes housing for senior citizens and a multi-storied parking garage. If all goes according to plan, ground could break next month to coincide with Opening Day for the 2021 MLB season, with a potential opening of August 2022.

Brian LoPinto, a co-founder of the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium, is pleased to see the progress after several false starts. He’s hoping this is just the beginning of the change, suggesting other changes like renaming the facility to something along the lines of “Larry Doby Field at Hinchliffe Stadium” in honor of the local legend that broke the American League color barrier in 1947.

Having played a strong role in the restoration process through awareness-raising and grant-writing, LoPinto has seen false hope before, but remains hopeful for this new cause, one that he believes was afforded to Paterson through both timing and its significant role in national African-American history.

“The difference this time is the tax credits. This just happens to be Paterson’s turn for tax credits. If these tax credits were available, say, ten years ago, then perhaps those tax credits would’ve been used for Hinchliffe’s rehabilitation,” LoPinto explained. “It’s also the African-American history that allows for some of the tax credits as well. I believe that, without the Negro Leagues, tax credits wouldn’t necessarily be available for a project of this magnitude.”

“Without the African-American history, I don’t think these tax credits exist for Hinchliffe Stadium.”

Heading the restoration project is Baye Adolfo-Wilson. The former Deputy Mayor and Director of Economic and Housing Development of Newark who grew up in Paterson and graduated from Kennedy High School as a track star, whose Knights starred in local endeavors on both the natural surface and Astroturf that has long vanished. His new plans for the stadium also include a restaurant and event space that pays tribute to the Negro Leagues’ expansive history and he also hinted that professional soccer could find a home in the new setting.

A vocal advocate of social causes, Adolfo-Wilson was drawn to the project through its transformative potential. With no jobs available in Paterson in the 1980s, Adolfo-Wilson turned to military service. He believes his involvement in the Hinchliffe transformation could revitalize what’s been characterized as a downtrodden city. John Regan, another former local athlete turned retired insurance examiner for the state, played baseball within the fences. He believes that “bad management” was the biggest factor in its current state of disrepair.

Adolfo-Wilson believes that his efforts will not only spearhead change in Paterson, but also raise awareness to the African-American community’s unjust struggle and subsequent perseverance in this country.

“I had gone into the Army not because I was super patriotic, but because I needed a job, I needed money for college,” Adolfo-Wilson said. “There were so many Black and brown men and women like me who had gone into the military because, at home, there were no opportunities for them. So I was committed to doing something in Paterson.”

“There’s a lot that’s changed, there’s a lot that still needs to change. I think the historical aspect of doing a restoration of a Negro League baseball stadium is significant to tell the history. People don’t know that there were Negro Leagues and that there was a team called the New York Black Yankees, the New York Cubans. The color line that Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby conquered is a significant point in the modern civil rights movement. I think it’s important that people know that this history of discrimination and segregation, and the consistent work that’s been done by Black folks to overcome it isn’t something that’s just started. It’s been going on for centuries.”

With any luck, through the efforts of LoPinto, Adolfo-Wilson, and many, many, more, Hinchliffe now has the resources and support to stand for the next century and more.

To the naked eye, it’s hard to believe that such a dilapidated facility has gained such a following, how a long-abandoned facility is worth saving. But a deeper look into this process shows a truth that’s prevalent in most walks of American life that is hidden beneath some ugly layers: it’s rarely any political figure that makes America great, especially in these social causes and calls for change …it’s We the People.

One of the brightest shrines to this concept may yet have its chance at enlightenment in the near future.

Special thanks to Baye Adolfo-Wilson, Larry Doby Jr., Bob Kendrick, Brian LoPinto, John Regan, and Jimmy Richardson, all of whom played major roles in the history and documentation of his process.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The Legacy of Hinchliffe Stadium Part III: Fall of a Champion

Hinchliffe Stadium has played host to some of the most renowned names in baseball history. How did it revert to this state of neglect?

At its core, Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, NJ should be a shrine to American resilience and ingenuity.

It was the site where the professional career of Hall of Famer Larry Doby began through a tryout in front of the Manley family, the owners of the Newark Eagles. Doby would become one of many legends whose cleats would touch what is now a concrete lot. Barnstorming and Negro League endeavors gave way to Monte Irvin (a longtime friend of Doby’s and another Newark Eagles discovery at Hinchliffe), Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell, and many others as they worked their way through games that recently gained recognition from Major League Baseball.

“I think the story of the Negro Leagues embodies the story of the American spirit unlike any story in the annals of our country’s history,” Bob Kendrick, President of Kansas City’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, said about why preserving the Hinchliffe Stadium is so important. “It contains everything that we pride ourselves about being American. It is about pride and it’s about passion, it’s about perseverance, determination, courage, the refusal to accept the notion that you’re unfit to do anything…that is the American way.”

“The Negro Leagues, to me, were about as American as you can be, because it was one of the most living examples of American ingenuity,” said Larry Doby Jr., the son of the first African American to hit a home run in World Series history at a recent event hosted by the Union Public Library. “Necessity is the mother of invention…(the Wright) brothers that were in Ohio and looked at that bird and thought ‘we want to fly like that’…it’s kind of the same with Rube Foster and all those other guys that started the Negro Leagues. They knew that guys were good enough to play, but they knew they didn’t have a venue. American ingenuity being for everybody, they decided to start their own league.”

The stadium is being treated as anything but the shrine Kendrick, Doby Jr., and many others feel it should be. It is instead laden with graffiti and uncontrolled greenery that seeps through the concrete. Potholes litter the sidewalks leading to the dilapidated entry gates. There have been some slight refurbishments in the form of a bright, colorful mural in Doby’s honor, but the area remains an eyesore, especially compared to the neighboring Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park.

How did it come to this? According to those in charge, bureaucratic turmoil and promises lost led to the unfortunate deterioration.

The Paterson Public Schools has had control of the facility since 1963 and countless failings of the stadium have followed. The city’s high school athletic programs continued to be staged at the stadium through the mid-1990s, almost a decade after the New Jersey Eagles of the short-lived American Soccer League staged two seasons in Paterson. By then a supposed lack of funds and even outright indifference led to the stadium’s deterioration. The baseball field was controversially realigned in 1963 (creating a right field fence that is approximately 200 feet from home plate), Astroturf was installed over asphalt (leading to injuries), and extensions added to the stadium led to the formation of a sinkhole that caused structural damage.

In 1997, shortly after the Paterson Public Schools deemed the stadium unfit for events, Hinchliffe had a chance to either be demolished for $4 million or restored for an additional $800,000. The lack of action from the superintendent, Laval Wilson, has placed the stadium on its slovenly path.

Efforts to preserve the stadium, spurred on by the inactivity and threats of demolition, had been further hindered on the national level. After the National Register of Historic Places offered its seal in the mid-2000s, the Paterson Public Schools applied for a grant through “Save America’s Treasures,” a program set up by the U.S. National Park Service.

However, through a clerical error by the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office, the “Save America’s Treasures,” funding was denied on the grounds that Hinchliffe held only “local” value and significance…despite Hinchliffe’s role in changing the course of baseball history by introducing names like Doby and Irvin to wider audiences.

Paterson native Brian LoPinto has been at the forefront of the ongoing restoration efforts. As co-founder of the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium (FOHS), LoPinto says that such endeavors are not centered on fundraising, contrary to popular belief. Rather, FOHS focused on grant writing and spreading awareness.

LoPinto’s journey is perhaps comparable to the song “The Pretender” by the Foo Fighters, namely the lyrics “I’m the voice inside your head you refuse to hear, I’m the face that you have to face mirroring your stare, I’m what’s left; I’m what’s right, I’m the enemy.” It’s one of his particular favorites off the 2007 album Echos, Silence, Patience, & Grace.

“I think the biggest obstacle (in restoration), quite frankly, would be the Paterson Public Schools,” LoPinto said. “They have owned the stadium since 1963. From that point to the present day, they’ve made bad decisions.”

“At the end of the day, they just neglected it and neglected it,” he continued. “The old saying dictates that, if you take care of the little things, the bigger things take care of themselves. Not only did they not just take care of it, but they also didn’t want to let it go. It just didn’t make sense. They still own it today, but really the city should own it.”

Progress has been made in recent months through an allotment in tax credits to the city with a good portion expected to go toward the Hinchliffe’s renovation efforts. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy made this an announcement in December, with Dwight Gooden on hand as well.

Gooden never played at Hinchliffe Stadium but made his mark across the river as a star hurler for both the Mets and Yankees. On that cold day on Hinchliffe’s asphalt, debate playfully rose over whether his time in the orange and blue, or pinstripes with an interlocking NY was more prominent. Regardless, Gooden created unity through one issue that could never be disputed: the national impact that Hinchliffe Stadium has had on America’s Pastime.

“I think it’s a great thing that can build the city back up, to see people giving their time, especially with everything that has taken place this year, it means a lot,” Gooden said.

In speaking of the ultimate goal behind the restoration, he added: “I think the message is that it’s amazing the things we can do when we all come together. At the end of the day, we’re all brothers and sisters and we’re shooting for the same goal: to help the upcoming generations in the things that they know.”

ESM’s series on Hinchliffe Stadium in celebration of Black History Month concludes next Sunday, centering on the future of the site 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

NFL: NJ native Greg Olsen announces retirement, joins Fox Sports

NFL, Football

The North Jersey native partook in 14 NFL seasons, mostly with Carolina. He will take up analyst duties with Fox Sports full-time.

New Jersey native and NFL tight end Greg Olsen announced his retirement from on-field endeavors on Sunday. Olsen made the announcement during Fox’s pregame show prior to the NFC Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His NFL career ends with 8,683 yards on 742 receptions, 60 of which went for touchdowns.

Olsen, 35, was born in Paterson and raised in Wayne. He gained national recognition at Wayne Hills High School, playing under his father Chris before embarking on a three-year career at Miami. During his career in Coral Gables, Olsen starred alongside fellow future NFL stars like Frank Gore, Devin Hester, and Calais Campbell.

The Chicago Bears chose Olsen with the 31st overall pick on the 2007 NFL Draft. Olsen made an immediate impact, winning the team’s Brian Piccolo Award bestowed to a rookie and veteran who “best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication, and sense of humor of the late Bears running back”.

Olsen was dealt to the Carolina Panthers in 2011. He would spend a majority of his career in Charlotte, earning strong reviews for both his receiving and blocking, His Carolina career closed in 2019 upon his release. He currently ranks third in Panthers history in receptions (524) and yardage (6,463), both of which are the best tallies for a tight end in team history. Olsen was nominated for three Pro Bowls (2014-16) and a pair of All-Pro honors (2015-16). After the 2015 season, Olsen partook in the Panthers’ run to Super Bowl 50. He notably earned a team-best 113 yards on six receptions in the Panthers’ 49-15 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC title game. For his efforts with the Panthers, Pro Football Focus also named Olsen to its all-2010s team.

Following his release from the Panthers, Olsen partook in one final season with Seattle, earning 239 yards on 24 receptions this season. Over the most recent offseason, Olsen called XFL games for Fox Sports, having previously signed a deal to join the network upon his retirement.

Olsen was the second player from Wayne Hills to partake in NFL football, joining former defensive end Ryan Neill, who played four seasons in Buffalo, St. Louis, and San Diego.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New Jersey native, NBA legend Tommy Heinsohn passes away at 86

Heinsohn was born in Jersey City and starred for Saint Michael’s School before building a legendary NBA career in Boston.

The Boston Celtics announced the passing of team legend Tommy Heinsohn earlier this week at the age of 86.

Heinsohn is best known for his role in the Celtics’ glory years, winning ten NBA championships as a player and a coach. He partook in nine seasons (1956-65) as a player on the team’s hallowed parquet floor, winning a title in all but one of those seasons. Upon the retirement of former teammate and player-coach Bill Russell in 1969, Heinsohn returned to Boston as the team’s head coach, winning two more titles. He is one of two NBA inductees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to be honored as both a player and coach, joining Lenny Wilkens.

Prior to his tours in Boston, Heinsohn, a native of Jersey City, was a star at St. Michael’s School in nearby Union City. He would earn 28 points a game, All-American honors, and scholarship offers from numerous prominent schools. The College of Holy Cross in Worcester, MA would foreshadow his New England basketball endeavors. Heinsohn would depart as the men’s program’s all-time leading scorer and helped the team to an NIT championship in 1954.

More recently, Heinsohn gained further fame as the television voice of the Celtics. Serving as an analyst, Heinsohn was routinely paired with play-by-play man Mike Gorman since 1981, the two forming one of the longest broadcasting tandems through several iterations of what is now NBC Sports Boston. Through this role, Heinsohn is the only person to serve in an official capacity with the Celtics for each of their NBA-record 17 championships. During broadcasts, Heinsohn was known for his unapologetic favoritism toward the Celtics and would routinely award “Tommy Points” to players giving extra effort.

Numerous tributes from the basketball world have emerged in Heinsohn’s honor since his passing.

“We were rookies together and friends for life,” Russell said in a tweet, including a photo of he and Heinsohn celebrating with then-Celtics head coach Red Auerbach. “In life there are a limited number of true friends, today I lost one. RIP Heiny.”

Active NBA free agent Isaiah Thomas, who most recently played for the Washington Wizards last season, recalled that Heinsohn would affectionately refer to him as “the little guy” and shared a post commemorating Heinsohn’s enthusiastic reaction to Thomas breaking 50 points in a December 2016 win over Miami. A frequent earner of Tommy Points, Thomas said that he “(w)ill miss his voice and everything he brought to the game especially Celtics basketball”.

Heinsohn is survived by two sons (Paul and David), and one daughter (Donna).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags