Polo Grounds

Polo Grounds
"The Bathtub"
No Known Restrictions Polo Grounds during World Series Game, 1913 from the Bain Collection (LOC) (434431507).jpg
The Polo Grounds during the 1913 World Series between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Athletics
Former namesBrotherhood Park (1890), Brush Stadium (1911–1919)
Locationbounded by West 155th Street, Frederick Douglass Blvd. and Harlem River Drive in Washington Heights, Upper Manhattan, New York
Coordinates40°47′53.17″N 73°57′01.87″W / 40.7981028°N 73.9505194°W / 40.7981028; -73.9505194 (1876 location of the Polo Grounds) (1876–1889)
40°49′51″N 73°56′15″W / 40°49′51″N 73°56′15″W / 1890 location of the Polo Grounds) (1890–1963)
OwnerNew York Giants
OperatorNew York Giants
Capacity34,000 (1911)
55,000 (1923)
Field sizeLeft Field: 279 ft (85 m)
Left-Center: 450 ft (137 m)
Center Field: 483 ft (147 m)
Right-Center: 449 ft (136 m)
Right Field: 258 ft (78 m) PoloGroundsDimensions.svg
SurfaceGrass
Construction
Broke ground1890
OpenedApril 19, 1890
RenovatedJune 28, 1911
Expanded1923
ClosedDecember 14, 1963
DemolishedApril 10, 1964
ArchitectHenry B. Herts
Tenants
New York Giants (PL) (1890)
New York Giants (NL) (1891–1957)
New York Yankees (AL) (1913–1922)
New York Mets (NL) (1962–1963)
New York Brickley Giants (NFL) (1921)
New York Giants (NFL) (1925–1955)
Columbia Lions football (NCAA) (1900-1936)
Fordham Rams football (NCAA) (1928–1950; 1953-1954)
New York Bulldogs (NFL) (1949)
New York Titans/Jets (AFL) (1960–1963)
Gotham Bowl (NCAA) (1961)

The Polo Grounds was the name of three stadiums in Upper Manhattan, New York City, used mainly for professional baseball and American football from 1880 through 1963. As the name suggests, the original Polo Grounds, opened in 1876 and demolished in 1889, was built for the sport of polo. Bound on the south and north by 110th and 112th Streets and on the east and west by Fifth and Sixth (Lenox) Avenues, just north of Central Park, it was converted to a baseball stadium when leased by the New York Metropolitans in 1880. The third Polo Grounds, built in 1890 and renovated after a fire in 1911, is the one generally indicated when the Polo Grounds is referenced. It was located in Coogan's Hollow and was noted for its distinctive bathtub shape, very short distances to the left and right field walls, and an unusually deep center field.

In baseball, the original Polo Grounds was home to the New York Metropolitans from 1880 through 1885, and the New York Giants from 1883 through 1888. The Giants played in the second Polo Grounds for part of the 1889 season and all of the 1890 season, and at the third and fourth Polo Grounds from 1891 through 1957. The Polo Grounds was also the home field of the New York Yankees from 1913 through 1922 and the New York Mets in their first two seasons of 1962 and 1963. All four versions of the ballpark hosted World Series matches at various times. The fourth version also hosted the 1934 and 1942 Major League Baseball All-Star Games.

In football, the third Polo Grounds was home to the New York Brickley Giants for one game in 1921 and the New York Giants from 1925 to 1955. The New York Jets of the American Football League played at the stadium from the league's inaugural season of 1960 through 1963.

Other sporting events held at the Polo Grounds included soccer, boxing, and Gaelic football. The last sporting event at the Polo Grounds was a football game between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills on December 14, 1963. Shea Stadium opened in 1964 and replaced the Polo Grounds as the home of the Mets and Jets. The Polo Grounds was demolished over a period of four months that year and a public housing complex, known as the Polo Grounds Towers, was built on the site.

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.[1] 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.[2] Yale and Harvard also played their traditional Thanksgiving Day football game there on November 29, 1883 and November 24, 1887.[3] (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[by whom?] 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.[4][5] 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).[6]

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).[7] 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.

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