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The Polo Grounds
Just as the history of the United States was tied to the geography of North America, the history of New York Giants baseball was tied to the asymmetrical tub shape of the Giants’ home park, called the Polo Grounds. Polo was never played there, but Giants baseball and football played there, as did the Yankees before they moved to Yankee Stadium and the Mets before they moved to Shea. Jack Dempsey knocked out Firpo there, Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling and Billy Cohn, Floyd Patterson knocked out Ingemar Johansson and Ray Robinson won his middleweight title by knocking out Randy Turpin there.
It was located between 155th and 157th west of Eighth Avenue and east of Coogan’s Bluff base, behind home plate. The ballpark was 550 feet from the bleachers behind home plate to the clubhouse wall in the deepest infield, which sloped down from the ballpark. Players and managers sitting in the dugouts could only see the outfielders from the waist up. The left field stands were 380 feet from the right field stands, and if you drew a second line from home to the clubhouse wall, left field was a quarter of an acre larger than right. Who and hangs in the upper deck of left field, favors right-handed hitters.
The distance from home plate to the fifteen-foot concrete wall of the lower bleachers was 276 feet down the left-field foul line and 257 feet down the right-field line, but the upper bleachers in left field extended twenty-five feet over the field. . After the foul lines, the walls on either side ran two hundred feet to the dugouts in deep right and left fields. Thus, the bullpen walls were 450 feet from home plate, and they curved inward toward the bleachers, 425 feet from home plate.
For hitters like Mel Ott (RIP 1958), the short distance that covered the foul lines made the Polo field a paradise. Ott hit 323 of his 511 home runs there, and the upper deck just off the foul line became known as Ottville. On the other hand, I’ve often seen left fielder Sid Gordon get under a pop-up down the left field line and just as he raised his glove, the ball would rip through the overhanging upper deck for a home run.
I never saw anyone hit the ball into the stands, even in batting practice, although the record books say Hank Aaron, Lou Brock and Joe Adcock were able to do it. The stands were divided into two sections, with a sixty-foot-wide walkway between them that led to the Giants’ clubhouse and the team’s visitors. The clubhouse windows faced home plate from deep center field, prompting rumors of telescopes being stolen and catcher signals being transmitted to batters. They even claim that the Giants did it on a day when Bobby Thomson hit a game-tying, pennant-winning homer off Ralph Branca. How could anyone believe that a team managed by Leo Durocher, with Eddie Stankey playing second base, would ever rely on such tactics?
Low line drives into the center field gaps can go down the slope to the bleacher wall for a triple and inside the park. However, Ernie Lombardi (RIP 1977) was hitting four-hundred-foot drives that were caught. With his wide isolation stance and beautiful long swing, he was one of baseball’s best long ball hitters, but his slowest base runner. He led the league in hitting into double plays, and teams regularly played four outfielders and infielders with him hitting back to the outfield.
“He was running around with a piano on his back,” said a man sitting in the row behind me one day.
– In addition, the guys who carry it – said the man next to him.
After the games, twenty-thirty children were waiting for autographs on Eighth Avenue, in front of the club building. We knew the Giants by sight, but not the visiting guys, so we watched the guys with shower-soaked hair. In those days, the teams saw themselves as football players rather than businessmen and were friendly. They would sign four or five or more when they went to the parking lot or subway entrance. One day a young man stopped and signed everyone. He had wet hair, but none of us recognized him.
I looked at my book. – Buddy Marshall. who is she Nobody knew. Turns out he’s not a gamer, just a guy with wet hair and a sense of humor.
Mel Ott was my favorite player, but from 1942 to 1948, when he was player-manager, the Giants finished the season in last place twice, fifth three times, fourth once and third his first year. All the same. I root for quarterbacks Johnny Rucker, Sid Gordon, Willard Marshall, Joe Medwick, Danny Gardella, Red Treadway, Steve Filopovich (he also played in the majors), and Garland Lawing, who could throw the ball farther than he could snap it. I supported Johnny Miz, Buddy Kerr, Bill Rigney, George Hausmann, Nap Reyes, Phil Weintraub, Jack Lorck, Connie Ryan, pitchers Bill Lohrmann, Ace Adams, Harry Feldman, Bill Voisel, Monte Kennedy, Ewald Pyle, Hooks Iott, Hick . and Clint Hartung and for catchers Sal Ivars, Gus Mancuso, Walker Cooper, Wes Westrum and Lombardi.
In the first doubleheader against the Dodgers in 1944, Weintraub had two doubles, a triple, a home run and eleven runs, Lombardi had seven hits, Ott walked five straight and scored six runs, and the Giants won 26-8. became . They finished fifth that year, but that one win got me through the season. In 1947, they finished fourth and hit 221 home runs, a single-season record at the time; Meese hit 51, Marshall 36, Cooper 35, Thomson 29. Bill Rigney, who became the great manager, claims he and his roommate hit 68 out of 221. (His roommate was Johnny Miz.)
According to Rigney, Horace Stoneham, owner of the Giants, “didn’t like bunts and didn’t like pitching, but he loved hitting. We can beat you 9-8,” Rigney said, “but not 2-1. .”
Then in July 1948, Nice Guy Mel Ott left and “Nice-Boys-Finish-Last” Leo Durocher, was fired by the Dodgers and became the Giants’ manager. Immediately, the Giants became a faster, more aggressive team. On August 11, 1951, they trailed the Dodgers by thirteen and a half games. Then with Stankey, Thomson, Irvin and the pitchers leading off, and with Willie Mays, Don Mueller and Irvin in the field, Whitey Lockman at first, Stankey at second, Alvin Dark at short, Thomson at third, Wes Westrum catcher and Sal. Pitching with Magley, Larry Jansen, Jim Hearn and George Spencer, they won thirty-seven of their last forty-four games, including the first sixteen, and finished the season tied with the Dodgers for first place. Then, in the third of three playoff games, they beat the Dodgers in Thomson’s two-run home run in the last inning and won the most exciting pennant race in baseball history – all at the Polo Grounds.
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