Even though Hoboken is generally known as the birthplace of baseball, neighboring Jersey City has its own rich history with America’s favorite pastime. Roosevelt Stadium, which was located on the western part of Jersey City overlooking the Newark Bay, was the site of some of Jersey City’s best sports moments. From baseball, to football, to boxing, many athletes had their moment in the sun at Roosevelt Stadium. Read on the learn more about the history of the stadium and some of the sports highlights that took place there.
A Grand Idea
Roosevelt Stadium was dreamed up by former Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague who, though embroiled in scandal, originally announced his plans to build a 50,000-seat municipal arena on June 5, 1929. He proposed a stadium surrounding a field dedicated to locals who passed away during WWI.
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In Hague’s original idea, Roosevelt Stadium would cost $500,000 and be completed by 1930. It would be named after President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and located at what is now called Droyer’s Point, on the south side of Jersey City, right by Greenville and right on the riverfront. But, of course, delays in construction are common, and the arena was finally built in 1937 on the former grounds of the Jersey City Airport, with increased funding of $800,000.
Upon the stadium’s completion, opening events were scheduled for April 22, 1937, tying into the International League’s (a minor baseball league) opening. Mayor Hague even declared it a half-day for residents. Then-New York Giants (the baseball team, not today’s football team) owner Horace Stoneham was slated to be there, as the arena was slated to be the home arena for the Giants’ affiliate, the Jersey City Giants, alongside then-Senator Harry Moore.
But, alas, rain washed out the opening, and the opening was pushed back a day, and Hague threw out the first pitch. He was joined by Senator Moore and Mr. Stoneham, who were there for the ballpark’s dedication.
The Stadium’s Use
As time went on, the arena became more commonly used for Jersey City’s William L. Dickinson, James J. Ferris, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Snyder high schools, alongside the city’s major parochial schools, Hudson Catholic, and St. Peter’s Prep, all of which hosted football games at Roosevelt Stadium. For many years, the stadium hosted an annual Thanksgiving Day football game between rivals St. Peter’s Prep and Dickinson High School.
Mayor Hague continued the tradition of granting a half-day to citizens on the baseball season’s opening day. On April 18, 1946, the season kicked off with the Jersey City Giants playing the Montreal Royals. Over 50,000 tickets were sold for the 25,000 seat stadium, so it was standing-room-only when a player for Montreal stepped up to bat and into the history books: Jackie Robinson. This appearance in this minor league game took place a full year before Robinson’s first major league appearance on April 15, 1947, as part of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
It was still the home arena for baseball’s Jersey City Giants from 1937 to 1950, and then a slew of more baseball teams, starting with the Jersey City Jerseys in 1960-1961. It then developed into the home of the Jersey City Indians of the Double-A Eastern League in 1977, who then transformed into the Jersey City A’s in 1978.
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Sports, of course, became a big part of Jersey City’s history with the baseball field, hosting heavyweight champion Max Baer, featured in the film Cinderella Man, and Sugar Ray Robinson in their respective fights in 1940 and 1950.
The Jersey City Giants left the city in 1961, taking a significant amount of the stadium’s income generation with it. The city filled the gap with another minor league team, which left in 1978, more concerts and special events, but eventually, it became too costly to maintain. The facility fell into disrepair and while some wanted to preserve it as a historical site, in November 1982 the city’s Planning Board voted in favor of demolition.
The tearing down of the stadium was finally completed in 1985, and a gated community, known today as Droyer’s Point, was built in its place.