Friday, August 23, 2013

The Polo Grounds :Home of the Mets:1962-1963

This photo above exemplifies what made the Mets an instant success. The return of National League Baseball to New York City.

What an absolutely wacky ballpark. I really wish I could have seen a game here but it was before my time. Look how deep in center, how ridiculously short down the lines. Look in the upper corners of the OF fence. The bullpens, with just a little overhang for the sun.

For the first two years of their existence, the Mets played their home games at the historic Polo Grounds while waiting for the the construction of Shea Stadium to be completed.

The stadium where the Mets won 56 games during the 1962 and 1963 seasons actually was the fourth venue to carry the name the “PoloGrounds.” The first structure, located between 110th and 112th Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues in upper Manhattan, opened its doors in 1876 as a home to polo matches. In 1880, the New York Metropolitans leased the grounds for baseball with the New York Giants following suit three years later.

The second Polo Grounds, sporting a 15,000-seat wooden grandstand,was located on 155th Street and Eighth Avenue with the Giants as the main tenants. Although polo was not played there, the team brought the name of its former home. It was here that the famous quirky dimensions—475 feet to centerfield and only 258 feet out to right— were first unveiled. After a fire destroyed the stadium in 1911, it was rebuilt later that year with a capacity of 34,000.

In 1913, the Yankees joined the Giants as tenants, but left after an attendance dispute in 1922. Finally, in 1924, the fourth remodeling of the Polo Grounds was finished, complete with seating for 55,987. It was this incarnation that the Mets began calling home in 1962.

A lot of baseball history here, all of it before the Mets arrived.

The Giants left New York and the Polo Grounds in 1957, leaving the stadium with only the memories of some of the most famous moments in baseball history, such as Bobby Thomson’s game-winning “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” to clinch the 1951pennant, and Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series. Without a Major League Baseball team as a regular tenant, the stadium deteriorated to the point where the Mets needed to spend $300,000 to refurbish the ballpark before moving in to start the 1962 season.

With a fresh coat of paint, a new scoreboard, better lighting, more dining options for fans and a complete overhaul of the outfield and infield grass, the Mets played their first home game in the Polo Grounds on April 13, 1962 and lost 4-3 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  New York played 160 more games at their temporary home over the next two seasons and left for good following a 5-1 loss to Philadelphia Phillies on September 18, 1963.

The aging stadium was finally demolished over a period of four months in 1964. A housing development now occupies the famous site.

Most of the photos in this post are from BASEBALL If you want to visit the best fact and photo baseball website on the innerweb check out BASEBALL I go there for a minute and end up I staying for an hour.

Most of the text is from the New York Mets 2011 Media Guide.

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