There used to be a ballpark…

Polo Grounds last game
Fans rush onto the field after the last out of the last New York Giants game at the Polo Grounds, New York City, 29 September 1957. (click  photo to enlarge)

Sixty years ago today…

The New York Giants played their last game, a day game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The next season, the Giants moved to San Francisco, and New York City was without a national league baseball team (since the Dodgers also moved, to Los Angeles).

The Polo Grounds, the Giants’ home ballpark on the East River in New York, didn’t host another baseball game until 1962, when the Mets came into the league via expansion. They played two seasons there before moving to Shea Stadium, after which the Polo Grounds was demolished.

Of all the old ballparks, the ones I wish I’d seen games in are the Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field, Crosley Field, Shibe Park, and Forbes Field. Shibe Park is at the top of the list, obviously, since I’m a Phillies fan. But the Polo Grounds might be next on the list.

Consider these two pictures (click on the pictures to enlarge them):

Willie Mays makes his famous catch off the bat of Vic Wertz* Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series making “the catch” of a long fly ball off the bat of the Indians’ Vic Wertz. I’ve seen many cropped versions of this photo, but this is the uncropped version.

Note the distance to straightaway center field on the facing over the monument to Mays’ left.

FOUR HUNDRED EIGHTY-THREE FEET!

This means, if I’m any good at estimating from a photo, that Mays caught the ball at around 430-440 feet.

Can you imagine hitting a ball 430-plus feet for a long out?

22050135_1505450729534141_2370192942271637995_n* I never realized, until I saw the aerial picture to the left, how close to each other Yankee Stadium (at the top right of the picture) and the Polo Grounds (at the bottom left) were. Less than a mile separated them as the crow flies.

An elevated train ran between the two ballparks, with one stop separating them. It would have been fun to have caught a day game (or game one of a doubleheader) at one and then hopped on the EL and taken in a second game at the other ballpark.

After the Mets moved out following the 1963 season, the Polo Grounds was demolished. A public housing project called Polo Grounds Towers stands on the site of the old ballpark. The former location of home plate is marked, but the only remaining trace of the old stadium is an abandoned stairway which once led from the Polo Grounds ticket office at street level down to the gates of the ballpark. There is more information about and pictures of the stairway, which was recently renovated, here.

And for you who know my love for Sinatra and investigated this post thinking there’d be a link to his song “There Used To Be A Ballpark,” click here. 

Dallas Green

Dallas Green at Spring Training 1980. Inquirer Archives.

Dallas Green died today at age 82.

The highest high point of my life as a baseball fan was the 1980 World Series. Danny Ozark took the 1970s Phillies as far as he could, but after the disappointing 1979 season, Green stepped down from the front office and took them the rest of the way. Two seasons later, the core of the team was gone, as was Green. But no Phils fan will ever forget the season that culminated in Pete Rose snatching that dropped pop foul out of thin air between Bob Boone’s mitt and the AstroTurf, and, one out later, the celebration.

And to a man, the veteran players, many of whom resisted and balked at Green’s list of clubhouse rules and hardline approach to discipline, echoed Boone’s words: “We couldn’t have won it without him.”

Thanks, Skipper!

Eva reviews: “You Never Heard Of Willie Mays?”

13642612You Never Heard Of Willie Mays? by Jonah Winter and Terry Widener

The publisher says… Many believe baseball great Willie Mays to be the best player that ever lived. In Jonah Winter and Terry Widener’s fascinating picture book biography, young readers can follow Mays’s unparalleled career from growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, to playing awe-inspiring ball in the Negro Leagues and then the Majors, where he was center fielder for the New York (later San Francisco) Giants. Complete with sidebars filled with stats, here is a book for all baseball lovers, young and old.

Eva says… So I really needed to read some books about BASEBALL, and so I got this one. And it was kind of hard but I got through it. It’s about this guy Willie Mays who used to play baseball for the Giants way back in the old days when everyone’s clothes were all baggy. So I bet Grandpa Rich knew this guy, even though he didn’t play for Boston.

willie-maysThe guy who wrote this one said that black guys used to not be allowed to play baseball with white guys. So I guess that Big Papi and a bunch of the guys on the Red Sox would be out of luck, and a lot of guys on Baltimore too. And you know, that’s just plain crazy. Because what if they had rules like that about people getting married? Because Tanya’s black and Mama’s white, and they wouldn’t be married and we wouldn’t have Mikey!

So I think we’re all glad in this family that they got rid of THAT rule.

So Willie Mays could catch the ball and throw it and hit home runs and he was fast, and that’s all you need to do in baseball, isn’t it?

This one has great facts and the pictures are really COLORFUL. And I love the cover, which was like a movie of Willie hitting a home run! (Note from Tanya: It was a lenticular painting.)

So that was good too.

So I’m glad I got this one even if it WAS hard.

Eva’s rating: ♥♥♥♥ (out of five)

(You Never Heard Of Willie Mays? by Jonah Winter and Terry Widener. Published by  Schwartz and Wade. ISBN 978-0375868443)

Eva Kelly is this blog’s six-year-old resident children’s book critic. 

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