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Capacity: 54,500

Polo Grounds IV

Area of fair territory: 129,000 sq. ft.

Area of foul territory: Humongous

 

Fences: LF-CF: 16.8 ft to 8.5 ft

             CF background: 30.5 ft.

             RCF: 12 ft.

             RF: 10.64 ft.

Elevation: 55 feet

1957 dimensions:

 

LF: 280 feet

LCF bullpen: 447 feet

CF: 480 feet

RCF bullpen: 440 feet

RF: 258 feet

Backstop: 74 feet

 

General Information

Who Played Here: New York Giants (NL) 1911-1957; New York Yankees (AL) 1913-1922; New York Mets (NL) 1962-1963
First opened: June 28, 1911
First night game: May 24, 1940
Last game: September 18, 1963
Capacity: 34,000 (1911); 55,000 (1923)
Demolished: April 10, 1964

Architects: Henry B. Herts and Osborn Engineering (1912)
Owner: New York Giants


 

Click to purchase from the Danbury Mint Collection

 


History

     Legend has it that the original notion to play baseball at the Polo Grounds came from a bootblack.  John B. Day, who owned the Metropolitans in 1880, was frustrated about having to play at the ill-kept Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn - at that time, Brooklyn was not a borough of New York City, and the Brooklyn Bridge had not yet been built, so Mets fans had to cross the East River by ferry to see their team play.  His shoe shine boy heard him complaining and suggested a site in Manhattan where polo was played - after checking it out, Day leased the property from its owner, James Gordon Bennett, Jr.

     Day's Mets were invited to join the American Association in 1883, and he created a new franchise - the New Yorks, later called the Giants - to join its competitor, the National League, in the same year.  Both teams played at the Polo Grounds.

 

     There have been four versions of the Polo Grounds.  The first opened in 1883, on a site just north of Central Park bound by 5th & 6th Avenues and 110th & 112th Streets where polo was played in the 1870s.  The city of New York evicted Day's teams in 1889, and the Giants moved uptown to a ballpark between 155th and 157th streets, on the southern parcel of Coogan's Hollow.  Although that park had previously been known as Manhattan Field, it was now called the New Polo Grounds (Polo Grounds II).

     The Players League built Brotherhood Park on the northern parcel of Coogan's Hollow for the 1890 season; after the league collapsed in 1891, the Giants moved into Brotherhood Park and changed the name to the Polo Grounds (Polo Grounds III).  This third incarnation of the Polo Grounds burned down on April 14, 1911 and a fourth version was built on the same site with temporary stands for 1911.  During this period, it was actually known as The infield stands were rebuilt with concrete for 1912, and the outfield concrete double deck was finished in 1922.

 

     John McGraw, who had been suspended as a player from the American League in 1902 for fighting with a Detroit Tiger outfielder named Dick Harley and for arguing with an umpire, was made for the more rough and tumble National League.  He became the manager of the Giants, and managed them to the World Championship in 1905, 1921 and 1922; he also took them to the big dance in 1911, 1912, 1913, 1923 only to lose each time.  The Giants didn't have much success after McGraw left - two trips to the Series in 1936 ad 1937, and then the magical trip in 1951, where they finished 37-7 down the stretch to catch the Dodgers and then best them in a best-of-three playoff.  Of course, the winning shot was struck by Bobby Thomson on October 3, 1951 - a ball that traveled just 314 feet, but was good enough for the Polo Grounds.

 

Analysis

     The park was a curious shape, with very short lines to the foul poles (279 feet to left and 258 feet to right) and a long 505-foot shot to straightaway center during the early 1950s.  The left-field second-deck overhang meant that a homer to left was actually easier than a homer to right, even though the wall in left was 19 feet further away - the overhang was 21 feet, effectively shortening the distance required for a pop-fly homer to the second deck in left to 249 feet because of the angle involved.  Although it's hard to judge the impact of the overhang, there is no doubt that it helped hitters - according to some baseball scholars, the overhangs here, at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium and at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park were more significant than previously thought. 

     The power alleys were deep, and even the bullpens in fair territory in left-center and right-center couldn't bring them into a reasonably reachable distance.  The ball did tend to fly out, but hitters had to shoot for the foul poles to have success.  The result was that hitters like pull hitters like Mel Ott - he hit hit 323 homers here between 1926 and 1947 and just 188 on the road.  Another player who really benefited from this park was Hank Thompson, a left-handed pull hitter who hit 88 home runs here between 1950 and 1956, compared to 47 home runs on the road.

     The park's unquestioned king was Willie Mays, who patrolled the massive center field masterfully; playing shallow here entailed a great risk, but Mays had enough range that he could get away with it.  Interestingly, from 1954 to 1957, Mays hit 79 HR at home and 84 HR on the road - his tendency to hit with alley power hampered his ability to take advantage of his park's monstrous home run-boosting potential.  Other Giants who didn't benefit greatly from this park include Monte Irvin, Bill Terry, Bobby thomson and George Kelly.  

   Of course, many pitchers also thrived at the Polo Grounds - Christy Mathewson and Carl Hubbell in particular, but also Art Nehf; finesse pitchers and those prone to fly balls often struggled here, but power pitchers and ground ball pitchers thrived.

 

 

Location

 

Harlem, NY: Center field (SE), Eighth Avenue, then IRT elevated tracks, Harlem River, and Harlem River Drive; third base (NE), West 159th Street and IRT Rail Yards; home plate (NW), Bridge Park, then Harlem River Speedway, Coogan’s Bluff, and Croton Aqueduct; first base (SW), West 157th Street trace; same site as Polo Grounds (III); in the norther half of Coogan’s Hollow, 115 feet below Coogan’s Bluff.

 

Park Factors

 

  Run HR
1947 103 154
1948 99 149
1949 106 161
1950 92 127
1950 92 127
1951 100 168
1952 105 186
1953 95 144
1954 103 171
1955 95 128
1956 93 165
1957 107 152

 

Fences - History

1911-22: Left to center: 10 (concrete); center: 20 (tarp); right-center: 10 (concrete); right field: 12 sloping to 11 at pole (concrete).

1923-63: 

 

Left field: 16.81 (concrete)

Left-center: 18 (concrete)

Where LCF wall ended at bleachers: 12 (concrete)

CF bleachers wall: 8.5 (4.25 wire on top of 4.25 concrete) on both sides of clubhouse runway

CF hitters’ background: 16.5 on both sides of clubhouse runway

Center-field clubhouse: 60 high and 60 wide - 50 high in 1963

Center field, top of Longines Clock: 80

Center field, top of right side of scoreboard: 71

CF, top of left side of scoreboard: 68

CF, top of middle of scoreboard: 64

CF, top of five right scoreboard windows: 57

CF, top of four left scoreboard windows: 55

CF, bottom of five right scoreboard windows: 53

CF, bottom of four left scoreboard windows: 48

CF, bottom of clubhouse scoreboard: 31

CF, top of rear clubhouse wall: 28

CF, top of front clubhouse wall: 19

CF, top of 14 lower clubhouse windows: 16

CF, bottom of 14 lower clubhouse windows: 11

CF clubhouse floor overhang: 8

CF, top of Eddie Grant Memorial: 5

CF, width of little office on top of lower clubhouse: 10; 

Right-center: 12 (concrete)

Right field: 10.64 (concrete).

 

Dimensions - History

Left field: 277 (1911), 286.67 (1921), 279.67 (1923), 279 (1930), 280 (1943), 279 (1955) Left field, second deck: 250 ft.

Left center, left of bullpen: 447 ft

Left center, right of bullpen: 455 ft

Front of clubhouse steps: 460 ft

 

Center field: 433 (1911), 483 (1923), 484.75 (1927), 505 (1930), 430 (1931), 480 (1934), 430 (1938), 505 (1940), 490 (1943), 505 (1944), 448 (1945), 490 (1946), 484 (1947), 505 (1949), 483 (1952), 480 (1953), 483 (1954), 480 (1955), 475 (1962), 483 (1963)

 

Bleacher corners: 425 when center field was 475; 

Right center, left of bullpen: 449; 

Right center, right of bullpen: 440; 

Right field: 256.25 (1921), 257.67 (1923), 257.5 (1931), 257.67 (1942), 259 (1943), 257.67 (1944) ft.

Right field, second deck photographers' perch: 249 ft.

Backstop: 65 (1942), 70 (1943), 65 (1944), 70 (1946), 74 (1949), 65 (1954), 74 (1955), 65 (1962)

 

Foul territory: Very large.

 

Fun Facts

  • The second deck in right had 9-foot photographer’s perch overhang, 60 feet from the foul pole out into right-center.
  • The Polo Grounds Towers (four 30-story apartment buildings) now stand where the field used to be.  Willie Mays Field (an asphalt playground with 6 basketball backboards) is where center field used to be; a brass historical marker notes the spot.
  • The outfield was slightly sunken, so that a manager standing in his dugout, could see only above his outfielders' waists.  At the wall, the field was 8 feet below the infield.
  • In 1962 and 1963 the Howard Clothes sign on the outfield wall promised a suit to any player hitting it.

 


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