Once home to Negro League Baseball, historic Oval Park is currently undergoing renovations to include a shaded gazebo; a rain garden of native shrubs, perennials, and flowers; more than 100 new tree plantings; new bleachers; a multi-purpose turf field; a rubberized walking path; and two refurbished basketball courts. The City of East Orange, under the leadership of Mayor Ted R. Green and the East Orange City Council, held an official groundbreaking ceremony on December 7, 2023.
Mayor Ted R. Green, the East Orange City Council, and the Departments of Public Works and Recreation & Cultural Affairs officially broke ground on renovations to Oval Park, a historic green space that was once home to Negro League Baseball.
The groundbreaking event was held on Thursday, December 7, 2023 and was well attended by many long-time East Orange families, coaches, and players.
The Negro National League teams played at the Oval from 1940 to 1948, and the Negro American League teams played there for one year from 1949 to 1950, according to Alfred M. Martin and Alfred T. Martin in \The Negro Leagues in New Jersey.
Negro League Clubs that played at the Oval included the Newark Eagles, New York Black Yankees, Brooklyn Brown Dodgers, Brooklyn Colored Giants, Baltimore Elites, Birmingham Barons, Chicago Giants, and the Asheville Blues.
One of the most famous Negro League players who hurled his fastballs in Oval Park was Satchel Paige, a National Baseball Hall of Famer and well-known pitcher, who competed against local legends Larry Doby and Monte Irvin in the 1946 Negro World Series.
Former City Councilman William Holt, who played minor league baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates, said watching the games as a child was “seventh heaven” for an avid baseball fan and future prospect like himself. In fact, Holt said he relished in his ability to regularly attend games of the New York Cubans — the nation’s first African American team — who made Oval Park their home playing field between 1941-1947.
“Oval Park is rich with so much American and East Orange history, from the Negro League teams that once played there to the multiple sports leagues that at one time dominated youth football,” said Mayor Ted R. Green. “That park has bred greatness and produced top-notch talent such as current NFL players Jabrill Peppers, who plays for the New England Patriots and Rasul Douglas, a Super Bowl LII champion who now plays for the Buffalo Bills. The renovation of this park is long overdue and we are excited to revive and modernize it for the benefit of our residents, visitors, and generations to come.”
Part of the city’s redevelopment plans, the Oval Park renovations will include a shaded gazebo; a rain garden of native shrubs, perennials, and flowers; 126 new trees; new bleachers; a multi-purpose turf field, a rubberized walking path; and two new basketball courts. The park is scheduled to re-open in late summer 2024.