Home of three teams for more than a half
century, the last Polo Grounds was one of baseballs hallowed ballparks.
Throughout the history of baseball in New York City there have been
four ballparks known as the Polo Grounds dating back to the 1800s.
Named after the sport, polo, the first Polo Grounds was located near
Central Park between 110th and 112th streets. In 1880, John Day
rented land where polo was played and constructed a single deck
grandstand. He bought the New York Mets and later the New York
Gothams (renamed the Giants). The Giants played their first game at
the Polo Grounds on May 1, 1883 against Boston and the Mets followed
days later with their first game. Both teams played on the same
parcel of land, but on two different fields. The Giants had the
superior field as the Mets field was built atop a garbage heap.
A second deck was added to the ballpark that year and the first Polo
Grounds had a seating capacity of 12,000. The Giants played their
last game here on October 13, 1888. Manhattan officials evicted the
team and 111th street was constructed through the outfield.
n 1889 the Giants moved to Harlem's Coogan's Bluff
where the team played at several ballparks for
nearly seven decades. Located along 155th and 157th
Streets along 8th Avenue, the Giants played their
first game at the second Polo Grounds on July 8,
1889. Located along 157th and 159th Streets was
Brotherhood Park, home of the Players League New
York Giants. Located side-by-side, there were two
ballparks, with two different teams that shared the
same name. The Giants played their last game at the
second Polo Grounds on September 30, 1890. In 1890
the Players League merged with the National League and the N.L.
Giants bought and moved into Brotherhood Park in 1891. Renamed Polo
Grounds, the Giants played their first game here on April 22, 1891.
The third incarnation of the Polo Grounds had a seating capacity of
16,000. The main double decked grandstand arched around homeplate
and down the baselines. Bleachers were located in dead center field
and 7,000 seats were added in 1908. By 1911, the ballpark had a
seating capacity of 31,000 and was the largest stadium in baseball.
Built of mainly wood, the ballpark caught fire and burned while the
Giants were out of town on April 14, 1911. The ballpark suffered
$250,000 in damage and was a complete loss.
Like the Philadelphia
Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates, the Giants decided to follow their
trend and construct a ballpark of steel and concrete. Constructed on
the same location as its predecessor, the fourth and final Polo
Grounds opened on June 28, 1911. The grandstand consisted of 16,000 seats
and by the end of the season the capacity grew to 34,000. Double decked
grandstands extended from home plate, to half way down the left
field line and 40 feet past the right field foul pole. The ballpark
had several distinctive features including an Italian marble facade
and seats that had decorative iron scrollwork. Polo Grounds
inherited a new tenant in
1913 when the New York Yankees moved into
the ballpark with the Giants. Although the distances were short down
both lines to the foul poles,
277 in left field and 258 feet in right field, the distance to
centerfield was 455 feet making it one of the longest in MLB history.
Polo Grounds was a hitters paradise with the exception of
centerfield. A pop fly down the either line could become a homerun
easily. With acquisition of Babe Ruth the Yankees became a huge
winning many games
at Polo Grounds. Owner of the Giants, John McGraw became angry when
the Yankees began drawing more
fans than the Giants at Polo Grounds.
After the 1922 season McGraw evicted the Yankees from the ballpark,
where they built the greatest stadium in sports, Yankee Stadium just
a quarter mile south of the Polo Grounds.
In 1922, Polo Grounds was
enclosed except in centerfield increasing the capacity
to 54,555. The grandstands were extended to the 2,300 bleachers that
were on both sides of the clubhouse in centerfield. The left field
upper deck overhung the playing field by 23 feet. With this
addition, Polo Grounds now
looked like a horseshoe. Round behind home plate, the sides did not
run parallel to the foul lines, but rather to a line drawn from home
to second, extending straight into the power alleys before curving
toward the middle in deep left and right centerfields. The center
field wall ran straight across, except for a large cutout square in
dead center that was the entrance to the clubhouses. Because the
centerfield wall was 450 feet from homeplate, at one time there was
a flower bed in centerfield until manager John McGraw ordered it
removed. The bullpens were in the outfield in play.
Polo Grounds changed very little
during the rest
of its tenure as a baseball stadium. The Giants along with the
Brooklyn Dodgers moved to
California after the 1957 season. The last Giants game at
Polo Grounds was on September 29, 1957. However, Polo Grounds was
not demolished. Major League Baseball expanded and awarded a new
baseball team to New York. After $250,000 was spent renovating the
New York Mets moved into Polo Grounds for the 1962 and 1963 seasons
while their new ballpark, Shea Stadium was built. The final
game ever at Polo Grounds was on September 18, 1963. Polo Grounds
was demolished on April 10, 1964. Several 30 story housing projects
are located on the site where Polo Grounds was located. A plaque
commemorates where the ballpark was once located.