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Famous, Memory-Filled Ballpark Falls Victim To Time

May 8, 1985

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) _ Roosevelt Stadium, where Jackie Robinson began knocking down Major League baseball’s color barrier, fell victim to time as a wrecker’s ball began demolishing the ballpark to make way for new housing.

The 25,000-seat stadium opened in 1937. Football and baseball teams vied on its turf, fighters waged battles in rings before thousands of spectators. There were also rock concerts, automobile races and performances by championship bands.

But perhaps no event was as important as the day Robinson competed here as a member of the Montreal Royals, a farm team of the then-Brooklyn Dodgers. It started him down that final road to becoming the first black to play in the modern Major Leagues.

″He went four-for-five and hit a home run. He scored four runs, knocked in four more and stole two bases,″ recalled former Mayor Thomas Smith. ″He did everything but take the stadium with him.

″It may be hard for some people to understand, but I feel like I am losing a part of my family,″ said Smith as he watched on Tuesday as a giant tractor armed with a claw rip down the center field wall in chunks.

About a dozen other men stared from the sidewalk as the demolition began, a lost expression sometimes crossing their faces.

″I was there the day Robinson played,″ said one, Fred Trenton, 68, of Jersey City. ″The reception was good. I think everybody treated it as a novelty though. Nobody was sure how he was going to make out.″

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