Macombs Dam Park

Elston Gene Howard Field

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

What was here before?

A family of millers named Macomb operated a dam and grist mill on this site of the Macomb Dam Bridge over the nearby Harlem River. In 1813, the New York Legislature granted Robert Macomb permission to dam the Harlem River, creating a lock that controlled navigation along the river.  The dam operated until it was demolished in 1858.  Prior to the construction of the Highbridge in 1848, the river crossing was also used for the portage of fresh water.

In 1923, the original Yankee Stadium opened on this site and fielded many legendary victorious World Series teams. Later dubbed “the House That Ruth Built” for the illustrious Yankee and home-run king Babe Ruth, the stadium was demolished in 2010, and a new stadium was built immediately to the north.

How did this site become a field?

With the demolition of old Yankee Stadium, the new Macombs Dam Park and Heritage Field were built on the former stadium grounds. Opening in 2010, the multi-level park and field pay homage to the rich athletic history of the team and stadium, incorporating three championship-quality grass ballfields for baseball, softball, and Little League, with the southern baseball field aligned with the original Stadium’s footprint. The park also features a track and field competition space with spectator seating. Inscribed benches and special pavers throughout the park commemorate notable milestones and events that occurred at old Yankee Stadium. A piece of the original stadium’s iconic roofline frieze was incorporated into the park, as well as several viewfinders that display vintage images of Yankee Stadium.

Who is this field named for?

As part of an NYC Parks initiative to expand the representation of African Americans honored in our parks, in 2020, Heritage Field was renamed for Elston Howard (1929-1980), the first African American major league ball player to play for the New York Yankees, and first Black baseball coach in the American League. Howard began his baseball career at age 19 with the Negro League team, the Kansas City Monarchs. After three seasons, he signed with the Yankees, and played on their AAA farm teams for five years. In 1955, Howard made his major league debut eight years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. He had a successful career as a left fielder and catcher for which he earned an MVP title in 1963, the first Black player in the American League to do so. That same year, he won his first of two Golden Gloves and was a six-time World Series Champion. Howard retired as a baseball player in 1968 and became the first Black first base coach in the American League for the Yankees from 1969-1979. As Howard transitioned to an administrative role, his health rapidly declined, and he died at the age of 51. The Yankees retired his number, and he is described on the plaque in his honor at the stadium’s Monument Park as “a man of great gentleness and dignity.”

Park Information

Directions to Macombs Dam Park

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