The Dyckman Oval, named for the Dyckman family, was a baseball stadium bordered by Nagle Avenue, Academy Street, Tenth Avenue and 204th Street. The Dyckman family who settled in the community owned 400 acres of land from the Seventeenth Century to the Twentieth Century. It (the Oval) was used for New York’s leading Negro baseball and semi-pro teams during the 1920s and 1930s. It was also used for boxing and wrestling matches as well as for motorcycle races. It normally had a capacity of 4,500 paying customers.
The team that played here was called the New York Cuban Stars. This team was owned by Alejandro Pompez who was a high roller from Harlem. Pompez, a 5-foot 6-inch entrepreneur, was born in 1890 in Cuba. One of the things Pompez was instrumental with the ballpark was the installation of lights for night games in 1930. Four years later the team’s name was changed to the New York Cubans. The manager of the team was Jose Fernandez.
The Cubans became members of the Eastern Colored League organized in 1923. Other leagues were the Negro National League (organized in 1920) and the Southern League (organized in 1932). The first World Series for the Negro Leagues was held in 1924. The Cubans won the 1948 Negro National League Pennant.
Several major league baseball players made appearances at the Dyckman Oval. Babe Ruth made one of his last appearances playing first base against the Cubans on September 29, 1935, which brought in an overflow 10,000 paying customers. Leroy “Satchel” Paige played there when the Kansas City Monarchs went against the Cubans. Paige eventually went to play with the Cleveland Indians in 1948. Jackie Robinson was the first Negro to break the color barrier in 1947, thus ending 75 years of exclusion in the Major Leagues.
In 1948 the Cubans entered into a unique relationship by becoming the farm team for the New York Giants. They went to play at the Polo Grounds under an agreement with Horace Stoneham, president of the New York Giants. This had been after the oval was razed in the 1930s as a result of urban renewal. In time, the 14-acre site became the Dyckman Houses.
Unfortunately, Pompez became involved in illegal activities and was active with Dutch Schultz as a lieutenant. In 1935, when Schultz was killed, Pompez was left out in the cold with no affiliation to any crime organizations and fled to Mexico two years later. Pompez eventually returned to New York to turn state’s evidence against known criminal elements in exchange for protection and a suspended sentence. As a result of his dealings, Pompez was forced to withdraw the team from playing in the 1937 and 1938 seasons.
In time, Pompez became involved with selecting ex-Negro League players to become members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Pompez died of natural causes on March 15, 1974, at the age of 83, thus outliving his former criminal cronies who had been assassinated by rival gangs. The Cubans as a baseball team was forced to close as a result of integrated baseball in the 1950s.
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