The grounds were also used for many games by New York-area college football teams such as Fordham and Army. The field was also the site of several Army—Navy Games in the s and s. In addition the Boston Redskins moved the game from Boston to the Polo Grounds, as part of their transition in relocating to Washington. The Polo Grounds has held its fair share of international soccer matches as well over the years. In , Hakoah, an all-Jewish side from Vienna, Austria, "drew the largest crowds ever to watch soccer in America up to that time: three successive games drew 25,, 30,, and 36, spectators.
The first soccer played at the Polo Grounds was as far back as when the owners of the various major Baseball clubs thought it would be a great way to fill their stadiums in the off season. Six famous baseball franchises of the era formed Association Football sections and fans were told that many would be fielding their baseball stars on the Football field in the opening season. The New York Giants soccer team took the field in an all white kit with black socks and played six games before the threat of a rival baseball league being formed diverted the owner's attention away from their new venture and caused it to be suspended mid-season.
The Giants lay third in the league after six games with two victories, having played their matches in midweek in front of attendances in the high hundreds paying 25 cents a game. Although the owners remained positive about the venture and wanted to run it again the following season this never happened and the Giants' soccer team were no more.
Scotland won 5—1 in front of 25, people at the Polo Grounds. In , the Scots returned to America for another tour, and played at the Polo Grounds twice. The following year, , may have been the last year documented that soccer was played at the Polo Grounds. The second edition of the International Soccer League held most of its game at the Polo Grounds, with a few games held in Montreal. Eisenhower Trophy. The combined attendance for both games at the Polo Grounds was 31, It was decided that New York would host this match as a commemoration of the Irish famine which forced a large number of Irish people to emigrate to North America.
This novel location for the game was chosen for the benefit of New York's large Irish immigrant population. It was the only time that the final has been played outside of Ireland. The Polo Grounds was the site of many famous boxing matches. These included the legendary heavyweight championship bout between Jack Dempsey and Luis Firpo, and Billy Conn's near-upset over heavyweight champion Joe Louis in June In Game 1 of the World Series, Giants outfielder Willie Mays made a sensational catch of a fly ball hit by the Cleveland Indians' Vic Wertz into deep center field, a catch which, in the words of radio announcer Jack Brickhouse, "must have looked like an optical illusion to a lot of people", and which turned the tide of that Series in the Giants' favor.
On October 2, , in Game 2 of the World Series, Yankees centerfielder Joe Dimaggio had made a similar, though far less crucial, catch his team being ahead for the final out of the game. He then stopped and turned around, as the crowd stood and acknowledged the departure of Franklin D.
Roosevelt, who was in attendance that day. Babe Ruth hit many of his early signature blasts at the Polo Grounds, reaching the center field seats on several occasions. His longest blast at the grounds, over the right-center upper deck in , was estimated at over feet. Had Ruth played regularly in the remodeled Polo Grounds, he would have been capable of hitting the clubhouse if conditions were right. Neither he nor anyone else ever did, but a few came close.
After the remodeling, only four players ever hit a home run into the center field stands: . Brock, a member of the Chicago Cubs at the time, is the surprising name on that list accomplishing the feat on his 23rd birthday , as he was noted mostly for hits and stolen bases especially after being traded to the Cardinals in , but he displayed power-hitting capability from time to time, and one season hit 20 home runs, with a personal high of 21 in The Polo Grounds' end was somewhat anticlimactic, especially compared to other "Jewel Box" parks.
Part of the problem was that the stadium was not well maintained from the late s onward; while the baseball Giants owned the stadium, they did not own the parcel where it stood. Also, the neighborhood around the stadium had gone to seed by the early s. All of this combined to severely hold down ticket sales, even when the Giants played well. In , for instance, the baseball Giants only drew 1.
The football Giants left for Yankee Stadium following the NFL season, and the baseball Giants' disastrous season most of which they spent in last place before a late-season surge moved them up to 6th caused a further drag on ticket sales.
The Giants' attendance was less than half of the figure for the Giants' World Series-winning season. That meant little to no money for stadium upkeep. 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, , that they would move following that season, after nearly three-quarters of a century, to San Francisco. 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 baseball magazine noted, "The Mets will have to play in the Polo Grounds, hardly the last word in 20th Century stadia. In , the city of New York decided to claim the land under eminent domain, for the purpose of condemning the stadium and building high-rise housing on the site. The Coogan family, which still owned the property, fought this effort until it was finally settled in the city's favor in The way you're pitchin', the right field section will be gone already! The final incarnation of the stadium was indeed demolished in , and the Polo Grounds Towers public housing project opened on the site in Demolition of the Polo Grounds began in April of that year with the same wrecking ball painted to look like a baseball 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. The only part of the Polo Grounds that still remains as of , albeit in disrepair, is the "John T. In , the Wall Street Journal reported that transportation companies would receive a bonus increased by two thousand dollars in profit just due to the World Series at the Polo Grounds.
The Fourth and final version of the Polo Grounds.
From this viewpoint you can see the bathtub shape that the Polo Grounds has as well as the extremely deep center field. Also notice the double deck that wraps around all whole stadium with the exception of center field.
Down the left field line, the Polo Grounds sported an extremely short foot distance from home plate to the foul pole; the right field line was even shorter, maxing out at feet. Essentially, these distances remained the same throughout the entirety of the ballparks history, from its beginnings as a wooden ballpark to the final version made of steel and concrete. The distance to dead center field from home plate where the clubhouses were located was feet, while the distance to each side of the bleachers in center field was feet.
The result of this major drop off in center field distance from dead center to the center field bleachers was due to the unique pathway which lead to the offices and clubhouses. Big gaps in left center and right center also created an obstacle for outfielders, as line drives splitting the two outfielders would result in triples and possible inside the park home runs.
However, with an extremely deep center field, many balls that would have been home runs in other ballparks would be caught by outfielders, including the famous Willie Mays catch in the World Series. In the eighth inning of game one of series, Vic Wertz of the Cleveland Indians hit a ball over four hundred fifty feet to dead center field.
The Hall of Famer Willie Mays raced back to make an incredible over the shoulder catch, robbing Vic Wertz of a sure extra base hit. This catch by Mays would become considered by many to be the best catch ever made. Of course, such a catch was made possible by the deep center field that the Polo Grounds held, as a ball hit four hundred fifty feet in most ballparks would be a no-doubter home run. Moreover, the height of the green painted fences differed throughout the whole ballpark, as the fences were to seventeen to eighteen feet in left field and eleven to twelve feet high in right field.
They guarded each side of the runway leading to the clubhouse like the impressive lions in front of the main building of the New York Public Library. The fourth version of the Polo Grounds would not have many changes made to it, and essentially remained the same ballpark until its demolition.
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The New York Giants, struggling to put fans in the seats, regardless of the teams success including World Series appearances in , , would move to San Francisco following the season. This left the Polo Grounds without a team. After spending three hundred thousand dollars on renovations, the Mets would play at the Polo Grounds during the and seasons while Shea Stadium was being constructed.
With only a crowd of one thousand seven hundred, the Mets lost to the Phillies With the Polo Grounds undergoing relocation, rebuilding, and expansion throughout its years, it can be seen that it coexists with the development of New York City. The Polo Grounds was first built before a subway system, before television, and during the early days of electricity. The Polo Grounds was able to have night games when lights were added in and fans could easily get to games with new subway lines connecting the city.
Later on, with visions from New Yorkers such as Robert Moses, automobiles where able to be driven into the city from the suburbs to watch games, now making the Polo Grounds and the city more available than ever before. Also, New Yorkers were able to listen to and watch their teams even when they could not be there in person with the inventions of radio and television.
Army vs. Navy game in The Polo Grounds held many other sporting events, most notably football and boxing. In addition to hosting the baseball teams such as the Giants, Yankees, and Mets, it also acted as a home for football teams such as the New York Giants from to and New York Titans from to who would later become the New York Jets. With New York City being no stranger to attention, the Polo Grounds hosted many national events, including multiple Major League All Star Games, where fans could see the best players from around the League perform in a one game showcase.
Army-Navy games were also part of the history of the Polo Grounds, as the famous collegiate match up was held there on numerous occasions, including as the newspaper article below shows. This boxing match would hold the record for attendance in the Polo Grounds, as a crowd of over 82, filled the Polo Grounds to witness the match. As mentioned earlier, a renowned event the Polo Grounds hosted multiple times was the famous Army and Navy football game, an American tradition that continues to this day.
This article also reveals that the Polo Grounds hosted famous spectators throughout history besides athletes, as President Wilson is mentioned here.
All of these national events which the Polo Grounds hosted are still are relevant in American sports today. Those otherwise lacking any kind of view attempted to force their way in by burning down the fencing behind the bleachers.
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The Giants lost the replay, , as Christy Mathewson faltered early on, but the victorious Cubs had one last hurdle to cross after the final out: Surviving the long walk—or in this case, the long sprint—clear across the field to the clubhouse behind center field. It was a dubious postgame ritual for many years at the Polo Grounds as fans were permitted on the field after games to more quickly reach the exits; players often ran to avoid memorabilia hawks who sought to steal gloves, caps, etc. But in this case, the Cubs were on the run for their very lives.
Belligerent Giants fans who felt their team had been cheated out of a pennant took out their anger by throwing or lunging sharp objects at Chicago players, injuring a few of them. After the Fire. In , the Giants lost their first two games at the Polo Grounds—and then they lost the Polo Grounds.
A night after the second loss, the ballpark caught fire and spread rapidly, engulfing all but the detached outfield bleachers. The cause was never proven, though the most redundant rumor centered around a newspaper or program that caught fire from a discarded cigarette under the grandstand. Herts gave the new structure a strong dose of ornamentation; the higher the ballpark went, the more ornate it got. The facing at the base of the upper deck facing featured repetitive bas relief motifs that came across as elegant but generic.
Things got more substantive on the overhang facing, graced with decorative reliefs of all eight NL teams in repeated fashion; not only were they superlative in their design, they were said to be far more colorful than visualized by anyone seeing them today through grainy black and white photographs. Atop the roof was an ironworks-style fencing adorned every 20 feet or so by statues of eagles with their wings spread upward.
While the left-field end of the grandstand was left bare on the side, the right-field side was beautified by an extravagant arch and other gothic touches.
Polo Grounds - BR Bullpen
The upper deck followed suit, except for an extended portion down the right-field line which straightened out and continued past the foul pole. Handicapped, Brush watched the games from a car parked in a notch of foul territory near the right-field foul pole until his death following the season. Memoriam be damned; everyone liked the name Polo Grounds, so Polo Grounds it remained. Or Polo Grounds IV. Rise of the Babe Boomer. To say this was a gracious move was putting it mildly. The introduction of American League baseball to the Polo Grounds also meant the presence of star power for which the AL, by now the stronger loop, had monopolized.
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The other star who raked the ball that far would have a profound effect on New York baseball for decades to come. But when he took the field at the Polo Grounds for the first time against the Yankees on May 6, , he also showed off his other superior skill: Knocking the socks out of the dead ball. In his first at-bat at the Grounds, Ruth hit his first of career home runs.
When he returned a month later, he hit his second. Ruth loved the Polo Grounds and its short right-field porch. Through with the Red Sox, Ruth drilled 10 home runs with 24 runs batted in—in all of 95 at-bats. For the last of those 10 homers at the Grounds, on September 24, , Ruth did one better than Joe Jackson: He blasted a ball over the right-field roof.
Needless to say, Babe Ruth was just warming up. After the season, the Red Sox sensed they had a one-of-a-kind talent with Ruth—and so they sold him, because owner Harry Frazee badly needed the money. In 66 home games at the Polo Grounds in , Ruth hit. A year later, he was even better—launching 32 bombs at the Grounds alone while hitting. For the Giants, the rise of Ruth and the Yankees—who had been given other star talent from the cash-strapped Red Sox—began to make them feel like second fiddle within their own ballpark.
Their own performance had little to do with it; John McGraw continued to bring in top-notch players, and his team continued to thrive in the standings. In , the Giants set a National League record by hauling in , fans. But that was a distant second to the Yankees, who that same year with Ruth became the first in major league history to top a million—and rather easily, at 1,, The Polo Grounds had become a busy place; it was about to get even busier. In , both the Giants and Yankees fielded rosters loaded for the long run and it showed when both teams took pennants, making the Polo Grounds the first ballpark to host an entire World Series.
It happened again in In both instances, the Giants prevailed as champions, besting the Yankees and keeping Ruth—who hit. He still abhorred the American League, hated Ruth and everything he stood for. McGraw convinced ownership to boot the Yankees out of the Polo Grounds once their lease expired at the end of , believing that the Yankees would have a hard time finding a , any new land in Manhattan or b , any ideal spot outside of the island to build their own ballpark. The Yankees struck gold by finding premium land in the Bronx, literally right across the Harlem from the Polo Grounds, with better rail access.
Yankee Stadium, the most majestic and massive over 70, seats ballpark yet, would be ready in and serve the Yankees and their unparalleled reign of greatness for the next 87 years. In response to Yankee Stadium, the Giants immediately decided to expand the Polo Grounds to 55, seats, not so much to draw more fans for baseball but to lure other events to the ballpark as a means of producing more revenue. The double-decked grandstand was continued down the lines, straightened out rather than curved around the infield as initially designed, and took a sharp turn well past the foul pole toward center.
This structure was recessed to be flush to the back of the bleachers, leaving playing space in front of it—resulting in the furthest distance from home plate not only at the Polo Grounds but in all of baseball at the time, as much as feet. For out-of-breath outfielders entering this area in pursuit of a ball, it felt like entering a cluttered two-car garage. It included a covered area at the far back which hid chairs, hoses and other groundskeeper-related accessories; was fronted by a single post which included at its base a monument to Eddie Grant, a former Giant who was the only major leaguer to die in combat during World War I; and on each side wall ran a set of stairs that led players to their dressing rooms.
Outfielders in left and right had to play back toward center because any ball striking off the parallel portion of the wall would skim toward deep center, rather than carom back toward the infield. Additionally, left fielders had it tougher because of the second-deck overhang past the foul pole.
This actually made the foot marker down the left-field line even shorter—physics dictated something closer to —and outfielders sometimes struggled to keep a decently hit pop fly within their sights without the overhang getting in the way. The quirks continued in the gaps. Some feet away from home plate, against the tall wall at the corner in right-center and left-center, lay the bullpens—the only ones placed in fair territory at a major league yard.
The only difference between the two?
Polo Grounds IV
In , Philadelphia manager Ben Chapman—who made bigger headlines that year for his racial taunting of Jackie Robinson—kept his relievers in the dugout rather than sacrifice their skin cells on a boiling New York summer afternoon. It was reasoned that their removal was due to safety for the fans, who risked injury when a foul ball struck one of the concrete reliefs, cracked and fell below.
Yet no imagination was afforded in their replacements, a bland, dark-green facing that relegated the look of the interior to industrial utilitarianism. Big-time college football also reigned, with the venue hosting the prestigious Army-Navy game nine times. Nearby Fordham University, a major power in its day, played to capacity crowds.
And then there was boxing; a September bout between Jack Dempsey and Luis Angel Firpo attracted a gathering of 82,, the largest for any event at the Grounds. The fight also likely led to the largest headache for groundskeeper Henry Fabian, who had to clean up the wood planks and loose nails that covered the field. Fabian said it was the toughest chore he ever had to perform, less than two weeks before the Giants returned for their final homestand of the season and, shortly thereafter, the World Series.
Firsts and Worsts. After relocations, rebuilds and reinventions, the Polo Grounds finally settled into cruise control for the long term starting in the mids.