March 23, 200603/23/2006 Historical marker approved for site of Hilldale field
By JOE SANTOLIQUITO , Special to the Times
What first started as a college term paper 24 years ago, then became a small movement that blossomed into something that is receiving national attention, has become a reality.
The Darby Hilldales, the 1925 Negro League World Series champions and one of the greatest baseball teams to ever play in the Philadelphia area, will be immortalized with a historical marker where the team once played at Cedar Avenue and MacDade Boulevard, in Darby and Yeadon.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission approved the nomination for the historical marker, along with 28 other historical markers for 2006, at its quarterly meeting on Wednesday, March 15.
The approval was based on recommendations from a nine-member review panel of professional historians from throughout the state which met at the end of February, and evaluated all of the 83 nominations received between Dec. 16, 2004 and Dec. 15, 2005.
"The panel recommended the Darby Hilldales marker for approval, because they felt the nomination was in accordance with the established approval policies," said Karen Galle, Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program coordinator.
For John Bossong, 42, this has been a dream come true. Bossong is a Folcroft resident who first wrote a term paper on the Hilldale team his junior year at West Chester University. He's since spearheaded the movement to get the historical marker at the place where the Hilldales once played. The impetus for the marker started in 1999, when he visited the Negro League's Baseball Museum, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Bossong, who is originally from Darby, thought the rich history of the Darby Hilldale team was ignored and wanted to do something to change that.
But the process first fell on deaf ears, when Bossong tried to stir interest in the Hilldales through a letter-writing campaign to local politicians. Things did not really take off until there was an article printed last August in the Daily Times about the hidden jewel of Hilldale.
"This is what I always envisioned and it doesn't get any better than this," Bossong said. "I hope that it's the start of something positive for the Darby and Yeadon areas.
My goal was to honor these great players with a historical marker. I had no doubts once we started looking that we could do this."
Bossong's primary goal has always been to get the team recognized in some way. The Hilldales could arguably be the greatest professional baseball team to ever play in the Philadelphia area. The team now has eight Hall of Fame inductees.
That includes three recent inductees: Raleigh "Biz" Mackey, Louis "Top" Santop and Ben Taylor, who were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by a special vote in February.
Last summer, Bossong had the idea of a blue historic marker in yellow trim, with a gold inscription naming all of the team's championships and Hall of Famers that played for Hilldale.
"I knew this day would come, I just didn't realize it would come so soon," Bossong said. "It is a bittersweet thing, because these great players are long gone. We only have a few connections left to the team."
The $2,000 fee to have the marker made and to get the marker installed where Hilldale Park once stood. There have been additional funds raised to hopefully create a flagpole and a Walk of Fame with all the Hall of Famer's names inscribed on it.
"I just hope people start to realize that good things came out of the Darby and Yeadon areas," Bossong said. "The grand scheme is to organize a parade sometime in July to install the sign. We are still looking for help to run the parade. We're trying to appeal to local politicians and local businesses."
Bossong's Hilldale Marker project is still accepting donations at PhillyHall.com or Darbarian.blogspot.com. "We'd like to get a good, old-fashioned championship parade in honor of these men that played here," Bossong said. "It's the least we could for their memory."