Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City New Jersey
Roosevelt Stadium was constructed on Newark Bay at Droyer's Point from 1935 to 1938. Sponsored by Mayor Frank Hague, the project was designed by Christian H. Ziegler, a local Jersey City architect and funded by the Works Progress Administration.
The stadium was one of a number of WPA projects in Hudson County, and in particular Jersey City, made possible by Major Frank Hague whose colorful and controversial politics were the driving force behind Jersey City for over forty years. Born in Jersey City in 1876, Hague, a Democrat, won his first local election in 1896. He remained Mayor of Jersey City until 1947, maintaining power and patronage through a system of ward lieutenants who kept the city controlled in small manageable sectors and delivered votes at election time.
In the 1930s the depression and Roosevelt's New Deal were an opportunity for Hague to "...heighten the dependency of Jersey City families on his organization...". "As the great depression deepened after 1929, it became clearer and clearer to Mayor Hague that the man who received the Democratic nomination in 1932 would be the next President". Initially supporting Al Smith, a long time friend, as democratic candidate for President in 1932, Hague switched to Roosevelt.
As the undisputed leader of the New Jersey Democratic party in 1932, Hague advised Roosevelt to begin his campaign in New Jersey. Hague would deliver the state's votes necessary for FDR to win the election. Thus developed a pattern of mutually reciprocal political favors between Roosevelt and Hague. Roosevelt, elected President, repaid Hague grandly. After the election Hague was in control of all New Deal patronage in New Jersey. As a result of this during the 1930s between 76,000 and 97,000 people were annually employed through the WPA program and millions of dollars were spent in Hudson County.
The stadium was one of these projects. Though newspapers of the day reported a number of prominent citizens for whom the stadium should be named, Mayor Hague had no doubts as to the name "Roosevelt" for his new stadium.
Construction began with over $1,000,000 of WPA financing in hand. Built over a period of four years, 1935-1938, the project employed over 2,400 relief workers whose wages were paid by the WPA.
The stadium was designed for use by the minor leagues and "...had one of the best minor league grandstands in the country...n with a long history of Triple A International League Baseball support.
The first game, on opening day, April 23, 1937, was between the Jersey Giants (the old New York Giants International League farm team) and the Rochester Red Wings.
The stadium was host to a number of sporting and civic events throughout its lifetime. In addition to being home to the New Jersey Giants for twenty-five years (1937-1962), it was here that Jackie Robinson, in the minor leagues, broke baseball's color barrier, on August 18, 1946, when the Montreal Royals, farm team of the New York Dodgers, played the Jersey City Giants. Branch Ricky, president of the Dodgers had spotted Robinson and in an unprecedented move, signed him to the Royals. After Robinson's success with the Royals, Ricky signed him the following year, 1947, to the Brooklyn Dodgers, thereby making Robinson the first black player in the major leagues.
Roosevelt Stadium was home in the 1950s to the National Leagues when in an effort to force New York city officials to build them a new downtown Brooklyn stadium, the Dodgers moved their 19 55 season to Roosevelt Stadium where a total of seven Dodger games were played. In 1956 all the National League clubs played the season at the Stadium.
The stadium was also the home of the New York Giants football training camp for a number of years. Additional events included a boxing match in the 1950s with Sugar Ray Robinson and an exhibition game for the Green Bay Packers in 1960.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s the stadium was the site of every major local ballgame including the traditional Thanksgiving game between St. Peter's and Dickinson High Schools and site of almost every local high school and college graduation.
Stadium use declined in the 1960s when the Jersey City Giants left in 1962. This followed the fate which most of the minor league teams suffered in the 1960s because of an increase in TV coverage of the majors and a large exodus to the suburbs dramatically lowered attendance at the games.
From 1972 to 1976 Roosevelt Stadium was the site of numerous rock concerts. The concerts were a last attempt to utilize the aging stadium, by then in a state of disrepair. In 1976 it was partially refurbished, but fans were eventually drawn away to the larger, all season, multi-purpose stadiums such as the Giants Stadium and the Brendon Byrne Arena, both in the New Jersey Meadowlands.
In the 1980s only an ice-skating rink was operational.