Land of the Giants: New York's Polo Grounds
More than thirty years after its demolition, the Polo Grounds—like some other urban neighborhood parks such as Ebbets Field, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field—still holds a place in the hearts of baseball fans. The Polo Grounds was the home of the New York Giants from John McGraw and Christy Mathewson to Carl Hubbell and Mel Ott to Willie Mays and Leo Durocher. It was also home to the Yankees when Babe Ruth's home run production was soaring (which led to "the House that Ruth built") and home to the Mets in their painful early years. From "Merkle's Boner," which cost the New York Giants a pennant, to Bobby Thomson's homer, which won them one, Stew Thornley retells the legendary events of the park and its legendary personalities. He reveals little-known facts, too: When the championship Giants and Yankees played in the 1921 and 1922 World Series, it wasn't a "subway series," because the two teams shared the same ballpark. The team Mays was playing for when he hit his first home run in the Polo Grounds was not the Giants, but the Birmingham Black Barons. The Polo Grounds was also the site for two Negro World Series games in 1946 and 1947. Fans cherish not only the historic moments and team traditions of these stadiums, but treasure their physical peculiarities. Like the "Green Monster" at Fenway Park, the unusual horseshoe shape of the Polo Grounds made the park a special place to play. Stew Thornley analyzes the effect of the very short porches along the foul lines and a cavernous center field on home run production and hitting in general. Baseball wasn't the only sport played in the Polo Grounds. The football Giants played here from 1925 to 1955, but the stadium was better known for some of the great college games, including the 1924 Army-Notre Dame game in which the "Four Horsemen" of Notre Dame were christened. Numerous boxing title bouts were held at the Polo Grounds, and it also hosted tennis, rodeo, midget auto racing, outdoor opera, ice skating, and religious rallies.