Polo Grounds I
The first Polo Grounds, Opening Day, 1888.
Earliest known image of Polo Grounds I, from 1882
The original Polo Grounds stood at 110th Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, directly across 110th Street from the northeast corner of Central Park. The venue's original purpose was for the sport of polo, and its name was initially merely descriptive, not a formal name, often rendered as "the polo grounds" in newspapers. The Metropolitans, an independent team of roughly major-league caliber, was the first professional baseball team to play there, beginning in September 1880, and remained the sole professional occupant through the 1882 season. At that time the Metropolitans' ownership had the opportunity to bring it into the National League, but elected instead to organize a new team, the New York Gothams — who soon came to be known as the Giants — mainly using players from the Metropolitans and the newly defunct Troy Trojans, and entered it in the National League, while bringing what remained of the Metropolitan club into the competing American Association. For this purpose the ownership built a second diamond and grandstand at the park, dividing it into eastern and western fields for use by the Giants and Metropolitans respectively. Polo Grounds I thus hosted its first Major League Baseball games in 1883 as the home stadium of two teams, the American Association Metropolitans and the National League Gothams. The dual-fields arrangement proved unworkable because of faulty surfacing of the western field, and after various other arrangements were tried, the Metropolitans and Giants alternated play on the eastern field in later years until the Metropolitans moved to the St. George Cricket Grounds on Staten Island in 1886.
Although the Giants would soon become the team of choice in the city, the "Mets" had a good year in 1884. They had started the season in a new facility called Metropolitan Park, which proved to be such a poor venue that they moved back to the Polo Grounds within a few weeks. Despite that bit of drama, the Mets went on to win the American Association pennant. Their good fortune ran out when they faced the Providence Grays in the World Series, in which Providence pitcher Old Hoss Radbourn pitched three consecutive shutouts against them. All three games had been staged at the Polo Grounds.
An early highlight of Giants' play at the Polo Grounds was Roger Connor's home run over the right-field wall and into 112th Street; Connor eventually held the record for career home runs that Babe Ruth would break in 1920.
The original Polo Grounds was used not only for Polo and professional baseball, but often for college baseball and football as well – even by teams outside New York. The earliest known surviving image of the field is an engraving of a baseball game between Yale University and Princeton University on Decoration Day, May 30, 1882. Yale and Harvard also played their traditional Thanksgiving Day there on November 29, 1883 and November 24, 1887. (See Football below)
Demolition and forced relocation
New York City was in the process of extending its street grid into uptown Manhattan in 1889. Plans for an extended West 111th Street ran through the Polo Grounds. City workers are said to have shown up suddenly one day and begun cutting through the fence to lay out the new street. With the Giants having won the National League pennant the year before, as well as the World Series there was significant sentiment in the city against the move; a bill was even passed by the state legislature giving the Giants a variance which would allow the park to stand. Governor David B. Hill, who had campaigned for office on a "home rule" pledge, vetoed it on the grounds that whatever he might think of the forced destruction of the park, the will of the city government was to be respected. The loss of their park forced the Giants to look quickly for alternative grounds.
The Giants opened the 1889 season at Oakland Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, playing their first two games there. Four days later, they moved to the St. George Cricket Grounds (where the Metropolitans had continued to play until their demise following the 1887 season).
After closing out a homestand at the St. George Grounds on June 14, the Giants went on the road. Upon their return on July 8 they had relocated again, to a "New Polo Grounds" site within Manhattan at the far terminus of the then Ninth Avenue Elevated at 155th Street and 8th Avenue (now Frederick Douglass Boulevard). Despite their vagabond existence in 1889, the Giants managed to win the pennant for the second consecutive year, as well as that year's World Series against Brooklyn.