Polo Grounds, Manhattan, New York City
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The Polo Grounds was the name given to four different stadiums in New York City used by baseball's New York Giants from 1883 until 1957, New York Metropolitans from 1883 until 1885, the New York Yankees from 1912 until 1922, and by the New York Mets in their first two seasons of 1962 and 1963. It also hosted the 1934 and 1942 Major League Baseball All-Star Games.
The original Polo Grounds was built in the 1870s for the sport of polo, thus accounting for its name. It was the only one of the four structures that was actually used for polo. The field was originally referred to in newspapers simply as "the polo grounds", and over time this generic designation became a proper name. It was converted to a baseball stadium when leased by the New York Metropolitans in 1880. The stadium was used jointly by the Giants and Metropolitans from 1883 until 1885, and the name stuck for each subsequent stadium of the Giants.
The fourth and final Polo Grounds, which the Giants used until they moved to San Francisco after the 1957 season, and which the Mets used until Shea Stadium was completed in 1964, was the most famous, and is the one most people mean when they refer to the Polo Grounds. The name "Polo Grounds" did not actually appear prominently on any of the stadiums, until the Mets posted it with a large sign in 1962.
The park was noted for its distinctive bathtub shape, with very short distances to the left and right field walls, but an unusually deep center field.
Left field also had an upper deck ("the short porch") which extended out over the field (after its 1923 extension), reducing the distance from 279 feet (85 meters) to about 250 feet (76 meters). That meant it was technically rather difficult to hit a home run into the lower deck of the left field stands, unless it was a line drive such as Bobby Thomson's famous home run in 1951.
No player ever hit a fly ball that reached the 483-foot (147-meter) distant center-field wall, which fronted a part of the clubhouse which overhung the field. Given that overhang, it was not inherently clear what the actual "home run line" would have been in straightaway center. Some sources listed the center field distance as 505, which suggests that was where the true home run line would have been, at the back of the clubhouse overhang. But if there were any ground rules governing such a situation, they never had to be applied.
The Final Years
Although the Polo Grounds had once been as celebrated as Yankee Stadium now is, the end of the Polo Grounds' existence was anticlimactic. The football Giants left for Yankee Stadium following the 1955 NFL season, and the baseball Giants' disastrous 1956 season (which they spent most of in last place before a late-season surge moved them up to 6th) meant that ticket sales were less than half those of the Giants' World Series-winning 1954 season. That meant little to no money for stadium upkeep. (Also, while the Giants owned the Polo Grounds, they did not own the land that it sat on.) Frustrated with the subsequent obsolescence and dilapidated condition of the Polo Grounds and the inability to secure a more modern stadium in the New York area, the Giants announced on August 19, 1957 that they would move following that season, after nearly three-quarters of a century, to the West Coast. The ballpark then sat largely vacant for the next three years, until the newly-formed Titans and then the newly-formed Mets moved in, using the Polo Grounds as an interim home while Shea Stadium was being built. (As a 1962 baseball magazine noted, "The Mets will have to play in the Polo Grounds, hardly the last word in 20th Century stadia.")
In the 1992 book The Gospel According to Casey, by Ira Berkow and Jim Kaplan, it is reported that in 1963, the Mets manager Casey Stengel, who had bittersweet memories of his playing days at the grounds, had this to say to Tracy Stallard during a rough outing, to a pitcher whose greatest claim to fame had been giving up Roger Maris' 61st homer in 1961: "At the end of this season, they're gonna tear this joint down. The way you're pitching, the right field section will be gone already!"
The final incarnation of the stadium was indeed demolished in 1964, and a public housing project was erected on the site. Demolition of the Polo Grounds began in April of that year with the same wrecking ball that had been used four years earlier on Ebbets Field. The wrecking crew wore Giants jerseys and tipped their hard hats to the historic stadium as they began the dismantling. It took a crew of 60 workers more than four months to level the structure.
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